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.