Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Look Back at 2011

As we look forward to continued growth and innovation in 2012, we'd like to take a moment to reflect on what was accomplished this past year and thank our amazing students and staff for making 2011 a year of milestones.

Click the chat bubble on each photo to learn more.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sun Sounds of Arizona Awarded Boeing Community Grant

The Employees Community Fund of Boeing Mesa Awards $3000 Grant to Sun Sounds of Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. – December 2011 – Sun Sounds of Arizona is pleased to announce the award of a $3,000 grant from The Employees Community Fund of Boeing Mesa, which will help the radio reading service deliver the East Valley Tribune and other local newspapers, in audio format, to residents of Mesa.

More than 3,000 Mesa residents currently hear audio information on Sun Sounds of Arizona, the state’s only reading service. With this grant funding, Sun Sounds will work to expand its reach to print-disabled people in the East Valley.

Anyone who finds it difficult to see, hold or understand printed material due to a disability is eligible for service at no charge. Members of Sun Sounds use the service to hear daily local and national newspapers, magazines, books, grocery ads and other local information read aloud.  

"I’m so grateful to Sun Sounds," said Bob Burrows, a resident of Mesa who is blind. "And so is my wife, who no longer has to read the sports page of the newspaper to me! I’d be lost without this service, and I recommend it to everyone who has trouble reading the newspaper."

By providing access to current print information, Sun Sounds of Arizona facilitates independent living, personal choices, and life-long learning for people with vision loss and other disabilities.

About Sun Sounds of Arizona

Sun Sounds of Arizona, established in 1979, is a radio reading and information access service for people who cannot read print due to a disability.  A public service of Rio Salado College, Sun Sounds and 500 volunteers across the state provide information access free of charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using radio, cable systems, telephone and the internet. For more information, visit or call 480-774-8300.

For additional information contact:

Heidi Capriotti
Marketing Coordinator
Sun Sounds of Arizona

Saturday, December 24, 2011

International Students Embrace American Holiday Traditions

Galiya Hafizova-Riley and Szu-Sheng Kao
pose at Rio Salado College Northern
Students at Rio Salado College are demonstrating that no matter where you are from, the holidays are a special time of year.

"I love American holidays and I love celebrating them with Americans," said Galiya Hafizova-Riley, a student studying English as a second language at Rio Salado College

Hafizova-Riley, who came to the U.S. from post-Soviet Kyrgyz Republic, said she was amazed by American holiday traditions when she first arrived.

"One of my favorite holiday experiences in the U.S. was my first time seeing holiday lights and decorations on all the houses in my neighborhood. This was a new experience for me and I enjoyed seeing it all season," she said.

Hafizova-Riley said that her all-time favorite holiday tradition in the U.S. has been New Year’s Eve. "I love that it is a chance for me to get together with friends and relatives to sing, dance and converse all night long. Although New Year’s is similar in my country, Americans definitely stay out later," she said.

Hafizova-Riley is not the only student at Rio who has had the experience of living in a new country for the holidays.

Szu-Sheng Kao, also a Rio student who studies English, came to Arizona two years ago from Taipei, Taiwan with his wife and two sons. Kao said that the last two holidays have been a unique experience.

"It is very surprising for someone to come from China and experience so many new traditions," said Kao.

According to Kao, although Taiwan and the U.S. share many of the same holiday traditions, he and his family also celebrate the Chinese New Year and the Ghost Festival, a Chinese holiday celebrated around the changing moon that honors the dead.

Kao said that he enjoys the holidays in the U.S.

"I have yet to find an American tradition that I don’t enjoy," he said. "I especially love the holiday food. Everything from turkey at Thanksgiving to Christmas ham it is all such a new experience for me and my family," said Kao.

Dafinka Karcheva-Orris, who teaches for Rio’s English Language Acquisition for Adults Program (ELAA), said she finds the food traditions of other cultures to be fun and interesting.

"Food is important in all cultures and I have enjoyed bringing Bulgarian holiday foods to America’s celebrations," said Karcheva-Orris. "Some of the Bulgarian dishes that I have prepared for Americans include: banica, which is a pastry with feta cheese and eggs, and oshav, which is dry fruit boiled in syrup. I have also prepared traditional cabbage and pork for my American friends," she said.

According to Karcheva-Orris, it is not uncommon for immigrants who come to the U.S. to leave behind traditions from their native country. "Back in Bulgaria, we used to sit around the table after dinner and sing during the holidays. Sadly, we no longer participate in this beautiful tradition," said Karcheva-Orris.

Despite the fact that her family no longer sings traditional Bulgarian songs, Karcheva-Orris said that she loves American holiday music.

"One of my favorite American traditions is holiday music. I enjoy hearing the caroling singers and listening to Christmas music on the car radio," said Karcheva-Orris.

Karcheva-Orris said that for her learning new traditions, especially American traditions, has helped her to realize how much diversity there is all over the world.

"I enjoy America’s many diverse traditions because in many ways America’s traditions represent the world population’s traditions. In my teaching profession I have many learners from around the globe who celebrate holidays in their own way. I feel especially blessed in my work with multiple cultures because I can enjoy and learn from others’ celebrations," she said.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

KJZZ Ranks #1 for Morning Drive Time

KJZZ 91.5 FM was recently ranked as the number one news station for the morning drive time by Arbitron a media and marketing research firm. More listeners tuned into KJZZ from September 15 to November 23, 6–10 a.m. than to any other radio station in the Phoenix Metro Area. Morning Edition, a presentation of KJZZ and NPR followed by the Diane Rehm show are featured during this time block.

For January to November 2011, Arbitron reports that KJZZ broadcasts to nearly 144,000 listeners every day and to nearly 300,000 listeners each week. In addition KJZZ streams live to computers and mobile devices an average of 145,000 hours per month.

KJZZ is a listener-supported public broadcasting station licensed to the Maricopa Community College District. It is a community service of Rio Salado College’s Division of Public Service, featuring a mix of local, national and international news, jazz and blues.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shazam! Marvel at Rio Salado's Hulk of a New Literature Course

Last March in a RioNews post, English Department Faculty Chair Kathleen Dunley, expressed her wish to integrate comics and graphic novels into a new literature course at Rio Salado College.  As of this December, that course is fully developed and available for registration.

According to Dunley, an avid comic arts scholar, ENH280: Topics in American Literature is an exciting course to be involved in.  

“The course content provides students with a compelling introduction to visual storytelling as well as an unconventional study of very traditional literary concepts,” Dunley said. “We’re also breaking into some exciting new delivery methods with this class, so it has really been a very fun project for me.”

By adding a social layer to the online course, Dunley said she hopes to cultivate a persistent, active community.

“I decided to integrate the Ning platform for two reasons,” Dunley said.  “First, I wanted students to be able to embed multimedia tools and be creative in how they participate in class discussions. Second, by using Ning, we can keep the course open.  We’re hoping that students will stick around and continue to participate in discussions even after they’ve finished the class.  It also allows me to invite guest speakers into the virtual classroom where they can lecture, take questions, and join the class discussion.”

Cartoonist Jessica Abel is one of the first guests on the roster and will take questions through a broadcasted video conference.

“She’ll technically be in the room with students and they will be able to ask questions. Students who aren’t in the classroom will still be able to access the webcast from any location, “Dunley said. “It’s freeing in a sense.  There are no walls or geographic limitations.”

Dunley’s connection to the comic arts community allows her to include custom content from comicon presentations and other public appearances.

“One of the assignments is to read a few pieces by Seth (born Gregory Gallant). I interviewed him at the Comic Arts Conference earlier this year,” Dunley said. “One of my friends taped the interview so I’m including that video in the class.”

Dunley’s social network has also helped her gain access to quite a bit of open source and creative commons material for the class.

“I’m a contributing editor at The Comics Grid, a non-profit project for comics scholars and serious enthusiasts of comic art, “Dunley said. “I blogged about this class and have gotten a very positive response.”

According to Comics and Digital Humanities Researcher Ernesto Priego, founding member of the Comics Grid, ENH 280 serves as a model for how education should be.

“Dr. Dunley is increasing the possibility for public engagement by developing an online community of learners who are not restricted by geography,” Priego said.  “Integrating accessible web tools for remote collaboration offers much-needed communication channels for both course development and research.”

Priego went on to explain why an online social format is well suited to the niche study of comic arts.

“The genealogy of comic studies is the result of the meeting of two worlds often thought apart, academia and fandom.  Fandom has always been quick and efficient at harnessing web tools, but academia has been slower to adopt new technology,” Priego said.

He added, “Comics are deeply grounded in collective experience, exchange, sharing and communal spaces.  Taking a comics studies course to the web is innovative, yet logical. It means taking the discussion of comics to one of its most natural current habitats.”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

837 Hamburgers

Arizona students who take their first two years of college at a Maricopa Community College like Rio Salado will save an average of $4,687. It might not buy love or happiness, but it'll buy a lot of hamburgers!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Teacher at Xavier College Prep Recieves Excellence in Education Award

Congratulations to Laurie White of Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, for receiving December’s Excellence in Education Award. Former student, Michelle Cantelme, nominated Mrs. White because of her dedication to each individual student.

 “Mrs. White is a teacher who truly makes a difference with her students. She wants all of her students to be successful. You can always count on her to be there from the beginning to the end,” said Cantelme.

Excellence in Education is a partnership between Rio Salado College and KEZ 99.9 FM, which recognizes Valley teachers. 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 during the Beth and Friends Show. All winning teachers are rewarded with $99, an Excellence in Education Award, and a Rio Salado College gift bag.

To nominate a special teacher, please visit KEZ 99.9 keyword excellence.

Rio Salado Offers Programs for Returning Veterans

The military drawdown in Afghanistan will bring nearly 45,000 troops back to the United States by the end of this year. To do its part for transitioning military members, Rio Salado College provides educational programs and support geared specifically to the success of our nation’s returning heroes.

East Valley Veterans Education Center
Opened in early 2011, the East Valley Veterans Education Center (EVVEC) in Tempe provides educational outreach and college advisement services to veterans and their family members at no cost.

Earlier this year, the EVVEC hosted its inaugural “Veterans’ Boot Camp” in partnership with Chandler University.

“The goal of boot camp is to help veterans secure great careers,” said Rico Lolle, Coordinator of Veterans Services at Rio Salado.

The weeklong program consisted of 40-hours of intense training that included computer skills, fitness activities, social networking, financial management and corporate etiquette.

Most classes are taught by successful veterans who have transitioned from the military to the private or public sector and they teach the most innovative job searching techniques and networking skills needed for success in the modern workplace.

“The boot camp program empowers veterans to break through barriers and deal with the challenges they often face when transitioning from the military to a civilian career,” said
Jamie L. McDaniel, Student Services Specialist at the EVVEC.

Military Partnerships
As a ServicemembersOpportunity College, Rio Salado has partnerships with many branches of the military including eArmyU, the Army National Guard Institute and the Coast Guard Institute.

“We are here to support military students, families and veterans by offering a wide range of courses and services, and by acting as a large welcome mat for the men and women in our Armed Forces,” Carr said.
Military students take advantage of Rio’s online classes, as well as a dedicated Military Education Program staff with extensive military experience, and a broad range of services including registration, tutoring, academic advising, library and counseling.

“There are more veteran students now than we have ever seen,” said Gary Marabella, a veteran affairs representative at Rio Salado College. “Rio Salado’s online classes give military students, both active soldiers and veterans, a flexible option for their education.”

Troops to Teachers
One program is Troops to Teachers, where military members can get training to begin a second career in education as a K-12 public teacher in the public school system.

“Rio Salado College recognizes the enormous potential and knowledge that veterans have to offer the workforce,” said Chantele Carr, Coordinator of Military Advisement at Rio Salado. “Through the Troops to Teachers program, military students can prepare for a teaching career after service.”

By earning degrees, veterans can improve their educational level while also benefitting the community by improving the quality of new teachers and the instruction itself.

Rio Salado College provides teacher education programs including bachelor’s degrees and post-baccalaureate credentialing pathways.

Troops to Teachers is a federal program funded by the United States Department of Education through the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rio Salado is Fastest Growing 2-Year College

In a Community College Week article, Rio Salado College is ranked first in a survey of the Fastest Growing Public Two-Year Colleges (of schools having enrollments of 10,000 or more). The article focuses on how enrollments are beginning to slow nationally after years of record-breaking highs. As a state, Arizona is ranked ninth in the 10-Year Trends in Total Enrollment survey, with 232,253 community college students in 2010, up from 184,799 students in 2001. Read more.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rio Receives Grants to Boost Workforce Development

Rio Salado College recently received five educational grants totaling more than $3 million that will help the college create workforce development programs, increase the use of technology in the classroom and improve civics education in Arizona.

"As a recognized leader in workforce development, Rio Salado provides access to training and career-path programs to meet the needs of employers and employees,” said Dr. Jo Jorgenson, Dean of Instruction and Community Development at Rio Salado. “These grants will help students with the skills and knowledge they must have to succeed in today’s competitive environment.”

The five grants, listed below, will be implemented beginning in January 2012.

·       Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant supports Rio Salado as a partner in a national information technology consortium of seven community colleges to develop and support a curriculum/student model for accelerated career path training.

Arizona Adult Education Pilot Grants

·       Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training grant will provide the opportunity for three student cohorts to simultaneously complete GED diplomas and earn a 24-college-credit Certificate in Dental Assisting Technology. 

·       College and Career Pathways grant will help incorporate college and career information into all levels of adult education services in Arizona. As part of this grant, Rio Salado will implement STAR-PATH (Successful Talented Adults at Rio – Practice, Analytics, Technology, Help), a bridge program for post-secondary education where students receive training in employer identified skills.

·       Transforming Education through Technology grant will enable Rio Salado to pilot a program that reduces the amount of site-based classroom time for Adult Basic Education (ABE) students by providing Netbooks to access the internet-based PLATO online learning program.

·       2012 Adult Education Civic Standards grant will fund Rio Salado to pilot newly developed standards for civics education in ABE English language classes.

“Our goal is to use these grants to improve the quality of education that students receive not only at Rio Salado College, but in Arizona as a whole,” said Jorgenson.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reading @ Rio Book Club Plans January Meeting

The Reading @ Rio Book Club is planning its post-holiday meeting and is requesting feedback through an online survey to decide between the following titles:
The January meeting will bring together bookworms from throughout the Rio Salado College community including students, employees and the public to enjoy discussion of the chosen title as well as refreshments and cupcakes.  (Not just standard grocery store cupcakes; these are serious business cupcakes from a local cupcake bakery.)

Fans of books (and cupcakes) are invited to complete the survey to decide which title will be discussed or contact library services.

Follow up info: The book club has chosen Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The meeting will be held January 19 from 12-1 p.m. at the Conference Center (second floor east room). 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rio Salado's Teacher Prep Program Receives $1.2 Million Noyce Grant to Train Science and Math Teachers

The Teacher Preparation Program of Rio Salado College recently received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Noyce Scholarship Program award of nearly $1.2 million to support the recruitment and training of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professionals who are interested in becoming a science or math teacher in 7-12 grade classrooms in Arizona.

“The need for inspiring teachers in STEM related subjects is critical for the future of Arizona’s economy and experienced professionals in these fields have much to offer,” said Dr. Chris Bustamante, Rio Salado College president. “Rio is honored to be one of the few community colleges in the nation to receive a Noyce grant and be a part of this important initiative.”

The Noyce Scholarship award will fund tuition, textbooks, fees and technical support for four cohorts of 10 participants each over the next four years. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, Arizona resident, have a minimum of three years’ experience in a STEM related field, a bachelor’s degree in a STEM discipline, and commit to teach for two years in a high-need school. The application deadline for the first cohort is December 16, 2011.

Successful Noyce scholar participants will complete a comprehensive 15-month teacher certification program with online course instruction and on-site teaching experiences in conveniently located school districts.  Rio will also provide mentoring and professional support to students as they fulfill the required two-year teaching commitment.
“This combination of online and in-person instruction and support will provide STEM professionals flexibility in completing the course training and allow the program to recruit Noyce Scholars statewide,” said Janet Johnson, Rio’s education chair.

Businesses such as Intel, the Arizona Business and Education Coalition, and health care providers in Arizona will be essential to getting the word out to displaced, trade affected or retiring workers in STEM-related fields.

“The Noyce Scholarship Program is such a boon to both education and industry – particularly in rural Arizona,” said Susan Carlson, executive director of the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.
“These scholarships provide a pathway for STEM-talented individuals to move from the private sector into the classroom: benefitting them as individuals, benefitting students who will learn from experienced STEM professionals, and benefitting STEM industries which are looking for well-educated grads.”

For more information, contact Karen Nave, Noyce Grant Scholarship Manager, at 480.517.8743 or

Rio’s highly regarded Teacher Preparation Program was recently joined by The New York Times Knowledge Network. The online program is designed for busy adults who already have a bachelor’s degree and want to become a teacher. Through the NYT EpsilenTM platform, Noyce scholars will be afforded expanded resources such as The Times’ content repository and networking with other students from across the nation while enrolled in the hybrid-distance learning program.

Rio Salado College is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges and is the largest online public community college in the nation, serving nearly 70,000 students annually with more than 41,000 online. Founded in 1978, Rio Salado offers degree and certificate programs and general education courses. The college also provides support for dual enrollment, military and incarcerated students, and is the largest provider of adult basic education in Arizona.

Media Contact:
Delynn Bodine, PR Manager

Monday, November 21, 2011

Retail Management Program Promotes Career Advancement

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the grocery industry is one of the largest in the country and its 2.5 million employees are exceptionally diverse in both their purpose and their perspective. On an average trip to the supermarket, patrons might see a high school student stocking shelves to pay for a first car, a homemaker running the cash register part-time while the kids are in school, and of course, the not quite ready-for-the-rocker retiree at the door who finds great satisfaction interacting with customers as they come and go.

While these familiar characters may not have been looking for a permanent position when they applied, advancement opportunities do exist at all levels of the industry and any one of them could turn their part-time job into a full-time career.

The Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) and Arizona Food Marketing Alliance (AFMA) are encouraging Arizona food industry workers to take advantage of the Retail Management Certificate Program offered online through Rio Salado College and in-person at eight participating colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD).

According to Darl Andersen, President and CEO of Bashas’ grocery stores, the tuition reimbursement offered by AFMA and the monetary award given to program completers by WAFC are investments that return huge rewards to member companies.

“The Retail Management Program equips our workforce with the skills needed to meet current and future business challenges,” Andersen said. “WAFC-approved classes improve the management skills of our members, and help to prepare future leaders in our company.”

MCCCD Economic Development Specialist Steve Kiefer said he believes that the WAFC program is a perfect example of community college partnerships that offer both individual and corporate growth.

“The retail management certificate is an opportunity to help students move forward in their careers. It also helps local businesses improve the quality of their workforce and reduce turnover,” Kiefer said.

He added, “The program really highlights the strengths of the Maricopa district and offering the program using Rio Salado's online platform just makes sense. We're talking about retail and grocery store employees who need to be able to complete their classwork without disrupting their work schedule.”

Rio Salado student Gina Denault agreed saying that taking the courses online has been the key to accomplishing her academic goals.

“I work full-time as a front end manager at Albertson's, and these online classes have given me the opportunity to manage my time the way I need in order to complete all of the course material and projects," Denault said. "It does not conflict with my vacations, heavier work weeks or any other activities that I am involved in."

Albertson’s Education Manager Natalie Murphy recommended Rio’s online format to Denault.

“Most people who work in retail have schedules that change weekly,” Murphy said.  “Attending classes from home and working around their schedule makes it a great opportunity for those who would like to pursue higher education but thought their schedule wouldn’t allow it.” She added, “Gina is a high-energy associate who understands the benefit of a good, quality education and many of our associates fit into that profile.”

"The ability to provide all 10 Retail Management Certificate courses in an online format is significant to WAFC employees and managers who are very capable, but tend to be time-starved and unable to attend traditional college classes,” said Cherie Phipps, WAFC Education Director.

Phipps also said post-secondary credentials are especially valuable to grocery stores and their supply community because educational attainment is relatively low across the industry, even at executive levels.

“The food industry has not historically focused on education,” Phipps said. “Only 14-20 percent of the industry, including senior management, holds post-secondary credentials.  As a result, employees at every level (from cashier to president) have enrolled and have benefitted.”

Denault said that she plans to continue taking online courses to complete the program and would definitely recommend online courses to other employees who want to take advantage of the WAFC program.

“I do plan on completing the entire certificate online with Rio Salado College," Denault said. "It has been a very positive and enjoyable experience and I would highly encourage anyone who wants to further their educational or professional goals to take online courses. If I go back for my Master’s degree, the online route would be the way I would go."

The certificate has been a stepping stone to a college degree for many food industry workers across Arizona.

“Sixty percent of our graduates have gone on to earn a two or four year degree,” Phipps said. “Students can talk to an advisor at their college to get on the right path. We’re also excited about the new Food Industry Management degree offered through Arizona State University and would encourage any student who’s completed their associate degree to look into it.”

“The WAFC program isn’t just for grocery stores,” Phipps said. “Suppliers like Coca-Cola and Hensley Brewing Company are also benefiting from having more engaged and career-minded employees.”

Cultivating an educated and promotable workforce as well as encouraging the continued education of existing managers allows all food industry companies to reduce training costs and improve the quality of service they provide to their customers.

“Graduates of the program are more professional, and exhibit greater self-confidence,” Phipps said. “They begin seeing that they can make a difference and really contribute to the success of the company, instead of feeling like an employee who ‘just works here.’”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Maricopa Community Colleges Launch "Breathe Easy" Initiative

As part of a celebration of the Great American Smokeout, the Maricopa County Community College District today formally launched Maricopa BreatheEasy, a healthy-living initiative that will result in smoke free and tobacco free properties on July 1, 2012. On that date, the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges will join more than 500 other colleges and universities that have become smoke free, tobacco-free, or both.

As an educational institution, it’s our job to lead the way for the members of our community,” said Chancellor Rufus Glasper. “We recognize that making our properties smoke free and tobacco free will mean that some employees and students will have to change their habits, and we want to help them do so.”  Among other things, the District will provide a robust schedule of smoking cessation programs and has asked school stores to offer nicotine gum and lozenges for sale.

Dr. Glasper said the District is announcing the policy change well in advance of its implementation to give students and employees who use tobacco products plenty of time to decide how to adjust to this change. On July 1, 2012, employees and students who continue to use tobacco will have the choice of not using it on District property, or taking breaks off-property.

Today’s launch is being held in conjunction with the 36th annual Great American Smokeout, a national event sponsored in part by the American Cancer Society. It’s a time when smokers and other tobacco users are encouraged to use the day to create a plan to quit the habit, or to plan ahead and begin their tobacco-free life that day. The day is based on the fact that tobacco is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States.

Because more than half the smokers in the country have tried to quit for at least a day, the Cancer Society and other supporters publicize programs and resources that can help smokers kick the habit.

All the Maricopa Community Colleges will hold events marking the Great American Smokeout, some of which will encourage students and employees to pledge to quit their tobacco habits.

Some will be led by students from campus chapters of IGNITE (Influence, Guide, Network for Inter-Collegiate Tobacco Education), a program that helps college students practice advocacy and integrate tobacco control messages into their projects and activities.

The district also announced that nicotine gun and lozenges will be available for sale at campus bookstores to help students, employees and visitors who are fighting nicotine cravings.

As part of today’s announcement, the District unveiled new web pages that contain information on tobacco use and smoking cessation for employees and students. Resources for students will be found on a variety of locations on the websites of the individual colleges, while those for employees and interested members of the community can be found at

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Teacher at Porter Elementary earns Excellence in Education Award

Congratulations to Leslie Buffkin of Porter Elementary School in Mesa for earning November’s Excellence in Education Award.
Parent Angela Krc nominated Buffkin after recognizing her dedication to helping each individual student. “I have never seen a teacher more devoted to each student's success than Leslie. She takes every child's education and progress personally and is an example that all education professionals should follow.”

Excellence in Education is a partnership between Rio Salado College and KEZ 99.9 FM, which recognizes Valley teachers. 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 during the Beth and Friends Show. All winning teachers are rewarded with $99, an Excellence in Education Award, and a Rio Salado College gift bag.

 To nominate a special teacher, please visit KEZ 99.9 keyword excellence.

Rio Salado Seeks Comments From the Public

Rio Salado College is seeking comments from the public about the College in preparation for its periodic evaluation by its regional accrediting agency. The College will host a visit March 5-7, 2012, with a team representing the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Rio Salado College has been accredited by the Commission since 1981. The team will review the Institution’s ongoing ability to meet the Commission’s criteria for Accreditation.

The public is invited to submit comments regarding the College:
Public Comment on Rio Salado College
The Higher Learning Commission
230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500
Chicago, IL 60604-1411

The public may also submit comments on the Commission’s Web site at

Comments must address substantive matters related to the quality of the Institution or its academic programs. Comments must be in writing.

All comments must be received by February 5, 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Course Teaches Creative Job Hunting Strategies

Rio's Counseling Services Department is available in-person,
online and over-the-phone. 

Creative Job Hunting (CPD102AC) is a brand new course offered through Rio Salado College's Counseling Services department.  The two-credit elective is a comprehensive approach that will teach job seekers the strategic elements of their job search and address the psychological strain of prolonged unemployment.

"There are very few experiences in life that are as painful as an unsuccessful job search," said Rio Salado College Counseling Faculty Chair Melanie Abts. "The mental and physical drain of what feels like constant rejection by potential employers can lead to anxiety and self-doubt.  At the moment, it's not entirely uncommon for workers to be unemployed for six to nine months or more and they may find it difficult to stay motivated."

The creative job hunting class was developed by adjunct faculty member Kamela Craig who said she believes the course material is best suited for recent graduates or job seekers who have an immediate desire to start working. 

"This is not a career planning course.  This class is for recent graduates or community members who already know what kind of work they want to do," Craig said.  "We want our students to feel like they are prepared to find a job after they receive their degree.  For our community members, it is an extremely tough job market right now and taking this course can provide some new ideas on how to tackle their search."

According to Craig, the course teaches students to be better communicators so that they can not only write better resumes and cover letters, but they can also perform better in an interview.

"A majority of my students state that interviewing is their biggest fear, so we want to address that head on.  We discuss a variety of techniques to help calm the nerves and then we pinpoint a strategy that will work best for the individual student," Craig said. "Students review common interview questions and behavioral interviewing questions and devise personalized answers with written feedback from the instructor.”

Students gain confidence and become more comfortable with the interview process through simulated interviews. Craig said she believes this helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses in an interview setting.

"As with anything, practice makes perfect," Craig said. "For the final, students must set up a mock interview with an employer to practice their answers and receive feedback in a pressure-free environment."  She added, “I think the mock interview can be an 'ah-ha' moment for many students." 

With an online delivery format and 48 available start dates,  attending the creative job hunting classes does not have to interfere with the actual job hunt.  Participants can expect to learn how to create a job search plan, write a compelling resume and cover letter, use social networking to find job leads, deal with stress to stay motivated, and stay calm during an interview.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rio Celebrates Dual Enrollment Reaccreditation

On Monday, Nov. 7, Rio Salado College hosts a celebration recognizing the reaccreditation of its Dual Enrollment program. The program recently received re-accreditation by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, the national accrediting body of concurrent enrollment programs.The celebration takes place at the Conference Center at Rio, from 3-5 p.m.

Speaking at the celebration are:

• Dr. Chris Bustamante, President, Rio Salado College
• Dr. Vernon Smith, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Rio Salado College
• Dr. Harper-Marinick, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
• Lynn Burbank, President, National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships
• Dr. Anna Battle, Principal, Desert Vista High School

Rio Salado College’s Dual Enrollment program began in 1987 with Xavier College Preparatory as the first partner, and eventually expanded into the public school system. In 2004, Rio Salado was one of the first four colleges and universities to have earned accreditation with NACEP. Rio Salado was reaccredited by NACEP in 2011 and is still the only college in Arizona to have earned this distinction.

Dual Enrollment Facts 2010-11
• Partnerships with 27 public high schools, 7 private schools, and 8 charter schools
• 7,900 student participants
• 50,000 DE classes taken in 161 unique course offerings
• 173,731 college credits earned
• 395 participating DE instructors

To learn more visit

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rio Salado College Receives Sloan Award

Rio Salado College is one of 26 Arizona organizations to be recognized with a Sloan Award for Exemplary Workplace Practices.

“We have put employee wellness and work-life balance at the forefront of our organizational culture and it’s an honor to be recognized for something that is so important to us,” said Ginger Martindale, Rio Salado College Manager of Employee Services.
The awards are part of the “When Work Works” project, an ongoing initiative of the Families and Work Institute.  Award recipients are selected through a two-step process which includes evaluation of flexibility programs and a confidential employee survey.

The national When Work Works project encourages businesses of all sizes and types to become more successful by adopting best practices based on research of workplace effectiveness and flexibility.

“We have found that we are a more effective institution when we promote balance and wellness. When employees feel like they can achieve success without sacrificing their life away from work, it creates a more positive and productive work environment,” Kathy Bopp, Rio Salado College Coordinator of Employee and Organizational Learning said.

The Tempe-based community college received the award during a breakfast event held on November 2, 2011 at the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rio Celebrates Northern Location Opening

Rio Salado College will celebrate the opening of its Northern location on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 8 a.m. The public is invited to attend the opening of the newly renovated facility which will serve as a regional support center at 1715 W. Northern Avenue in Phoenix. The celebration will include a program, a ceremonial ribbon cutting and tours of the facility.

"We are pleased to provide expanded access to Adult Basic Education and college education opportunities at this Rio location,” said Dr. Chris Bustamante, president of Rio Salado College. “Education provides an opportunity for personal and professional growth and will be a benefit to this surrounding community."

Essential student services such as academic advising, computer labs, a testing center and tutoring are available at the site for Rio’s online learners. Prospective students will be able to take college placement tests here. In person Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes including GED and English Language Acquisition for Adults (ELAA) are also available.

Rio’s dental assisting technology courses for high school students at the location are facilitated through a partnership with WestMEC. In addition, a dental assistant technology program specifically designed for concurrent GED students will begin in January. This grant funded program will allow students to work toward their GED while at the same time learn valuable skills for the workplace. Applications are currently being accepted.

“Think of Rio @ Northern as a neighborhood learning center that will be shaped by the community it serves,” said Dr. Jo Jorgenson. “Programs and services will meet the unique needs of the residents and employers in the surrounding area and will provide convenient, affordable pathways to college completion.  The center will also offer a bridge to higher education and career pathways for academically underprepared learners.”

This Rio Salado College 35,000 square foot facility is made possible by voter-approved 2004 bond funding. Phase I and II completed 19,650 square feet of building renovation; phase III will begin in 2012. is open Monday–Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday–Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Sunday. It is located at 1715 W. Northern Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85021.


Rio Salado College is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges and the largest online public community college in the nation, serving nearly 70,000 students annually with more than 41,000 online. Founded in 1978, Rio Salado offers degree and certificate programs and general education courses. The college also provides support for dual enrollment, military and incarcerated students. It is the largest provider of adult basic education in Arizona and served more than 9,500 students last year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Zaharis Elementary School Teacher Recognized for Excellence in Education Award

Congratulations to Gwen Struble of Zaharis Elementary School in Mesa who is the October Excellence in Education Award winner. 

Nikki Slaugh, submitted the nomination as a way to recognize the positive impact Struble has had on her students. “Gwen inspired my daughter to look beyond herself and to help others less fortunate so that they can ‘have hope,’”said Slaugh.  “She truly has a gift unlike any other.”

Excellence in Education is a partnership between Rio Salado College and KEZ 99.9 FM, which recognizes Valley teachers. 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 during the Beth and Friends Show. All winning teachers are rewarded with $99, an Excellence in Education Award, and a Rio Salado College gift bag.

To nominate a special teacher, please visit KEZ 99.9 keyword excellence.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Night Watchman Eyes Better Future through Education

Randall Bird knows security cameras. He is also well-versed in blind spots, motion sensors and locks. As a night watchman, Bird is counted on to provide the security and protection that a camera can’t capture.

“Having a living body on location is a great deterrent to crime,” Bird said. “And in the event that something goes wrong, a good report is always a plus in the eyes of a court and an insurance company.”

As a budding writer, Bird’s reports are an extension of his passion: creative writing. The married father of three (and two foster children) works full-time while also taking creative writing classes at Tempe’s Rio Salado College as part of his long term goal to become an author and English teacher.

Four years ago, Bird’s wife Becky was researching colleges for her own career in education, and came across Rio Salado.

“I was looking for classes that would help me tighten up my writing,” Bird said, adding that he also enjoys the school’s flexibility.

“What I like best about Rio Salado is that I can access my school work at any time online. But what really sold me was the catalog for the creative writing program, which covers everything from screenplays to short stories, novel preparation and editing.”

Bird credits Rio’s faculty members and instructors for helping him grow as a writer.

“Sandra Marinella (creative writing coordinator at Rio Salado) has been a real driving force, challenging me in terms of how I write and how I present my work,” Bird said.

Originally a science fiction writer influenced by a Dungeons and Dragons childhood, Bird has broadened his repertoire thanks to feedback from other writers.

“Once I was exposed to the online writing community, I began to feel the need to expand and experiment with other styles ranging from romance to comedy and beyond,” Bird said.

Last spring, one of Bird’s writing instructors nominated him for a scholarship to attend the “Desert Nights, Rising Stars” writing conference at Arizona State University.

“This was actually a very important event for me because it let me interact with a large group of writers one-on-one and attend lectures by some of the brightest and most talented wordsmiths I have ever met,” Bird said.

For now, Bird happily balances work time and family life as his wife finishes her teaching degree at Rio Salado.

“It’s a cooperative effort with my wife,” Bird said. “We work in shifts with the kids and sometimes go with just a few hours of sleep. It is stressful and exhausting at times. It sounds crazy, but it works well.”

Bird doesn’t even seem to mind his graveyard shifts.

“Aside from the occasional scrap metal hunter jumping into a trash receptacle or a copper thief trying to yank fittings off the building, very little actually happens,” Bird said.

Hmmm. Sounds like the first chapter of Bird’s next literary endeavor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rio Hosts Food Day Celebration

Celebrate the first annual Food Day at Rio Salado College and find out what it means to be a locavore! The free event is open to the public and will be hosted by the students and chefs of the Café @ Rio on Monday, Oct. 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will be held near the amphitheater just east of the Rio Tower located at 2323 W. 14th St. in Tempe.

Food Day is a national event created to bring together Americans from all walks of life and raise awareness of healthy, sustainable eating practices.

“Rio’s core value of sustainability aligns closely with Food Day. Rio’s sustainable food systems program teaches students the importance of eating safe, healthy foods, supporting local farmers, ranchers and artisans and how every day food decisions affect the world around them,” said Michael Hodgins, Rio’s director of sustainable food systems. “National Food Day is committed to these same principles, which made hosting a Food Day event at Rio an easy decision.”

The event will feature a series of activities including; healthy cooking and gardening demos, tours, workshops and giveaways. There will also be a mini greenhouse and aquaponics system on display for guests who are interested in learning more about sustainable food methods. Local farmers and ranchers will also be in attendance.

Food Day’s mission is based these objectives:
• Reduce diet-related disease by promoting healthy food
• Support sustainable farms
• Expand access to food and end hunger
• Protect the environment and farm animals
• Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing aimed at kids
• Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

“Food Day at Rio will consist of like-minded individuals gathering to show their support of clean, sustainable foods,” said Hodgins. “The ultimate goal of Food Day @ Rio event is to create awareness in the area of real food. Creating awareness through education may ultimately stimulate the communities desire to create change.”

Rio Salado College invites all those who are interested to attend this unique event and welcomes anyone looking to get involved in the “locavore” movement to come and enjoy a day dedicated to local food.

Media Contacts:

Delynn Bodine
Cell: 480-215-9456

Jesse Woodbury
Cell: 480-326-5938

Monday, October 10, 2011

Student Finds eLearning Design Opportunities

The education industry is rapidly changing as a result of new technology. The Internet, social media and other online tools eliminate barriers that once existed in a traditional classroom setting.

"Learning is no longer about sitting in a quiet room with a book in your hand. You can take a course anywhere," says Janet Lamar, recent Rio Salado student.

Lamar holds a master's degree in educational leadership and recently received a certificate of completion in eLearning Design from Rio Salado College. She recently started a job as an instructional designer and content writer for an online executive-education program in Pennsylvania.

"Rio Salado prepared me to work by providing me with a model of what I would eventually be doing,"
Lamar said. "I was completely confident that I could walk in the door and immediately apply what I had learned to my new position."

For students interested in a career in education, Rio Salado's eLearning Design program is an excellent way to discover new opportunities in the industry.

Jennifer Freed, faculty chair of eLearning Design at Rio Salado said, "The program is designed to aid students in achieving their professional goals in both corporate training and academia."

Students in eLearning Design develop the knowledge and skills to custom design and deliver instructional programs and products such as courses, curricula, training documentation, multimedia presentations and simulations. Practitioners of all ages and educational backgrounds can find a place in this budding industry.

The field of instructional design is growing, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. O*net online, a website created by the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, provides detailed career information to the public and lists the field of instructional design as a career with a bright outlook. According to the site, practitioners of instructional design earn an annual median of $58,780.

Companies in various industries and academic institutions of all types are looking to employ individuals with training in eLearning Design. Since a great deal of the work is done on the internet, many positions even give employees the ability to work from home.

Lamar was amazed by the number of opportunities in the field.

"This industry is absolutely exploding," she said. "This is the first time in the technology era that these devices are going to drive the learning rather than the other way around. Technology has changed everything and even professions are now at our fingertips."

The 3-year-old eLearning Design program was designed after a series of focus groups consisting of both business and education administrators met to discuss the needs in the industry. The groups provided specific details about what skills an ideal job candidate would possess and as a result, many of those administrators are now offering internships to students who are completing the program through Rio Salado.

Freed says that the main thing students who are interested in the program should remember is "don't be afraid of technology." With that technology, the future of education has arrived.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Open Educational Resources Part Three: Looking Ahead

Educators and policy makers recognize that the status quo in education is simply not enough to meet the country's emerging need for a workforce with advanced skills and credentials.

"The majority of new jobs created by 2018 will require a post-secondary credential, certificate, or degree," said Rio Salado College Vice President of Academic Affairs Vernon Smith. "We need to educate workers to fill those positions. We don't have a choice but to address the barriers that prevent bright, capable students from completing a degree."
By tapping into open educational resources, the innovators at Rio Salado College are planning to reduce the cost of course materials, improve the quality of course content, and create a standard procedure for open course development.

"We're creating a process for gathering and vetting publicly-available information and packaging it for the benefit of a global student body," said Physics Department Faculty Chair Shannon Corona.

In addition to the cost-free textbook program and open source classes built in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rio offers a variety of creative solutions for non-traditional and underserved students. The potential integration of open content into these existing programs will mean better access to higher quality course materials for all of Rio Salado's students.

Merging content provided by top tier universities, including recorded lectures from experts at Yale University or open course work from MIT, with Rio Salado's low cost delivery methods will result in a top quality educational product that's available to underserved students: active duty military, working single parents, and anyone who relies on community college pricing to complete a degree.

According to Michael Cottam, associate dean of instructional design at Rio Salado College, the OER movement is not new, but advances in communication and data analysis are making it much more viable.

"Educators have been sharing what they do in the classroom and what they do online for a long time," Cottam said.  "It just hasn’t had the kind of reach that it has now. Technology is so much better. It’s much easier to share information, collaborate and peer evaluate now."

Cottam said that finding learning objects to re-use is much easier as well.  "It’s easier to get feedback from other educators who can say 'hey this is a great resource.'"  He added, "We're removing barriers to access, and at the same time we’re improving quality. It's very exciting."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Rio Salado Receives $2.8 Million Workforce Development Grant

Rio Salado College has received nearly $2.8 million for job training and workforce development. The award represents an initial roll out of community college and career training funds totaling nearly $500 million from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Making it possible for unemployed Americans to return to work is a top priority of President Obama’s. This initiative is about providing access to training that leads to real jobs,” said Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis.

Rio Salado is one of 32 community colleges from across the nation to receive funding and is part of a seven-college consortium, led by Collin College of Texas. Other members of the consortium include: Bunker Hill Community College, Massachusetts; Moraine Valley Community College, Illinois; Del Mar College, Texas; Salt Lake Community College, Utah, Bellevue College, Washington.

The goal of the consortium is to train displaced workers in the field of information technology. Members of the group will share expertise and resources to advance each institution’s ability to offer high-quality education, training and credentials.

According to Rio Salado College Dean of Instruction and Community Development Jo Jorgenson, the grant money will be used to create a compressed curriculum and a student support model. It will also contribute to logistical support for the consortium such as hosting course content, creation of open source platforms, and initial training for subject matter experts and course development teams across the consortium.

“This grant affords the colleges of the consortium the opportunity to provide education to those who need it the most,” Jorgenson said. “We are excited to participate with other colleges and partners nationwide to expand and enhance education. This program will provide trade-impacted and low-skilled workers with post-secondary learning experiences that will prepare them for sustainable employment in the expanding market of information technology.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is optimistic about the potential return on investment for taxpayers.

“The president knows that building a well-educated workforce is critical to reviving and strengthening the American economy,” Duncan said. “These grants will help community colleges and businesses work together to give students the skills they need to compete for good jobs in growing industries.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Open Educational Resources Part Two: Creative Commons Classes

In the last decade, educators and advocates for education have put a significant effort into enhancing the online availability of free educational resources. 

Yale University has developed an entire website to provide free public access to its open course content and Harvard University's Open Learning Initiative offers free noncredit courses taught online by Harvard faculty.  The Kahn Academy, a non-profit organization, offers more than two thousand instructional videos to anyone and a variety of online repositories are making academic materials freely available with a creative commons license.

Rio Salado College and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation  are collaborating with support from BrandED on an Open Educational Resource (OER) project.  The objective is to create an efficient process for surveying and reviewing publicly available information so that it can be bundled into for-credit classes. 
By paving the way for this type of course development, Rio Salado is hoping to uncover a valuable resource that will universally improve the quality of course content while simultaneously lowering the cost of course production.

According to Rio Salado College Associate Dean of Instruction Michael Cottam, the project fits perfectly with the missions of the organizations involved.

“The Gates foundation promotes open, low cost or free access to education. OER has the potential to make that happen," Cottam said. "The problem is that the resources may not be structured in such a way that they will work in a college class which is where Rio comes in.”

"While the logistics of this type of course development can be time consuming, Rio is well equipped to pioneer a more efficient process," Cottam said. "We have an incredibly flexible system for enhancing and evolving our courses."

While updating an existing Physics course and developing a brand new Psychology course using only creative commons and public domain content, the instructional design team has already encountered and overcome several potential stumbling blocks. Luckily, that's the point.

"We chose these courses because they have a very high-enrollment across the country and they’re very different from each other.  One is theory and discussion based and the other is based on fixed rules and formulas. We wanted to make sure our experience with the project was as well rounded as possible so that we could identify and address a variety of issues that other institutions might face when using the process we have developed."

When the project is complete, Rio will not only share the procedural findings, but the college will also publish the bundled course materials under a creative commons license for use by any other institution or individual.

Psychology Department Faculty Chair Wanda Tucker said she believes the pilot course developed through the open source project is just as effective as her original course and that eliminating the cost of the source materials will have a significant impact on higher education.

"One of the things we are tuned into is making sure the course content meets the competencies of our existing psychology class and that we are providing an equivalent academic product to our students," Tucker said.
"Although open education is a buzz word right now, that's not our focus," she added. "This project is a genuine effort to improve education as a whole and our purpose in pursuing it is to add value to and increase the availability of learning resources."

Physical Science Faculty Chair Shannon Corona agrees.

"The resources are available. We can store, retrieve and share data instantly and seamlessly, why wouldn't we take advantage of these tools? That’s what this project is all about," Corona said. "We're creating a process for gathering and vetting publicly available information and packaging it for the benefit of a global student body."

The OER project is an attempt to determine the viability of creative commons and public domain content as academic source material and to provide a streamlined process for organizing and transforming those materials into useful learning tools.

"As we learn more and are able to organize and manage the content, we'll be able to create richer more diverse courses," Corona said. "What we’re doing right now is really just the beginning.”