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BASEBALL: Aztecs go even in four-game series

BASEBALL: Aztecs go even in four-game series

By: RENE ESCOBAR

The Pima Community College baseball team trounced its way into the season, picking up three straight wins against the University of Arizona Club team.

 

Feb. 3: PCC 2, El Paso 5 /

PCC 14, El Paso 8

In the first game, the Aztecs scored their only two runs in the second inning.

“It’s one game,” assistant coach Britt Echols said. “We have another coming up. We’ll get it next game.”

The Aztecs trailed El Paso 8-1 in the bottom of the third. They scored in three consecutive innings to tie the game, then sealed it with runs in the seventh and eighth innings.

 

Feb. 4: PCC 0, El Paso 3 /

PCC 5, El Paso 0

On the second day, El Paso shut out the Aztecs. Four errors, mixed with four hits throughout the game doomed PCC.

After the dismal loss, PCC answered back with a shutout of their own. The Aztecs brought in two runs in the first inning, two more runs in the third and one more in the fifth.

 

Feb. 11: PCC 3, Scottsdale 2 /

PCC 3, Scottsdale 2

The conference opener saw sophomore Manny Ramirez hit a walk off to steal the win.

The Aztecs first scored off an error to go up 1-0.

Scottsdale answered back with a two-run home run. Freshman Martin Garcia and sophomore Oscar Larranaga hit back-to-back singles leading up to Ramirez’s theft. Down 2-1 in the ninth, the Aztecs capitalized on a wild pitch to finish their two-game series.

 

Feb. 14: PCC 2, GateWay 5/

PCC 4, GateWay 5

The Aztecs’ traveled to Phoenix for their first season road game on Feb. 14.

Valentine’s Day was not sweet as the Aztecs were swept in a doubleheader against GateWay

In the first game, they mustered two runs, scoring in the first inning. In the second, they went up 4-0 in the first inning but their on-fire offense was smothered, as they were unable to score again in a 5-4 loss.


ON DECK

Feb. 18: Mesa CC, West Campus, noon & 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 21: Phoenix College, Kino Memorial Stadium, 4p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

Feb. 24: White Rock Tritons (Canada), West Campus, noon & 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 25: Paradise Valley CC, Phoenix, noon & 2:30 p.m.

Feb. 28: Chandler-Gilbert CC, Kino Memorial stadium, 4 p.m. & 6:30 p.m.

 

Pima Community College player Martin Garcia awaits a pitch from El Paso in the third game on Feb. 4. The Aztecs lost the game by three runs.
Rene Escobarb/Aztec Press

Ex-Pima student can ‘sea’ opportunities

Ex-Pima student can ‘sea’ opportunities

By EDDIE CELAYA

 

If the late-1980s smash hit “The Little Mermaid” is to be believed, “flapping your fins, you don’t get too far.”

Tell that to former Pima Community College student Emy Higdon.

Higdon holds an associate of applied science in business, with a concentration in marketing. Odette holds court over the dry rivers and lakebeds of the Sonoran Desert.

Who is Odette? That would be Higdon’s part-time alter ego, Mermaid Odette. The character came into being at an intersection of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit.

Higdon traces Mermaid Odette’s genesis to her childhood.

“As a kid, I was always really creative,” she said. “Super creative, really.”

She needed an outlet, and found a Tucson performance space known for being off the beaten path.

“I volunteered at Valley of the Moon, and that place sparked my imagination to a new level,” she said.

Her first visit planted the idea for adopting a mermaid alter ego.

“I got to help someone make a tail for a show,” she said. “It was just made of a simple, silvery kind of weird fabric, but it just kind of sparked from there.”

She created Mermaid Odette in 2009, and took the character public soon after. Coincidentally, her first performance happened to be at Valley of the Moon.

“It was a screening of a movie,” she said. “I had a little inflatable pool near the witches’ cauldron area and would splash my fin and get on top of the cement wall and flick my tail at the kids and they would smile at me. So after that I was like, ‘yep, I’m hooked.’”

Parties and other events soon followed.

One happy parent, Jenni Sunshine, happily recounts her 8-year-old daughter’s birthday party in an online review.

“She told interesting stories and answered their every question,” Sunshine wrote. “Perhaps even more important is that Mermaid Odette is a delightful woman who I trust to set exactly the right tone with kids.”

Though she loved doing birthday parties, Higdon felt she needed something. She changed her major from veterinary science and began to focus on business.

“A lot of different classes gave me the best foundation,” she said. “Accounting was absolutely perfect.”

Classes at Pima helped “clarify different parts of how you present yourself and what kind of business you’re looking for and your target audience,” she said.

Those lessons helped Higdon grow her business. They also helped with developing Return of the Mermaids, an annual event held in downtown Tucson and along the Fourth Avenue entertainment district.

“I was their head mermaid entertainer for years and I am super thankful for being a part of it,” she said.

The event has grown each year since its inception in 2013.

“I remember the first year, out of nowhere, just some people coming in to see me splash my tail and then going around to other places,” she said. “Every year I see more and more people and it’s so amazing to see all the different costumes.”

And while Higdon continues focusing on business while seeking a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University, Odette will continue offering performances that make people of all ages believe.

“I’ve always had a want to build some sort of character that was unique, fun, interesting,” Higdon said. “The whole point is to give the experience that will make the customer the most happy, that will be the most memorable.”


Emy Higdon continues her business studies, now at Northern Arizona University.
Eddie Celaya/Aztec Press

 

Pima Community College business graduate Emy Higdon performs as Mermaid Odette while entertaining a young girl at a birthday party.
Photo courtesy of Joelle Higdon

Pro hockey finds home in Old Pueblo

Pro hockey finds home in Old Pueblo

By CASEY MUSE JR.

Ice hockey surely is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of things to do in Tucson.

Average temperatures regularly reach the 70s during winter months and snow is pretty much a foreign object.

Despite all that, the National Hockey League Arizona Coyotes agreed in April 2016 to purchase their American Hockey League affiliate team, the Springfield Falcons, and relocate them to Tucson.

In May, the team signed a 10-year lease to play home games at the Tucson Convention Center downtown.

After a local naming contest, the franchise officially became the Tucson Roadrunners.

Mark Lamb of the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos became the Roadrunners’ first head coach in June.

“We have a lot of guys playing hard,” Lamb said. “Talent-wise and player-wise, we are working hard.”

New franchise brass have worked hard to put together a competitive roster in the first year.

Young stars like defenseman Kyle Wood offer an opportunity for locals to experience the future of professional hockey.

“It’s been really fun playing here,” Wood said.

Besides building a winner, the biggest challenge for the team is garnering community support. Several names behind the scenes are determined to do just that.

Director of Media Relations Tom Callahan is an East Coast guy who has loved the sport of hockey since he was a kid.

“Coming to a market like Tucson, where I believe only University of Arizona club hockey has been played occasionally, is definitely a challenge,” Callahan said. “It is like a mission to bring hockey to people who may or may not be fans, or maybe they are casual fans.”

Callahan stressed the importance of exposing children to the game.

“There are kids out here who are experiencing their first hockey game and maybe they are hooked, maybe they’ve found a new favorite player and will try to get their parents to take them skating and get them involved,” he said. “It is all about sharing that passion and creating fans.”

Callahan broadcasts play-by-play for every game on AM radio 1450. The station is also available on the iheartradio app for students.

To encourage attendance, the club offers a Tucson Roadrunners student rush pass.

Eligible students can visit tucsonroadrunners.com and provide their name, phone number and an active collegiate email address.

The club will contact students via text message on game day to offer special drink and concession deals.

Digital Operations Manager Alexander Kinkopf is in charge of running the team’s various social media accounts, and considers it his job to make hockey appealing to college students.

“People get so tired of the traditional final scores or player updates,” he said. “When people see an official team account show some sort of personality or some sort of voice, it really strikes a chord.”

Kinkopf keeps up with trends in an effort to make the Roadrunner’s social media more relatable.

“One of the most fun parts of my job is to be able to be creative with the sport and to be able to relate it to pop culture,” he said.

Kinkopf encourages students to follow the Roadrunners on Twitter @RoadrunnersAHL or like the team page on Facebook.

“It is very important to us to cater to the local college students here,” he said.

Hockey is arguably the most entertaining sport on the planet. It is fast-paced and action-packed, making it is easy for a casual fan to evolve into a die-hard.

Pima Community College students can enjoy the experience first-hand by supporting the Tucson Roadrunners.

Single-game tickets start at $14. For more information or to buy tickets, call 866-77-HOCKEY toll-free or visit tucsonroadrunners.com.


ON DECK

Feb. 24, 25, 28: San Jose, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 17, 18: Bakersfield, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 25: San Jose, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 26: San Jose, TCC, 4:05 p.m.

March 28: San Antonio, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

March 31: San Diego, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

April 1: San Diego, TCC, 7:05 p.m.

 

Roadrunners right winger Anthony Duclair looks for a pass in a home game against San Diego on Jan. 28 at the Tucson Convention Center.

Funding cuts, enrollment drops equal massive PCC budget woes

Funding cuts, enrollment drops equal massive PCC budget woes

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

Elimination of state funding and continuing drops in enrollment have left Pima Community College officials facing tough budget decisions.

Proposed solutions have generated talk of possible tuition hikes, layoffs, campus closings, spending cuts and elimination of programs.

“As you look at the impacts of no state support, declining enrollment, you have to recalibrate,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said.

“You start off by saying ‘everything’s on the table,’” he said. “That allows you to take a big view of how are you going to balance all these pieces … and minimize the impact.”

DECLINING ENROLLMENT  

Current spring semester enrollment dropped 2.96 percent compared to the previous spring semester.

“This is in stark contrast to Spring 2015, when enrollment dropped by as much as 9.77 percent from the previous year,” Lisa Brosky, PCC vice chancellor of external relations, said.

College officials blame enrollment declines on an improving economy, online competition and accreditation concerns.

“It is generally accepted that the peak enrollments that followed the start of the Great Recession in 2008 were an anomaly and, barring a crisis, are not likely to be seen again,” Brosky said.

“Unemployment in the Tucson region is down significantly, which generally means people are working instead of attending college,” she said.

The unemployment rate in Arizona was 4.3 percent in December 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate in December 2008 was 6.9 percent.

Brosky cited the work of Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. He contends declines in enrollment may be fueled by a perceived lack of correlation between college and employment.

“That may be true here as well, where manufacturers and other employers are struggling to fill skilled positions which often pay very well,” Brosky said. “People are unaccustomed to thinking about college to get a manufacturing job.”

Future jobs will require education beyond high school, but less than a four-year degree. Employers need critical thinkers who possess technical and communication skills, Brosky added.

Competition among online programs represents another contributing factor.

“The competition has grown from online competitors,” Lambert said. “ASU online has grown significantly. University of Southern New Hampshire is marketing in our backyard.”

To grow Pima’s online curriculum, the college has hired Michael Amick to serve as vice president of distance education.

PCC has received a $100,000 grant to develop online degree programs that use open-source texts and resources. Pima was the only institution in Arizona, and one of 38 nationally, to receive the endowment.

Pima has also been approved to offer online college courses in 28 states as a participant in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

“We think online probably has great growth potential and we are looking at classes, programs and even methods of course delivery,” Brosky said. “Taking courses on a cell phone, for example, is now a mainstream idea.”

Accreditation has been another issue.

“Even though the college is fully accredited, the concerns cited by the accreditor likely affected some people’s decisions to attend,” Brosky said.

“It’s difficult to know by how much,” she added. “The good news is the college is well on its way to putting the ‘on notice’ sanction behind us.”

DIFFICULT DECISIONS

Lambert said the college faces difficult options going forward.

“First of all, I don’t want to be raising tuition on students,” he said. “Two, I don’t want to be laying off employees. Three, I don’t want to be closing campuses.

“I also have a fiduciary responsibility to this community that we will run a financially healthy organization.”

David Bea, PCC executive vice chancellor for finance and administration, presented three budget scenarios to the PCC governing board in December.

BUDGET SCENARIO ONE

The first scenario would entail spending cuts, working toward a major cut of $15 million in 2020.

Tuition hikes are also on the table, with a $7-per-unit increase. The proposed increase would be the largest PCC has ever placed on students. The previous highest increase was a $5-per-unit increase.

“Declining enrollment means declining tuition revenue,” Brosky said. “That, combined with loss of state funding, has put unprecedented economic pressure on the college.”

Tuition for PCC remains low compared to other community colleges in Arizona.

PCC spokeswoman Libby Howell said the college recognizes that many Pima County students are low-income and first-generation college students.

“Setting tuition rates is a balancing act between the needs of the college and the needs of students,” she said.

BUDGET SCENARIO TWO

In the second scenario, the college would lower spending by $5 million per year for three years. Pima would examine and phase out under-performing programs that are suffering from low enrollment.

“We want to make sure we are offering programs that will help students get jobs after college, especially in our career and technical program areas,” Howell said.

This scenario would include reductions in infrastructure and staffing.

Bea said in his budget presentation that 75 percent of the PCC general fund consists of personnel expenses.

“Our enrollment today is currently at 1992 levels,” Howell said. “And yet our staffing ratio to Full-Time Student Equivalents has not been adjusted accordingly.”

Faculty numbers fall in the middle compared to similar institutions and colleges.

PCC exempt and nonexempt staff numbers are twice the average, Howell added.

BUDGET SCENARIO THREE

In scenario three, the college would reduce spending by $10 million per year for the next three years. The savings would be used to transform and revamp PCC.

“We know that to meet the needs of the students and those of our community, the college must invest in our campuses and our programs,” Brosky said.

“We envision high-tech, 21st century learning environments that spark interests,” she said, adding that the college aims to “put the latest technology at student’s fingertips.”

This scenario would also involve notable reductions in staffing and infrastructure.

It could involve closing campuses. College officials have not said which sites might be targeted.

Imminent campus closings are not being considered at this point, according to Howell. Lambert said the focus is to keep all campuses operating.

“The approach is going to be not to have to close down a campus, but to give each campus its own identity around this notion of its ‘center of excellence’ where it makes sense,” he said.

Under the center of excellence concept, each campus would specialize in certain areas of curriculum. An example would be to transform the Downtown Campus to a center of excellence for applied technology, Lambert said.

“I think that this strategy will allow us to hopefully maintain all the present locations,” he said. “But I still have to adjust for a new fiscal reality.”

EXPECTING PUSHBACK

Lambert said he expects pushback on the new plans.

“There is a mythology here at Pima that no one has ever been laid off,” he said. “So I think knowing what I know, I expect there will be pushback.”

Since the new plans are being driven by external forces, discomfort among current faculty is to be expected, Lambert added.

“I would say to them, we are doing it thoughtfully,” Lambert said. “We didn’t just do it willy-nilly. But ultimately, they don’t get to make decisions. That is something I have to recommend to the board.”

It is too early to say whether employee layoffs are near or how many layoffs there would be, Howell added.

In the upcoming summer semester, PCC will experiment with a program that allows employees to voluntarily take two months off with no pay.

The experiment is based on an employee survey conducted in 2015. The results showed that 48 percent of employees indicated interest in exploring the option.

“The details are still being laid out, and will be announced to employees soon,” Howell said. “Once again, let me emphasize that at this time, this option would be voluntary and based on the needs of the college.”

Faculty sabbaticals will also fall victim to funding cuts in 2018.

The PCC Executive Leadership team decided last November to fund six sabbaticals in 2017. There will be no funding the following year, due to financial concerns, Howell said.

ADVERTISING EFFORTS

PCC allotted $434,700 for online and outdoor ads as part of a “Think Smart” campaign in Fall 2015, with hopes of attracting prospective students.

The college created the campaign to increase awareness and understanding about the value and advantages of attending PCC.

“The funding was for a comprehensive approach to marketing that also included print, digital and direct-mail advertising,” Brosky said. “Some of the ads were designed as general awareness ads regarding college access, affordability, value and convenience.”

The campaign included radio, TV and print ads.

“Our advertising budget focused on driving attention to our website, and that was successful, with substantial increases in ‘click-throughs’ from digital advertising,” Howell said.

One campaign focused on potential students over the age of 55, who receive half-priced tuition.
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

“PCC is cautiously optimistic that enrollment is beginning to level out,” Brosky said.

The college will adopt its 2017-18 budget in June.

“We need to make sure that we have a healthy Pima Community College, that is here to meet the needs of students and this community far into the future,” Lambert said. “That is what it comes down to. My job is to make sure we navigate to that.”

News Editor Eddie Celaya contributed to this report.

———-

WHAT’S NEXT

Upcoming 2017-18 budget activities planned for PCC Board of Governors meetings include:

March 8 meeting

  • Approve tuition rates
  • Approve student/course fees
  • Approve contracts for employee benefits

April 12 meeting

  • Approve the capital budget

May 10 meeting

  • Present proposed budget plan

June 14 meeting

  • Approve property tax levies
  • Adopt budget

Governing board meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. in the District Office C-105 Community Board Room, 4095 E. Broadway Blvd.


Pima Community College students join a rally to protest Gov. Doug Ducey’s 2016 budget, which cut all state funding for community colleges in Pima and Maricopa counties. (Photo by Daisy Rodriguez-Patel 2015)

‘IN THE HEIGHTS:’ Musical features all-Latin student cast

‘IN THE HEIGHTS:’ Musical features all-Latin student cast

By ROBYN ZELICKSON

 

Costumed actors mill around, waiting for rehearsal to begin. Todd Poelstra, the director for “In the Heights,” stands at a lighting station on the Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre stage.

Choreographer Mickey Nugent arrives to work with his singer/dancers. Although he’s choreographed hundreds of shows, he’s excited about working for the first time with hip-hop dance.

“We base our choreography on the original,” he says. “Not copying it exactly, just using the Latin flavor of the rhythms.”

“In the Heights” was conceived by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has recently gained fame for his award-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton.” In true Miranda style, “Heights” features hip-hop lyrics, Latin rhythms and dance.

“When I was in New York teaching, one of my students was in the original cast of ‘In the Heights,’ which was the genius Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first production,” Nugent says. “I met him and he was so kind, just as he is today.”

Nugent is also very proud that “Heights” features the first all-Latin cast in the history of Pima Community College.

Martha Reed, a piano teacher and the Fine Arts department chair at Tucson High Magnet School, is the musical director. This is her fourth show with Pima, although she has worked with Nugent previously.

“My job with the cast is to teach the songs and give vocal direction,” Reed says. “And I work with Mickey on some character development during the songs. It’s all a collaborative effort.”

Reed also works with pit orchestra conductor Mark Nelson on the music that underscores the dialog.

“In the Heights” is based on a book by Quiara Alegría Hudes. It tells the story of Dominican immigrants in the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights.

Usnavi, the main character, observes his fellow residents in his bodega. He shares their dreams for the future as they learn to blend Dominican traditions with their new culture in Washington Heights.

Tickets cost $18, with discounts available at pima.edu/cfa.


FYI

“In the Heights”

Where: Proscenium Theatre, West Campus CFA

When: Feb. 23-March 5 Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $18, with discounts available

Box office: 206-6986


Opening night features Carnaval Del Barrio

 The Center for the Arts will host an opening night pre-show celebration for patrons who purchase a ticket to the Feb. 23 performance of “In the Heights.” The Carnaval Del Barrio neighborhood intercultural party will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the CFA courtyard.

Activities will include a hip-hop dance-off, rap demonstrations, graffiti walls, a photo booth, trivia and Spanish word contests.

Refreshments include café con leche, horchata, plantano chips and empañadas.

Local businesses have donated prizes ranging from an iPod to theater tickets and gift certificates.

In addition, opening-night patrons will be entered into a grand prize Golden Ticket drawing for a pass to every PCC performing arts production in the 2017-18 season.


STUDENT CAST

Usnavi de la Vega: Lucas Rodriguez

Nina Rosario: Angelica Ornelas

Kevin Rosario: Jonathan Heras

Camila Rosario: Leticia Gonzalez

Benny: Jeffrey Baden

Vanessa: Taylor Falshaw

Sonny: Hernan Gonzalez

Abuela Claudia: Oksana Perez

Carla: Nathalie Rodriguez

Daniela: Bianca Regalado

Piragüero: Rafael Acuña

Graffiti Pete: Cole Potwardowski

Ensemble: Savannah Martinez, Sergio Munoz, Adrian Encinas, Xstasi/Marco Gutierrez, Marchus Lewis, Eduardo Rodriguez, Taylor Hernandez, Clarrissa Rodriguez, Moira Carrillo, Veronica Conran, Alyssa Furtado


Taylor Falshaw, Bianca Regaldo and Nathalie Rodriguez pamper Angelica Ornelas in Daniela’s Salon in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights.
Robyn Zelickson/Aztec Press

 

From left, Sergio Munoz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Adrian Encinas, Marco Gutierrez and Marchus Lewis check out Taylor Falshaw in a scene from “In the Heights” playing at the Proscenium Theatre Feb. 23 – March 5.
Robyn Zelickson/Aztec Press

College in stretch run with accreditor

College in stretch run with accreditor

By EDDIE CELAYA

Former Chancellor Roy Flores packs his office early on March 1, 2012. Flores was expected to retire, but instead renegotiated his contract to receive a 3-5 month paid medical leave. (Shannon McBride-Olson/PCC 2012)

After nearly five years of sanctions, Pima Community College is waiting on its accrediting body to decide its fate. That ruling is expected when the Higher Learning Commission’s board of trustees meets Feb. 23-24.

The saga began in the summer of 2012 with numerous complaints, including allegations of sexual misconduct against then-Chancellor Roy Flores.

A team of HLC peer reviewers visited Pima in January 2013. That visit led the HLC to issue a scathing report and place the college on probation. Flores later resigned, citing ill health.

Since that time, PCC has struggled to shed the burden of sanctions. In 2015, the college escaped probation but was placed “on notice.”

Last September, another HLC peer review team visited the college. Pima officials hoped the team would recommend removing sanctions.

PCC Board of Governors Chair Mark Hanna thought the college presented its best case during the visit.

“The visit was a really positive visit,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I thought there was a moral uplift.”

AWAITING DRAFT REPORT

The wait for the team’s draft report prompted worries, with Hanna describing it as akin to “old movies where the pages keep coming off the calendar and waiting, and waiting.”

Vice Chancellor of Accreditation Bruce Moses, however, suspected the draft report simply ran behind schedule. He noted that peer review members are busy with high-level jobs at their own colleges.

“They set a timeline, but it’s just like with anything else,” he said. “These are not retired folks sitting around doing nothing, these are career folks.”

Pima officials received the peer review team’s draft report on Dec. 12. It did not yield a full elimination of sanctions.

“I would be less than honest with you if I didn’t tell you the hope was, ‘Hey, you’re off sanctions, you’re done with it,’” Hanna said. “As it turns out, there were some sticking points.”

Of the 11 areas targeted by the HLC, five were considered “fully addressed,” five were deemed “improving” and one was deemed “deficient.”

Newly hired Chancellor Lee Lambert address college employees on Aug. 23, 2013. (Nellie Silva/Aztec Press 2013)

OFFICE OF ASSESSMENT

The deficiency was in “student outcome assessment,” an area that has been a persistent knock against the college.

Student outcome assessment is more than just tests, according to Chancellor Lee Lambert. It’s making sure basic skills are imparted, and making sure instructors are tracking those skills in an effective manner.

The college is “trying to assess learning relative to that discipline or subject area the student is working on,” Lambert said. “We need to do that in a systematic way, and then the systematic way isn’t just administering the assessment, it is assessing the assessment process itself.”

District 3 board representative and former PCC instructor Sylvia Lee recalled the college’s past struggles.

“Pima was ‘written up,’ that assessment was a ‘weakness’ back in the ‘90s,” she said. “And then back in the 2000s, Pima was put on warning again.”

The HLC’s focus on assessment in the recent draft report was, in fact, actually Pima’s idea.

“Back in 2013, we said to the HLC, ‘We are going to staff an office of assessment,’” Moses said. “So when reviewers showed up in 2016 and we didn’t have a staff, now they are holding our feet to the fire.”

Efforts to establish an office of assessment never got off the ground, Moses said. He blamed a myriad of factors, from the job description to the pay rate. The specter of sanctions didn’t help.

“How attractive is that job, still on probation and it’s one of the main reasons you’re still on probation?” Moses asked. “You think about the applicants, they are thinking ‘man I’m on the firing squad right off.’”

ADDRESSING PROBLEMS

So with what part of assessment, exactly, did the peer review team find fault? Was it the systems and software put in place to track student outcomes? Was it a lack of an established human resources infrastructure? That depends on whom you ask.

Moses, who helped implement many of the assessment systems, points to the HLC’s recent findings. “The reviewers’ feedback didn’t say ‘your processes are crappy, your system is not working,’” he said.

Instead, Moses said, the criticism focused on human resources.

“One of the things we had a problem with as an institution is, we had never put the infrastructure in to actually manage and facilitate the student learning outcomes assessment process.”

New governing board member Luis Gonzales takes a different view. He points out that while only the student outcome assessment was found to be deficient, problems remain with the five areas deemed “improving” in the report.

“That one particular item is an item of focus that falls into line with the rest of the lines of focus,” Gonzales said. “Of the 11 areas of focus, six are inadequate. If you got a test with 11 questions and you fail six, it’s not a passing grade.”

The draft report also called on the college to make new hires at the administrative level.

“The college should submit an interim report by Sept. 1, 2017, documenting that the director of assessment and the research analyst have been hired and are in place,” it reads.

The position of director of assessment has been filled since the peer review team’s visit in September. Former chemistry instructor Wendy Weeks officially took that role on Jan. 3.

Moses said the research analyst position has been filled, but the college has not yet made an official announcement.

The two hires will put PCC over the sanctions edge, he said. “That’s what the reviewers want to see. They want to say ‘OK, you made a commitment to putting people in a position to manage this process.’”

Gonzales isn’t so sure.

“The spin is that the entire focus goes to assessment only and that we have made so much progress, that it all focuses on whether or not we hire two individuals to run that program,” he said. “I simply do not agree with that concept in its entirety.”

Gonzales said he was not implying Weeks “is not competent.” Rather, he is “concerned that it should be an individual who has experience and has a good foundation to make it work.”

GOALS AND ACTIVITIES

According to the draft report, the new hires should “include a description of the goals these individuals have set, and the activities they have implemented since they have assumed their position.”

That won’t be a problem, Moses said. “We’ve had goals, even before we had a position. The office of assessment had the goals, it’s built in.”

Lambert echoed those sentiments. “We already have goals identified for them, now it’s just monitoring fulfillment of these goals,” he said.

Goals and activities vary in range and scope.

The college’s strategic planning report lists broad goals for the office of assessment, including a call to “increase the rate at which students with a transfer goal successfully transfer to a four-year college/university.”

The tool used to measure progress is known as a Key Performance Indicator. In the case of the office of assessment, there are multiple KPIs.

For example, one KPI measures the effectiveness of the transfer rate from PCC to four-year colleges by tracking the distribution of former PCC students at in-state four-year institutions.

Another KPI tracks the number of students who indicate they intend to transfer and then successfully do so.

The HLC will be looking at evidence derived from data gathered in the last six months, according to Lambert.

“I think six months will show we are making pretty good progress along that continuum,” he said.

THE FINAL REPORT

The college received the HLC peer review team’s final report on Jan. 27. Pima had two weeks to review the report and send a reply either agreeing with or dissenting from the findings.

That reply will be the last correspondence between the college and its accreditor until Feb. 23, when the Commission’s board of trustees meets.

The final report could have three possible outcomes, according to HLC liaison Karen Solomon. One possibility is that the HLC will remove the college from notice.

“The board might determine that the college is no longer at risk of noncompliance with the criteria for accreditation and can be removed from notice,” she wrote in a letter accompanying the final report.

Moses sees some hope for that outcome.

“We are going to make an effort to do that,” he said. “There is no guarantee we’ll get it, but we’re going to make that plea.”

The HLC could also make a worst-case ruling. If the board of trustees determines that Pima is unable to demonstrate compliance in multiple areas, the board might determine that the college should be placed back on probation.

That scenario would require a major failure on the part of the college. “We would have to completely drop the ball on something that was already identified,” Moses said.

The most likely scenario, Moses said, is the HLC determining Pima still has work to do in the office of assessment and extending notice for another six months.

“I would accept something like a monitoring report, which is not a sanction,” he said. “It’s just ‘give us a report in six months and tell us how everything is going in this area.’”

STATE OF THE COLLEGE

The HLC’s next scheduled visit will come sometime during the Fall 2018 or Spring 2019 semester. That visit, unlike the last two peer review team visits, will be a “standard” visit.

“That’s the four-year check in,” Lambert said. “That will speak to ‘we put this thing in, is it sustained?’”

Gonzales is cautiously optimistic about Pima’s trajectory.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I am confident that we are going to get there eventually.”

Moses knows it’s up to the college to change for the better.

“We are in a really good position right now,” he said. “All we got to do is not screw this up.”


Click for full-size graphic

By EDDIE CELAYA

Pima County Community College Board of Governors meetings are generally dull as dirt. It’s just short of a rule. Watching paint dry is a cinematic experience compared to your average board meeting. Which is why, at the Board of Governors first meeting on Jan. 11, I was so surprised to see a scene more befitting the living room of Vito Corleone on the day of his daughter’s wedding.

While all the big headlines in politics have gravitated towards the insatiable pull known as Trump Inc., the PCC Governing Board underwent quite the shake-up itself over the election season.

Gone are former TUSD counsel Martha Durkin and board mainstay Scott Stewart. In are Meredith Hay and Luis Gonzales.

Gonzales is not to be confused with the famed Arizona Diamondback outfielder that won the World Series with a bloop single. However, judging by the crowd and reception Gonzales received, you could understand the confusion.

POINT OF ORDER

The evening began with Board Chair Mark Hanna calling the meeting to order, preceded by the standard election of board officers for the next year. The roles are largely ceremonial, but play a part in who can represent and speak for the board at official events.

The process is usually a dry, bureaucratic, procedural vote. Board member Sylvia Lee nominated Hanna to continue as board chair. Board member Demion Clinco seconded. Then Gonzales spiced things up and interjected.

“Chairmen, a point of order,” Gonzales said. “The bylaws are pretty clear in regard to the nomination of elected officers for the term. It appears we are not going to be following the bylaw as written. The bylaw I see here in front of me says that board members shall rotate (positions).”

The other board members seemed befuddled; the audience perplexed.

After getting clarification from PCC attorney Jeff Silvyn, the board continued the vote. That is, after having made a motion to suspend the rotating officers bylaw.

Gonzales had been right.

The message was clear, even though Gonzales said he “had no objection to the process.”

In pointing out the parliamentary error, he made his presence known, signaling the rest of the board he would be a stickler for detail.

DON GONZALES

After the various board officers and committee representatives were decided, the public comment section began.

The first speaker was a man named Robert Sines, a retired schoolteacher. He also happened to have known Gonzales “since the 8th grade in junior high.”

Sines noted his support for Gonzales throughout his political career, and added that Gonzales’ presence on the board “was especially gratifying for us that we have a voice in the Hispanic community.” The conclusion of Sines’ speech met with applause.

Next was Cecilia Cruz, a member of the community group Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility. She claimed to be there for “three reasons: my first is to congratulate Mr. Luis Gonzales on his election to the PCC Board of Governors.”

Cruz continued, hitting on a similar vein as Sines before her. “I, as well as many members of the El Rio Coalition who worked on his campaign, welcome the representation of Chicano and Native peoples that Mr. Gonzales will bring to the college.” Applause, again.

Message sent. Gonzales’ presence on the board stood as a victory to a constituency that up until now had felt ignored and disenfranchised, in a community they see as their own. Sound familiar? If you listen closely, the message is Make Pima Great Again. Too on the nose?

WHO’S THE BOSS

The theme of the night (kissing Gonzales’ ring and reminding the board new eyes are watching) went on for nearly an hour and a half. About a dozen speakers adhered to the theme. Reminding the board they served “the people.”

Local dignitaries ran the gamut, from former TUSD Board member Betts Putnam-Hidalgo to Tucson High sophomore class president Ysmael Ballesteros. Seriously.

Topics from where summer session would be held to the college’s recent HLC news were touched on, but all in the context that the board should have a listen to Gonzales.

“I swear, I have nothing to do with this,” Gonzales said more than once.

A HELPING HAND

But it was the last speaker that woke me from my snarky pessimism. Lenny Mark, the owner of local Chinese restaurant Bamboo Terrace, stepped to the podium. He began by recalling how long he had been a Tucson native and his relationship with Gonzales.

Mark, who was a child, recounted how Gonzales would scare him. “Every time I went to the neighborhood, I didn’t know him, and he always approached me and he would always ask me questions about how I was doing. He always showed concern for me.”

Years later, Mark had a problem. His wife, who had emigrated from China, was in need of help becoming a citizen. “We needed a strong support system. She had no system,” said Mark. “She had nobody. And Luis and Berta, they took us in.”

Mark’s wife is now a U.S citizen. “I love this man and I love this family,” Mark said. It didn’t end there. Mark went on about his experience at Pima. He recounted how he had bounced around from ASU, UA and eventually to Pima.

On his first day of class, an instructor left an impression on Mark. The instructor let the students speak about what they wanted and what was on their mind.

When it was Mark’s turn he said what was on his mind. “I basically didn’t feel a strong will to live, because I felt like a loser.”

The instructor approached the situation in a unique way. “Instead of engaging me emotionally, he gave me an existential approach. He later gave me a book to read called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning.’”

While he never graduated from Pima, Mark said he credited his success in taking over his family’s restaurant to that class. He even brings any employee interested in enrolling at Pima to a campus and helps them enroll.

I began to cry. Looking around, I saw plenty of others right there with me.

PIMA’S REAL MISSION

I have been on the Board of Governors beat for over a year now. That means I missed out on the contentious board hearings of the early 2010s. By far, this was the most engaging and enlightening board meeting I have attended.

The election of Luis Gonzales to the board signals a new era. While members of the community have always been concerned and fought for a healthy college, some constituencies (large and small) felt left out.

Their concerns are valid, and in Gonzales, the Mexican-American and Native communities have someone to champion their cause on the board. The celebration of Gonzales is legitimate and warranted.

Ultimately, Pima stands to gain from this transfusion of new blood and a possible contrarian voice on the Governing Board. Perhaps it may become even more representative of our diverse city and county.

“PCC is very representative of Tucson, maybe more so than the U of A because a lot of people get degrees and they move on to other cities where they can find ‘opportunities’ as they say. But PCC is Tucson, Arizona,” Mark said.


Luis Gonzales brings a new face and constituency to the PCC board of governors.
Eddie Celaya / Aztec Press


Pima Board of Governors Chair Mark Hanna, left, chats with new board member and District 3 representative Luis Gonzales. The two met as part of Gonzales’ board orientation.
Eddie Celaya / Aztec Press

 

Writing instructor connects with students

Writing instructor connects with students

By ELISE STAHL

Scores of unusual objects line the tops of Kenneth Vorndran’s office cabinets.

One object appears to be a miniature brain sitting in a pan. Another is a dog toy with an Icelandic address written on it. Still another is a stuffed canine being skewered by a small nail.

And there are dozens more. What do they mean?

Vorndran, 55, a writing instructor at Pima Community College’s Northwest Campus, explains that each object is an excuse letter.

“I require that my students do an excuse letter that is fictitious and that is entertaining, and it’s good for one day late on one assignment one time during the semester,” Vorndran says.

The brain in the pan, then, is a representation of a student whose “brain was fried.” The Icelandic dog toy argues that one student’s excuse was “far-fetched.”

And the little dog getting stabbed? It symbolizes the phrase “screwed the pooch,” which means just what it sounds like: messing up terribly.

Vorndran says the excuse letters afford students “an ability to be human.” He recognizes they will likely either forget, misplace or fail to properly allot time for an assignment sometime during the semester.

“That’s the way it goes,” Vorndran says. “We’re all human beings.”

Vorndran has taught writing for 34 years, but his approach differs from most mainstream instructional techniques.

“I’m not a good lecturer,” Vorndran says. “I’m very good at facilitating. I’m very good at conversation.”

Thus, he structures his classes around questioning and discussion.

And not just on subjects of his own allocation.

“I don’t assign topics,” Vorndran explains. “My goal is to say, ‘What do you want to write about, and what do you want to research?’ and to try to give you the latitude to be who you are.”

Vorndran has taught writing at high school and university levels, but believes he belongs at a community college.

“This is not a default,” he says. “This is where I want to be.”

Vorndran says he feels a special connection to community college students because his situation was once the same as many of theirs: working through college, unable to afford the more prestigious universities.

“I identify with my community college students,” he says.

His ability to connect with students often leaves a lasting impression. He stays in touch with students from years past, like Renée Schafer Horton, the internship coordinator for the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism.

Horton took Vorndran’s short story writing classes in 2006 and 2007. She remembers that, as a journalist whose occupation depended on the accurate reporting of facts, she was unused to inventing stories.

“I was sitting at the table, writing and scratching out … and he comes over and he squats down in front of the table so … he’s eye-to-eye with me,” Horton says. “He said, ‘Report what you see in your head,’ meaning, ‘Do it like a reporter.’”

She says Vorndran’s words fit fiction writing into a context she understood.

His willingness to work within her framework left an impact on her.

“He’s one of those rare teachers, that he really cares about undergraduate students,” Horton says. “[He] will always advocate for the student.”

Vorndran’s heart for his students has kept him at Pima for 15 years. He’s not sure where his future will lead him, but he is clear on his legacy.

“I want to help people,” he says. “I want them to be saying sometime down the road, ‘You know … I really had this good connection.’”

In conjunction with his desire to foster connection, Vorndran holds strongly to a philosophy of acceptance.

“Acceptance … doesn’t mean we have to like something,” he explains. “But just saying, ‘OK, this is the way it is. How am I going to work with it?’”

Vorndran especially cares about accepting other people. “I want to look at you … and go, ‘You are a full, complete human being who’s going to love, who’s going to hate, who’s going to succeed, who’s going to fail, who’s going to have this complicated life,’” he said.

“If I start there, with that full acceptance of you as a human being … that’s the connection. And it starts with acceptance – very, very deep levels of acceptance.”

And that is the epitome of what Vorndran represents. From an amusing excuse letter policy to the ability to approach writing from the perspective of people like Horton, he accepts and works with others’ differences.

“The world is what it is,” Vorndran says. “Let’s come to accept this. If we can do that, we’ll change the world.”


Northwest Campus writing instructor Kenneth Vorndran shows some of the creative visual excuses he has received for late papers.
Nicholas Trujillo / Aztec Press

Women's March: Hope sprouts during show of solidarity

Women’s March: Hope sprouts during show of solidarity

By ASHLEY MUÑOZ

I was lucky enough to be a part of Tucson’s Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21.

People marched for women’s rights on the first full day of President Donald Trump’s term. On a cold and rainy day, not common for Tucson, our community came together to protest the new administration and to push for gender equality.

More than a million people worldwide marched in solidarity. Locally, about 15,000 people showed up at Armory Park.

As a participant, I was beyond inspired by the love and positivity coming from men and women. Many people believe there’s nothing we can do now that Trump is president, but that’s not true. This march was filled with hope, a bit of sadness and a reality check we all needed.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva were two of the many speakers.

I asked Rothschild what the walk meant to him.

“The American people are standing up in great masses all over the country and here in Tucson, and they’re saying we will be listened to,” he said. “We are willing to work with you, but if you aren’t willing to work with us then change will have to be made.”

The hate rhetoric of the past year is not part of American tradition, Rothschild added.

“I think it’s motivating people, activating people, and maybe that’s what we needed,” he said. “There are those times when people become complacent and as you can see, these will not be complacent times.”

Grijalva said people who can’t vote, whether they’re too young or don’t have documentation, still have crucial roles to play.

“For the young, the protection of schools and their opportunities to go further on are going to be big issues,” he said. “They need to protect that and make sure that we don’t see, with this administration, the destruction of public education like community colleges.”

He stressed the importance of undocumented residents, including blended families and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival students.

“They live next door to us, their kids go to school with us,” he said. “They’re a part of this community and they should know that and act that way.”

Grijalva pledged to do everything he can to shield DACA students.

“We will continue to fight for and protect those kids,” he said. “We’ll try and make sure that it isn’t a crazy regime of deportation by this president.”

I remain inspired by the Women’s March.

We are an America coming together for gender equality. We’re not here to destroy the nation, we’re here to build and rebuild.

The people, not a celebrity, have the power to make America great again.

 


 

A family of three comes out in support of the Tucson Women’s March at Armory Park on Jan. 21. A crowd estimated at 15,000 women, men and children standing up for gender equality, immigration rights and reproductive rights made their voices heard throughout the march on the day after the presidential inauguration.
Ashley Muñoz / Aztec Press

 

Women wore cat makeup and ears to stand in solidarity for gender equality, recalling President Donald Trump’s crude comments toward women, immigrants and other groups.
Ashley Muñoz / Aztec Press

 

College student Mercy stands up for racism and gender equality during the Women’s March. The march gathered more than 5 million participants worldwide.
Ashley Muñoz / Aztec Press

 

A women’s march participant and coordinator delivers words of hope to an overwhelming crowd of 15,000 in the library courtyard.
A women’s march speaker and coordinator delivers words of hope to an overwhelming crowd of 15,000 in the library courtyard.
Ashley Muñoz / Aztec Press

 

A father and daughter sit outside of the Joel D Valadez library downtown Tucson after the Women’s rally on Saturday, Jan. 21.
A women’s march participant and coordinator delivers words of hope to an overwhelming crowd of 15,000 in the library courtyard.
A women’s march speaker and coordinator delivers words of hope to an overwhelming crowd of 15,000 in the library courtyard.
Ashley Muñoz / Aztec Press

TOP 10: Broke Valentine's Day options

TOP 10: Broke Valentine’s Day options

 

By ELISE STAHL

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The day of chocolate, roses and fine wine … all of which can be a drain on your savings account.

The average amount of money spent by an individual on Valentine’s Day in 2016 was $146.84, according to Time.com.

Not surprising for a nearly $20-billion-per-annum holiday, but not good news for the broke college students of the world.

Let’s face it. Many of us just don’t have the extra cash to splurge on a fancy dinner and a beaming bouquet for our significant other.

But fear not: Expensive outings are not this year’s only options.

Below are 10 ideas for a broke but beautiful Valentine’s Day:

  1. Cook something

If you don’t have the dough to wine and dine your sweetheart this V-Day, why not make your own food adventure and cook together? Even if your concoction doesn’t turn out restaurant-worthy, the memories will be worth the effort.

  1. Go stargazing

There’s just something timeless and romantic about a sky full of stars. If the weather is clear, lay out a blanket or two and spend some time staring at the sky together, hand in hand.

(And if you can catch the sunset before the stars come out, 10 Couple Points for you.)

  1. Hold a dance party for two

Why pay to go to a club full of strangers when you can put together your own setup for free in the comfort of your home? Push the furniture against the wall to create space for a dance floor, throw on your favorite tunes, turn out the lights and jam out together.

(And if you’ve got one buck to spare, hit up the local dollar store for a pack of glow sticks to add some psychedelic flair.)

  1. Give each other massages

Forget shelling out dizzying amounts of dollars for a couple’s massage. Instead, set up your own spa station. Lay down some towels on a bed or a couch, light a few candles, play some soft music and take turns giving each other the royal treatment.

  1. Make a blanket fort

Gather your biggest blankets and reconnect with your inner child by building an epic, cozy tent. For some extra “camping” flair, roast marshmallows over the stove and make indoor s’mores.

  1. Take a hike

Nothing says “romance” like panting and sweating while trekking through dirt, rocks and cacti. But the view from the top will be all the more breathtaking with your lover by your side.

(For bonus Couple Points, see how long you can hold onto each other’s hands while navigating the rougher spots on the trail.)

  1. Try Dressing Room Dress-Up

Get a free taste of the high life by spending a day in the dressing rooms of your favorite stores, trying on the fanciest clothes you can find. For a fun twist, choose outfits for each other and get a glimpse into your respective fashion psyches.

  1. Play Netflix Improv

Hop on Netflix, pick a film neither of you have seen (preferably a rom-com, in the spirit of V-Day), then mute the TV and make up your own dialogue. And during the kissing scenes? You know what to do.

  1. Have a game night

Kick it old-school with a gnarly game night. Pull out your old Scrabble board and see if all the knowledge you’ve gleaned from Words with Friends will spell success.

Or, try your hand at that random game that’s been sitting in the back of the game cupboard for ages, yet you’ve still never played.

  1. Write (and read) love letters

Take some time to write each other good old-fashioned love letters. Recount such things as your favorite shared memories, the little things you like about each other and how you have become better people through your relationship. Then read your letters aloud to each other.

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Winter break provides no slack for the Aztecs

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Winter break provides no slack for the Aztecs

 

By NICHOLAS TRUJILLO

While many students finally got a good night’s sleep, the Pima Community College women’s basketball team took no breaks over the winter holiday.

“The whole concern is that we need to beat the teams in our divisions,” assistant coach Jim Rosborough said. “We need to be sure that we’re top seed out of the Division II schools.”

The No. 2-ranked Aztecs won against South Mountain Community College, Dawson Community College, Scottsdale Community College and Phoenix College during the break.

The third loss in the Aztecs’ calendar came Jan. 7 against Cochise College, 57-44, in Douglas.

Even with three losses, the Aztecs had small victories that overshadowed the missteps.

Sophomore Sydni Stallworth was named ACCAC player of the week three times and won national honors as NJCAA Division II player of the week. She’s averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

Jan. 14: PCC 96, Central Arizona College 85

The Aztecs hosted the Vaqueras and took control of the game from the start. The team lead 47-45 at halftime, and went up by 76-65in the third quarter.

“Amazing team win and I’m super proud,” head coach Todd Holthaus said in a press release.

Sophomores led the game as Stallworth finished with 34 points, followed by Denesia Smith and Bree Cates with 17 points each.

Jan. 18: PCC 81, Mesa CC 84

When PCC last played Mesa Community College in the Region I, Division II finals, the Aztecs won 78-54.

However, history did not repeat on Jan. 18. Pima lost to a buzzer beater.

“We weren’t as sharp defensively as we should’ve been, and it ended up costing us the game,” Rosborough said.

Stallworth had 22 points, followed by Cates with 17 points and six rebounds.

Jan. 21: PCC 91, Arizona Western 73

The Aztecs quickly recovered after the Mesa loss and pulled a double-digit win against Arizona Western College.

The No. 2 Aztecs took the lead in the first quarter, 20-19. By the third quarter, they held a 61-51 lead.

Stallworth ended the game with 28 points and Cates had 19.

Freshman Alliyah Bryant made her first six 3-pointers in a row and finished the game with 19 points shooting for 66 percent beyond the arc.

“We played pretty hard as a team,” Bryant said. “It was probably one of my best games so far.”

Jan. 25: PCC 71, Tohono O’odham 25

The second half of the season saw a replay of the ending to the Native American Classic. The Aztecs earned their second win of the season against the Jegos.

From the start, the Aztecs held on to a lead that increased as the quarters went on. They did not let Tohono O’odahm score more than 16 points per quarter.

Stallworth lead the team with 24 points, followed by Cates with 13 points.

Jan. 28: PCC 98, Chandler-Gilbert 43

The No.3 Aztecs beat Chandler-Gilbert for the team’s 16th consecutive win.

The first quarter ended with the Aztecs up by 18 points and then by 29 points when the second quarter ended, more than doubling Chandler-Gilbert’s score, 51-22.

Cates shot for 69 percent, scoring 16 points. Smith finished with 14 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Feb. 1: PCC versus Glendale CC

The game took place after the Aztec Press went to the printer.

 

ON DECK

Feb. 4: at Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 8: South Mountain CC, West Campus, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 11: at Scottsdale CC, 7 p.m.

Feb. 15: Cochise College, West Campus, 5:30 p.m.

Minimalists gives minimalism a bad name

Minimalists gives minimalism a bad name

By KATELYN ROBERTS

Aztec Press illustration by Katelyn Roberts

With New Year’s resolutions devised, put into place and maybe even already abandoned, January and February produce all kinds of hip lifestyle buzzwords.

As a vegan, I already chant the antioxidant-rich language of organic superfoods and probiotics. Recently, however, the “minimalism” trend caught my attention.

Minimalists live efficient lives, and sometimes strive for self-sustainability. Utilitarian forms include tiny homes, living out of a backpack and carefully choosing what to consume.

CHOCK-FULL CHILDHOOD

I didn’t grow up as a minimalist. My parents raised me and my two siblings in a five-bedroom suburban home on a perfect cul-de-sac.

My toys included a storage tub filled with Barbies, Bratz and Diva Starz. I had princess pink curtains and a stained glass rose window, and I definitely knew how to trash a room during one of my wild play sessions.

My mom hosted huge parties, always bought decorations from Mexico for the back patio and saved every single craft project, homework assignment and school photo.

My dad preferred quality over quantity with his trips to the dollar store but if we didn’t clean our rooms, he threw everything away.

After the divorce, my mom’s new small home was cluttered and full of kids’ memories. My dad’s apartment was sparse and clean, and we ate the same thing every night.

This is important, I promise.

WHERE TO BEGIN

Minimalism has weaved in and out of my life, but always seemed like an unachievable, laughable, only-at-Ikea concept.

Still, the lifestyle appealed to me because I dislike mindless consumerism, product fetishism and society’s need to constantly buy new things.

Saving money and the world are just two perks.

I started by donating a lawn-and-leaf bag of clothes, shoes and bags, and a box of utensils and dishes, to my nearest Goodwill.

I resolved to make all of my own clothes in 2017.

SEEKING INSPIRATION

For more inspiration, I watched a documentary on Netflix that has received lots of hype.

“Minimalism” follows two reformed rich men who travel across the U.S. preaching their minimal lifestyles.

The film makes Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus look like assholes. One longboards and the other reads his struggles as a wealthy man like slam poetry. There are no strict rules for minimalism and everyone’s interpretation is different, but I disliked the message of these two men who are triggering changes in so many people.

To me, minimalism just makes sense. I’ve had things and clothes and knick-knacks, and now I’m sick of the clutter.

But a lot of people haven’t had enough things to be sick of. Unlike these two six-figure-earning gents, most people can’t afford one nice $300 jacket instead of the five $20 jackets they recommend.

MISGUIDED MENTALITY

The minimalists addressed this on their website, after receiving some heat for preaching an idea that seems difficult to attain. Great, I thought. They aren’t so bad after all.

I was wrong.

The minimalists say poor people can benefit even more from minimalism.

“If we have less money, then we must be more intentional with how we spend it,” they write.

This mindset bothers me.

It’s the same mindset that doesn’t tip servers, the same mindset that tells those living below the poverty line not to enjoy a simple comfort like a beer or a snack.

Yes, it saves money to skip a latte or an IPA, but for many, that’s the only affordable pleasure.

I agree the world benefits when people feel released from pressure to own a car, home, television and the latest iPhone and video game consoles.

However, you can’t change the world by bragging in a blog about your lifestyle choices.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth when followers tout the benefits of minimalism from a privileged perspective.

LESS IS MORE

Self-righteous minimalists give minimalism a bad name. My position is to take what you can from it.

I’ll continue living with fewer possessions and riding my bike to work, but I don’t plan on preaching my lifestyle to those less fortunate.

As I take my first steps into a more minimal life, I know I got my sentimentality and my need to save childhood memorabilia from my mom. Therefore, I allow myself unlimited picture frames for photographs and a drawer that stores (23 years worth of) birthday cards.

Minimalism can be for everyone, and it would lead to a healthier society. Let’s just be reasonable in our efforts.

Katelyn Roberts is trying to live a sustainable and efficient life in her 400-square-foot home in Barrio Viejo. Most of her belongings are for sale at Goodwill and Speedway Outlet.

 

Hospitality boasts strong career outlook

Hospitality boasts strong career outlook

By BRITTNEY YOUNG

 Alejandra Aldeoa has been in the restaurant industry since she was 14 years old, working her way up from dishwasher to hostess.

She currently works at the Omni Tucson National Hotel Resort. When she first hired in, she had no idea what she wanted as a career, until her manager recommended the hospitality program at Pima Community College.

 Now she is completing her last semester at Pima before she transfers to Northern Arizona University to finish her bachelor’s degree.

 Her job offers lots of hands-on experience, so she’s only participated in one internship so far, for Co-op Work. She does want to participate in the Walt Disney internship.

“I’m waiting ‘til I have a semester of NAU under my belt,” she said.

After Aldeoa finishes her degree she wants to work with her dad, a restaurant entrepreneur. “My dad owns a few restaurants,” she said. 

One is Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ in Tucson. After he retires, Aldeoa wants to take over for him.

Pima Community College student Alejandro Aldeoa grates cheese for tamales during a culinary class at Northwest Campus.
(Brittney Young/Aztec Press)

The hospitality program at Pima offers three options: hotel and restaurant management, culinary arts and travel/tourism.

 Armando Trujillo, director of the hotel and restaurant management program at PCC and NAU, said culinary arts is the most popular program but hotel and restaurant management offers the most opportunities.

 Students could potentially earn $100,000 a year with a career in hotel and restaurant management, he said. Very few chefs ever make that.

 “The one that has the greatest chance for earnings is management,” Trujillo said.

 Pima partners with NAU so that students who want to continue working on a four-year degree can make a seamless transition. Students who have gone on to NAU can continue taking classes at Pima so they don’t have to leave Tucson.

 “Typically, the Pima to NAU program can be $25,000 total,” Trujillo said.

 That represents about half the cost of studying for the same degree at a university for four years.

 Starting in Fall 2017, Pima students in the hotel and restaurant management program will be able to transfer up to 75 credits to NAU. Right now, they can transfer up to 64.

 Students will be able to take five semesters at a community college and three at a university. They’ll earn a hybrid business degree, because the program emphasis is on hotel and restaurant management rather than just one or the other.

Graduates have even been hired in banks because of the customer service skills they acquire in the program, Trujillo said.

Trujillo teaches a culinary class as part of the hotel and restaurant management program.

 “The idea of this class is to teach our students what a commercial kitchen looks like,” he said.

 Along with Aldeoa, students in the class included Kate Hailey and Nicola Ghaemmaghami.

 Hailey went to the University of Arizona for a year before deciding it wasn’t for her. She became interested in the restaurant industry while still in high school because one of her teachers owned a catering company.

 Ghaemmaghami works the front desk at Homewood Suites by Hilton. She began the program at Pima a semester before she started her job.

 Class size is generally small, with no more than 20 students.

The program schedules classes to accommodate working students, as most hold some sort of job in the restaurant or hotel industry. Many classes meet once a week so students don’t have to rearrange their work schedules to attend school.

 Sarah Guerrerro is in her last semester of the NAU program and said it “was really nice and convenient to stay in Tucson.”

 The small class sizes helped create lifetime friendships. “It felt like it mattered,” Guerrerro said.

“This program allows the flexibility to work full time and go to school full time,” NAU student Scott Salerno said.

 NAU student Blake Tobias added, “We’ve been able to connect, so we have options to move around.”

 The program is designed for graduates to move into management positions within five years of completing their degree.

Some may even begin to teach students interested in the industry. “If they have their degree they’re qualified to teach,” Trujillo said.

 

Instructor Armando Trujillo and student Kate Hailey prepare tamales in Trujillo’s PCC culinary class as part of the Northwest Campus hotel and restaurant management program. (Brittney Young/Aztec Press)

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Aztecs win two conference games in a row

MEN’S BASKETBALL: Aztecs win two conference games in a row

By CASEY MUSE JR

The Pima Community College men’s basketball team (7-3, 2-1 in ACCAS) won two important conference games on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, continuing to make strides toward improvement after losing its conference opener on Nov. 22.

Every game is critical for the Aztecs as they prepare for some time off during winter break.

A Dec. 7 game against Eastern Arizona Community College took place after the Aztec Press went to the printer.

Pima next plays South Mountain Community College in Phoenix on Dec. 10 at 4 p.m.

 

Nov. 22: PCC 82, Tohono O’ Odham 85 

Pima played a close game but was unable to come away with the win in its first ACCAC conference contest. PCC fell at home 85-82 to Tohono O’ Odham Community College.

The Aztecs kept it close most of the contest but allowed a late 9-2 run by Tohono O’ Odham that sealed the win.

Freshman Isaiah Murphy finished the game with a team-high 25 points, shooting 10-for-12 from the free throw line in the process. Sophomore Deion James was next up with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Sophomore Emilio Acedo scored 16 points, all in the second half, and sophomore Zach Evans rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points.

 

Nov. 30: PCC 91, Chandler-Gilbert CC 76

The Aztecs battled on the road to earn their first ACCAC conference win of the season, a 91-76 victory over Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

Pima was in control the entire game. The team took a 48-33 lead into the halftime break and maintained the double-digit lead through the entire second half.

Sophomore Deion James led the team in scoring with 17 points. Three other Aztecs also scored in double figures. Sophomore Damon Dubots had 16 points, Acedo scored 15 points and freshman Alize Travis had 12 points.

“We are very focused right now,” Travis said. “This is conference play now, so we are all locked in. Coach has been preaching trust and effort, so we have been trying to be as selfless as possible every time we touch the floor.”

 

Dec. 3: PCC 108, Glendale CC 96 

Pima played another complete game to secure a 108-96 conference victory over Glendale Community College.

The Aztecs controlled the first half and led 56-42 at the break.

Glendale found life in the second half, and steadily cut into the lead. The closest it got was a 95-90 Pima lead with 6:09 left in the game. The Aztecs came together for one final surge and put the game away.

Sophomores Jacob Anastasi and Deion James led the team on an 11-0 run down the stretch to secure the lead and victory. Anastasi finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds while James earned 17 points.

Acedo was the overall leading scorer for the game, with 25 points. Murphy earned a double-double off the bench with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“It is all about playing together and executing,” sophomore Zach Evans said about the two wins.

 

ON DECK

Dec. 10: at South Mountain Community College, Phoenix, 4 p.m.

 

Sophomore guard Zach Evans plays defense against New Mexico JC at the Native American Classic. (Ashley Munoz/Aztec Press)

College class a good fit for 11-year-old

College class a good fit for 11-year-old

Brooklynn Bruno, 11, attends a Monday-Wednesday Japanese class at Downtown Campus. (Katelyn Roberts/Aztec Press)

By ADRIAN FORD

Most 11-year-olds are just starting middle school. A few are thinking about college, and even fewer are actually in college. Brooklynn Bluto is one of those select few.

Bluto is currently enrolled in Japanese 101 at Pima Community College Downtown Campus. The sixth grader also attends Sahuarita Middle School.

“I chose Japanese because when I am older I plan to go to college at Tokyo University,” Bluto said.

She wanted to take a college course because other options weren’t viable.

“Online classes were not very effective, and my school only offers Spanish classes,” she said. “Originally, I spent a lot of my own money on stuff that did not even work.”

One failed online effort was attempting to learn a Japanese writing system called Hiragana. “It took forever, because the websites were super misleading,” Bluto said.

Chris Sandy, Bluto’s stepfather, originally had doubts about Bluto attending college.

“Concerns I had with Brooklynn taking a college course were mostly related to ensuring she did not get overwhelmed or tired of learning,” he said.

Bluto formalized her request.

“When Brooklynn came to my wife and I saying she wanted to take Japanese, she did it via email,” Sandy said. “The proposal included a permission slip, course information, cost and her plea.”

Initially the parents said no because they were concerned Bluto would have too much work.

After reading the proposal, they changed their minds. They also saw she truly wanted to learn Japanese.

“We knew Brooklynn was ready because of her dedication to teach herself Japanese in her free time and her dedication to her violin,” Sandy said.

“We were confident that it was our responsibility to encourage her learning and monitor her stress rather than tell her no,” he added.

In addition, Bluto’s parents realized she wasn’t living up to her full potential with middle school classes. “Brooklynn is typically very bored in public school at Sahuarita Middle,” Sandy said.

Sandy drives Bluto to Downtown Campus on Monday and Wednesday evenings, and waits outside the classroom until she is done.

Before she enrolled, Bluto worried her age might create a barrier between her and other students in the class. But after experiencing college first-hand, Bluto said she had no problem fitting in.

“I do not think age holds me back in any way,” she said. “Sometimes I do not understand some words, but context makes it pretty easy.”

Instructor Bridget Wilde also had initial doubts.

“I was very worried, both for her ability to keep up and for my ability to teach her without affecting the class experience for my older students,” she said. “Japanese is extremely difficult to learn as a second language.”

Bluto was always confident in her ability.

“I thought I could comprehend the level of a college course because of how I was taught by my dad,” she said. “He spoke to me like an adult, teaching me a wide vocabulary and how to use context to understand.”

Bluto’s parents saw they had nothing to worry about as long as she kept up her love for learning.

Wilde also realized Bluto is not your average 11-year-old.

“Of course I cannot discuss her grade but I have found her very bright and thoughtful, and willing to ask questions,” Wilde said. “I am fortunate as a rule that my class is always full of students who genuinely wish to learn, and I think Ms. Bluto embodies that spirit wonderfully.”

After learning Japanese, Bluto plans to take more classes through PCC.

“I am probably going to take a course in math, and then a class in computer coding,” she said.

She also has plans for her academic future.

“If everything goes well, I am going to take high school credit classes during middle school to graduate early,” she said.

She’s considering a major in computer science when she attends Tokyo University.

When Bluto isn’t at school, she fills her free time with many different activities.

“We have been enrolling her in anything she asks, like violin lessons or the Tucson Junior Symphony,” Sandy said.

Bluto has taken such a liking to violin that “she has a rash on her neck because she loves playing it so much,” he said.

She also enjoys “beating the other students at chess,” Bluto said.

Bluto’s parents are enjoying her success.

“She’s been carrying on like a well-conditioned mental athlete” Sandy said.