Monday, December 28, 2009

Student Turns Class Project Into Community Awareness

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

“It is because of your love and support that I am here today, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said a tearful Kelly Stawarski as she addressed family, friends, teachers, and classmates during Rio Salado College’s recent nursing pinning program.

Stawarski, an honor student, was thanking everyone for supporting her during one of the most difficult times of her life — coping with the death of her 19-year-old son. Half way through the rigorous nursing program, tragedy struck the family when her son, Thomas McDermott, died in a car accident.

Overcome with grief, she considered abandoning her life-long dream of becoming a nurse. But her family, friends, classmates and teachers convinced her not to quit and stay in school. In the program, the students are required to complete a community project, and Stawarski immediately knew what she wanted to do for the project.

“In October, I spoke to students at Basha High School, where my son went to school,” said Stawarski. “Alcohol was involved in his accident. And while he wasn’t legally drunk, he also wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. These were two factors that contributed to my son dying.”

During the presentation, she displays the clothes he was wearing at the time of the accident, explains his injuries, and then shows a video of his life, which includes pictures of the accident scene. Students were so moved by her presentation that she received notes and hugs from them thanking her for telling Thomas’ story and expressing how it had impacted them. Teachers at the school were so impressed with her presentation they have asked her to come back two more times so that all students can hear Thomas’ story.

While Stawarski was only required to do one community project for the nursing program, she has decided to continue sharing the story of Thomas’ accident to students and adults. She chose to channel her grief into a community project that not only helped to her to heal, but also allowed her to use the story of Thomas’ accident as a teaching tool.

“At Rio Salado, I learned that nurses do more than care for the sick,” said Stawarski. “They look for a need in the community and look for people to help, and that is what I decided to do, too.”

Recently Stawarski accepted and invitation to bring her presentation to a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) meeting, where she had the opportunity to address more than 250 teens and adults.

“I plan to continue speaking about Thomas’ accident and bring awareness to seatbelt safety and the dangers of drinking and driving,” said Stawarski. “I’m working with my younger son’s junior high to speak there. I would like to continue speaking at the high school and the MADD meetings, too. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through, and if I get through to one person, it is worth it.”

To learn more about Rio Salado College, visit To have Kelly Stawarski speak at an event, please contact her at

Monday, December 21, 2009

ASU, NAU Offer Onsite Advising to Transfer Students

Rio Salado transfer students can now meet with advisors from Arizona State University (ASU) and Northern Arizona University (NAU) at Rio’s Tempe campus.

Beginning in January, advisors from both universities will be on hand twice a month to offer in-person advising services for transfer students.

“We have had long standing partnerships with these institutions and look forward to working even closer with them to provide a clear pathway from our associate degrees to the student’s chosen university major,” said David Hall, Coordinator, Advisement Services.

For more information or to set up an appointment with the university advisors please contact Rio Salado College’s Advisement office by email at or by phone at (480) 517-8580.

Program Takes Students to Nontraditional Labs

The vast majority of Rio Salado College's classes are online. But recently, a program with a variety of hybrid classes sprouted at the college. The new Sustainable Food Systems program allows students to take classes online and practice the theories they studied in a lab at Rio Salado’s main campus in Tempe.

Hybrid classes with labs are not new to Rio Salado. But for many of the classes in the Certificate of Completion in Sustainable Food Systems program, the labs are not held in a traditional classroom. The labs are hosted in the college’s café, which is currently under construction, an in Rio Salado’s new community garden.

Last week, students and instructors from the Gardening Practices and Techniques class gathered for the first lab at the community garden at the college's headquarters, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe.
"This is a new hybrid class," said instructor Peter Conden, who teaches Gardening Practices and Techniques. "The students learn all of theory online, and then they work in the 4,400 square-foot garden to fulfill the lab section of the class."

While some students were volunteering, others were participating to complete the lab section of the class. Among the students working in the garden was Cody Boers.

“I needed a hybrid or in-person class to fulfill a requirement for the GI Bill®, so I picked this one,” said Cody Boers, a student in the Gardening Practices and Techniques who worked on the garden. “It was a surprisingly fun class. Today we prepared the garden for plants and put some of the theories that I studied to practice.”

According to Conden, the course is fun and challenging at the same time. He added that the theories the students practice in the garden will change throughout the year as the weather changes.

“The Southwest is very different from other parts of the country,” said Conden. “Students study how the climate influences what is grown in a garden, and then they have to develop a plan for that time of the year.”
The climate wasn’t the only thing the class was preparing to protect the plants from. The class secured the area to keep out local wildlife.”

“In the class, the students study ways to identify and control garden pests, such as insects, weeds and disease,” said Conden. “Since the garden is in a construction phase, we have to consider other forms of pest control. And in this case, we are adding chicken wire to keep rabbits out of the garden."

As the garden takes shape, it also will impact what is served in the new Rio Café. The items grown in the garden will be used in the culinary classes, which are part of the Sustainable Foods Program. These classes will be preparing the meals served in the café. Furthermore, the scraps from the café will be recycled in compost site next to the garden.

“The entire program is one big cohesive laboratory,” said Conden. “Students in the café and garden will work together toward a goal of zero waste.”

To learn more about Rio Salado College’s Sustainable Foods Program, visit

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rio Salado, KEZ Surprise Tempe Teacher with Award

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

Tuesday started out like any other day in Tom Huber’s math class at Marcos di Niza High School in Tempe. He talked to students, took attendance and listened to the morning announcements.
As the class prepared for an upcoming test, Huber’s day took a surprising turn when KEZ 99.9 FM’s radio personality Marty Manning announced to the entire school that Huber was named December’s Excellence in Education winner by Rio Salado College and KEZ.

“I truly appreciate how much he cares about us understanding math, and the amount of time he gives in order for that to happen,” said an anonymous student who nominated him for the award. “Mr. Huber comes to school every day at 6:30 a.m., nearly an hour and a half before school begins to help us work out any problems we have difficulty with on our homework. Not only is he patient in helping us so early every morning, Mr. Huber also explains how the concepts we are working with are used outside the textbook, in science, architecture, or even cooking. His optimistic attitude and exciting power-points really bring math even more to life!”
According to the student, Huber also supports activities outside of the classroom.

“As a football, basketball, baseball and softball coach, he truly has put in an enormous amount of hours for us,” said the student. “I am so thankful for all of the time Mr. Huber dedicates to our education in and out of the classroom.”

The students are not the only people who were proud to see Huber receive this month’s Excellence in Education award. Marcos di Niza Principal Frank Mirizio visited the teacher’s classroom as the award was delivered.

“I’ve known Mr. Huber a long time,” said Mirizio. “He taught me when I was a student here. He is a very dedicated and skillful teacher. His patience is one of his greatest virtues as he takes time to help his students.”

Excellence in Education is KEZ and Rio Salado College’s way of honoring K-12 teachers throughout the 2009-2010 school year for their outstanding contribution to education. Students and parents of students are encouraged to nominate teachers who are excellent at their profession and have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty to make a difference in their community.

“Rio Salado College has a long tradition of community support,” said Janet Johnson, Rio Salado College’s Education department faculty chair. “As a parent & educator, I understand the time and effort it takes to truly make a different in the lives of children as well as the greater educational community. Honoring teachers with this award is another way of showing our appreciation to unsung heroes throughout the Valley.”

Huber is the fourth teacher to win an Excellence in Education award. All winning teachers are rewarded with $99, an Excellence in Education Award, KEZ Bag O’Fun, and their pictures on the KEZ and Rio Salado College Web sites. In May, one of the monthly winners will be named the educator of the year and win $999.

To nominate a teacher, please visit To learn more about Rio Salado College and the Excellence in Education program, visit

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December's Excellence in Education Winner is ...

Marcos di Niza High School teacher Tom Huber was named the December Excellence in Education Award winner from Rio Salado College and KEZ 99.9 FM.

Huber was nominated by an anonymous who said, “I truly appreciate how much he cares about us understanding math, and the amount of time he gives in order for that to happen. His optimistic attitude and exciting power-points really bring math even more to life!”

Excellence in Education is KEZ 99.9 FM and Rio Salado College’s way of honoring K-12 teachers throughout the 2009-2010 school year. Students and parents of students are encouraged to nominate K-12 teachers who are excellent at their profession and have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty to make a difference in their community.

To nominate a special teacher, please go to (keyword: "excellence").

Click HERE, to see past winners.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Dr. Thor Appointed to Chancellor Post in California

Dr. Linda M. Thor, president of Rio Salado College, will become chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District starting Feb. 16. A nationally recognized innovator in education, she will be the sixth permanent chancellor since the district's founding in 1957.

“Passion for education is what we look for in any college leader,” said Foothill-De Anza Community College District board President Betsy Bechtel. “Linda Thor's driving passion is student success, and that is evident in every conversation with her. I am confident she will help us continue to advance our commitment to quality education for every student. We are very pleased to have her join us.”

Thor's selection follows a national search for a successor to Martha Kanter, who resigned in June to become U.S. Under Secretary of Education, overseeing all of postsecondary education.

“I am honored and excited to be named the next chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, one of the nation's premier community college districts,” said Thor. “I have long admired the district for its commitment to student success, innovation and sustainability. I look forward to continuing the great legacy of Dr. Martha Kanter and the district's outstanding faculty and staff. I thank the Board of Trustees for its confidence in me. As a native Californian, it will be gratifying to again serve the people of my home state.”

Thor has worked in large, multi-college community college districts for more than 30 years-first in the Los Angeles Community College District and now in the 10-college Maricopa Community College District, the largest in the nation.

“Linda has remarkable breadth and depth as a college leader,”' said Foothill-De Anza Interim Chancellor Mike Brandy. “During her presidency, Rio Salado has earned the reputation as one of the most innovative colleges in the country. Linda has led the effort to develop programs and services that focus on meeting the needs of students, and has been extraordinarily successful in collaborating with a diverse group of partners to serve the educational needs of Maricopa County and beyond.”

Since Thor became president of Rio Salado in 1990, the “college without walls” has grown to serve more than 60,000 students a year. Its effective use of technology to provide instruction and support services has led to increased student success and made Rio Salado a national model for delivering quality online education.

Today, about half of Rio Salado’s students are distance learners. Others attend classes at educational centers located throughout a large geographic region. These centers increasingly involve collaborations or partnerships with community organizations, local governments or other colleges and universities to provide services and share costs. In addition, Rio Salado offers customized degrees and certificates for 40 major employers and dual enrollment programs with 55 high schools.

“Linda Thor has an extensive record of innovation and has presided over remarkable growth and development at Rio Salado,” said faculty member Dolores Davison, co-chair of the chancellor search committee and president of the Foothill College Academic Senate. “Her leadership in fund-raising, developing partnerships and collaborations, and technological innovation has made Rio Salado one of the most significant colleges in the Maricopa district.”

Dr. Thor’s biography can be found at

Monday, December 7, 2009

Rio Salado Honored for Digital Technology

Rio Salado College was recently named one of the Top Ten Digital Community Colleges in the nation by Converge magazine and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education.

Rio Salado finished 10th in the category for large colleges (7,500+ students). As Maricopa Community College District’s online college, Rio Salado serves more than 60,000 students annually.

The survey recognized community colleges that offer exceptional technology support to students and education. It covered multiple areas in digital technology, including online registration, distance learning, tutoring and advisory services, technology training and social and collaborative capabilities.

Through Rio Salado, students have 24/7 access to several online services such as financial aid, tutoring, library, bookstore, help desk support, and RioLounge, the online student union.

“In addition, Rio Salado’s custom learning management system, RioLearn, offers students access to over 550 dynamic online courses most of which students can start every Monday,” said Edward Kelty, Vice President of Information Technology.

In the last year, Rio Salado has also increased its presence in the social networking world by creating Facebook and Twitter pages, where students and the general public can follow college news and connect with other fans.

“Our survey results show that community colleges are fast embracing cyber technologies and fostering collaboration in learning by using tools in which students are familiar,” said Marina Leight, Vice President of e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education. “The institutions chosen as this year’s top community colleges are exceptional examples of the investment in learning.”

Predicting Student Success
In other technology news, Rio Salado has developed a program that helps predict which students will succeed and which ones will not.

The “predictive modeling system,” one of only a handful in the nation, takes into account dozens of variables when calculating student success. They include: online behavior, grades, enrollment history, current enrollment status, financial aid status, advisement and demographics.

According to Adam Lange, a programmer analyst at Rio Salado College, the predictive modeling system has many benefits.

“One of the major benefits to predicting student success is that faculty and staff can assist at-risk students before it’s too late,” Lange said. “Our main goal is to find effective ways to help students succeed.”

Lange said the system can predict, with 70 percent accuracy, the probability of success, meaning how likely it is that a student will earn a “C” grade or higher in a given course.

Rio Salado is currently piloting the system, running it on the 8th day of class to estimate a student’s probability of success. If a student is identified to be at-risk, faculty and instructors intervene to provide assistance and guidance.

Lange said future plans include running the system prior to class start dates, giving front-line staff and advisors time to reach out to students, and building an automated alert system to notify students directly if they fall into an at-risk level.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Students Help Homeless Move Life Forward

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Every night, the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) helps hundreds of homeless individuals by offering them a safe place to sleep. While CASS is known for its beds, the shelter offers many additional services to help the underprivileged get their lives back on track. One of those services is free dental care. CASS’s dental clinic treats approximately 5,000 to 6,000 patients annually, with the help of generous donors and volunteers. Among the volunteers are instructors and students from Rio Salado College’s School of Dental Hygiene, who visit the clinic twice a week.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for the homeless," said Rio Salado School of Dental Hygiene student Emily Miller-Lehr, of Tempe. "I had actually volunteered for CASS before I was a Rio student so I kind of knew what I was getting into.”

At the clinic, Rio Salado’s hygienists clean teeth and take on the responsibility of teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene techniques and counseling them regarding good nutrition and its impact on oral health.

"Our homeless population — between the poor hygiene and nutrition — really, really need a good cleaning, and that is one of the biggest issues we have here," said Annette Chun, CASS Dental Clinic manager. "The partnership with Rio Salado helps get these patients that come through here the professional cleaning that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get."

For some homeless individuals, the dental treatment goes beyond a cleaning. Often, it is the difference between getting a job and getting rejected.

“I had a patient that I think it had been 10 years since she said she had been to a dentist, and it was nice to help her out,” said Miller-Lehr. “She was a great patient. She‘s recovering from homelessness, so she’s going into the workforce and [CASS is] working on getting her a stable place to live. So it’s looking really good for her.”

According to CASS Dental Clinic Director Kris Volcheck, the path to a homeless patient’s success starts with the Rio Salado students.

"At the base of everything we do is hygiene," said Volcheck. "I'm not going to do a $20,000 makeover if that person is not keeping up with their hygiene on a daily basis. The hygiene students are really at the core of what we're doing here for prevention and for continued oral health. They start with them, and those students give us a consistent supply of cleanings for our patients. Without that I can't really proceed to the next level of fillings, crown and bridge.”
“Their being in on a weekly basis allows me to schedule most of our clients on a timely manner and then move them on to the other parts of dentistry,” he said. “So it's absolutely critical that they are in [the clinic].”

Besides volunteering at CASS, the students perform low-cost cleanings on patients for $25 at the Rio Salado College School of Dental Hygiene, 1150 E. Washington St., Phoenix.

To learn more about Rio Salado College's Dental Hygiene program, visit or call (480) 517-8020. To learn more about CASS and how you can help, visit

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scholarships for 50+ Teacher Program Available

Rio Salado College's Teacher Education Program has scholarships available through the Helios Scholarship Program for the 2009-2010 50+ Encore Program.

Awards range from $500 to $1000, and will be made available through college financial aid offices. An individual may receive the scholarship award only once per academic year. Award available for distribution by December 15th, 2009 and must be used before February 1, 2010.

Each applicant must meet all of the following eligibility requirements. The applicant must:

1. Be at least 50 years of age and able to provide verification
2. Enroll at Rio Salado College
3. Be a U.S. citizen or eligible U.S. permanent resident
4. Be able to provide proof of residency in Arizona
5. Be enrolled in and maintain a minimum of six semester credits
6. Possess a bachelor’s degree from a Regionally Accredited

View the scholarship application.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Have A Question? Text a Rio Librarian

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

Why is the sky blue?
Why did the Berlin Wall fall?
What is the average circumference of a human head?

The answers to these questions and many more can all be found with a little research. But for college students on the go and in need of a reliable source, they can find the answers quickly by text messaging their questions to My Info Quest: Text 4 Answers, where a librarian will answer the question within 10 minutes.

On certain days, the answers may come from a Rio Salado College or Paradise Valley Community College librarian, where the program is called ASK! Txt 4 Answers.

Rio Salado librarians Karen Docherty and Janelle Underhill and Paradise Valley librarian Shelle Witten are taking part in the pilot program, which is a free text messaging reference project consisting of more than 50 libraries across the country. All of the participating librarians contribute to the project for a combined effort to answer questions for thousands of students at the participating colleges.

Like the other librarians, Docherty, Underhill and Witten only work two hours a week toward the project, but their students can use the service from Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

To keep the program costs low and efficient, the librarians are not using cell phones to answer questions. They log onto a project Web site e-mail account to receive questions and provide answers.

“This program really expands our services,” said Karen Docherty, virtual reference coordinator at Rio Salado College. “We contribute a couple hours a week, and in return our students are benefitting with more support.”

The idea for the program came about out of necessity. The average number of text messages by wireless phone users age 18-24 is 790 a month according to a report by Nielsen, the media and marketing information company. The report shows that future college students who are 13-17 years old are texting more than any other demographic with 2,900 messages a month.

“People are now sending more text messages than they are making cell phone calls,” said Docherty. “This is a different way of helping people get the answers they need, wherever they are at, with professional assistance.”

During September, there were more than 645 messages exchanged between librarians and students, which is nearly a three-fold increase from August. According to Docherty, the librarians are on pace to answer more questions than September.

“College students need quick answers,” said Docherty. “Now, they have a new resource at their fingertips, and at the rate they are texting this is good timing to start this program.”

To submit a question, text it to (309) 222-7740 with Rio Salado College’s library code RSC. To learn more about Rio Salado College or the Ask! Txt 4 Answers program, please visit

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Communiversity, LLC Named Best of the West

Rio Salado College was a big winner last week during Westmarc’s 17th annual Best of the West Awards taking. The Communiversity @ Surprise and the Lifelong Learning Center won first-place awards, while the Rio Salado operated El Mirage Mayor’s Adult Basic Education Academy received an honorable mention.

The Best of the West awards recognize outstanding contributions to the image, lifestyle and economic development of the West Valley.

PHOTO: Celebrating their wins during the Best of the West Awards ceremony are: (from left) Dr. Chris Bustamante, Sherry Bargo, City of Surprise Mayor Lyn Truitt, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, President Linda Thor, Dr. Todd Aakhus, and Miryam Gutier-Brown. Gov. Brewer received the John F. Long Lifetime Achievement Award.

See a complete list of winners and slide show HERE.

November's Excellence in Education Winner Awarded

Heritage Academy teacher Rick Dalton was named the November Excellence in Education Award winner from Rio Salado College and KEZ 99.9 FM.

Dalton received the award from KEZ's Marty Manning during a recent surprise visit to the Mesa school.

He was nominated by student Caitlin Hardwick, who said "I don't think there's another teacher anywhere out there like him, history is now my favorite class. He's one of my heroes actually. I used to be one of those kids who doesn't care about school, but he showed me that I can do so much better. He's the coolest and most interesting person I know."

Excellence in Education is KEZ 99.9 FM and Rio Salado College’s way of honoring K-12 teachers throughout the 2009-2010 school year. Students and parents of students are encouraged to nominate K-12 teachers who are excellent at their profession and have gone above-and-beyond the call of duty to make a difference in their community.

Each month, a Valley K-12 teacher will be selected from all the entries to be recognized for their outstanding contribution to education. KEZ’s Marty Manning will visit the teacher’s school to surprise them with their Excellence in Education Award. The surprise visit will be broadcast live during the Beth and Bill Show. All winning teachers are rewarded with $99, an Excellence in Education Award, KEZ Bag O’Fun, and their pictures on the Web site of KEZ!

To nominate a special teacher, please go to (keyword: "excellence").

Click HERE, to see past winners.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rio Collecting Toys for Disadvantaged Children

David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Rio Salado College has partnered with the Arizona-based charity Smiles for Christmas to make the holidays special for nearly 1,000 low-income students at five Valley schools.

Starting Nov. 9, Rio Salado, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe, is collecting Lego sets, Play-Doh, and monetary donations for the children at Children’s First Academy and Thew Elementary in Tempe and three additional schools in Phoenix.

Students, instructors, staff members and the general public are invited and encouraged to participate in the three-week toy drive by dropping off donations at Rio Salado College.

“As educators, we are expected to be leaders, and the best way to lead is by example,” said Elizabeth Cole-Fay, a project coordinator at Rio Salado. “Throughout the year, Rio Salado’s participates in a variety events and programs that benefit the communities where we work and live.”

On Dec. 1, the donations collected at Rio Salado will be delivered to McClintock High School in Tempe where they will be wrapped by volunteers and distributed to the elementary school students during a holiday fair.

“Smiles for Christmas was created to help needy children in the Valley,” said Smiles for Children Founder Tom Medrano. “This has been a difficult year for many families. People are struggling to put food on the table and pay bills. Toys are definitely not the first things on the minds of family providers.”

Medrano started the charity in 2002 and provided toys for approximately 150 students at one school. Throughout the last seven years, the help has expanded to nearly 1,000 children at five schools. The drive started with high school students, but recently expanded to college students and organizations. This is Rio Salado’s first year participating in the program.

“Some of the people who participated in the event during high school contacted me to see how they could help now that they are in college,” said Medrano. “Working with colleges is the next step in the process of reaching out and helping more needy students.”

For Rio Salado, the Smiles for Christmas toy drive is just part of the college’s volunteer efforts.

Recently, school officials started working on a college-wide campaign called Pay 30 Forward. The campaign encourages employees to get involved in their communities by volunteering, participating in charity events, and helping other causes.

“Rio Salado recently marked its 30th anniversary,” said Cole-Fay. “To celebrate this milestone, we asked employees to give back to the community by volunteering at least 30 hours.”

While the 30-hour mark is linked to the 30th anniversary, it also was established after officials discovered that a large contingent of employees already volunteer throughout the Valley.

“While talking to employees we discovered that some really dedicated people are volunteering more than 30 hours a month,” said Cole-Fay. “So we came up with the 30-hour mark to make it challenging for the employees, yet still reasonable.”

For employees who want to volunteer, the college established a committee to provide opportunities like the Smiles for Christmas toy drive.

To learn more about Rio Salado College’s outreach effort and how you can get involved, visit

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rio Salado President Linda Thor Joins EDUCAUSE Board

EDUCAUSE, the association for information technology in higher education, announced the appointment of Linda Thor, president of Rio Salado College, to a four-year term on the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors effective Jan. 1, 2010. Dr. Thor’s appointment was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the board at its Nov. 2 meeting.

About the appointment, EDUCAUSE President Diana Oblinger said, “Linda Thor leads a unique institution and has a history of innovation and a wealth of experience in higher education. Under her guidance, Rio Salado College has been a national leader in the use of technology to make higher education more accessible and responsive to the needs of students and communities. That makes her the perfect person to join the EDUCAUSE board and inform the association’s efforts to advance the best interests of higher education.”

In accepting her seat, Dr. Thor commented, “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors. EDUCAUSE has contributed greatly to how colleges and universities think about and utilize technology to fulfill their missions. I look forward to working with my fellow board members to enhance the association’s outreach to institutional leaders of all types on the difference technology can make to achieving higher education’s strategic aims.”

As Rio Salado’s president, Dr. Thor heads an institution that serves some 51,000 credit and 14,000 noncredit students each year, giving it the largest enrollment among the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges serving the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. As a “college without walls,” Rio Salado specializes in serving working adults through distance learning, offering customized degrees in business and government and accelerated programs such as dual enrollment for high school students. The institution has attracted national attention for award-winning online programs in areas including postbaccalaureate teacher preparation and nursing.

Dr. Thor has served as adjunct faculty for the UCLA School of Education, Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology, and Rio Salado College. She currently teaches for Northern Arizona University at the master’s and doctoral levels. She also serves as a member of the American Council on Education (ACE) Commission on Lifelong Learning and the Executive Council of the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET).

Dr. Thor holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Pepperdine University, a master’s in public administration from California State University, Los Angeles, and the doctor of education degree in community college administration from Pepperdine.
Linda Bird
Executive Assistant to President Thor
Rio Salado College
Jarret Cummings
Special Assistant to the President

Monday, November 2, 2009

Visually Impaired Student Finds New Life Through Rio Salado

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

"I quit high school because I was embarrassed about my vision problems," said Deitrick Fields "I wore big glasses and I was still bumping in to things and people. I was too embarrassed to ask for help, and chose to quit school instead."

That was the attitude Fields had when he was a freshman in high school. Today, Fields, 32, has a more positive attitude toward school and life.

"Now, I'm loving school. I earned my GED (General Education Development certificate) and I’m starting college classes," said Fields. "My goal is to get a degree in broadcasting."

Like thousands of students, Fields’ path to earning his GED started at Tempe-based Rio Salado College. The majority of students who turn to Rio Salado for help preparing for the GED exam have obstacles to overcome that have kept them from completing high school. For Fields, the obstacle is blindness.

Finding a school that could cater to his disability added an extra obstacle. He tried one school, but found the technology outdated and the lack of instructor support daunting. On the verge of giving up again, he found Rio Salado College, where he got the help he needed with online classes.

"I started with a different school, but it wasn't keeping my attention," said Fields. "I contacted other schools, but they didn't know what to do with me. I looked into Rio Salado and they got me started in classes immediately."

The prompt help came from Rio’s Disability Resources and Services department, which is set up to help students like Fields.

“We provide a variety of resources and services to promote a successful learning experience for students with disabilities,” said Terry Ferra, Disability Resources and Services manager at Rio Salado College. “Depending upon the disability and the resources we have available, students with documented disabilities may receive accommodations such as sign language interpreters, text in alternative format, and extended test taking time, to name a few.”

Material resources were only part of the support he received from the college.

"Rio's classes were great," said Fields. "And, anytime I needed Terry’s help, she was a simple phone call away. I also found tutoring help, and the teachers were easy to talk too. I found the classes very accommodating to my needs."

While Fields is proud to say he earned his degree, he isn’t afraid to talk about his experience. He is using it to help motivate people in his situation.

“I try to motivate others like me," said Fields. I meet a lot of people who are visually impaired and want to give up. But I tell them they can't quit. There is a help out there and anything is possible."

In the last two years, Fields turned his life around by earning his high school diploma, which led to a new job, and he’s starting college with a very positive outlook on life.

"I have a new attitude toward school and life and there is nothing I can't accomplish," said Fields. "Things are coming together the way I always wanted them to be.”

For more information about Rio Salado College’s Disability Services, visit

Monday, October 19, 2009

Language Classes See Record Enrollment

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Rio Salado College’s foreign language program is booming. The Tempe-based college is seeing a record number of students signing up for its online classes.

“We have more students registered for classes at this point in the semester than we did all of last fall,” said Angela Felix, faculty chair of languages at Rio Salado College. “And last fall we saw our largest enrollment.”

Due to the convenience of online learning and community college affordability, many students from surrounding colleges and universities have opted to take their required language class at Rio Salado.

“Our classes start every Monday and never close or cancel due to low enrollment like other colleges,” said Felix. “Also, the flexibility of online classes allows students to complete the course at their own pace, and provides the option to take classes at the traditional 14 weeks or at an accelerated pace. They don’t have to drive to a campus and they can take the class at their convenience.”

According to Felix, the program’s popularity goes beyond affordability and convenience. Rio Salado’s foreign language classes use a state-of-the art voice recognition technology called Auralog, which allows students to perfect pronunciation, build their vocabulary, and improve sentence structure. Auralog tracks the student’s voice, graphing correct sounds and those that are incorrect. The diagrams help the students position their mouth for perfect speech.
“The voice recognition software really makes a difference in learning a language online,” said Felix. “Our online students do just as well as students in a classroom. Students who are hesitant or shy about saying difficult new words in front of a class enjoy the ability to perfect their pronunciation in a familiar environment where they feel most comfortable.”

For questions that cannot be answered with the program, the students benefit from Rio Salado’s 24/7 helpdesk support from expert instructors. The entire program is like having a private tutor assisting you along the way, said Felix.

While the cost of hiring a private language tutor is expensive, the cost of the program is relatively affordable, which is another contributing factor to the enrollment increase. With the interactive voice recognition software students aren’t required to purchase textbooks. Auralog provides all the materials students need to become proficient in speaking another language, said Felix. Auralog cost just $70 compared to textbooks that run at double Auralog’s price or more. The state-of-the-art software is the same that can be purchased for approximately $450 by the general public.

“Our students are really excited about this,” said Felix. “They love the cutting-edge technology over having to buy expensive textbooks, but really appreciate having a knowledgeable faculty member available for guidance and help.”

Rio Salado College’s seven language classes include: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. The college also offers sign language classes, which allow students to use the social networking site YouTube to submit assignments. For more information about the language programs offered by Rio Salado College, please visit

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rio Salado Named America’s Greenest Campus

Rio Salado College has been named America’s Greenest Campus by Climate Culture on Wednesday for having the highest average of carbon reduction per person. The college also was awarded $5,000 to be put toward green initiatives.

Rio Salado College beat out nearly 500 colleges and universities across the country in the America’s Greenest Campus (AGC) contest, which started in April. All of the participating schools combined to save $4.5 million in energy costs and reduce their collective carbon output by 18.6 million pounds, which is equivalent to the annual amount of carbon emitted by 1,900 cars.

In effect, the award recognizes Rio Salado for having the smallest carbon footprint among all the entrants. Rio Salado’s official carbon footprint, as documented for the American College and Universities Presidents Climate Commitment, is .84 tons of C02e.

The miniscule footprint is the result of Rio Salado’s efficient learning formats, which include 550 online courses, in-person classes on-site at corporations and government agencies, and accelerated formats.
America's Greenest Campus is the first nationwide contest among colleges to reduce the carbon footprints of their students, faculty, alumni and staff. AGC partners include Climate Culture, SmartPower, Sierra Student Coalition, National Association of Environmental Law Societies and U.S. Department of Energy.
“Environmental viability is part of the culture at our college,” said Rio Salado President Linda Thor. “We want to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

Rio Salado College is planning to use the money to help fund the Community Garden Project at its main campus, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe. The community garden will be open to Rio Salado students pursuing a degree or certificate in its Sustainable Foods Program and Rio Salado employees. Food from the garden will be used in the Café @ Rio.

Classes will emphasize the movement toward sustainable food systems, including researching food sources, purchasing locally, and building relationships with local producers. As students progress through the program, they will complete fundamental culinary course work, focus on real food and prepare for hands-on learning experiences in the Café. The Café will work toward a goal of zero-waste.

To learn more about Rio Salado's efforts, click HERE.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Classes help prepare professionals for BPI certification test

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Arizona has received about $28.5 million of the $57 million in stimulus money, which is earmarked for weatherization projects across the state. The funds are part of an effort through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help low-income residents improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

This funding is doing more than helping Arizona’s low-income residents. It is creating job opportunities in the home performance workforce throughout the state, too. To help job seekers begin a career in the home performance workforce, Tempe-based Rio Salado College recently started offering the Building Performance Analyst Certificate through a joint partnership with the Southwest Building Science Training Center.

“We continue to experience a dramatic growth in the weatherization and home performance industry that will require a large number of highly trained individuals to deliver this service in Arizona,” said Gavin Hastings, Energy Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator for Foundation for Senior Living (FSL) Home Improvements. “The partnership allows individuals wanting to become energy auditors the opportunity to learn online from a local resource.”

The certificate consists of two non-credit online test-prep courses, which are designed to prepare candidates for their in-person field training classes and exams for Building Performance Institute (BPI) certification at the Southwest Building Science Training Center in Phoenix. BPI certification is a common requirement for contractors doing weatherization work, and the Southwest Building Science Training Center is the only affiliate in Arizona where workers can get BPI certification.

The class content will help students will gain an understanding of a broad range of trades and occupations, such as HVAC technician, envelope workers such as air sealing, insulation, and vapor barrier workers, siding and window specialists, and a number of other workforce groups. The students will gain an understanding of how each subsystem interacts with and affects the others to achieve building performance.

The Principles of Building Science course explains the science that an individual in the building, remodeling, or trade industry needs to know if they are working to make buildings perform more efficiently. The course helps prepare individuals for BPI, NATE, NARI, RESNET, and other industry credentials for green buildings.

The Comprehensive Building Assessment is an intermediate course geared toward conducting visual building inspections, performing diagnostic testing, and determining residential building improvement opportunities in the field; then documenting the performance of the home, prioritizing improvements, and preparing a work scope that will guide the homeowners decision making process for making the improvements.

“This model is great for individuals with little or no contracting experience as they gain a more comprehensive education in construction principles, building component, and principles of building science,” said Hastings.

For more information about Rio Salado College’s Building Performance Analyst Certificate, please visit

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rio Salado, Guests Offering Workshops at Going Green Fair

Communiversity @ Surprise partners hosting open house

On Saturday, Oct. 17, the Communiversity @ Surprise is taking part in the City of Surprise’s second annual Going Green Fair by hosting an educational fair and offering green workshops. Rio Salado College is presenting two free workshops, while AKA Green and APS will each present a workshop. (See below for workshop details).

To register for Rio Salado or APS workshops, call 480.384.9001 or visit the Communiversity at 15950 W. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise. To register for the AKA Green workshop, please visit

During the fair, the Communiversity @ Surprise partners — Rio Salado College, Phoenix College, Glendale Community College, Ottawa University, University of the Incarnate Word, and Western International University — will have representatives available to help perspective students learn about classes and degree pathways offered at the site.

1. Green Home Remodeling 101 (Offered by AKA Green)
Are you thinking of remodeling a portion of your home or still have part of that kitchen left to do? This workshop is for you — homeowners who have heard about green building and want to know how it relates to home improvement projects they plan to undertake. This two-hour workshop is a survey course that covers green building concepts as a homeowner can apply them to minor or major home renovations. Concepts covered include basic building envelope principles (energy), materials, indoor air quality, materials re-use and recycling, energy conservation and water conservation. Includes lessons learned from a.k.a. Green partner Mick Dalrymple’s documented ongoing efforts to turn a 1975 home into an eco-friendly, family-friendly, Net-Zero Energy Home through remodeling.
Presenter: Mick Dalrymple, AKA Green
Time: 10 a.m. – noon
Cost: $39 per person ($70 for two people)

2. Bringing Sustainable Gardening Home (Offered by Rio Salado College)
· What is sustainable gardening and why should I care? Time for a paradigm shift.
· Sustainable vs. organic (there’s a difference?)
· Soil management comes first (don’t treat your soil like dirt)· Composting can be sexy
· Building raised beds with recycled/reused materials· Growing vegetables and flowers together(companion planting) for pest resistance and beauty
· Proper water usage (we have a drinking problem).
Presenter: Peter Conden, Rio Salado Community College
Time: 1 – 2 p.m.
Cost: FREE

3. We Are What We Eat (Offered by Rio Salado College)
There is a new movement in the food industry, which is to re-think how we produce, purchase and consume our food.
· Why this new shift?
· Is our current food system sustainable?
· What are the best choices for me and my family?
· How can I make these changes and still enjoy my favorite foods?
· This session will address these questions and provide an overview of the process from “seed to supper.”
Presenter: Shannon Corona, Rio Salado Community College
Time: 9 – 10 a.m.
Cost: FREE

4. Simple Things To Do To Lower Energy Bills (Offered by APS)
Wondering how to lower your energy bill? Curious about how solar energy works or if it's something you should consider for your home? Rex Stepp, of the Renewable Energy group at APS, will be presenting information on simple things you can do today to lower your energy costs as well as discussing how to take advantage of Arizona's 300 days of sunshine with today's solar technology. Along with discussing various ways to use solar energy, you'll also learn about the great incentives and tax credits currently available that can cover well over half the cost of going solar.
Presenter: Rex Stepp, APS
Time: Noon to 1 p.m.
Cost: FREE

Monday, October 5, 2009

Receive a Tax Credit While Earning College Credit

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager
Attention college students! Start saving your school receipts. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) newly-created American Opportunity Tax Credit, college students and their parents may be eligible for more tax credits.

"The amount of the credit is higher," said Eric Smith, media relations specialist at the Internal Revenue Service. "It now goes up to $2,500 per student. So, that is definitely an increase, and to get that maximum credit of $2,500, you need to spend $4,000 on qualifying expenses. That's mainly tuition and fees, but it can also include books."

The American Opportunity Credit is good for the first four years of school, which is twice as long as the old Hope Credit, which was good for the first two years. There are additional changes that benefit students and parents.

"The income limits have been raised for the American Opportunity Credit," said Smith. "There are some people who didn't qualify under the old law who now qualify under the new law. Also, there's a change for people with lower incomes. That is to say you can get the American Opportunity Credit even if you owe no tax, and that wasn't true with the old Hope Credit.
For someone who doesn’t owe tax, they cannot get the full $2,500. Instead, it is capped at $1,000, which is major improvement considering they couldn’t receive anything under the old law."

According to Smith, students and their parents must file a tax return to get the credit. Pointing out that often it is better for the parent to claim the credit instead of the student.

"It may depend on who’s paying the cost," said Smith. "The key here is that students and parents shouldn’t leave this money lying on the table."

For people who need the money sooner rather than later there is a way to benefit now.

"You still have to claim it when you file your return next year, but the actual benefit or the tax savings, you can get at least some of that now," said Smith. "If you're working and you have tax taken out of your paycheck. You can actually reduce the amount of withholding that you have based on the credit that you expect to be able to claim."

To figure out how much of a credit someone can receive, visit and use the withholding calculator, which will help determine if you qualify. If someone qualifies, they need to give their employer a new W-4 form and have less tax taken out of their paychecks.

Another new benefit, which is only available for 2009 and 2010, is using money from college savings plans. Money from these plans can be used to pay for computers, internet services, etc. A number of rules and restrictions apply, and contact a plan administrator for more information is highly suggested.

To learn more about Rio Salado College and the financial aid opportunities available, please visit

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rio Employees Collect Tools For Teachers

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Throughout the school year, teachers often spend hundreds of dollars of their own money on classroom supplies for themselves and their students. For first-year teachers, who don't have years of materials saved, that figure can easily eclipse $1,000.

To help ease the financial burden of outfitting classrooms for first-year teachers in Rio Salado College’s Post-Baccalaureate Teacher-in-Residence program, the employees at the Tempe-based college held the Tools for Teachers school supply drive.

During the drive, employees spent several weeks collecting school supplies and volunteering during their lunch time to fill 100 reusable bags made of recycled materials for the teachers.

“This has been an especially tough year for teachers,” said Dannan Glasper, administrative assistant at Rio Salado College. “Many of the teachers in Rio’s Teacher-in-Residence program are starting their careers at Title I schools and are working with very limited budgets for supplies.”

According to the Arizona Department of Education, Title I, which is part of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), provides financial assistance to local educational agencies to meet the needs of disadvantaged school children. Title I was developed to help students reach the state's academic standards.

“Rio Salado employees and the teachers live and work throughout the Valley,” said Glasper while adding a box of crayons to a bag. “Essentially, the employees are helping teachers and students in their own backyard.”

The Tools for Teachers supply drive is just part of the college's volunteer efforts. Recently, school officials started working on a college-wide campaign called Pay 30 Forward. The campaign, which started in July, encourages employees to get involved in their communities by volunteering, participating in charity events, and helping other causes.

"Rio Salado recently celebrated its 30th anniversary," said Glasper. "So we asked employees to give back by volunteering at least 30 hours in the community, which has been very supportive of Rio over the years."

While the 30-hour mark is linked to the 30th anniversary, it also was established after officials discovered that a large contingent of employees were already heavily involved in volunteering.

“While talking to employees we found out that some really dedicated people are volunteering more than 30 hours a month,” said Glasper. “So we came up with the 30-hour mark to make it challenging for the employees. The campaign started in July and we are asking them to volunteer 30 hours by next July. That gives them a year, which is challenging, but very reasonable.”

Since Pay 30 Forward is not mandatory, a committee made up of Rio Salado employees is planning several volunteer events to help people get involved.
To learn more about Rio Salado College’s outreach effort and how you can get involved, visit

Monday, September 14, 2009

H1N1 (Swine Flu)

Public health officials are preparing for the resurgence of H1N1 (Swine Flu) this fall. At a July public stakeholders meeting, Maricopa County Public Heath Director, Dr. Bob England, warned "the thing that people need to know is that it will come back." England explained that although there are many variables at play, which makes specific predictions impossible, a recurrence of H1N1 is likely to hit the community hard. "In the past one in four people have become sick in that second wave," England said.

While there is no vaccine yet available for the prevention of H1N1, health officials are urging citizens to take precautions:

  • Stay home if you are ill and seek medical advice when needed
  • Wash hands thoroughly and frequently
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Get a seasonal flu vaccine
The Maricopa Community Colleges are preparing for the fall. It will be important for faculty to share concerns and prevention measures with students and urge them to report illnesses in an effort to prevent the spread of H1N1.

Arizona Department of Health Services -
Maricopa County Health Department –
The Centers for Disease Control -
U.S. Government Flu Information – http://

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Rio Salado Building Green Learning Campus

Green Schoolhouse Series to be launched in Phoenix

A unique partnership between Tempe-based Rio Salado, the City of Phoenix, the nonprofit organization Brighten a Life, and Cause and Effect Evolutions will bring the first green charter high school to Phoenix.

Last week, Rio Salado College President Linda Thor, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and Marshall Zotara , managing partner of Cause and Effect Evolutions, unveiled plans for the Green Learning Campus and Higher Education Center, which will be built at Rio Salado’s Seventh Avenue site, 619 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix.

“This site will become the newest point of pride for education within the City of Phoenix,” said Thor. “In the near future, this site will undergo a significant transformation to become a multifaceted campus with a sustainability focus for both high school and adult learners.”

Brighten a Life and Cause and Effect Evolutions are building two new sustainable green schoolhouse buildings with 7,000 square-feet of classroom space. These facilities will house one of the nation’s first green charter high schools, which is slated to open in the fall of 2010. Sustainability will be infused in the curriculum and will focus on improving and using energy more efficiently.

“Students will have the option to receive both high school and college credit simultaneously through dual enrollment,” said Thor. “This will give them — and their parents — a very affordable head start on their bachelor’s degrees.”

The buildings are the first structures in the nation to be built through the nonprofit organization Brighten a Life, the originator of the Green Schoolhouse Series. Cause and Effect Evolutions is working with local companies to obtain sponsorships to cover the cost of constructing the buildings.

Along with the two school houses, a third new building is slated to be built with funds from General Obligation Bonds, which were approved by voters in 2004.

“In the third building, Rio Salado will continue to offer a full array of free, in-person Adult Basic Education non-credit classes,” said Thor. “The same building also will provide regional support services for Rio Salado College online students, such as testing, academic advising and tutoring services.”

Rio Salado’s two existing buildings on the 7th Avenue site will be retrofitted to make them sustainable and environmentally responsible, while the two existing portables will be torn down.

“This campus also will offer green jobs training programs,” said Thor. “Earlier this year, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to join Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon in meeting with senior officials from the Departments of Education, Labor and Energy. As a result, Rio Salado has joined forces with the City of Phoenix, and together we are seeking federal stimulus funds for portions of this dynamic new model in education. If we are successful in obtaining those funds, they will be utilized to retrofit the two existing buildings for the green jobs training classes.”

Rio Salado College has made a commitment to do its part to develop sustainable living, working and learning environments. And through its unique partnerships with Brighten a Life, Cause and Effect Evolutions, and the City of Phoenix the college that is a leader in online learning is taking another step toward being a leader in sustainability.

To learn more about Rio Salado’s sustainability efforts, visit

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learn to Teach Online

Rio Salado College launches eLearning Design course
By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Online learning is on the rise in schools throughout the Valley and across the country. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education, “Online learning — for students and for teachers — is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology.”

It is estimated that more than a million K–12 students took online courses in the 2007-2008 school year.

The demand for instructors to teach online is on the rise, too.

To keep up with the demand of students seeking online classrooms, Rio Salado College recently started rolling out its new K-12 eLearning Design classes for teachers.

“We’ve had a lot of people inquiring about the classes before they were available,” said Jennifer Freed, faculty chairperson of eLearning Design at Rio Salado College. “Students started enrolling in classes the day they were available. As more schools add online classes we expect our enrollment to increase dramatically.”

Using 21st century skills, K-12 eLearning Design classes teach everything from designing curricula and multimedia presentations to instructing participants with wikis, blogs, video-sharing and social networking.

“The students will learn the ins and outs of teaching an online class,” said Freed. “The classes cover such topics as eLearning design and delivery, classroom management, discipline, and behavior in online learning, parent communication and involvement in eLearning, legal issues with K-12 eLearning, engaging K-12 eLearners, and writing online assessments.”

“Additionally, they will experience an online environment so they understand both the instructor as well as the student perspective of online learning,” she said.

There are many advantages to learning online and those same perks, and more, apply to teaching online. Teachers can work from home and prepare a class at any time or from any place.

“Students often open up to instructors more online,” said Freed. “I find that I get to know my online students better than I do my in-person students. When students don’t see you they aren’t as intimidated. Even the shy students will participate more in an environment where they feel more comfortable.”

The program features general elective courses for those who want a general introduction to the eLearning Design field, and it allows teachers to earn an endorsement, too.

“If a teacher takes 30 credits of eLearning Design courses they can add a computer science endorsement to their Arizona teaching certificate,” said Freed. “New courses will be rolling out with each of our major start dates for the next year, and more course opportunities will become available throughout the year.”

To learn more about Rio Salado o K-12 eLearning Design, visit

Monday, August 31, 2009

Orientation Sessions Explain Rio Salado’s Encore Career Classes

By David Staudacher, 480.517.8472

Starting Sept. 9, Rio Salado College is having several orientations for its 50+ Encore Career Program at the Tempe Connections Café on the main floor of the Tempe Public Library, 3500 S. Rural Road.

Rio Salado College’s 50+ Encore Program was created to support a targeted retraining program aimed at adults over the age of 50 who are eager to prepare for new careers in education. The program was made possible due to a $25,000 grant from Civic Ventures and Metlife Foundation.

“We know there are people who want to re-career,” said Kimberly Tobey, Rio Salado College’s community liaison director. “This program will allow us to work directly with the 50-plus re-careering student. For many of them, it may have been a long time since they’ve been in school. This will help them find success in school and in the online learning environment.”

Based on adults’ areas of interest, experience, educational backgrounds, and employment situations, candidates will be able to enroll in one of four online teacher certification programs. Rio Salado has customized its online teacher certification programs for eligible adults, who are interested in re-careering and pursuing teaching positions in early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education. The programs are:

  • Post Baccalaureate Teacher Prep for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and may be working fulltime.
  • Teacher in Residence for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and are working in the classroom while completing their teacher certification.
  • Bachelor Degree Pathways for candidates who do not have a college degree.
  • Troops to Teachers for military personnel transitioning from the military to second careers.

Rio Salado has been offering a teacher prep certification program the past 10 years. The majority of students begin with bachelor’s degrees, but the Tempe-based college also has programs for students who need to complete undergraduate credits.

“Last year, more than 550 students, who were 50 or older, took classes with Rio Salado,” said Tobey. “With the Encore program, we expect enrollment to eclipse 600 students or more. The 50+ Encore candidate bring a wealth of knowledge from prior work experience, general life experience, and an understanding of the importance of continuous learning, which will provide the community with more quality instructors in the classroom.”

The orientation events will offer an overview of the courses and pathways available. Financial aid options also will be discussed. At this time, no scholarships specific to this program are being offered.

For more details about the Rio Salado College program and to inquire about enrolling, please contact Rio Salado’s Enrollment Services at 480.517.8580 or at

50 + Encore Program Orientation dates, programs and times at the Tempe Connections Café

Sept. 9, 2009, Post-Baccalaureate, 10 a.m. – Noon
Sept.9, 2009, Bachelor’s Degree Pathway, 12:30 – 2:30 PM
Oct.21, 2009, Post-Baccalaureate, 10 a.m. – Noon
Nov.18, 2009, Post-Baccalaureate, 10 a.m. – Noon
Nov.18, 2009, Bachelor’s Degree Pathway, 12:30 – 2:30 PM
Dec. 2, 2009, Post-Baccalaureate, 10 a.m. – Noon

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dental Hygiene Extends Application Deadline

Rio Salado’s School of Dental Hygiene has extended its application deadline to October 1st. Contact a student enrollment services advisor at (480) 517-8580 for details, or visit

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rio Named Military Friendly School

G.I. Jobs magazine recently named Rio Salado College a Military Friendly School for 2010. This honor places Rio Salado in the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools nationwide.

“It is a great honor to be considered a Military Friendly Institution,” said Yvonne Lawrence, Coordinator of Recruitment Programs for Military Education at Rio Salado College. “Providing educational access to service members, veterans, and their families is one of the goals of Military Education at Rio. This honor is attributed to the hard work of the Military Advisement Team and Veterans Affairs at our Tempe location and at Luke Air Force Base.”
Find more about our military partnerships at

Friday, August 14, 2009

Communiversity Featured on School Solutions

By Kim Covington - Aug. 13, 2009

Starting in about a week, college students will be able to skip the long commute and go to several community colleges at one site. It's a new, more affordable option to higher education. The Communiversity concept is the first of its kind in the West.

Director of Community Partnership Programs for Rio Salado College Todd Aakhus says, "It's a one stop shop.”

Starting August 24 classes will be offered face to face, online and in the hybrid format which combines the two.

Communiversity allows students to complete everything from a certificate and associate degree to bachelor’s and master’s degrees all in one location.

Students can choose from 40 programs in 6 degree pathways: education, business information systems public safety and liberal arts and health care. Communiversity partners include Western International University, Western Maricopa Education Center will bring in high school students. They will join Rio Salado, Phoenix and Glendale Community Colleges, Ottawa University and the University of Incarnate Word.

Todd Aakhus says, "You have the ultimate variety here. What we've got is affordable accessible flexibility. You can save up to 35% off the entire degree.” They save because students can transfer up to 90 credits to a university.

The video is available HERE.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

‘Super Registration' Dates Scheduled

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Second chances are hard to obtain in life. So in August and September, Rio Salado College is offering a second chance to Valley residents who want to complete their high school education or develop their English skills.

The Tempe-based college’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) department is starting Super Registration on Aug. 24 and Aug. 25 at eight locations throughout the Valley. Super Registration is an opportunity for people to return to school and prepare for the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) test.

“The lack of a high school diploma can keep someone from getting promoted or hired,” said Miranda Lopez, Rio Salado College’s Director of adult education. “Obtaining a GED (General Education Development) can open more doors and lead to higher paying positions, too. After completing an ABE program, 85 percent of adult learners were successful at improving their employment, increasing both their skills and pay level.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly half a million adults in Maricopa County are neither enrolled in school nor have a high school credential, and the difference between someone with a high school diploma and a high school dropout is more than $7,000.

Rio Salado’s ABE classes focus on improving students’ basic reading, writing and math skills. The classes help students become more self-sufficient, improve job skills, and lay the foundation for a better future. Also, the classes are funded by the Arizona Department of Education, Adult Education Division, and the classes are free for participants.

“Students will need to participate in orientation and go through an assessment before starting classes,” said Lopez. “Also, capacity is limited at most locations and some centers have minimal immediate class openings. Students may be asked to sign up for orientation and assessment.”

“Students should note that day, afternoon, and evening class options are available at most, but not all, locations,” she added. “Students must be 16 years of age or older and be able to verify that they are a legal resident or otherwise lawfully present in the United States to participate in the program.”

For up-to-date Super Registration dates and times please call the ABE HOTLINE (480) 517-8110 or visit

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You're Invited to the Communiversity Open House!

The brand new Communiversity @ Surprise is hosting an open house on August 18 and August 22. Stop by and tour this state-of-the art educational facility located in the new Surprise Civic Center. You can also meet representatives of our partner institutions, and learn about program offerings available through the Communiversity.

Open House Schedule:
  • Tuesday, Aug. 18th - 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug. 22nd - 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
15950 W. Civic Center Plaza, in Surprise
(West of Litchfield Road, off of Greenway Road)

In addition, 98.7 The Peak will be broadcasting live from the Communiversity @ Surprise on Tuesday, Aug. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stop by for a chance to win fabulous prizes!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Register Now for Fall Classes!

Registration is now open for Rio Salado College's fall session, which begins Monday, Aug. 24th. To register for classes, click here to review courses available for Fall 2009. Then login to to get started. It's that easy!

Rio Part of Initiative Aimed at Adults Returning to College

A consortium of adult-serving colleges and universities, including Rio Salado College has launched a new initiative aimed at adult learners seeking better information in choosing an institution offering degrees through distance education.

The initiative, called Transparency by Design, launches a website that gives adult learners new information to accelerate and better inform their decision making process. The website,, offers adult learners information on program-level learning outcomes, how outcomes are measured and how students performed on these measures. In the next stage, still in development, adult learners will have access to student satisfaction, progress rate, and other data on each member institution participating in the initiative.

For more information about Rio Salado’s participation in Transparency by Design, visit

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Program gives at-risk students a jump on college

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

When Eduardo Rodriguez graduates from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe next year, he will walk away with more than his high school diploma. He will have earned college credits, too.

High school students earn college credit through dual enrollment or concurrent programs, but Eduardo took a different path. He participated in Rio Salado College’s ACE Puente Program.

“This is a good way to get a jump on my college career,” said Eduardo, who is planning to pursue a degree in business development. “I want to get my MBA, and this is giving me a great head start.”

Rio Salado College's ACE (Achieving a College Education) Puente Program recruits at-risk, financially disadvantaged, and first generation college students while they are in their sophomore year of high school. The participants begin taking classes in the summer before their junior year of high school, and they continue to take two courses every summer and one course during the fall and spring before graduating from high school. This allows students to earn up to 24 college credits by the time they graduate high school.

“The work can be difficult at times,” said Eduardo, who is among 33 students in the ACE Puente program. “It gives me the extra push I need to prepare for college, and I get a lot of support from the people in this program. [Bruno] Rhodes is always available to answer questions.”
According to Bruno Rhodes, Rio Salado ACE Puente coordinator, many of the students don’t have anyone at home when they have questions. The support the school offers is crucial to the students’ success.

“The students can get help from the teacher, the mentor they are pair with when they start the program, or other members of their cohort,” said Rhodes. “The majority of these students are the first people in their family to take college courses, so we provide a lot of support to ensure their success.”

According to Eduardo, the ACE Puente Program does more than teach the students general education lessons.

“I enjoy the independence I have with these classes, but that means I have more responsibility, too,” said Eduardo, who has been participating in an English class throughout the summer. “Besides building on my core classes, I am learning time management. And that is something you don’t learn in high school.”

For more information about Rio Salado College’s ACE Puente program, visit

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School of Dental Hygiene Accepting Applications

Rio Salado College is accepting applications for the dental hygiene program, for the February 2010 start date. The application period is from June 1 through September 1. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Communiversity @ Surprise Opening on Aug. 3

Contact: David Staudacher, PR Manager, 480.517.8472

West Valley residents have a new option for obtaining affordable college degrees. On Monday, Aug. 3, the Communiversity @ Surprise, 15950 W. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise, is opening to the public for students to register for classes. Open houses also are slated for Tuesday, Aug. 18, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday Aug. 22 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Communiversity is a creative blend of community colleges and universities, which allow students to complete certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees and master's degrees, in-person and/or online all in one location. Some programs allow students to earn up to 90 credits through the community college partners before transferring to a university partner for the remaining credits.

Along with host college Rio Salado, several institutions are providing classes and programs at the Communiversity. The partners include: Phoenix College, Glendale Community College, Ottawa University, the University of the Incarnate Word, Western International University and West-MEC.

"Students can save about 33 percent over the cost of a bachelor's degree from a traditional four-year university," said Todd Aakhus, director of Community Partnership Programs at Rio Salado College. "They can do it in a fraction of the time, too."

Students can choose from more than 40 degree programs through the Communiversity's educational pathways, which include: health care, education, business, information systems, public safety and liberal arts. Classes at the Communiversity will be available in-person and/or online.

For more information, visit

Monday, July 20, 2009

Offering the Incarcerated the Skills to Succeed

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager, 480.517.8472

Throughout life, we are taught to follow a straight and narrow path in the same way railroad tracks guide trains in the correct way to go. But not everyone chooses to follow the correct path, and when they stray, their lives can be as destructive as a train when it falls off the tracks.

For Lisa Main, choosing the stray path led her to ASPC-Perryville, a prison in Goodyear.
“I was arrested for forgery and sentenced to four years in prison,” said Main. “I made a mistake and had to pay.”

To get her life back on track, Main followed the advice of her fellow inmates and participated in the Workforce Development and Re-Entry program offered by Tempe-based Rio Salado College.
“I didn’t want to waste my time in prison, said Main. “I wanted to get my degree and see where I could take it. I took every class that was available.

“The program I was in had an emphasis on construction technology. “I completed classes in carpentry, electrical, plumbing, computer technology and maintenance, parenting at a distance, and earned a stack of certificates.”

To further compliment the students’ training, the partnership with the Arizona Correctional Industries places students in jobs while they are training.

“These programs have evolved from pen and paper to hands on training,” said Jo Jorgenson, dean of instruction at Rio Salado College. “Now, the students are reinforcing what they learn, while helping reduce costs at the facilities where they are incarcerated.”

It was during one of the hands-on training sessions that Main was presented with an opportunity that helped turn her life around even more.

“I was part of a crew that was remodeling [Rio Salado College’s] Hohokam building,” said Main. “I was told that there was a job opening at the school and that I should apply for the position. So I did. Then I was offered an interview, and four days after I got out of prison I started working for Rio Salado College.”

Securing a position with Rio Salado was not easy, but a couple of strong references gave her a boost. Instructor Earnie Atkins and Jorgenson recommend her for the position. These references, along with observing her work at Rio Salado helped her stand out from the rest of the applicants.

“I met Lisa through the prison program that was working for the college,” said Richard Espinoza, director of facilities at Rio Salado College. “I saw her work ethics, honesty and that she was a good person that got along with everyone. Now, she is an excellent employee and an asset to the college.”

With her past behind her, Main is excelling at work, enjoying life, and still concentrating on her education.

“Every day, we are helping to educate nearly 750 students at Perryville and nearly 300 at Lewis,” said Jorgenson. “Some students will earn certificates and others are earning associate degrees. What’s great is once they start college courses, they are hooked on education.”

Main is one of the students who got hooked on education. This past May, she completed her first associate degree and plans to continue taking college courses.

“This program completely changed my life for the better,” said Main. “I’m looking at taking more classes to earn another associate degree in organizational management, and then I plan to get my bachelor’s degree.”

Main is a great example of how education helped turn her life around. Seeing her succeed is why Rio Salado College has responded to an ongoing community need in its effort to make educational opportunities available to this population. By offering an education outlet, the incarcerated have an opportunity to get their lives on the right track when they are released from prison.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Nine fugitives sought in financial aid fraud scheme

Federal authorities are seeking nine fugitives for their alleged part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. Government out of more than a half-million dollars in student loans.

The nine people are James Barnes, Everett Black, Robert Harris, Angela Garcia, Kim Martin, Anthony Thomas, Dawn Standing Elk, Elayna Standing Elk and Fabien Zarate.

The scam allegedly was organized by Trenda Lynne Halton, of Peoria, who officials say solicited applications for student loans to attend Rio Salado College from people who had no intention of attending the school. Halton was arrested and released pending trial.

To date, 54 of the 65 defendants charged in the 130-count indictment have appeared in federal court. The final two defendants are expected to appear in court in the near future. Charges vary for each individual and include conspiracy, mail fraud, financial aid fraud and/or false statements in connection with financial aid.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Department of Education are asking the public’s assistance regarding the whereabouts of nine fugitives in this case. Anyone with information regarding the location of any of these fugitives is asked to contact Postal Inspector Greg Torbenson at 602-223-3256, Special Agent Adam Shanedling at 562-980-4136, or call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service toll free at 1-877-876-2455 (then select option 2.)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rio Salado Awarded Grant to Help Retrain Boomers for Encore Careers

Rio Salado College was recently awarded a $25,000 grant to support a targeted retraining program aimed at adults over the age of 50 who are eager to prepare for new careers in education.

The grant, which was awarded from Civic Ventures and Metlife Foundation, allows Tempe-based Rio Salado to customize its online teacher certification programs for eligible adults, who are interested in re-careering and pursuing teaching positions in early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education.

“Many adults over the age of 50 are facing unemployment and depleted retirement funds,” said Kimberly Tobey, Rio Salado College’s community liaison director. “Now, they are turning to Rio Salado to retool their careers with a goal to combine meaningful work and income.”

Based on adults’ areas of interest, experience, educational backgrounds, and employment situations, candidates will be able to enroll in one of four online teacher certification programs.
The programs are:
  • Post Baccalaureate Teacher Prep for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and may be working fulltime.
  • Teacher in Residence for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree and are working in the classroom while completing their teacher certification.
  • Teacher Education for candidates who do not have a college degree.
  • Troops to Teachers for military personnel transitioning from the military to second careers.
“This program will prepare future workers and fill the need for qualified teachers in high demand sectors,” said Tobey. “There is still need for teachers in Arizona’s rural areas and certain subject matters.”

Rio Salado was one of eight community colleges selected from a nationwide pool of 100 applicants and chosen for its innovative approach to matching boomer talent with social purpose jobs that fill specific local workforce needs.

Civic Ventures and MetLife Foundation launched the project to provide support to community colleges that are updating their offerings to help people over the age of 50 prepare for encore careers combining continued income, personal meaning, and social impact.

The grants were awarded to community colleges that are piloting, marketing or expanding courses to retrain boomers for jobs in education, social services, health care and, new this year, green jobs.

“Even in good economic times, it’s not easy to get from the end of a midlife career to the beginning of an encore career,” said Marc Freedman, CEO and founder of Civic Ventures. “In these tough times, community colleges are stepping up to provide a vital bridge to older job seekers who want work that means something to them and that matters to the world.”
Rio Salado College is developing an orientation video, which will be available to view online and in-person at the Rio Lifelong Learning Center in Surprise, the Tempe Public Library, and at additional locations throughout Maricopa County.

For more details about the Rio Salado College program and to inquire about enrolling, please contact Rio Salado’s Enrollment Services at 480.517.8580.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Preparing Students for Life After the Military

When someone’s military service is coming to an end, the question of “what’s next” starts to linger in the back of their mind. Since they’ve faced tougher situations, they tell themselves it will be an easy transition to handle. However, the anxiety tells them they are about to enter an entirely different, unfamiliar territory — civilian life.

While military instructors prepare people for military life, it is college instructors that will prepare people for careers after the military. Even after 30 years, or more, in the military, someone still has plenty of time to pursue a second career, and Rio Salado College is online and on site preparing students for these careers.

Tech. Sgt. Mitzi Eggers, of the 162nd fighter Wing in Tucson, is one of the many students who is preparing for a second career after she retires from the Air National Guard.
“I will earn a Level I Certificate of Completion in Chemical Dependency in November,” said Eggers, who also has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “I have taken classes through two other colleges, but their Web sites didn’t function well as Rio Salado’s site, and there was very little support from the instructors.”

“Rio’s online courses are managed very well, it’s understandable, and there is plenty of instructor support,” she said. I’m very pleased with Rio Salado and plan to continue my schooling with them.”

The Certificate of Completion in Chemical Dependency Program prepares individuals with the skills necessary to become a chemical dependency case manager, as well as provide continuing education to current chemical dependency professionals. Level I courses focus on theories and techniques, ethics, communication skills, interviewing and documentation, and recovery and relapse.

Most military students have busy schedules and many students find online classes to be a good option for earning a degree. As a single mother with two toddlers Eggers definitely falls into this category.

“Between time at the air force base and caring for two children at home there is no room for classes at a traditional college,” said Eggers. “Students in the military don’t have as much free time as other people. Our schedules can be erratic, and we need the flexibility online classes offer us.”

Besides flexibility, military students can get their education nearly paid in full.
“The Air Force Tuition Assistance program pays 100 percent of an Airman’s tuition cost for college courses up to $4,500 per fiscal year,” said Bill Bristol, Rio Salado College’s coordinator of instructional programs at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. “We provide students with information about financial aid and scholarship programs, too.”

“My only expenses are books and a $15 registration fee,” said Eggers. “Anyone can afford this, and everyone in the military should be taking advantage of this opportunity. The military prepares us for a lot, but there is a whole second life after the military to consider.”