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."