Thursday, November 29, 2012

Dr. Bustamante Joins CAEL Board of Trustees

Rio Salado College President Dr. Chris Bustamante has been elected to the board of trustees of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL).

 “Our new board members have an outstanding track record of innovation in higher education, human resources, and employee education and training,” said CAEL president and CEO Pamela Tate.

With a membership of more than 600 organizations, CAEL works within the higher education, public, and private sectors to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need to attain meaningful, secure employment.
“It is important to recognize the knowledge and skills that our students bring to their educational experience. When they receive credit for prior learning, costs are often reduced and time to completion is accelerated,” said Dr. Chris Bustamante.
Rio Salado College offers many credit for prior learning options. It is the largest of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges located in metropolitan Phoenix, and is the fastest-growing public online community college in the nation. Dr. Bustamante is well-known as an advocate for increasing access to higher education. He has forged transformational partnerships with business, government, and other educational providers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Karen Hawkes Awarded for Excellence

Congratulations to Karen Hawkes of Gateway Community Early College High School in Phoenix for winning the 99.9 FM KEZ Excellence in Education Award for November 2012.

Hawkes, was nominated by Peggi Peaslee who works in the classroom with Hawkes on Thursdays focusing on helping students choose a career with purpose.

In Peaslee's nomination letter she wrote how impressed she was with Hawkes and her devotion to her students’ success. She even mentioned that Hawkes works to loan business attire out to students who are going to job or college interviews so that they may be able to best represent themselves.

"I have observed her teaching and interacting with her class and her passion for empowering and inspiring these students is incredible."

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.

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.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

RSC Continues Support of OER Movement

The movement to create and distribute free educational content is not new. Education advocates have been exploring the potential of digital media and open source licensing for about 10 years.

According to Rio Salado College Director of Instructional Design and Technology Michael Medlock, the idea is to expand access to higher education by creating open educational resources (OER) that can be modified and redistributed by anyone.

"The spirit of OER is that anyone can take content for their own reuse, revision, and remixing without having to pay a license fee," Medlock said. "OER will inevitably provide more universal access to learning content. However, I anticipate that the biggest impact will be in the area of creating value for the learner. “

Medlock said that although the value of OER is already visible in open source textbooks and online educational content, he believes the real impact is yet to come.

"The value is in more than just the purchase price of materials," Medlock said. "At this point in time, learners need more than knowledge, they need credentials that indicate learning has occurred. They need a way to demonstrate to potential employers that they have the knowledge and skills to do the job."

Medlock went on to explain that existing processes at RSC have positioned the college to take full advantage of open learning materials.

"RSC's course development, design, and production processes ensure that open source content is vetted and utilized appropriately. We are easily able to utilize low cost or free materials while still ensuring quality teaching and learning," Medlock said. "So when a student earns an official grade it carries the value of coming from an accredited institution of higher learning."

In addition to OER projects including cost free textbooks and a growing number of courses utilizing open content, Rio Salado College will soon offer publicly available learning materials through the Rio Commons initiative.

"Becoming part of the OER movement includes minimal risk with a chance at high success," Medlock said. "That success will be judged on the dimensions of providing access to more learners and lowering the costs for all learners."

In some cases, the learning materials available on Rio Commons will be portions of actual RSC course content. It will be used to support current students and allow potential students to see the type of learning available to them. Other OER content will be created exclusively for Rio Commons through partnerships and grant funding.

"We are providing a great educational product to our community," Medlock said. "And Rio Salado gets the additional value of being able to use grant-funded OER within our for-credit courses."

Medlock said he feels the project is a direct result of Rio Salado's culture of innovation.

"Rio Salado College was founded to advance education through access and affordability," Medlock said. "Participation in the OER movement is a simple extension of the work we were already doing."

"Innovation is an important aspect of the college's culture, and there are processes in place at RSC that make innovation less risky than it might be at other institutions," Medlock said. "Employees are encouraged and willing to try to new things in the spirit of relentless improvement."

Learn more about RSC's support of the OER movement: Cost Free Textbook (Sept. 21, 2011), Creative Commons Classes (Sept. 28, 2011), Looking Ahead (Oct. 5, 2011)

This article can also be found in the Nov. 17 edition of the Tempe Republic.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

East Valley Veterans Find Support at the EVVEC

Marine Corps Veteran Lance Fredericks
Returning to a civilian life can be difficult for some veterans who struggle adjusting to life outside the military.

For Lance Fredericks, a veteran of the Marine Corps, going back home to be a stonemason was a more difficult step than anticipated.

“It was hard,” Fredericks said.

He eventually ended up in prison, where someone gave him a pamphlet about help veterans can receive.

When he was released he went to a homeless center for veterans and was assigned a case worker.

“She pointed me in this direction,” Fredericks explained.

The direction he headed was toward the East Valley Veteran’s Education Center in Tempe, a one-stop shop for veterans and their families.

“It made me realize that someone actually cares about vets,” Fredericks said.

The EVVEC offers veterans the opportunity to reintegrate with society by helping veterans receive benefits, start on education and set a path for their future.

Darcy Breault, the office coordinator at the EVVEC, loves her job because of her passion for helping others.

“It’s really a privilege to sit down with someone and help them navigate through these things,” she said.

The EVVEC has a computer lab open for use, hosts workshops for resumes, educational and workforce development, and can make referrals to community resources such as housing, medical care, and job listings.

“We’re here to listen and support, and be patient,” Breault explained.

For David Scoggins, being able to come in, get help applying for benefits and explore his options was exactly what he needed.

“The resources here are amazing,” said the Navy veteran.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy in 1995, he was lost for what he could do with his life. Scoggins felt like he was lost in the dark, until he walked into the education center.

“It was like sunlight when you walk in,” Scoggins described.

Scoggins has a bachelor’s degree in social work and is currently pursuing entrance to law school.

For Fredericks, the center gave him the opportunity to start getting an education and gave him something to focus on.

“School is my social life…it keeps me focused,” he said.

For him, the love and support of his parents, along with the help and resources of the education center, gave him the boost he needed to get started on his life.

“It if wasn’t for this place, I wouldn’t have anything,” he said.

His goal is to start his own business designing customized head stones, which combines his skills as a mason and his college education.

Fredericks said it all came down to the moment when he decided to let someone help him out.

“It’s a pride thing,” he said.

While he has a full day of classes and studying at both Arizona State University and Phoenix College, he still carries pamphlets and hands them out to any homeless veterans he comes across.

“To any vets out there, put your pride aside. There’s help out there,” he stated.

His dedication to his studies fills his day starting with class at 7:30 in the morning until he returns home at 11:00 at night.

“It’s wearing me out, but I am determined to finish it,” he said.

The East Valley Veterans Education Center is a unique facility created to provide veterans and their families with educational and vocational resources, all in one location. The 5,000 square foot facility opened in 2011 in collaboration with five colleges of the Maricopa County Community College District; Rio Salado (host institution), Chandler-Gilbert, GateWay, Mesa, and Scottsdale. Government and community partners.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rio Salado College and KJZZ Celebrate Opening of RSC Thomas & SPOT 127 Youth Media Center

Both locations offer educational opportunity to traditional and at-risk students in Maryvale

Phoenix, AZ – Nov. 5, 2012 — Rio Salado College and 91.5 KJZZ will join together to celebrate the opening of both RSC’s Thomas location and KJZZ’s SPOT 127 Youth Media Center on November 28. The public is invited to attend a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony and program at 8 a.m. and/or a block party celebration that afternoon from 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. at 3631 and 3701 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ.

“These two locations bring educational opportunity and empowerment to the residents of Maryvale and central Phoenix,” said Rio Salado College President Chris Bustamante, Ed.D. “It is imperative that we reach out and serve students in their local neighborhoods to help them take the next steps in achieving their academic goals.”

RSC Thomas focuses on bridging pathways to post-secondary education, internships and career advancement. It provides adult basic education, where students can come take GED preparation classes or learn English as a second language. Essential student services such as academic advising, computer accessibility, a testing center and tutoring are also available at the site for RSC’s online learners. The location is also home to a demonstration kitchen, lab spaces and classrooms to support post-secondary classes.

“I don’t see how I cannot succeed, in coming here,” said GED student Stephanie Caroll. “I think this is just the first step to a wonderful life, and I can’t wait.”

The newly renovated facility is more than 22,000 square feet and opened to serve students in July. The new location is currently serving more than 500 students. While these adult students access resources at RSC Thomas, at-risk high school students are served next door through KJZZ’s SPOT 127 Youth Media Center.

SPOT 127 is an innovative after-school program designed to empower high school students through the development of state-of–the-art skills in digital media, radio and journalism. The nine month long program provides access to professional media equipment, mentoring by industry leaders and project-based instruction. The center opened in June with 11 students attending a boot camp session. It is currently teaching a class of 50.

“Studies show that students who participate in high quality after-school programs are more likely to earn better grades, develop strong work habits and experience a higher level of self-confidence,” said KJZZ’s General Manager and Rio Salado College Division of Public Service Vice President, James Paluzzi, Ph.D.

The nearly 7,500 square foot building was made available through a partnership with the Phoenix Union High School District. Renovations were made possible through the generosity and donations of many community partners.

SPOT 127 participant Gabriel Gamino said that he likes the hands on aspect of the program.

“You learn it, you do it, you experience it,” Gamino said. “Just take the opportunity, any open door you get, just go for it, and someplace like this, it’s going to change your life.”

Media previews are available upon request.


Rio Salado College was established in 1978 by the Maricopa Community College District to provide the next step in education for non-traditional students. The college, headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, was recently recognized as the fastest growing community college in the nation serving nearly 70,000 students annually. In addition to providing high-quality instruction for 100+ degree and certificate pathways, Rio Salado is dedicated to providing flexible, affordable access through; adult basic education, collaborative partnerships, early college initiatives and online learning.

KJZZ is a listener-supported public radio station that is licensed to the Maricopa Community College District. It is a community service of Rio Salado College’s Division of Public Service, which also includes KBAQ 89.5 and Sun Sounds of Arizona. KJZZ features a mix of local and NPR news, entertainment, jazz and blues—serving nearly 319,000 weekly listeners. For more information, visit

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Technical Training Allows Students to Smile

Rio Salado College’s innovative IBEST program gives students a leg up by helping them develop skills in technical fields. IBEST stands for Integrated Basic Education Skills Training program. Current students in the IBEST program are focusing on dental assisting technology.

“The IBEST program is designed to prepare students to take their GED exam,” said Kristina Kidd, dental assistant facilitator at Rio Salado College. “It also prepares them to work in the field of dental assisting upon completion of the dental assisting technology program.”

IBEST targets people who do not have a high school diploma. To participate in the program, students must have an 8th grade reading level and meet other admission requirements.

Once admitted, students work hands-on and are taught a number of professional skills such as resume preparation, interview and communication techniques, as well as the practical technical skills that are required of the job.

“Students will have to work in the mouth of their peers and act as a patient,” said Kidd. “Blood is present in the dental clinic, as are needles and blood borne pathogens.”

After students have learned in class they go out and practice even more by completing a required internship.

“The program provides the students with one internship site. The student has to interview and be accepted by the site,” said Kidd. “Our goal is to place students in a general practice where they will have exposure to all types of dentistry.”

The IBEST program comes with some challenges that might be a little different than what some students are used to.

“The courses are very fast paced and students have to be mentally prepared to take on the challenge,” said Kidd.

Students have to abide by a mandatory attendance policy and also take time out to prepare for the course outside of the in-person portion of the curriculum. The time it takes a student to prepare can range from two to four hours per day.

“There are study habits that need to be formed,” Kidd said. “Sleep can be affected, and job and home settings may have to be adjusted.”

With so many adjustments to be made Kidd says it can be a tough challenge to overcome all of the educational and life obstacles.

“It typically is a very different pace for the students and it can create a lot of stress,” said Kidd.

To help alleviate some of that stress Kidd notes that the college is always ready to offer assistance but it is also the student’s job to seek out help if needed.

“We do offer services to help with many obstacles a student may face, including success coaches, advisors and counselors,” Kidd said.

With others there to help and encourage the students, the IBEST program is confident in the student’s abilities to succeed. “We encourage students to continue their education,” said Kidd. “There are so many paths to choose from in the dental assisting technology field.”

By Erica White, PR Intern at Rio Salado College
This story also appeared in the November 3 Edition of the Tempe Republic