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HLC team visits Pima

HLC team visits Pima


Sixteen months after first placing Pima Community College on probation, the Higher Learning Commission has dispatched another fact-finding team to determine if their concerns have been fully addressed.

The visit comes nearly two years after a previous team from Pima’s accrediting body found institutional misconduct and a “culture of fear” at PCC.

From Sept. 15-17, current and former college administrators visited Pima’s six campuses and held meetings at the college’s district office.

The goal of the meetings was to get firsthand knowledge of what Pima has done to remedy the issues discovered by the HLC in January 2013.

“We’re the followup team, and our job is to find out if changes have been made,” said Peter Wielinski, vice president of student services at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, during a forum with students.

The team members met with students, staff, faculty and members of the community in order to get as complete a picture as possible and determine if the information provided in Pima’s self-study report is accurate.

“They wanted to see specific evidence of what Pima is doing to reach out to the community and get off probation,” said Ingrid Martinez, vice president for student government at West Campus.

Martinez said that when team members met with student leaders, they wanted to know how the college works to enrich students’ experiences outside of the classroom.

During a forum at the West Campus on Sept. 16, about 20 students met with Wielinski and Marty Bachman, chair of nursing at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, Colo.

After introductions, Weilinski asked the students what changes they have seen since the college was placed on probation in April 2013.

Several students noted the attitude and engagement of Pima’s new chancellor, Lee Lambert, who was hired in the wake of the college being sanctioned.

“He has been in the cafeteria, or in Student Life office, and he asks students if they know about the probation,” Martinez said. “If they say ‘no,’ he stops and talks with them and talks with them about the issues.”

The HLC investigators asked student leaders to describe their experiences at Pima, both positive and negative. They also asked students to explain why they first came to PCC.

The main reasons that students gave for coming to Pima were small class sizes, lower tuition than at a university, flexible hours and a respected nursing program.

Several issues that students have had at Pima were also discussed with the HLC team. The topic that drew the most discussion was financial aid and advising.

“You never get a straight answer out of anyone and it seems like no one has the information you need,” said one student who declined to be named for this story.

“We have been to every campus and the district office and everyone gives you a different answer,” he said.

Other students agreed.

“The advisors are friendly and approachable, but you leave wondering if you really got help or not,” said Pima music major Sierra Nealy.

“I was worried about my classes getting dropped because I didn’t know what was going on with my aid,” she added.

Many of the students said this was the first time they had issues with getting their aid, and that there was no way to get a resolution to their problems.

“Are you aware of how you can register a formal complaint if you have an issue with the way things are being handled at the college?” Wielinski asked.

Some students shook their heads and indicated they were unaware of any way to lodge their grievances, despite the fact that the college created an Office of Conflict Resolution earlier this year.

The HLC team will compile all the information it received during its three-day visit and issue a report on their findings.

The report, expected sometime in October, will make a recommendation to the full commission about whether probation should be lifted.

Pima will then have a chance to correct errors of fact and make one last presentation to the commission before the accrediting body makes its decision next February.


Ingrid Martinez, left, and Amber Teran discuss their experiences at Pima with HLC investigators Peter Wieliniski and Marty Bachman at West Campus on Sept. 16. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

Adjunct instructors want to fix low pay, uncertain workload

Adjunct instructors want to fix low pay, uncertain workload


Summa cum laude honors graduate Barbara Fox has been an adjunct social sciences instructor at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus for the past six years.

“At the risk of sounding arrogant, I think I’m a damn good teacher,” she said. “And, I think the people I work with are damn good teachers.”

She and her fellow part-time instructors earn about $3 per hour, according to a college Adjunct Faculty Task Force report. Arizona’s minimum wage is $7.90 per hour.

Fox recently volunteered to serve on PCC’s Adjunct Faculty Committee to affect major changes in two areas: contractual stability and salary.

“It’s two things I want about equally,” she said. “One is greater security. The other thing is, yeah, we’d like more money.”

Every adjunct instructor at Pima possesses just as much skill as the full-time faculty, Fox said. “We are as qualified, as well-educated, as passionate and committed.”

Adjuncts are not asking for special treatment, Fox said, but do want to be valued. She thinks high morale brightens an institution’s entire staff.

“We are not asking to be elevated and we are not asking to kick them around,” she said. “And, we understand adjunct is an at-will position but I think a lot of people would feel better if they felt we mattered more.”

Fox believes the plight Pima’s adjuncts face stems largely from decisions made at the state level.

“Unfortunately, the state government has a real problem with public education,” Fox said. “Notice the strong urging towards vouchers to pay private schools. And, I think the state government is mainly answerable to well-to-do retired older people whose kids already went to school.”

Adjuncts a national trend

National statistics show that all 50 states rely heavily on low-paid part-time instructors.

In November 2013, the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats created an email survey for adjunct faculty in higher education.

Over a six-week period, 845 adjunct instructors from 41 states submitted replies. The participating adjuncts ranged from their first semester of instruction to more than 30 years of teaching. They represented both private and public colleges awarding two- and four-year degrees.

The survey results led to “The Just-In-Time Professor” report, released in January.

It concluded that use of part-time faculty at colleges nationwide grew more than 300 percent from 1975 to 2011. Approximately 75.5 percent of instructors are either non-tenure, part time or graduate student assistants.

‘Part time and extremely under-paid’

Howard Allen was an adjunct instructor at PCC for two decades, teaching a variety of classes in theater, digital arts, film, writing and the humanities. Almost two years ago, Allen left Pima and wrote an open letter to the board of governors explaining why.

“I have been a part time and extremely under-paid adjunct faculty member at Pima College the entire 20 years,” Allen wrote.

“The management bureaucracy at Pima College has convinced boards of governors to run the institution like Walmart when it comes to staffing, and like Wall Street when it comes to salaried management,” he said.

His letter called attention to the income disparity between the college’s instructors and administrators..

“You’ve got an administrator who makes more in five days than she’s been paying someone to teach a 15-week, three-unit class,” Allen said.

“When you get this kind of giant inequality in income, the people at the high-end think that what they are doing is more important than the people at the low-end of the pay scale.

“And if you do that with an educational institution, what you end up with is you are devaluing what goes on in the classroom, in favor of what goes on in the administrative office,” he said.

Allen further explained his personal experience as an instructor at PCC during a phone interview.

“This is a problem around the country, but Pima College is worse than most,” he said. “The last few years I made a good case for me to teach across two departments, so there was a way for them to easily create full-time positions for me.

He believes administrators create adjunct faculty positions because they save “a fortune” by not having to pay health benefits or supply office space.

The Adjunct Faculty Task Force

An Adjunct Faculty Task Force reviewed current policies and submitted recommendations to the board of governors and Chancellor Lee Lambert on June 30.

Its report cited recent national studies that said U.S. colleges must improve treatment of adjunct faculty.

“This practice has had high costs, with the low pay and non-inclusive treatment of adjunct faculty depriving colleges and their students of full access to adjunct faculty experience and insight,” the report said.

The task force also sent an email survey to 835 adjunct instructors at Pima and at 10 peer institutions. It found that Pima’s treatment of adjunct instructors ranked lowest among the seven colleges that responded.

The report concluded that Pima’s adjunct instructors are most concerned with three factors: How much they are paid per credit hour, being compensated for class preparation regardless of cancellation or reassignment and paid time off.

Lambert ‘a catalyst for change’

Carlo Buscemi, an adjunct instructor for the hotel and restaurant management program at Northwest Campus, participated in the task force and volunteered as the adjunct representative for all campuses.

He began working directly with Lambert, the board of governors and the college’s governance counsel in March.

Buscemi credits Lambert with forming the task force to investigate how Pima could better serve its part-time staff, and said the chancellor remains a motivating force.

“He was the catalyst for change,” Buscemi said. “He is really open to suggestions, and before it was never like this. He is willing to listen to our problems. It’s an open-door policy and I have to say, ‘what a difference.’”

The relationship between adjuncts and the governing board is also on the mend, he said. Board member Sylvia Lee frequently attends the monthly adjunct faculty representative meeting.

Changes that adjuncts seek

Buscemi said adjuncts play an integral role at Pima but are offered very little.

“About 67 percent of all the courses are taught by adjuncts at Pima, but we have no benefits, no recognition and zero say,” he said.

“We are employees at-will, which means we can be terminated at any time, and a class can be cancelled at anytime,” he added. “So, there’s no protection whatsoever.”

Buscemi’s three main goals are to win recognition for Pima’s adjuncts, increase their rate of pay and ultimately integrate adjuncts into their community.

Both adjuncts and full-time faculty share similar work requirements of preparing syllabi, grading papers and meeting with students, he noted.

“Students look at us as being full-time professors,” he said. “They don’t care if you are part time or full time, and they don’t know the difference. So, they are looking at us for counseling, advice and everything else.”

Unlike Pima’s full-time instructors, adjuncts are not paid to attend mandatory meetings or graduation ceremonies. Adjuncts do not receive sick pay, either. If they miss classes due to illness, their pay is prorated accordingly.

At least twice, Buscemi said, he spent about 40 hours preparing for a class that was cancelled. He was never notified or paid for his time.

Many Pima adjuncts are not made aware of class cancellations, he said, and may show up ready to teach for an empty classroom. That lack of communication means they must verifiy whether a course is still being offered by checking the college’s class listings.

Buscemi wants adjuncts to be directly notified about class cancellations, and is recommending at least seven days advance notice.

‘The future looks promising’

Reaction from adjunct faculty members appears mixed, Buscemi said. Some adjuncts seem hopeful while others are apprehensive.

Like many current adjuncts, Buscemi was initially reluctant to speak with the Aztec Press.

The college is making strides toward tangible results, he said, which he called a stark contrast from previous administrations.

“We don’t want to make too many enemies, because really they are willing to listen to us,” he said. “The past was terrible, but the future looks promising.”

In order to keep momentum going, Buscemi said he will take advantage of two new opportunities for adjuncts to voice key recommendations. He will officially represent adjuncts at board of governors meeting and at PCC’s governance counsel.

“Nobody ever cared about adjuncts,” he said. “We were non-existent, but the whole attitude changed.”

Buscemi knows that he and his fellow representatives must be persistent and remain the focus of Pima’s administrators. Creating a constant progressive dialog will be the cornerstone for improving conditions for adjuncts at PCC, he said.

A ‘primary goal’ for chancellor

Lambert said starting a task force that focused on improving Pima’s treatment of adjunct and temporary staff was one of his primary goals when he became PCC’s new chancellor in July 2013.

“I knew coming in that there were a lot of concerns from both groups, and that their experiences here as employees are less than optimal,” he said. “I wanted to better understand those challenges to see what we could do to start moving in a positive direction.”

The first order of business was to increase the adjunct salary scale from $735 to $800 per credit hour, Lambert said. The raise took effect for Fall 2014 classes.

“The plan was within a two-year period of time to at least get the wage rate up to a Tucson standard,” he said.

The adjunct task force has recommended a further increase to $875 per credit hour by Fall 2015.

Lambert said he understands some adjuncts would like to pay into Arizona’s state retirement fund, and said PCC needs to also address health care and dental coverage.

The college should compensate adjuncts for attending mandatory meetings, he added, and must pay instructors for class preparation.

“Over a year ago none of this was really in-play,” Lambert said. “So if you want to look at it as a glass half full? The college is finally saying we are really going to look into this, and take it seriously. That’s a big step forward.”

Disrespect from administrators

National statistics conclude that students perform worse as colleges hire more adjunct instructors rather than create full-time positions.

“Greater numbers of adjunct faculty result in lower student success rates,” the task force report said. “Currently, half of all classes as Pima Community College are taught by adjunct faculty, with 69 percent of the faculty headcount being adjunct faculty.”

Many of Pima’s current adjunct instructors, including Fox, say their department chairs are allies bordering on overly supportive. But, Fox said she has experienced the same feeling of unimportance from PCC’s administrators that Allen mentioned.

“I get the impression that at the higher levels, where they don’t know us as people, it’s sort of like a lot of other low-paying jobs: ‘you don’t like it, there’s a bunch of other people who would take your job,’” Fox said.

“I think there is a real sense that we are kind of the red-headed stepchildren, and part of it is the money,” she said. “But, I don’t think anybody goes into teaching for the money.”

A sense of disconnect

Adjunct John A. Archuleta has felt disconnected from PCC administrators during his eight years of part-time instruction.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geography and needs only to defend his dissertation before earning a doctorate in geology from the University of Arizona.

Archuleta said the needs of Pima’s adjuncts are as diverse as the group itself. While some depend on the salary they earn at PCC, others would not be affected financially if they stopped instructing.

“The thing that pulls us together is we all are devoting some of our time to teaching,” Archuleta said. “And the love of the students, the love of the knowledge that we work with and the fact that we want to see the students succeed.”

Archuleta has taught at Pima during his semi-retirement in order to retain a position in higher education. As a Downtown Campus adjunct representative, he wants proper acknowledgement and sovereign representation.

“I would like to see us be more recognized,” he said. “I would also like to see us being able to chart the course, at least in some way, of our destiny.

“The Adjunct Faculty Committee is currently a sub-committee of the Faculty Senate,” Archuleta said. “So we are at the beck and call of the full-timers. And, it has never been made clear, if we raise issues, what is to happen?”

Archuleta is not concerned with one particular issue, but said adjunct instructors are vastly outnumbered in Faculty Senate and elsewhere. Although adjuncts represent a majority of the college faculty, they do not hold any voting representation in PCC’s governance.

Pima’s adjuncts currently have two representatives from each campus attending PCC’s governing meetings. Archuleta said steady progress is better than splintered isolation.

“It’s my feeling that if we close doors behind us, if we cut-off the avenues for our voices, then that cuts us off even more,” he said.

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Adjunct instructor Barbara Fox prepares to teach an Introduction to Western Civilization I class at Downtown Campus. (David J. Del Grande/Aztec Press)

"STUART LITTLE:" Big journey for a modest mouse

“STUART LITTLE:” Big journey for a modest mouse


Everyone has felt a little different than everyone else in their life. Sometimes the differences are big and sometimes they’re subtle.

In Stuart Little’s case they’re monumental, but that won’t stop him from taking on the world.

“Stuart Little,” directed by Mickey Nugent and based on E.B. White’s classic children’s story, will scuttle onto the Proscenium Theatre stage Sept. 24-Oct. 5 at Pima Community College’s West Campus Center for the Arts.

“I’ve talked about doing Stuart Little for like 10 years,” Nugent said. “I guess it’s always kind of scared me because it’s such a mega story. There’s so much technical stuff I have to deal with that it kind of frightened me.”

The highly regarded tale spotlights Stuart Little, the second son in the human Little family, as he goes on adventures larger than life.

Along the way he makes an enemy with a cat and a friend with a bird, while opening doors to stories that stack up farther than he can see.

The PCC production is based on Joseph Robinette’s original stage adaptation. Robinette is also known for his adaptations of “A Christmas Story,” “The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe” and another E.B. White classic, “Charlotte’s Web.”

Nugent said the story about the modest mouse will be told with the help of impressive visuals and an even more impressive student cast of 18.

Dustin Rieffer, who plays several roles in the play, said that he enjoys performing for young children.

“You see the kids and no matter what you do they’re enjoying it and afterward they come up to you like you’re a star,” he said.

The moral of the story and the attitude of Stuart Little inspired Nugent to direct the play.

“He inspires me because he’s different than everybody else, and yet he’s so confident and so grounded and secure with himself that it doesn’t even matter,” he said.

“The way we’re going to tell it, I believe the little kids in the audience and the parents and the families will be inspired,” Nugent added. “They’ll just say ‘Yeah, be yourself. Be comfortable with who you are.’”

Show times are Friday-Saturday at 7 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $8 per person, with discounts available for parties of 10 or more.

Discounts will also be available for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and their troop leaders on Sept. 27, when PCC hosts a Scout Theatre Adventure Night at 7 p.m. The adventure night will include post-show activities.

American Sign Language interpreters will be available on Oct. 3.

Box office hours are Tuesday-Friday from noon-5 p.m. and one hour before each performance.

For more information, call the box office at 206-6986 or email

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Stuart Little (Kainon Bachtel) laughs with his parents (Damion Garcia, Amelia South), George (Andrew Kincaid) and Snowbell (Collin Ferraro). (Eduardo Caldera/Aztec Press)

Pima welcomes international students

Pima welcomes international students


Forty-nine Mexican students descended the escalators at Tucson International Airport on Aug. 30 to the cheers of Pima Community College students and faculty. A large sign read “Welcome International Students.”

Many of the visitors remained speechless. For some, their shocked expressions were remnants of their first time on an airplane. For even more, it was their first time in America.

“It was a celebratory greeting,” said Geneva Escobedo, assistant to the West Campus president. “It was also emotional. The students saw us with the sign and they stopped.

They looked shocked, and then the smiles came. Even I got a little teary-eyed.”

Preparing for visitors

PCC administrators, staff, faculty and students have been preparing for the arrival of the Mexican international students since February.

Part of a program called SEP-Bécalos-Santander Universidades, the students join 250 more Mexican students who are studying at five other colleges around the United States.

Bécalos is a pilot program for President Barack Obama’s 100,000 Strong for the Americas Global Initiative, in conjunction with a Mexican equivalent named Proyecta 100,000. The programs hope to introduce 100,000 American students to higher education in Mexico and vice versa.

The Mexican students were drawn from three technological bilingual universities:

• Universidad Tecnológica El Retoño in Aguascalientes,

• Universidad Tecnológica de La Zona Metropolitana del Valle in Hidalgo,

• Universidad Tecnológica de Saltillo in Coahuila.

The international students will spend the fall semester studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, subjects on Pima campuses.

They will live in 13 apartments close to the West Campus.

“We are honored to be part of an important initiative that infuses international awareness into our institution,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release.

“Programs such as this are examples of the college’s commitment to bring the world to Pima and help prepare students for life in an increasingly global society.”

A first visit to America

The students involved are distinctly aware of this.

Aaron Mata lives in Aguascalientes, a city of nearly 1.2 million people about 300 miles northwest of Mexico City. He attends Universidad Tecnológica El Retoño, as do more than 30 of Pima’s Bécalos students.

“I am extraordinarily happy about being here,” Mata said in heavily accented English. “Arriving to America was one of the most exciting and happy moments in my life, because I have never traveled before,” he said. “When I arrived, I was dazed because of the plane. It was a new experience for me, uncomfortable indeed.”


Mata wishes to become “a citizen of the world,” a sentiment that pervades his conversation.

Every experience thus far in his life built toward his current adventure, he said.

“I arrived to America with the hope of building a new, better life and learning everything I can to be a better person and a better professional — a human being that is useful for society.”

While many of the Mexican  students know enough English to make conversation, they will take some English as a Second Language classes with a STEM focus intended to develop their language skills..

Thirteen Pima students are involved as ambassadors through the West Campus Student Life Office in a program known as Positive Engagement Education Resources, or PEER.

Mentor hopes to help

Alma Gonzales, one of four PEER mentors who speak Spanish, was born in Mexico and immigrated with her parents to the United States when she was young.

“It was a little awkward not knowing anyone and barely understanding the language,” she said of adjusting to life in the U.S. “You don’t click right away. There’s no mediator, so that’s what we are.”

By now Gonzales has lived most of her life in the U.S., and hopes to transfer to the University of Arizona to continue her studies in psychology.

She juggles responsibilities as the West Campus student government president, a vice president for Young American Libertarians and a member of the cheer team. She intends to run for office in the International Student Club.

“I guess you can say I keep myself busy,” she said.

Gonzales hopes her experience will benefit the new arrivals. “In the end, it worked out. My family is happy and I got a better education,” she said.

“I know it will work out for them, too, but I just want to make their transition easier. It’s hard leaving friends and family behind and sometimes you can’t help feeling just a little homesick.”

How Pima got involved

Bécalos came to Pima after Ricardo Castro-Salazar, an instructor in the social and behavioral sciences department, contacted Maggie Suarez of Fundación Televisa, a large Mexican corporation that supports Proyecta 100,000.

Suarez met Lambert at a conference in Washington D.C. for the 100,000 Strong Initiative.

The two arranged for Suarez to tour the West Campus with Escobedo and Campus President Lou Albert.

Suarez was so impressed with Pima’s leadership and international focus that she insisted on raising the number of students who were to visit from an initial 24 to the 49 who arrived last month.

While the program is still in its infancy, administrators hope it will expand both at Pima and around the nation.

During this semester, Pima officials will evaluate the program and work in conjunction with Fundación Televisa and the Universidades to decide how to continue.

“It is a labor of love,” Escobedo said. “We’re here to teach all students and the international students are part of that too. Frankly, they’re having a blast.”

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Several of the Mexican exchange students attending PCC this semester gather around PEER mentor John Paul Luxardo on the day following their arrival in Tucson. For many, it was their first time in the United States. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

MEN'S SOCCER: Forceful play gives Aztecs winning record

MEN’S SOCCER: Forceful play gives Aztecs winning record


The Pima Community College men’s soccer team can be summed up in one word: aggressive.

The Aztecs have started the season with a 5-1-1 record, in large part by playing aggressively on both offense and defense.

With a 6-1 victory over Paradise Valley Community College on Sept. 13, the Aztecs showed they can be efficient on the road.

Pima took a 2-1 lead into halftime, but got things rolling in the second half.

The Aztecs had 13 shots on goal, and six different players scored. The goals came from sophomores Garrett Andreatta and Arturo Vega, and from freshmen Hector Banegas, Santiago Carrillo, Christian Chavira and Sadam Ali. Vega also had an assist.

Freshman goalkeeper Sam Kavathas ended the game with three saves.

On Sept. 11, the Aztecs beat Scottsdale Community College 3-0 at home to earn their third shutout of the season.

Sophomore Christian Garcia-Cabello scored in the fifth minute off a cross-pass from Vega to start a game that seemed all offense for the Aztecs.

Freshman Gabe Zepp netted a goal off a rebound in the 17th minute, and Carrillo scored on a penalty kick in the 55th minute.

The Aztecs outshot Scottsdale 11-5 and didn’t surrender a shot on goal in the second half.

A first-half breakdown by Pima’s defense gave Scottsdale its best scoring opportunity.

“We don’t make many mistakes but when we do it’s a big one,” head coach Dave Cosgrove said.

Kavathas earned one his three saves on the play.

There was no shortage of collisions in a Sept. 6 game against Chandler-Gilbert Community College. The Aztecs were down 2-1 at halftime, but battled back to end the game in a 2-2 tie.

Vega scored the first Aztec goal in the 20th minute from a free kick. Freshman Ryan Bristow scored the tying goal in the 59th minute off a cross-pass from freshman Emilio Villatoro.

Kavathas made a crucial stop on a penalty kick that could have been a deciding factor. He finished the game with five saves.

Cosgrove said he was happy with how his team was able to battle back from its 2-1 halftime deficit.

The Aztecs were handed their first loss of the season by Glendale Community College on Sept. 4.

Freshman Alejandro Gonzalez tied the game at 1-1 just before the half.  Glendale scored two unanswered goals to finish the game with a 3-1 win.

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Freshman Alejandro Gonzalez kicks the ball past several Scottsdale Community College defenders for a shot on goal on Sept. 11. (Eduardo Caldera/Aztec Press)

VOLLEYBALL: Tournament provides challenges

VOLLEYBALL: Tournament provides challenges


The Pima Community College volleyball team had a tough time at the Scottsdale Classic tournament.

“It was an interesting trip,” sophomore Alexis Ammerman said. “We played well but we played some really good teams.”

The Aztecs dropped all three matches on Sept. 12. They lost in a close opening match to College of Southern Idaho, then lost in three sets to host Scottsdale Community College and to Utah State University.

Pima lost again on Sept. 13 against Central Wyoming College in four hard-fought sets. In the final match of the tournament, the Aztecs defeated Victoria College (Texas) in three sets.

Pima tallied a conference win on Sept. 6 against Mesa Community College. The Aztecs won two sets before dropping the third, but took control in the fourth set.

Sophomore Liz Mata contributed 38 assists and two aces. Sophomore Kaysee Pilgrim finished the game with 14 kills and four blocks, while Ammerman had six blocks.

On Sept. 5, the Aztecs hit the road to take on Glendale Community College but could not come away with the win. The Aztecs won the first set but dropped the next three, allowing Glendale to remain undefeated for the season.

On Sept. 3, Pima won a five-match set on the road against Phoenix College during a back-and-forth contest.


Sophomore Kaysee Polgrim rises to the occasion to tip the ball during Pima’s annual Alumni Match in the West Campus gym on Sept. 10. (Diego Lozano III/Aztec Press)

New provost brings accreditation expertise

New provost brings accreditation expertise


New Pima Community College Provost Erica C. Holmes uses classroom teaching to stay in touch with students and faculty.

“As an administrator, I thought it was very important to stay connected with the classroom,” Holmes said. “Then I have real-time experience of what my students are going through, and what the faculty that I supervise are going through.”

If she teaches, grades assignments and submits grades using the same platform her faculty does, Holmes said she remains connected to the institution’s pulse.

“It’s really helpful because you need to know what your faculty are experiencing,” she said.

Holmes was a first-generation college student from South Hill, Va., a small, predominantly agricultural community.

Her journey from Southside Virginia Community College eventually led to a doctorate in education leadership from the University of Sarasota-Argosy in Florida.

She began her career 20 years ago as a financial aid officer at Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va.

Her most recent job was vice president of academic and student affairs at Kennedy-King College, one of seven colleges in the City Colleges of Chicago system.

Holmes joined PCC on July 1 as provost and executive vice chancellor for academic and student services, the No. 2 position in the college.

While she plans to teach a class at Pima sometime in the future, her current priority is helping the college prepare for a Sept. 15-17 visit from the Higher Learning Commission.

The visiting representatives will determine whether Pima is complying with HLC standards.

Their findings will determine whether the college can be released from probation. (See related stories above and on Pages 8 and 9.)

Holmes said her comprehensive work with HLC reaffirmation standards will assist Pima during this transitional period.

“I have worked in the accreditation process now with four different institutions,” she said. “So absolutely, yes I think those skills will be helpful as we move through the site visit, and look to get the probationary status removed.”

Dolores Durán-Cerda has been the senior assistant to Pima’s provost office since January 2013. Her assignment went from acting to permanent in April 2013, the same month the HLC placed Pima on probation.

She subsequently joined a project management team formed to remove Pima’s accreditation sanctions, and said Holmes’ background in HLC peer-reviewing was an invaluable asset.

“She jumped in right away with her experience and identified areas that we needed to strengthen in the self-study,” Durán-Cerda said. “That was phenomenal.”

Holmes has been an excellent fit for Pima’s provost position, Durán-Cerda added.

“Even though we have had wonderful interim and acting provosts, it’s good to know that this person is going to stay,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with her.”

For now, Holmes is focusing on Pima’s transition past its probationary period, and any specific needs the college’s multiple campuses require of her office.

One improvement students can expect is the quality of Pima’s online education, she said.

She has joined a Pima task force that is investigating ways to offer better Web courses for students interested both in single classes and in earning credits for degree completion.

Holmes is not shy about embracing her new community as her dance-card rapidly fills.

On Aug. 22, she served as emcee for a day-long employee “All College Day.” The get-together was the first opportunity many employees had to meet the new provost.

Durán-Cerda said Holmes commands a natural stage presence that raised spirit levels.

“She connected to the audience right away, set the tone for the event but also for the school year,” Durán-Cerda said.

Throughout the fall semester, Holmes will visit each PCC campus for drop-in office hours.

She said she’s intent on developing relationships with students and finding ways to help improve upon their success.

“Education is happening out on the campuses, so that’s where we need to be,” she said. “It’s important to stay connected with students, because it really is about the student experience. That’s why we’re here.”

Erica Holmes

Provost Erica Holmes addresses employees during All College Day on Aug. 22 at the Tucson Convention Center. Holmes started at Pima on July 1. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Crash course in Comic-Con

Crash course in Comic-Con


Congratulations! After registering on months ago, keeping track of the monthly emails about purchasing badges, remembering your member id, waking up the day of the online sale, logging in at exactly 9 a.m. while never hitting refresh, sticking in your queue although it looked hopeless, having the money required to purchase all those badges on one credit card…

If you have ever tried to register for the world famous, San Diego Comic-Con International, this should all sound very familiar. Every year people from across the globe go through this process for the chance to attend the convention.

When tickets become available on the website, they sell out within minutes. Social media then explodes with exclamations of joy from those who got badges and complaints from those who hate the system. Love it or not, they are doing it again next year.

I’m a native San Diegan and I’ve been going to the SDCC since 1994, way before it was cool to be a nerd. Back then it was much more about the comics. Instead of registering months in advance, you would just show up to buy your tickets.

Things are much different now. The SDCC is considered to be the pop culture and entertainment expo of the year. People have it on their bucket list to attend, and telling people that you have gone before makes you a celebrity.

But is it all smooth sailing once you purchase your badges? After all, the hard part is over right? Wrong.

“If you have no idea what the San Diego Comic-Con is like, you’ll miss the whole thing even if you were here,” an attendee told me as we waited in line for 6 hours.

I will give you the rules on how to survive and get the most out of your SDCC experience, while paying homage to the rules in the film, Zombieland.

Rule #1 Shoes

You’re going to spend 95 percent of your time at the Con on your feet. You’re going to stand in line just so you can stand in another line. Without warning, you’re going to be expected to run or hike countless stairs. It’s best to be prepared. Get those gel inserts to make your feet happy.

Rule #2 Badge pick up

You will get an email about picking up your badges on Wednesday, the first day of the Con. It will say to go to the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley of San Diego. It will also say you can’t pick up your badges before 3 p.m. that day. A quick, pro tip is to pick them up early, like 12 p.m. early.

Park at the Fashion Valley Mall because the resort will be packed with cars trying to park. The mall is one block north of the resort. Just walk to the resort and grab your badges. Staff will be giving them out as soon as they are done setting up.

Rule #5 Preview night

You just got your badges and were lucky enough to get preview night access. I guess you have time for lunch or to check in at the hotel, right? No, head straight to the Con. It’s a 15 minute drive south in downtown San Diego. When you get there, no matter how early you got your badges, there will already be a ton of people in line.

Rule #11 Hotels

You should stay at the hotels near the Con, right? Wrong. Your car is almost useless downtown during the Con. Public transportation, such as the trolley, will do you better.

You know the saying, “you don’t need a fancy hotel because you’ll just be sleeping in it”? Not at SDCC. All you’ll be using your hotel room for is storage for all your purchases. Go book a hotel in Mission Valley. It’s where the tourists stay, as it is centralized in San Diego. You’ll save money and have access to amenities that are not available downtown.

Rule #12 Mission Valley

I’ve mentioned this part of San Diego multiple times. Your badge pick up is here and the majority of San Diego’s hotels are here. The best part is there are grocery stores and malls here along a direct and short route to downtown.

Stop at Target for snacks that you can carry. You may not want to deal with the hassle of carrying stuff, but do you really want to spend hiked up prices on food at the Con? Every dollar saved is another dollar you can spend at the Con.

Rule #15 Bags

When you pick up your badges, you get a cool, oversized backpack that becomes a badge of honor for attendees. People will use them at other cons as a type of trophy that says, “Look at me, I’ve been to SDCC.”

They usually give out about eight types of bags and they don’t let you pick the design. If there’s a design you want, don’t spend the effort trying to trade or buy someone else’s bag. On the last day of the Con, in the final hours, staff gives out the remaining bags. You can get as much as you want and whatever you want.

Rule #28 Celebrities

From what you’ve seen on television, so many celebrities attend the Con that you’re sure to run into all them, right? Wrong. Most celebrities make brief appearances which are unannounced. While some go to their press conferences then leave, others are in complete incognito. The best way to see celebrities is to spend time in downtown’s restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Pay attention to social media as well for possible sightings.

Rule #29 The Buddy system

Just like in Zombieland, it’s important to have a buddy. You need a friend that can hold your spot in line. A friend that can wait in one line while you wait in another. A friend that can do a food run while you hold your spots in line. Most importantly, you need a friend to hold you as you weep when you find out that the exclusive you want is sold out.

Rule #32 Panels

Professional conferences are meant to educate by sharing information from the industry. The SDCC prioritizes that same purpose. Be sure to attend different panels. Use the guide to plan out your schedule ahead of time. Panels are free to attend, but just like everything else at SDCC, you’re going to have to stand in line.

Rule #39 Going multiple days

You cannot see everything the SDCC has to offer in one day, even if you speed walk. In fact, you can’t speed walk because of everyone in your way. Your best bet is to create an agenda for each day. Spend one day going to panels, another day shopping in the vendor sections and dedicate a day to lining up exclusives.

Rule #40 San Diego

San Diego is considered to be “America’s Finest City”. It would be a shame to go there, attend the con and then leave when it’s all over. Arrive early or stay late to see the sights. Balboa Park, Coronado Island and the beach at La Jolla are all worth seeing.

Rule #51a eBay

Has the idea of selling SDCC exclusives at 200 percent of what you paid for sound enticing? Well, unless you have five people with you to pick up multiples of each item, it’s not worth it.

After online selling fees, shipping supplies and the cost of postage, I find the average net profit to be around 40 percent. This sounds great until you consider how much time you spent waiting in line, what you missed out on while waiting in those lines and the costs associated with your hotel and travel.

The best time to sell exclusives is the day you get them. Prices drop considerably after the Con ends and don’t pick back up until months or years later.

Rule #51b eBay

People must be crazy to pay those prices on eBay when the item only cost half of what they were selling for at the Con, right? After you experience the pain of trying to get the exclusive, only to fail, you’ll realize the prices are worth it, especially if the line you’re in is only for one of many items being offered. The best time to buy is two weeks after the Con, as the market will be saturated.

Rule #67 Exclusives

Hasbro and Mattel are the companies that offer the most coveted exclusives each year. If you want a chance to get them, plan on lining up around 12 a.m. Once you are in line for the exclusive, have a buddy or yourself go purchase them from the smaller companies. These exclusives usually have no limit and no line. They sell out by the second day of the Con.

Rule #71 Security

There are two types of security. There are security staff that work for the exhibitor and security staff that the SDCC has hired. Exhibitor staff are there to help manage lines for their appropriate booths, but are quickly overwhelmed. They rely heavily on SDCC staff.

Befriend both types. There will be times where they will tell you the line is closed off for now, but you can come back later to see if it opens up. People will try and stand around the line but it quickly blocks up, creating a fire hazard. If you become friends with security, just like with bouncers at night clubs, they’ll remember you and hook you up when they can.

Rule #80 Buying decisions

You’re going to be bombarded with different things to buy, but you have a limited budget. When in doubt, buy exclusives, artist alley or small press items. Items that you can find on Amazon are usually going to be cheaper than at the Con. Who knows when you’re going to have a chance at a unique item from an artist here?

Rule #92 Sunday funday

You made it to Sunday, but that probably means you’re also broke. There are so many free things to do at the Con, including video games and movie screenings. They are usually going on at the extended parts of the Con, located at the neighboring hotels.

Rule #95 Collapsible chairs

Invest in a high end, compact, collapsible chair that can easily be carried in a backpack. Sitting on the floor gets old fast. You can find them at outdoor sports stores.

Rule #99 Downtown

There are many other Comic-Con experiences going on downtown. Businesses capitalize on the Con by renting out their businesses to companies who were not able to get a space. For most of these events, you don’t even need a comic-con badge to attend. However, you will have to stand in line.

Rule #101 Your first Comic-Con

If you have never attended a Comic-Con before, don’t let San Diego be your first. Seasoned Comic-Con attendees are overwhelmed with SDCC. Get your feet wet by going to a smaller con. I find the Phoenix Comic-Con much more enjoyable and it’s a great con to start off with.


Demo games

Video game developers including Square Enix provide fully functional demos such as the new Kingdom Hearts to play before they are released. (Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press)

Instructor rethinks economic education

Instructor rethinks economic education


There is an academic economic revolution taking place around the globe, and Pima Community College instructor Amy Cramer has taken up arms in support.

Cramer has been teaching economics at PCC for the past 12 years and taught for six years in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management starting in 2005.

Now Cramer is taking her methods outside of her own classroom.

With the assistance of the Thomas R. Brown Foundation in Tucson, Cramer has created an initiative called Voices On The Economy.

VOTE aims to expand the teaching of alternate perspectives in high school and college classrooms around the state of Arizona and the United States.

“We have to arm our students with the different types of economic systems,” Cramer said. “All sorts of countries are trying to figure this out. So let’s give our students the power to figure it out.”

Over the course of the school year, teachers from high schools across Arizona will join Cramer as she explains her process to them through the same techniques she uses with students.

From June 18-22, high school teachers of subjects including history, economic and biology participated in Cramer’s method first-hand, taking part in describing each perspective and using them to debate modern topics.

“It’s kinda forcing me to think about my own opinions,” said Kelly O’Brien, a sixth and seventh grade history teacher from the Sonoran Science Academy.

O’Brien intends to use components of Cramer’s style to help teach her students about events in human history, such as the farming revolution that took place nearly 12,000 years ago.

“If they can relate to what they have now, they can better understand it,” she said.

In her classes, Cramer stresses the importance of considering alternative viewpoints in economics. In most modern economic classes, she said, students learn only neoclassical economics supported heavily by graphs and equations.

However, with many different economic systems existing around the world, Cramer sees importance in teaching students the perspectives that helped form modern economic systems.

She relies on Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, who are considered some of the major influences in modern economics, to describe how today’s various economic systems arose with a focus on neoclassical, classical and radical theory.

“These three perspectives are the theories that largely underlie our law and policies,” Cramer said in a video describing her methods. “Those alternative perspectives allow us to see further into the realm of economics.”

She uses these three distinct perspectives to stage classroom debates in which students discuss modern economic issues such as income inequality, the environment and anti-trust legislation.

“The learning process is enhanced when a student argues a perspective other than his or her own,” Cramer said in the video.

“Students in my classroom are assigned to take rotating perspectives in a series of debates so they get a chance to argue from each viewpoint.”

In this manner, Cramer intends to allow students to find their own voices in order to better understand and interact in today’s world.

“The goal is not to tell our students what to think,” Cramer said. “But to teach them how to think.”

Cramer’s program echoes the sentiment of students and educators alike across the globe. At the head of the charge is the International Student Initiative for Pluralism in Economics.

A group of more than 65 associations from 30 different countries, the student-led ISIPE pushes for use of a variety of theories, methods and disciplines, rather than simply neo-classical theory, in order to describe economics as a more complete social science.

“This lack of intellectual diversity does not only restrain education and research,” the organization explains in an open letter on its website. “It limits our ability to contend with the multidimensional challenges of the 21st century.”

“There are billions of people living in other countries that operate under economic systems other than our own,” Cramer said.

“In a global economic environment it is imperative that our students understand those other economic systems. What I do is invite you and invite our students to join the conversation.”

VOTE students

Instructor Amy Cramer observes as high school teacher Bill Craigs provides impassioned debate. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Tucson streetcars draw crowds

Tucson streetcars draw crowds


Tucsonans heading to Second Saturdays Downtown on Sept. 13 will likely pack the city’s new streetcar route.

About 6,700 passengers filled the streetcars during the monthly Second Saturdays event on Aug. 9, and approximately 60,000 people hopped aboard July 25-27 during the transit’s system’s free opening weekend.

Sun Link’s 3.9-mile route runs between the University of Arizona, Fourth Avenue, Downtown and the Mercado area just west of Interstate-10. Visit for full details on using the system.

Travis Hall, 38, stood attentive and eager to board the streetcar from a Fourth Avenue platform on opening day July 25.

Hall works downtown, and receives a monthly bus pass from his employer. He considers himself a foodie who depends on the bus system, and has set a goal of eating at every restaurant on Fourth Avenue.

“I can see myself using it at least two or three times a week,” he said.

He thinks the streetcar system will improve accessibility.

“I’ve been downtown on the weekend and it’s hopping,” he said. “So I suppose it would be easy to get from one place to another if somebody was going to bar-hop.”

Pima County voters approved a Regional Transportation Authority plan in May 2006. The special election set in motion a 20-year $2.1 billion RTA plan that included $87.7 million to build a downtown trolley.

The streetcar service mirrors transit systems found in cities such as Portland, Ore. and Tacoma, Wash.

Daniel Matlick, president of the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, took to a podium set up at the Sixth and Seventh streets stop during one of many ribbon-cutting events held on opening weekend.

Matlick first delivered a warm good morning and a bright grin that matched his crisp yellow dress shirt.

He welcomed the 50-person crowd before making a pointed acknowledgement to business owners, merchants and patrons who endured almost two years of road construction on Fourth Avenue.

“Today we give thanks and show our appreciation for all of you that displayed perseverance, and had enough creativity to sustain your business through adverse conditions,” Matlick said.

He gave a special shout-out to patrons.

“I would like to especially thank all of our Fourth Avenue customers that remained loyal and true to our local businesses, because that is what sustained us,” he added.

Sun Link’s local funding included $75 million from the RTA, $12.6 million from grants and public utilities, $13 million from the Cushing Street Bridge construction, $20 million from a Tucson Certificates of Participation grant and $2.9 million from the Gadsden Company.

But the streetcar became possible after Tucson was approved for a federal Transportation and Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery grant, according to Sun Link.

The federal streetcar budget included $63 million from the TIGER grant, $6 million from a New Starts grant and $4 million from a Federal Transportation Authority grant.

The Sun Link unveiling hub was centered on Congress Street at South Fifth Avenue.

A tall, well-dressed couple rolled their eyes as they walked toward Fourth Avenue, but said their glare of disapproval stemmed from a shared disdain of crowds.

As they continued north past The Book Stop, the pair said they were excited about the streetcar system and plan to use the trolley regularly.

Nowhere to Land, a self-proclaimed shop of kitsch antique treasures at 414 E. Seventh St., posted a special opening-day message on its sandwich board sign: “Clang. Clang. Clang. Went the streetcar. Yay, it’s here.”

Co-owners Anthony Hinckley and Lori Miller opened Nowhere to Land a block from the corner of Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue in November 2012, at the tail-end of major streetcar construction.

Hinckley is grateful that “awesome” local customers help support his shop, but said he relies heavily on out-of-town visitors.

He thinks the streetcar system will bolster tourism.

“Most of our clientele is tourists and I think the streetcar is going to bring much more tourism,” he said. “And if there’s economic growth down here, it’s going to affect the entire city.”

Hinckley said he is realistic about obstacles the Old Pueblo faces.

However, he believes the streetcar system places Tucson among the handful of U.S. cities developing exponentially, which will provide economic viability for future generations.

“I don’t think there’s any point in complaining about it and we’re all in this city together,” he said.

“Adjustment periods are hard for everyone but a change has come. This is a major project but I think it’s going to be a good thing for the city ultimately.”

Streetcar main

Sarah Harris watches Tucson’s modern streetcar travel south on Fourth Avenue toward the final ribbon-cutting stop during the unveiling ceremony held on July 25. (David Del Grande/Aztec Press)

Player strives to be good role model

Player strives to be good role model


Sophomore volleyball player Alexis Ammerman stands tall on and off the court.

She was an athletic standout at an early age, and participated in multiple sports.

“Honestly, basketball was my first love,” she said.

Ammerman enjoyed basketball and volleyball, and began playing club volleyball as a teenager.

During her sophomore year at Tucson Magnet High School, she had to make a decision and chose volleyball.

“I played club ball and it ran into basketball season, so I had to make a choice,” she said.

After graduating from Tucson High in 2011, Ammerman joined Pima Community College’s volleyball team last year. The 6-footer plays outside hitter.

She began her sophomore season ineligible due to some paperwork issues, but as of Sept. 2 she was officially listed as being on the team.

Head coach Dan Bithell hopes to see her succeed.

“I’d say she’s a really important part of the team,” he said. “It’d be really nice to have her back.”

Off the court, Ammerman is a smart, motivated young woman who hopes to give back to the city that helped raise her. She has fond memories of growing up in the Old Pueblo.

“Tucson has a lot to offer but things aren’t just going to be given to you and easy to find,” she said.

“The city has always been rich in culture and is a nice place to live,” she added.

“Nothing has really changed in Tucson, it’s just your perspective of life that changes. It changes because you get older.”

She’s a fan of the outdoors, and enjoys hiking local trails.

“There are some places where people can’t go hiking, so hiking here is awesome,” she said.

Ammerman also enjoys watching movies in her spare time. She likes comedies, but is a fan of most genres.

“My all-time favorites are ‘The Breakfast Club’ and ‘The Goonies,’” she said.

Another favorite activity is spending time with friends, family and teammates.

“I like hanging out with friends, and just doing whatever makes me happy,” she said.

As a student-athlete, Ammerman appreciates the support of fans and knows how motivational they can be during a close game. For that reason, she tries to attend other Pima sporting events.

“I like going to other Aztec games and supporting my fellow Aztecs,” she said.

Ammerman grew up as an only child to a single mother, and said she looks to her mother for inspiration.

“My number one motivation is my mom,” she said. “She had me young, so the things I’m doing are things she never got to do.”

Her mother was always available to help her in every way possible, she added. “She’s an amazing person and I just want to make her proud.”

Ammerman is majoring in education, and hopes to become a teacher who can inspire new generations.

“I love kids,” she said.

None of her many part-time jobs has involved working with children, but she is certain she will succeed at teaching.

“I never worked at a YMCA or anything ,but all my life I would babysit or look after kids,” she said.

Ammerman defines a good role model as someone who is motivating and uplifting, and believes she fits the description.

“A good role model would push themselves and push others to do well,” she said.

Ammermen profile-volleyball

Sophomore Alexis Ammerman leads a team cheer with head coach Dan Bithell at the Aztec’s Aug. 29 home opener against South Mountain Community College. Pima lost in three sets. (Beto Hoyos/Aztec Press)

Football team opens season with win

Football team opens season with win


The Pima Community College football team started the season with a win, but lost to a tough opponent in its home opener.

New head coach Jim Monaco encourages fans to attend games and watch a program that keeps improving.

“People can expect to see a high-powered offense and an aggressive defense,” he said.

Freshman Kian Homme has been named the starting quarterback after much preseason deliberation.

“He’s going to make a Division I program very proud one day,” Monaco said.

Homme has shown a positive attitude, a desire to win and a strong work ethic, Monaco said.

“Coaches like to coach him and we all think the world of the kid,” he said. “He’s a very bright young man, and so far he’s been great.”

The Aztecs lost 21-7 in their Aug. 30 home game against Eastern Arizona College.

Pima scored in the first quarter when sophomore Kendall Huey returned a recovered fumble for a 31-yard touchdown. Eastern scored on its next possession to tie the game at 7-7, then scored 14 points in the second quarter.

Both offenses struggled after halftime and neither team scored in the second half.

Eastern’s strong defense made it hard for the Aztecs to make any kind of run. Pima had three turnovers-on-downs and three punts.

Late in the third quarter, the Aztecs were five yards from scoring but a penalty pushed the Aztecs back to the 19. After two incomplete passes, they turned the ball over on downs.

Pima picked up its first win of the season on the road Aug. 23, defeating Phoenix College 36-19.

After a scoreless first quarter, freshman Deontay Townsend scored on a 38-yard touchdown run.

Sophomore Tanner Fanning kicked a 29-yard field goal, but Phoenix College ran back an interception for a pick six.

In the second half, Homme connected with freshman Donovan Moore twice for two touchdowns. That total gave the Aztecs more touchdown passes than all of last season.

The first aerial connection was a 73-yard reception to make the score 15-6. Phoenix College scored late in the third quarter, but Homme and Moore connected again 30 seconds into the fourth with a 28-yard pass.

Freshman Markell Simmons, who was named TEP Aztec Power Player of the Week, intercepted a tip-pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown that increased Pima’s lead to 29-13. Sophomore running back Antony Thompson scored on a 1-yard run with 5:59 left in the game.

Huey’s defensive work included three sacks, a forced fumble, nine tackles (seven solo) and four tackles for loss.

Monaco said players are growing into leadership roles and familiarizing themselves with his system.

Huey, who was named TEP power player of the week after the Phoenix College game, has impressed his coach and will likely carry a heavier load this season.

“We’re looking forward to Kendall stepping up,” Monaco said.

The coach also has his eye on sophomore linebackers Thomas Romack and Isaac Chacon. “We’re looking to get some real sophomore leadership out of them,” he said.

Monaco has been pleased with what he’s seen from Thompson.

“He’s doing a great job,” he said. “He ran for 140 yards or something like that the other night.”

The defense showed great form during the Phoenix game, Monaco added. “We had seven sacks. I’d sign up right now to duplicate that again.”


Sophomore Shane Ward about to do work off a hand off from freshman QB Kian Homme

Sophomore Shane Ward about to do work off a hand off from freshman QB Kian Homme

Graduation speaker applies philosophy

Graduation speaker applies philosophy


Athanasia Chalkiopolous strives to be an “inspirational warrior” and an enthusiast of a better future for everyone.

These are a few of the qualities that led to Chalkiopolous being chosen as Pima Community College’s 2014 commencement speaker.

Chalkiopolous applies one of her favorite Greek philosopher’s principles — Aristotle’s principle of collective happiness through democracy — to conclude that solutions to modern problems can be found by looking to the past.

This philosophy will be the theme she conveys in her commencement speech.

“I looked back to the past to outline how practicing democracy has been redefined throughout the decades, to represent either an extreme individualistic ideology or an oligarchy,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the ideal principles of democracy are not being upheld.”

Chalkiopolous then wondered, “how do we raise our expectations?” She reflects on her experiences at PCC for an answer.

“I realized that the teacher holds the key to unlocking the mental door of apathy,” she said.

Chalkiopolous said she learned that when people are challenged to excel beyond expectations and impose greater standards upon themselves, “they will also become inspired to support nothing less than the best for all people around the world.”

As a future history teacher, Chalkiopolous hopes to emulate the spirits of her heroes for her students in the same way that her instructors have done for her.

“Pima personally reignited idealism for me and reinforced the concept of what a community means,” she said.

Chalkiopolous is graduating with an associate degree in liberal arts and transferring to the University of Arizona to obtain a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

“With hard work, self-discipline and perseverance, I earned this diploma,” Chalkiopolous said.

Christine Yebra, events coordinator for PCC, said the committee looks for a student that not only has an inspirational message, but one that will unify students.

“Athanasia exemplified our expectations and her words were profound in a way that made her stand out from the other outstanding applicants,” Yebra said.

“I think she’s going to be an excellent teacher because her passion in the world was so vivid.”

How was Chalkiopolous able to achieve so much during her college career?

“With support from my husband, family, friends and Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church – this is the spirit of collective happiness – people working together to make life better for everyone,” she said.

She credits much of her success to the assistance and she received from her instructors and tutors at the library and learning center.

“No one succeeds alone,” Chalkiopolous said.

Pg01-Grad speaker

Athanasia Chalkiopolous clutches a graduation teddy bear. (Nicholas Quihuis/Aztec Press)

‘Dead Meat’ premieres May 19-20

‘Dead Meat’ premieres May 19-20


A sleepy western town occupied by colorful characters is shaken from its slumber when a stranger appears and a curse wreaks destruction.

This is the premise of “Dead Meat,” a gore-filled tale just wrapped by Pima Community College advanced cinematography students.

The horror-western will premiere during free screenings May 19-20 at 7 p.m. at the Proscenium Theatre in the West Campus Center for the Arts.

The screenings will also include film and video work from students in PCC’s beginning and advanced digital arts classes, with a different program each night. Raffles will also be held.

PCC students shot and edited “Dead Meat” over two semesters, led by veteran film instructor David Wing. Digital arts student Jet Guido wrote and directed the movie.

A student crew spent four days last semester shooting footage at a movie set and tourist attraction near Bisbee called Gammons Gulch.

After a turbulent day or two, Guido said the film crew pulled themselves together and learned to work as a team.

“I was wary about how the film would turn out, especially after how the second day of filming went,” Guido said. “After watching the final cut, I’m happy to see how it ended up.”

Guido attributes much of the success to the crew and to Aaron Lochert, who was director of photography last semester and editing supervisor this semester.

“I worked with a great group of people who were dedicated to solving problems on the fly,” Guido said. “Aaron had a heavy hand in the shooting and editing. He did an outstanding job.”

Lochert said his job this semester essentially involved overseeing teams of editors.

“I worked closely with the director to see that his vision was carried out,” he said.

Lochert also handled visual effects and color.

“As far as VFX goes, I composited muzzle flares, smoke and blood elements so that gun shots look and feel real,” Lochert said.

Despite being low-budget, “Dead Meat” promises to strike the audience with fear. The film contains adult content and language.

Pg11-Dead Meat movie

“Dead Meat” actors Bob Flyzic (bartender) and William Killian (Toots) chat at a small-town saloon. (Photo by David Wing)


Multicultural Convocation honors grads

Multicultural Convocation honors grads


Pima Community College’s 2014 graduates celebrated academic achievements and diversity at a Multicultural Convocation on May 1.

Aaron Dinius, Jennifer Goudeau and Michael Joseph Hernandez were selected as student speakers from more than a dozen applicants.

Lucia Cavallo, who will graduate with an associate degree in applied science and business management, read an original poem.

Each of the three speakers shared stories about their college journey.

Aaron Dinius

Aaron Dinius, 29, was born in Seoul, South Korea. He was adopted by an American family when he was 10 months old and spent six years in Grand Junction, Colorado, before moving to Tucson in 1992.

Dinius received his GED diploma from PCC’s adult education program in 2005.

He returned to school in 2010 and studied for an associate of applied science degree in computer-aided drafting.

In 2013, he declared a second major in machine tool technology with a concentration in manual machining and computer numerical control. He will graduate with a 3.97 GPA.

In addition to working full time while attending PCC, Dinius joined numerous organizations.

He served as an officer of the Alpha Beta Chi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, as a student government officer at Downtown Campus and as a student representative to the PCC Board of Governors.

“All of these things combined have made for some difficult times, but I have succeeded with the help and support of those around me,” Dinius said.

His convocation talk focused on sharing his journey through college and the importance of diversity. He also offered words of encouragement and inspiration.

Jennifer Goudeau

Jennifer Goudeau, 29, was born in California but has lived in Tucson since she was 10. She attended Santa Clara Elementary School, Apollo Middle School and Desert View High School.

Goudeau will graduate with two degrees, one in paralegal studies and the other in general studies.

As a single mother, Goudeau balances classes, work and being a good parent.

“‘Me time’ definitely took the back burner while I accomplished my goals,” Goudeau said, “but I’m finally there.”

In her convocation speech, Goudeau admitted to her fondness for food and included an analogy comparing food and diversity.

“Everyone loves food and it’s definitely diverse,” she said.

Michael Joseph Hernandez

Michael Hernandez, 22, is a native Tucsonan who attended Immaculate Heart Academy and Salpointe Catholic High School.

Hernandez will graduate with an Arizona general education curriculum-science certificate, an associate of arts in liberal arts and an associate of science degree.

After graduating from high school, Hernandez attended the University of Arizona for two years. During those years, he struggled to cope with the declining health of his grandmother and her eventual death in 2010.

“Aside from my parents, she was the most important person in my life and the two of us were incredibly close,” he said.

Hernandez reevaluated his priorities and decided to transfer to PCC because it was more cost-effective to take the same classes. He found the more intimate setting to be beneficial while still dealing with the death of his grandmother.

In his convocation speech, Hernandez spoke of the importance of diversity and why it is vital to society’s advancement.

He explained how each individual can contribute something unique to collective development.

“I’m grateful for all the inspiration and encouragement given by my professors,” Hernandez said.

He is also thankful for the friendships he made at Pima and the experiences that have helped him mature as an individual.


From left, Chancellor Lee Lambert and students Lucia Cavallo, Aaron Dinius, Jennifer Goudeau and Michael Joseph Hernandez sit on stage. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)