Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Drive to Succeed

Online Courses Open Job Market for Two Rio Salado Graduates

Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital is hiring registered nurses, along with Banner Desert Medical Center and many other medical facilities throughout the Valley. While the current job market looks bleak for many job seekers, it is looking bright for registered nurses.

“Nursing is a field where there is still a large demand and many hospitals are hiring,” said Sue Adams, faculty chair of the Nursing program at Rio Salado College. “For some time now, we have been seeing a large influx of students applying for the nursing program. We also are seeing a large group of professionals advancing their education to re-career as nurses. The majority of our recent graduates are re-careering.”

Among Rio’s recent graduates are Thom Hudson and Mike Adams, two of the eight re-careering paramedics in the nursing program. Both Hudson and Adams found Rio Salado College a conducive fit to their busy lives as they juggled family, work and school while pursuing nursing degrees.

For Hudson, changing careers wasn’t something he planned to do. It was a decision he made as his family started to grow and he realized he wanted to spend more time with his wife and children.

“I decided to change careers for my family,” said Hudson. “Being a paramedic is tough on the family dynamic. I saw how it strained other paramedics’ family lives, and I didn’t want to go through that. I’m building on top of what I already have, and going on with my education to become a registered nurse seemed like a natural move.”

While finishing his education seemed like a natural move, Hudson was not sure if he could fit it into his schedule. Unlike the majority of his classmates, Hudson does not live in the Valley or even Maricopa County. He lives in Kearny, Ariz., which is approximately 80 miles southeast of Tempe in eastern Pinal County. With most college programs, Hudson would have had to drive to his classes and clinicals four days a week, but through Rio Salado was able to take advantage of online classes and cut down his traveling and time away from the family.

“Rio Salado’s program made continuing my education a reality,” said Hudson. “The online classes allowed me to take classes on my schedule, which gave me more time to spend with my wife and children. It also saved me a lot of money. It meant two less days of driving to classes and two less days in a motel room.”

Hudson’s classmate Mike Adams, of Prescott, Ariz. was in a similar position. Adams had a long drive from Yavapai County to his clinicals in the Valley, and said online classes were the best route for him.

“I work fulltime as a paramedic and Rio Salado offered the only program that fit into my life,” said Mike Adams. “If I couldn’t take online classes I would have to drive and rent a room four days a week. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to pursue this career change at a traditional school.” With online courses from Rio Salado, Tom Hudson and Mike Adams were able to follow a new career path where there are more employment opportunities.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Overcoming Obstacles

Rio Salado Graduate Earns Diploma, Builds Confidence

“I had chosen motherhood over a master’s degree, car seats over corporate ladder climbing, and babies instead of a briefcase and a Beemer,” said Wilma Macliver, of Phoenix, as she delivered the commencement speech to more than 100 graduates during Rio Salado College’s recent General Education Diploma (GED) graduation ceremony at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.

Macliver is not a celebrity guest speaker receiving an honorary degree. She is a graduate who finally earned her GED after dropping out of high school in 1981 during her junior year to get married and start a family. Despite being a proud parent — both of her sons graduated high school with honors during their junior years — Macliver was not satisfied with letting her high school diploma elude her for nearly 30 years.

“Not finishing high school really bothered me. I felt like I wasn’t setting the right example for my kids,” said Macliver. “And now that I have grandchildren, I need to be a better role model.”

To overcome this obstacle, Macliver attended free GED classes at Rio Salado’s Orangewood Learning Center, which is one of 19 locations throughout the Valley. This wasn’t her first attempt at earning her GED. More than 15 years ago, she took classes with a different organization, but gave up when the instructor told her she couldn’t pass the exam.

“My first attempts to take GED classes were very negative,” said Macliver. “The first place I tried had an instructor who told me I wasn’t smart enough to pass the test, and the second place didn’t have any teachers. It was a do-it-yourself program, and that is not the way I learn. I need people I can turn to with questions.”

Luckily, she had a better experience with Rio Salado. At the Orangewood facility, she was welcomed into a positive environment with coordinators and teachers who focused on her needs and offered her encouraging words.

“My experience at Rio Salado was much better. Coordinator Kate [Tsepilova] was very kind and inviting,” said Macliver. “Preparing for the GED test meant partnering with the correct people, and I found those people here.”

This partnership did more than teach her the lessons she needed to pass the GED exam. It provided her with the determination to succeed.

“When I first met Wilma she was lacking confidence and looked very uncomfortable,” said Tsepilova, Rio Salado’s instructional coordinator at the Orangewood Learning Center. “After scoring well on placement tests, she gained some confidence. But after she passed the GED tests, she became much more confident and poised.”
At the beginning of the year, Wilma Macliver was going on her 28th year of being a high school dropout. Today, with the support of Rio Salado College, Macliver is a self-assured high school graduate who is looking forward to taking her first college class in the fall.

“This is about more than getting a GED,” said Macliver. “This is about overcoming the obstacle of thinking ‘I can’t.’”

Classes are funded by the Arizona Department of Education, Adult Education Division. For more information about Rio Salado’s Adult Basic Education program, visit www.riosalado.edu/abe.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Communiversity Brings New Model for Higher Education to West Valley

The Communiversity @ Surprise, which is located at the new Surprise Civic Center Complex, is a unique educational partnership between private and public entities. In collaboration with the City of Surprise, host college Rio Salado has invited several institutions to provide classes and programs. The partners include: Phoenix College, Glendale Community College, Ottawa University, the University of the Incarnate Word, and West-MEC.

The Communiversity concept, the first of its kind located west of the Mississippi River, allows students to complete everything from a certificate and associate degree, to bachelor’s and master’s degrees, in-person and/or online all in one location.

“The Communiversity at Surprise represents a new model for higher education,” said Linda M. Thor, president of Rio Salado College. “By providing affordable options in higher education, we are confident the Communiversity will help increase bachelor degree completion rates in Arizona.”

By allowing them to take up to 90 credits through the community college partners, students save on tuition before transferring to a university partner for the remaining credits.

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.

“Education is a top priority in Surprise,” said Surprise Mayor Lyn Truitt. “The Communiversity will be a beacon to the entire West Valley. Residents and employers will appreciate its accessibility, affordability and convenient location.”

A modified schedule of classes will be available through the Communiversity in late August, with a full schedule slated for October. The Communiversity is located at 15950 W. Civic Center Plaza in Surprise, AZ. For more information visit www.riosalado.edu/communiversity.

Monday, May 11, 2009

2009 Graduates Inspire with Determination, Patience

Alana Parker and Loretta Price couldn’t be more different, and yet more similar. One is a mother. One is a grandmother. One is starting her career. The other is supplementing an already diverse work history. Both are commencement speakers at Friday’s Rio Salado College graduation ceremony. And both have overcome tough individual challenges to reach this goal.

Parker, whose life-long dream is to become a nurse, is graduating with an Associate in Applied Science in Nursing degree.

“Earning my degree has empowered me,” said Parker, who began taking classes in 2001. “I am excited to help improve the quality healthcare offered to individuals in my community.”

While working towards her degree, Parker juggled school, a job, and the day to day family responsibilities that come with having a husband and two young sons. Soon, however, the stress started building up.

“I faced massive stress during the first two blocks of my program,” Parker said. “I would sit in the testing center, sweating bullets, and having heart palpitations. Everything I studied would blur in my head.”

Parker reached out to Melanie Abts, Rio Salado counseling faculty member, for support.

“Melanie taught me how to relieve my stress using different methods of relaxation,” Parker said. “She helped me understand my studying method, and how to prepare and minimize test anxiety.”

Having conquered stress, Parker then found herself dealing with self-confidence issues.

“At times I would feel as though I couldn't achieve my goal,” said Parker. “I would look at others in my class and feel so under qualified due to my lack of work and educational experience. I realized halfway into the program that I could achieve anything I put my mind to.”

That same determination is a trait also exhibited by Loretta Price, who is earning an Associate in Arts degree in Public Administration.

In 1976, Price immigrated to the United States from South Africa, where she grew up during the apartheid years.

“A strong work ethic and desire to achieve in life were instilled in my family,” Price recalled. “But life in South Africa was actually much simpler and less commercial.”

In this country, Price worked for a car rental company for many years before getting a recruiter position with Maricopa County.

There she joined the Maricopa County Cohort, a program where county employees attended onsite classes to earn certificates or degrees through Rio Salado College.

“I was apprehensive because this was my first exposure to any American school,” Price said. “My educational experience in South Africa was high school and three months of college.”

Price found the cohort experience beneficial thanks to the camaraderie between members. “We formed a bond and would encourage each other to come to class after a tough day at work,” she said.”

Price’s cohort completed their certificate program in 2006, and decided to continue with the degree program. When the cohort ended in 2008, Price forged ahead, taking online classes on her own to complete her degree.

“I learned it’s never too late to start your education,” said Price. “Rio Salado took away all the obstacles and made getting an education very easy.”

Rio Salado’s commencement ceremony takes place Friday, May 15, at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams Street, in downtown Phoenix. For more information visit www.riosalado.edu/graduation.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Rio Salado, Kaiser Partner to Offer Online Sales Professional Class

You can become a sales professional in eight weeks, thanks to a new online class created by Rio Salado College and Kaiser Companies.

The Sales Professional I class outlines the basic principles of relationship selling, and reviews the theories and methods of successful sales strategies.

The class is designed for people who are looking to enter into a sales profession or revitalize their selling techniques, and also presents an employee training opportunity for business owners.

“The techniques taught in this class are especially important in today’s economy when strategizing on how best to reach your target markets,” said Chris Bustamante, Vice President of Community Development and Student Services at Rio Salado. “Employees can really benefit because at some point everyone uses sales and customer service practices in their jobs.”

Specific topics covered in the class include how to build customer relationships, prospect and qualify leads, overcome objections, make effective presentations and close the deal. The online class is led by a certified sales expert.

“Kaiser Companies is extremely passionate about sales education and helping others to realize their full potential,” said Jim Kaiser, President and CEO of Kaiser Companies. “We are very excited about the release of our first Sales Professional class through Rio Salado College.”

The sales professional class is offered at an introductory rate of $595, with special rates available for employee groups. The non-credit class also includes a one-year subscription to Selling Power magazine.

To preview the class, visit www.riosalado.edu/sales.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Employee Group to Participate in Rio Salado Graduation

Through its partnership programs, Rio Salado College works with local corporations, government agencies and community organizations to provide access to training and career-path programs for their employees.

“Rio Salado offers a number of options to employers looking to train new employees, update employee skills, and provide employee advancement opportunities,” said Michelle Tellez, Partnership Programs Coordinator at Rio Salado.

Two years ago, a group of eight employees at American Express in Phoenix formed a cohort to earn certificates in Organizational Leadership from Rio Salado College.

In two weeks, cohort members Jackie Colon, Gayle Dunbar and Jo Ann Murray will attend Rio’s graduation ceremony, having completed their goal.

“Besides the convenience of having the classes take place at American Express, everyone involved had the same goal in mind,” said Colon, of the cohort experience. “The cohort also gave me the opportunity to build a network of relationships with other employees within the company.”

Murray echoed the sentiment.

“I had not really considered continuing my education since it had been nearly 35 years since I was in high school,” said Murray. “The onsite classes combined with the tuition reimbursement offered by the company made this an offer that was too good to refuse.”

Cohort members agreed that they likely would not have pursued this educational opportunity if had not been for the partnership between American Express and Rio Salado.

“Going back to school was not in my plans, however it was too convenient not to give it a try,” said Murray. “I began by taking one class, and continued one class at a time.”

Dunbar had previously taken classes at her workplace, but at one point the classes ceased.
“As soon as I heard the classes would be held onsite again, I signed up, and have now completed two certificates in three years,” said Dunbar. “The more educated you are, the better your chances of succeeding.”

Murray has already noticed benefits of being in the cohort program. “Almost from the beginning, I found that the information was useful in all my interactions with both peers and management,” Murray said.

All three cohort members plan to take their education to the next level. “Now that I have a foundation, I am planning to continue taking classes to complete my associate degree,” said Murray.

Due to economic reasons, Colon was recently let go from American Express, but says she will continue to pursue her education on her own.

“Being a part of this program instilled in me the discipline I need to achieve my goal of earning a degree,” said Colon. “In today’s job market, having a degree can be the deciding factor when it comes to job offers.”

For more information about Rio Salado’s partnership programs, visit www.riosalado.edu/partnerships.