Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rio Students Named to All-Arizona Academic Team

Rio Salado College students Debra Dencek and Brendan Pierce were recognized at a state-wide honors banquet on Wednesday, February 23 for their acceptance to the All-Arizona Academic Team.

Team members are selected based on their community college accomplishments. Judges for the competition review academic performance, extra-curricular activity and written responses to several essay questions.

Dencek studies Dental Hygiene at Rio Salado and is a Chancellor’s Scholar for the 2010-11 school year. She volunteers at the Cave Creek School District assisting with health screenings and participates in AmeriCorps, a community outreach program. Dencek also serves as Vice President of Service for the Alpha Theta Omicron chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and holds a 3.71 GPA.

Dencek uses her coursework in the Dental Hygiene program as a platform from which to educate her patients and encourage oral health in her community.

“My outreach work affords me the opportunity to serve my community by offering dental services,” Dencek said.

Pierce, an economics major, serves as president of the Alpha Theta Omicron chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and is a contributing writer for the organization’s student newsletter. He also volunteers at a local animal shelter and considers himself an animal rescue activist.

Pierce has maintained a 4.0 grade point average and recently completed two associate degrees.

“As a student who has considered half a dozen possible majors, the community college has given me the flexibility to explore options in varying academic disciplines,” Pierce said. “I have received thorough preparation toward seeking advanced degrees, and my instructors’ expertise and level of passion for their content areas have been impressive.”

Nominees to the Phi Theta Kappa sponsored academic competition are offered several scholarship options to help pay tuition at Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University or the University of Arizona.

Winning a spot on the All-Arizona team provides additional rewards including up to $1,000 in cash and the opportunity to continue on to a national competition.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

College Student Named 2011 Coca-Cola National Gold Scholar

Congratulations to Brendan Pierce, a student at Rio Salado, who was recently named 2011 Coca-Cola National Gold Scholar.

In addition to completing two associate degrees with a 4.0 grade point average, Pierce, an economics major, serves as president of the Alpha Theta Omicron chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and is a contributing writer for the organization’s student newsletter. He volunteers at a local animal shelter and considers himself an animal rescue activist.

The Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Each year, 50 students nationwide are selected as Gold Scholars and receive a $1,500 scholarship. Silver and Bronze scholars are awarded $1,250 and $1,000 respectively.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Buy Local and Fresh at Rio Salado

Tempe residents can now purchase locally-grown organic and pesticide-free produce at Rio Salado as part of the college’s efforts to support sustainability through Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA).

“CSA’s have been around for decades, but have gained steam recently as people look at sustainability and local food movements,” said Elizabeth Cole-Fay, Director of Community Partnerships at Rio Salado.

Rio Salado College serves as a drop-off location for Love Grows Farms. Each week, the farm delivers bags of fresh vegetables and fruits to “share-holders” who participate in the CSA program.

Participants purchase 10-week shares and in return receive a weekly stock of 7-10 produce items in season. Products vary depending on the growing season and harvest. For example, a one-week share might include beets, lettuce, spinach, radishes, peas, sprouts, kale and tomatoes.

“I’m always excited about delivery day,” said Maryann Shockley, an administrative assistant at Rio Salado who participates in the CSA program. “It’s like Christmas because you never know exactly what you are going to get.”

Another participant, Heidi Capriotti, marketing coordinator at Sun Sounds of Arizona, also enjoys the surprise of CSA’s weekly delivery.

“I’ve been introduced to some vegetables that I’ve never had before, like Swiss chard,” said Capriotti. “It’s fun getting to try new recipes and expand my culinary vocabulary. But most important, the food is awesome and tastes great.”

Another benefit of the CSA is the availability of several local drop-off sites.

“Who wants to go leave work and have to stop and get groceries?” said Shockley. “This way is so convenient. The produce doesn’t spend a lot of time in transit, and doesn’t have to time to spoil.”

In turn, growers who receive working capital from shareholders receive better prices for their crops and gain some financial security, resulting in a win-win situation for both the grower and the buyer.

Capriotti has always made a conscious effort to live green, so when the local CSA opportunity arose, she jumped aboard.

“I feel like I eat better when I eat organically,” Capriotti said. “And with the CSA, I feel more connected to the local grower and state.”

Taking advantage of local products is one of the principles of the Real Food Movement and ties directly into Rio Salado’s sustainability initiatives.

“We’ve had a lot of success with our sustainability efforts, through academics, our sustainable café and through employee wellness programs,” said Cole-Fay. “We look at the CSA program as a way of embracing sustainability not only at the college, but in the community as well.”

The CSA program is open to members of the public. Produce can be picked up every Wednesday from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Café @ Rio, 2411 W. 14th Street in Tempe. A 10-week share costs $250.

For more information visit

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Computer Technology Degrees: An Investment in the Future

Technology moves fast. The evolution of mobile media has created an increased demand for mobile apps and programmers with the skills to produce them. Mobile software applications (apps) are the driving force behind the popularity of the iPhone and Android-based devices. Apps add functionality to a device by allowing users to do things like play video games, check their bank balance, or compare local prices while shopping.

Smartphones and handheld gadgets have already changed how many people communicate. The ability to make or receive a phone call is almost an afterthought for many users who prefer to keep in touch through text messaging, Facebook and Twitter.

The introduction of tablet style devices is expected to expand the market for apps which in turn is expanding the job market for programmers and software engineers.

According to a report published on, software engineers will be in demand throughout 2011 and earn an average annual income over $87,000.

Rio Students interested in pursuing such a career may want to take advantage of the Maricopa-ASU Pathway Program (MAPP) that allows them to complete a computer technology degree from Rio Salado College then transfer ALL of their credits to ASU's W.P Carey School of Business where they will earn their Bachelor's Computer Technology Degree in Computer Information Systems.

Developers who would like to brush up their skills to take advantage of the mobile trend are encouraged to familiarize themselves with object-oriented programming languages such as C++ and Java. Courses such as Object-Oriented Programming fundamentals (CIS150AB) or Object-Oriented Analysis and Design (CIS225AB) may also be helpful.

For more information about earning a computer technology degree, contact Rio Salado College.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Veterans and Community Leaders Celebrate EVVEC Grand Opening

TEMPE - February 1, 2011 - Rio Salado College hosted a ribbon cutting to celebrate the grand opening of the East Valley Veterans Education Center in Tempe on Tuesday.

Speaking at the event, Rio Salado College President Chris Bustamante outlined the purpose of the center. “It is our intent to serve those who have served us,” Bustamante said. “This center was designed to welcome veterans and to provide easy access to the information that they need to use their educational benefits at the Maricopa Community College of their choice”

When former U.S. Representative Harry Mitchell spoke, he explained why the center was an important project.

“There is a very important reason why I pushed for this investment, and it goes beyond just honoring the service of our veterans,” Mitchell said. “I strongly believe that veterans -- because of their service and because of their maturity, leadership and technical skills -- can become our society’s most productive, innovative and successful members.”

The East Valley Veterans Education Center is open from 8 a.m. -5 p.m. Monday – Friday and is located at 2055 S. Cottonwood Drive, Tempe (Just east of the Loop 101 on Broadway)