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College withholds HLC report

College withholds HLC report


Pima Community College has decided to keep a draft report concerning the status of the college under wraps as it prepares its response.

The Higher Learning Commission, PCC’s accrediting body, released the report on Nov. 20 following a site visit in September to assess the status of the college.

A fact-finding team consisting of education administrators from across the country spent several days interviewing students and employees to assess Pima’s climate in preparation of their report.

College officials said the decision not to release the team’s initial findings was in line with HLC guidelines.

“Institutions should refrain from publicly disclosing oral comments or recommendations until final commission action has taken place,” reads a statement on the HLC website cited by Pima Chancellor Lee Lambert in an email to employees.

The college has been working since last April to remedy issues found by the commission, including numerous leadership failures and a negative culture among employees and administration.

When the HLC released previous draft reports to Pima, the college made them available to the public almost immediately.

As an institution receiving taxpayer funding, PCC is required by Arizona law to make all records public and available to inspection, although some exceptions do exist, including if withholding records is in the state’s best interest.

College spokesman C.J. Karamargin explained the college’s reasoning in a telephone interview.

“One of the reasons Pima was placed on probation in the first place was not following the guidelines of the HLC,” he said.

“We would argue that Pima retaining its accreditation is in the best interest of the state. We all know what happened before when the college failed to follow the guidelines.”

Pima has created several fast action teams that will review the draft report and prepare a response, which must be submitted to the HLC by Dec. 8.

“I remain confident that our work will be positively rewarded,” Lambert wrote.

The HLC will decide next February whether Pima has made sufficient changes to have sanctions removed. The commission could decide to fully lift probation, remove sanctions but continue monitoring, or strip PCC of accreditation if concerns have not been adequately met.

Pima provost Erica Holmes echoed Lambert’s expectations for a positive outcome in an email to students.

“After reviewing the draft report, we are very encouraged,” she said.

Karamargin said it’s natural to speculate about the report, but urged people to listen to the positive feedback from college officials and others who have worked on PCC’s response to the sanctions. He also stressed that the report is only a draft.

Lambert said the final report would be released following the commission’s verdict.


Healthcare sign-up now open, offers new help

Healthcare sign-up now open, offers new help


Pima Community College is pitching in to spread the word about the importance of getting insurance and where to go to get help signing up.

Pima hosted a resource event at Downtown Campus on Nov. 18 alongside members of the Department of Health and Human Resources as well as the Cover Arizona Coalition and Arizona Public Interest Research groups.

“I am proud to be able to say that Pima is doing its part to make sure that we educate students about their options under the new health care law,” said PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert.

The event focused on informing students of new options as well as where to get financial aid.

“The message today is clear, health insurance is now, it’s affordable and we are here to help,” said Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona PIRG education fund.

The enrollment period for health insurance is only three months instead of six, from Nov. 15 to Feb 15, which means less time for people to get enrolled.

“We are going to be on the campuses, on the airwaves, and in the community,” said Kenneth Shapiro, interim regional director for the Health and Human Services Department.

“We are going to be accessible to all Arizonans who need to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act,” he added.

Young adults were among the largest group to sign up for insurance when the government Marketplace website opened last year.

“Out of 120,000 people who signed up for health insurance in 2013 across the state, 25,000 were in the age group 18-34, which is the prime age for Pima students,” Lambert said.

Shapiro said changes had been made for this year’s enrollment period following problems with the website last year. He said the website was smoother and faster to navigate for both new and returning members.

Some of the resources offered include one-on-one assistance in several languages, enrollment weekend events, as well as phone and online assistance.

There are different plans available covering many services, including preventive care, maternity needs, behavioral health, rehabilitative services, prescription medications, and emergency rooms.

The government wants to ensure everyone who is eligible signs up for coverage.

“There is no more discrimination based on pre-existing conditions,” Shapiro said.

Anyone under the age of 26 is also able to stay on their parent’s insurance plans.

Ultimately, the goal of the event was to make sure students realize their options and why getting insurance is important.

“Whether an individual is looking to purchase health insurance for the first time or looking to switch to a new health insurance plan, it’s important for individuals to know their options and to know their rights,” Brown said.

“Individuals should make sure that they are getting the best bank for their buck which does not always means getting the cheaper premium cost, but maybe looking at what the deductable and co-pays are and balancing that against to what they have to pay each month,” she added.

For more information or assistance getting enrolled, visit,, or

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From left, Alejandro DeLuna with Pima Community Access Program, Samantha Fierro with El Rio Community Health Center and Jason Donofrio with the Arizona PIRG Education Fund staff an information table. (Mariana Ceja/Aztec Press)

Writer to share insights

Writer to share insights


Pima Community College will conclude its Fall Speakers’ Series with a talk by writing instructor Kristen Hoggatt.

The free presentation will take place Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. in the PCC District Office Community Board Room, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd.

“The U.S. Poetry Academy” presentation will discuss Hoggatt’s experiences living abroad. She served with the U.S Peace Corps in Uzbekistan from 2003-2005, and also worked in Egypt.

Along with stories of personal triumphs, Hoggatt will include a reading of her poems.

Hoggatt has been an adjunct writing instructor at PCC since 2012. She received a master of fine arts in creative writing from Boston’s Emerson College.

Her chapbook, “Arab Winter,” was published by Finishing Line Press. Her poems have also been appeared in The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Ledge Magazine, Nimrod International Journal and The Smart Set. She was the “Ask a Poet” advice columnist for The Smart Set from 2008-2011.

The Speakers’ Series, co-sponsored by the provost and by Faculty Senate, spotlights the expertise of PCC faculty members.

Police give warnings after Downtown Campus assaults

Police give warnings after Downtown Campus assaults

Pima Community College recently issued a pair of warnings after assault incidents on or near Downtown Campus.

According to PCC police, a man approached a student in the campus parking lot Nov. 13 and asked the student if his vehicle had any weapons, money or food.

When the student retreated to his vehicle, the man followed and attempted to gain entry into the student’s vehicle, the warning said. The man then continued through the parking lot and at one point threw rocks at three family members.

The man, identified by police as Kurt Wagner, was arrested, but made comments about returning to campus and hurting the victims in the case, according to the warning. Police said Wagner appeared impaired.

The next day, a PCC officer on foot patrol noticed a man who appeared to be in distress walking across the campus’ east parking lot with another male and a female who were assisting him.

The man told the officer he had been stabbed in the chest near the Circle K at 130 E. Speedway Blvd., across the street from Downtown Campus.

The victim was transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He told police he had been stabbed by an unknown person over an alcoholic beverage.


Downtown Campus hosts party

Downtown Campus hosts party


Pima Community College Downtown Campus celebrated its big 4-0 birthday Nov. 15 with crafts, live performances and a variety of food truck vendors.

The party also featured music spanning several decades, spun by Main Events DJ Richie Rich and by emcee R Dub. The tunes had some visitors dancing and singing along while others just swayed to the beat.

R Dub, founder of the internationally syndicated Sunday Night Slow Jams radio show, attended Pima for several years on and off before returning in earnest to earn an associate degree.

“I love coming back to Pima or being involved with anything that has to do with Pima,” he said.

Patricia Houston, an academic dean who helped coordinate the event, was happy with the way the birthday party turned out.

“We didn’t expect it to have such a great turnout but it did and it is amazing to see,” she said.

“I think the thing that is shocking people most is the thousand cupcakes that were donated to us,” Houston added.

Downtown Campus staff members Gayle Bell and Celina Ortega each baked 500 cupcakes.

“I would come home from work and start baking,” Bell said. “I slept about three hours until I had to go to work again, and had cupcakes all over my house.”

Cupcake flavors included chocolate, vanilla, red velvet and gluten-free carrot.

“It’s great seeing people’s faces once they come in and see the huge cupcake tower,” Bell said. “It makes it worth the three hours of sleep for the past two days.”

Food truck options ranged from homemade ramen soup to Spanish-Peruvian entrees to sweet delights.

The smell of sugar cookies permeated a room filled with kids enjoying the task of decorating a cookie with colorful sprinkles.

The Downtown Campus 40th Birthday Bash will continue next spring with an event to honor the campus founders.

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PCC employee Gayle Bell sets out some of the 500 cupcakes she baked for the Downtown Campus 40th Birthday Bash. A fellow employee, Celina Ortega, also donated 500 home-baked cupcakes for the event. (Jamie Maese/Aztec Press)

Justice Department sues PCC

Justice Department sues PCC


The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Pima Community College on Oct. 31, claiming a violation of employment rights of PCC police officer and Army National Guardsman Timothy Stoner.

The suit alleges that, based on his military involvement and obligations, Stoner was denied promotion twice for a job similar to the one he had held at the time.

If it is found that the decision to deny his promotion was based on his military involvement, it would be a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.

USERRA guarantees service members are able to resume jobs that they held before going on deployment as well as not being denied

employment, benefits and promotions based on being a member of the military.

“While it would not be appropriate to comment on the specific details of this case while it is pending, I can assure you that the college will aggressively defend itself,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in an email sent to college employees.

“We are confident that the evidence will establish there was no violation of federal law and that the outcome of the promotion process was based on appropriate factors,” he said.

In 2013, after the second time he was denied promotion, Stoner filed an internal complaint against PCC. According to the suit, he cited then-chief Stella Bay’s bias against members of the military as a deciding factor in her decision, despite his qualifications.

An internal investigation by Pima found that Bay had repeatedly expressed her dislike for military members and that Stoner’s service was indeed a factor in her decision to deny his promotion, the suit said.

“As a result, the PCC investigator recommended that remedial action be taken, including placing Stoner in an acting corporal position,” said a DOJ press release.

College officials were unable to comment on the difference between the findings of the internal investigation and Lambert’s confidence that federal law had not been violated.

Stoner has been a PCC officer since August 2001 and obtained the assignment of lead police officer in 2006 under former chief Barbara Harris.

In 2010, that position was eliminated and its responsibilities were assigned to the newly created role of police corporal.

Stoner applied for the job while he was serving in Afghanistan and was one of six final applicants considered.

Of the final six, Stoner was the only active military member and the only one not promoted, despite being a former lead officer.

The decision was made by a three-member panel including Bay and PCC Executive Vice Chancellor David Bea.

Current Police Chief Manny Amado said the lead police officer position was a temporarily appointed position created by the college.

“A corporal is more of a permanent positions – it is an actual classification,” he said. “It’s like the next level up, where a lead would be just that: a lead.

“One of the things that we look at in testing is not only how that person does in the testing process but also we look at their personnel record,” Amado said. “Disciplinary action, complaints lodged against the employee, performance issues.

“It’s not just the written test, it’s not just the interview, it is the totality of the testing process up to and including any types of performance issues or anything within the personnel record of that employee,” he said.

The complaint alleges that Bay made comments to another PCC officer during the selection process that Stoner was “selfish to apply for the promotion while volunteering for active military duty.”

In 2013, Pima commenced a second application process for the same position, in which Stoner again applied and was denied promotion.

Around the time of the selection process, Stoner was eligible for retirement from the military but chose to continue service.

According to the complaint, during the interview process with Bay and Bea, Bay questioned Stoner on his intent to retire and “became upset” when he told her that he had decided to remain in the military.

Bea remained neutral during the exchange, the suit said.

The complaint said that Bay continued to “raise concerns” over Stoner’s ability to fulfill the requirements of the position in regards to his responsibilities in the military.

The lawsuit also alleged that Bay “expressed her opinion that military service members are so used to taking orders that they cannot think for themselves and do not do well in stressful situations.”

Amado said he disagreed with that statement.

“In my experience, those men and women who have served in the military have been trained to think quickly on their feet,” he said.

Bay resigned from Pima in July 2013 amid accusations of creating a hostile work environment to the point of endangering fellow officers and students on the campus.

A man who answered the phone at the number listed for Bay hung up when called for an interview.

The DOJ is asking Pima to reimburse Stoner for lost wages and benefits since he was denied promotion in 2010, as well as legal costs.

Stoner suit was reffered to the DOJ after a complaint with the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Services was unable to be resolved.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is now filing the suit on Stoner’s behalf.

“Employers have a legal obligation to respect and honor the rights of our uniformed service members to be fairly considered for promotions and other employment opportunities and not to subject them to unlawful discrimination because of their service in defense of our country,” the DOJ said.

Stoner could not be reached for comment.

Read the full lawsuit at

Hanna wins PCC governing board post

Hanna wins PCC governing board post


Voters have decided that Mark Hanna will be the newest member of Pima Community College’s governing board after a tightly contested election on Nov. 4.

Fewer than 1,500 votes separated Hanna and his competitor, Tucson Medical Center executive Michael Duran.

Hanna received 25,988 votes to Duran’s 24,566, according to the Pima County Elections Office. Voters also cast 269 ballots for write-in candidates.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to help restore Pima to the respected and effective educational institution that has served our community for over 45 years,” Hanna said in an emailed statement. “I am really excited about being part of the ‘new and improved’ Pima Community College that makes dreams come true for any and all students who seek to improve their lives through education.”

Hanna said he met with a few thousand constituents going door-to-door during his campaign.

“Over and over again, I heard stories of how Pima has positively impacted the lives of so many folks in our community,” he said.

“I also heard wonderful things about the Pima staff and faculty helping students be successful. I am proud to join this team.”

College officials said both candidates should be thanked for their desire to improve Pima.

“I am confident Mark will be a great addition to our board,” said Chancellor Lee Lambert in a message to employees. “As a Pima graduate who has served on our Foundation Board since 2012, he knows the college well. He also has experience working directly with students and overseeing a large business operation,” he said.

Hanna is a former manager at Costco and recently retired after seven years as a college and career readiness counselor at Catalina high Magnet School.

During public forums last month, Hanna said his experience in both fields made him the best candidate for the position.

He said his first goal will be to assess where the college is at and where it’s headed.

Hanna believes the college is on track to having probation removed.

“Yes, there are a number of challenges ahead for our college, most notably the correction of the issues raised by the HLC, but I firmly believe we are on our way to building a stronger, more accessible and affordable student centered educational institution,” he said.

“As a board member I will insist on respect, fairness and integrity in all matters affecting our staff, faculty, students and the college in general.”

Hanna will be replacing Brenda Even, who has served on PCC’s board since 2001. She did not seek re-election for another term.

PCC board members are elected to their unpaid positions for a term of six years. The District 1 seat held by Even was the only seat decided this election cycle.

Hanna will be officially sworn in during the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 14.


Mark Hanna speaks at an education forum in September. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

Downtown Campus celebrating big 4-0

Downtown Campus celebrating big 4-0


Pima Community College opened the doors of Downtown Campus in 1974 to provide a “gem of an education in the heart of downtown” to thousands of students in Tucson.

During that time, students have achieved many dreams and overcome many challenges.

Sylvia Lee, a longtime PCC administrator who now serves on the college’s governing board, attended classes at Downtown Campus in 1977.

“It has changed so much, especially structurally,” Lee said.

She worked as a student aide in the financial aid department, and also worked for a “dean of the dark” who managed night classes.

“Downtown has been transformed into this incredible urban campus, and it is incredibly diverse and full of life,” Lee said. “The location of it really brings different variety of culture and people to the campus.”

Pat Houston, academic dean for science and communication arts, will host a 40th anniversary celebration for Downtown Campus on Nov. 15 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

The free community-wide birthday bash is for past, present and future members of the Downtown Campus family, Houston said.

Activities will include a wide variety of food trucks, children’s games, cookie decorating and a “show us your moves” dance contest. DJ Richie Rich will spin tunes from the past four decades.

Former Pima student Randall Rehak, more popularly known as R Dub from the internationally syndicated Sunday Night Slow Jams radio show, will emcee.

Rehak moved to Tucson as a teen, and attended PCC classes off and on for years. He returned in earnest in 2009-2011, then transferred to the University of Arizona to complete his degree.

“I am super excited to be back in Tucson, and so honored that they thought of me to be at this event,” Rehak said via telephone from his San Diego home.

“I like to joke that I went to Pima for 20 years, because I sort of did, but ever since it has been near and dear to my heart,” he added.

Houston encouraged everyone who attended Downtown Campus to share favorite memories by emailing

“I am so excited for everyone to come to the birthday party,” Houston said. “R Dub is an amazing emcee and we have so many fun activities planned, and a ton of food.”

Pima news briefs

Pima news briefs

Produce sales begin Nov. 15

A monthly event that allows participants to pay $10 for up to 60 pounds of fresh produce begins Nov. 15 at Downtown Campus.

Produce on Wheels With Out Waste will take place from 8-11 a.m. in the north parking lot.

Those buying produce are encouraged to use what they need and share with friends and neighbors.

The POW WOW events are hosted by the Downtown Campus Diversity and Student Veterans clubs. A portion of funds raised will help support upcoming club activities.

To volunteer or for additional details, contact Sharon Arceneaux at 206-7263.

Veterans’ symposium Nov. 16

Pima Community College will host a symposium titled “Putting Our Veterans Front and Center” on Nov. 16 from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Downtown Campus Amethyst Room.

Activities will include a keynote speaker and workshops. A panel discussion will include an opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session. Veteran’s services resource representatives will be on hand.

For additional information, email


Foreign policy forum Nov. 17

Former ambassador Stuart Holliday will discuss his ideas, insights and experience in foreign affairs and international institutions on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in the West Campus Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre.

PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert will co-host the free event with Holliday as they explore “The New Meanings of Global Citizenship.” An audience question and answer session will follow.

The event is sponsored by PCC, the University of Arizona Global Initiatives and Southern Arizona Council for International Visitors. For additional information, call 206-4500.


Study Abroad Fair Nov. 18

Downtown Campus will host a Study Abroad Fair Nov. 18 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Amethyst Room as part of International Education week.

PCC is partnering with the University of Arizona Study Abroad and Student Exchange. UA offers hundreds of programs, lasting from three weeks to 10 months, in about 60 countries.

Students can meet UA Study Abroad program directors and financial aid/scholarship advisors.

For additional information, contact academic dean Patricia Houston at 206-7045.


‘Death with Dignity’ forum

An anthropology class will sponsor a public discussion on “Death with Dignity” on Nov. 19 from 3-4:30 p.m. in the West Campus community room, JG-05.

The discussion, led by Anthropology 253 instructor Dianna Repp, is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Repp at 206-6067.


Explore the planets Nov. 19

The East Campus “Astronomy for All” series continues Nov. 19 with a free viewing and a talk by University of Arizona assistant professor Kaitlin Kratter.

He will discuss “Exploring the Architecture of Planetary Systems at Home and Abroad” at 6 p.m. at the observatory ramada. The rainy day location is Building E4, Room 403.

For additional information, call 206-7672.

Aztec Press runner-up for national award

Aztec Press runner-up for national award

The College Media Association, the largest organization for student journalists in the country, announced its picks on Oct. 31 for best newspapers nationwide. Pima Community College’s Aztec Press took second place in its division.

The announcement came during the CMA’s 93rd annual National College Media Convention, held this year in Philadelphia from Oct. 29-Nov. 2. The convention gathers thousands of student journalists for workshops, keynote speeches from professional journalists, critiques and other events in addition to the award declarations.

The Organization Pinnacle Awards given out at the convention acknowledge the best college newspapers, broadcast stations, websites and magazines for the past two semesters. Aztec Press was named runner-up for Newspaper of the Year in the “Two Year, Less Than Weekly” category.

El Don, Santa Ana College’s paper, took home first place in the division and Wingspan, Laramie County College’s publication, took third. It was the first time Aztec Press has been recognized by the organization.

-By Andrew Paxton

Board candidates detail plans for PCC

Board candidates detail plans for PCC


The two candidates vying for a seat on Pima Community College’s governing board met in a pair of forums to give the community a chance to learn more about their past and vision for the future.

Michael Duran, an executive at Tucson Medical Center, is facing off against Mark Hanna, a former high school counselor and business manager, for the District 1 Board of Governors seat. Voters in the district will cast a ballot for one of the two candidates during the election on Nov. 4.

Hanna and Duran are vying to replace longtime board member Brenda Even, who decided earlier this year not to run for re-election.

During the forum at PCC’s district office on Oct. 20, the candidates were asked questions on several topics, including student services, how they would improve Pima’s status and how to make sure the college continues to innovate and improve.

Both were also asked what the top goal should be for Pima once probation is lifted  from the college.

“Its absolute number one priority is enrollment growth,” Duran said. He said the college needs to make targeted investments to attract more students.

Hanna said the college needs to be looking at both the short and long-term future and offering degrees in new fields.

“Pima has the opportunity to move very quickly on adjusting to what is in the marketplace and to create those classes that will serve those students,” he said.

Duran said Pima needs to look through the eyes of students to understand the challenges they face with financial aid and student services.

“Once you do that, all of a sudden you have a different mentality and a different approach to make sure we are providing the resources to serve our students efficiently and effectively so that we make this their institution of choice,” he said.

Hanna said he understands the problem after helping students through the steps during his time at Catalina High School.

“Streamlining the whole process of applying for financial aid and finding and facilitating more scholarships would help so many students at this school and that is what I would certainly suggest happen.”

Both candidates also stressed the need for Pima to engage in strategic planning.


PCC board candidate Michael Duran. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)


PCC board candidate Mark Hanna. (Andrew Paxton/Aztec Press)

Pima locks on  to student vets  with new director

Pima locks on to student vets with new director


Back in ’78, Daniel Kester was a young airman recruit. One stripe on his shoulder, no more than a year out of high school, his second lieutenant asked him, “Kester! You ever think about going to college?”

Truth was, he hadn’t. College was for lawyers and bankers and senators’ sons; he was the son of a fireman who grew up in Ohio.

“Kester,” said his lieutenant. “I’m ordering you to go to college!” Kester told his officer he didn’t think he could do that. His officer didn’t think so either. Even still the officer told him to get into his car and drove him to the base education office. He sat in the car, engine running, and told Kester he’d wait there until he signed up for a college course.

“I was immediately addicted to learning,” Kester said. “I think about him every day and I’m thankful that he saw something in me that I didn’t see.”

Kester hopes to find his old lieutenant someday and tell him how his life was impacted by that almost order.

“I can’t wait to tell him what those words meant to me. It’s a constant reminder to me to help others in the same way.”

Kester is Pima Community College’s new director of veterans and military affiliated service, a newly created position to oversee veterans’ affairs at the college.

The new addition comes following mishandling of veterans’ files, which led to a temporary suspension of veterans’ benefits at PCC in March.

“In creating this position, we are ensuring that our student veterans consistently receive the best possible administrative services,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a press release.

Kester intends to incorporate a series of student success courses, which he hopes to teach, as well as establish a veteran’s center on every campus like the one on Downtown Campus.

Additionally, he plans on digitizing aspects of student veteran records to streamline various processes.

“I’ve been really impressed with everyone here and really impressed with their willingness to support veterans,” Kester said.

His background in education coupled with his military experience makes him uniquely qualified for Pima’s new position, which coincidently opened up shortly after he finished writing his dissertation on the transition of military personnel from active duty to post-secondary education.

“During my research I’ve always said, ‘people spend more time planning their vacations than their careers,’” he said.

He aims to improve career planning and sees his time at Pima as a counselor to student veterans.

“I’ve always been a counselor at heart,” he said.

“My very first teaching gig was at a community college,” Kester says. “And I’ve always felt like I had it right the first time at community college.”

Kester began his teaching career at Owens Community College in Ohio after spending 10 years in the Air Force. During his time in the military, he earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering technology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

“It’s kinda like an efficiency expert,” Kester said. “So you look at processes whether it’s an assembly line or a bank or an institution such as here. I look at, say, our certification process and I can see where the bottlenecks are and where there are opportunities for improvement.”

Many student veterans at Pima are already familiar with Kester due to his time spent at the college researching his dissertation, during which he worked closely with PCC student veterans.

Pima student Adrienne Lujan, a six-year Navy veteran, was one of the students interviewed by Kester during his research.

“We had no idea what the future was gonna hold. We had no idea he was gonna walk through that door and be the director,” she said. “That initial contact, though, did make it easy, I think, for everybody.”

Lujan also stressed the importance of having a military veteran to act as an advocate for service members at the college within the administration.

“We need a communication system with the upper echelon of Pima College,” she said. “Hopefully Dr. Kester along with student veterans have a chance to attend steering committees where issues can be addressed as they come up.”

During his dissertation, Kester discovered that while student veterans rated Pima’s veteran services highly, they didn’t necessarily take advantage of the services due to what he identified as culture shock.

“They really felt abandoned by the military,” Kester said.

“They built a military identity for four years, and then they only give them five days to go ‘OK, go find a job, here’s how to write a resume.’ You can’t change that identity in five days. That’s the whole idea behind this position, is to ease that transition.”

Sean Lore, a two-and-half-year Army veteran, agrees.

“Transition is very hard. It’s just a different world – a totally different world – and it’s hard to connect with people,” he said.

Kester also helps student veterans make the transition from active duty to community college. His ideas and passion for helping veterans to not only attend, but succeed, at Pima embody the goal of his position.

“What is cool is the young kids that are comin’ right out of four years, they have the whole world open to them.

“So they come out, they probably don’t have a degree, they don’t have that much experience, they’re like ‘I can do something different. I don’t have to do what I did in the military.’

“So it’s a wonderful group to talk to. It’s exciting, you can kinda live vicariously through them,” he said.

“Just say ‘wow you’re 21 again and you can go anywhere you want: you can go into the arts, you can go into music, you can go into journalism, you can go into fire fighting,’ and I just think that’s so exciting to sit down with them and choose a career.”

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New Veterans’ Director Daniel Kester wants to advocate for students. (Nick Meyers/Aztec Press)

Plus 50 helps mature job seekers

Plus 50 helps mature job seekers


Laughter filled the gymnasium at Pima Community College West Campus on Sept. 19 as hundreds of mature job seekers walked inside.

Some were better dressed and prepared than others. Some arrived with basic education while others had bachelor degrees, but everyone carried the same hopeful spirit. They were open to whatever the Plus 50 career and job fair had to offer.

More than 60 employers and 12 resource programs were ready to provide opportunities to job seekers age 50 and above.

Potential employers included the University of Arizona Health Center, Tucson Unified School District, Lutheran Social Services, Wells Fargo Bank and Casa de la Luz Hospice.

Participant Richard C. Valenzuela said he has worked as a technician for 20 years and was looking for a change. He also encouraged college students to continue with their education.

“Hopefully, being young, you can continue your education,” he said. “Older people don’t want to go back to school, we just stick with our own careers.”

Job seeker Susan Johnson earned a social service certificate and was looking to work in that field. She is also taking classes in hopes of earning an associate degree in applied science.

“It was difficult at first to get back into the routine, but I adapted and I really enjoy it now,” she said.

Dean Elofson said he has a bachelor’s degree in business and enjoyed a successful career in sales and management.

“I am at the end of my career, and I am looking for something meaningful,” Elofson said. “I am not going to retire because when you retire, you stop working and you die, and I don’t want to die.”

PCC is home to two grant programs that help unemployed men and women ages 50 and older. Both programs are part of national initiatives.

Back to Work 50+ helps adults develop marketing and networking skills, and provides them with strategies to land a job.

Supporters include the American Association of Retired Persons, Wal-Mart and the American Association of Community Colleges

The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is part of the four-year federally funded educational initiative that was launched at 100 community colleges.

Pg05-Plus50-Richard Valenzuela participant

Job seeker Richard C. Valenzuela fills out job applications at the Plus 50 job fair. After working as a technician for 20 years, Valenzuela said he is ready for a change. (Aztec Press/Mariana Ceja)

It helps students complete degrees and certifications by providing tutoring, computer skills and, eventually, job placement assistance. There are Plus 50 advisers at all six PCC campuses.

Details about the program can be found on pima’s website at

Roger Forrester, Plus 50 Program Coordinator, said he emphasizes the importance of networking, volunteering and internships.

“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be,” he said. “Often the best way to get a job is to network.”

Bradley Lancaster, who represented Jim Click Automotive at the job fair, said his company is willing to consider quality candidates of all ages.

“Jim Click doesn’t hire any managers from the outside, we only promote from within,” he said. “We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.”

Tormay Newman, director of caregiver education and training for Home Instead Senior Care, said the company hires part-time male and female caregivers ranging in age from 21 to 80.

“They have to have compassion,” Newman said. “We can train people, but they really have to have the heart to help others.”

Nancee Sorenson, East Campus vice president of student development, oversees the Plus 50 and Back to Work 50+ grants.

“One of the things that people who are 50 and over are concerned about is that maybe their technology skills aren’t as sharp as they should be, or they haven’t had an interview for a job for a long, long time,” she said.

Forrester said part of his role is educating employers.

“Some employers say that if you are over 50, you don’t have any computer skills. Not true,” he said.

“You’ll be surprised at the percentage of people age 50 and older that are very computer savvy, but we have to make employers more aware of that,” he added. “They’ve come a long way.”

Pg05-Plus50-Roger Forrester program coordinator

“At the end of the line, we are preparing them and making them as marketable as they can be.” Roger Forrester, Plus 50 program coordinator (Mariana Ceja/Aztec Press)

Pg05-Plus50-Bradley Lancaster, Jim Click rep

“We are looking for people that want to make a career with the company.” Bradley Lancaster, Jim Click Automotive (Aztec Press/Mariana Ceja)

SPEAKERS' SERIES: Talk will explore aging brains

SPEAKERS’ SERIES: Talk will explore aging brains


Pima Community College psychology instructor Sarah B. Burger will discuss “The Aging Brain” at PCC’s Speakers’ Series on Nov. 4.

Her lecture will begin at 6 p.m. in the PCC District Office Community Board Room, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd. Light refreshments will be available.

Burger’s presentation will discuss the brain and its aging process.

She will define dementia and explain techniques to help minimize the impact of aging.

She’ll also identify common myths about aging and highlight normal age-related changes to memory and cognition.

Burger earned a doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Arizona and became a licensed psychologist in 2013.

She has been an adjunct instructor at PCC since 2012. She also teaches undergraduate courses and supervises doctoral students at UA.

In addition, Burger works full time in private practice as a clinical neuropsychologist while also pursuing her board certification.

The Speakers’ Series, which is co-sponsored by the Faculty Senate and the provost’s office, spotlights PCC faculty and their expertise.

All lectures are free and open to the public.

One final lecture remains as the Speakers’ Series concludes its fourth year.

Writing instructor Kristen Hoggatt will discuss “The U.S. Poetry Academy” on Dec 2.

Pima team wins second place in UA management contest

Pima team wins second place in UA management contest


Four Pima Community College students earned second-place honors Oct. 17 in the Arizona Community College Excellence Case Competition.

The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management invited community college faculty to nominate talented business students.

The competition challenged teams to create an innovative business plan that solved a specific case problem.

PCC students James Brindley, Alanna Castro, Kalinda Lindmark and Rie Midei took second place after impressing judges with their ideas for online enrollment growth.

Rebecca Byers, Rachael Drozdoff, Jasmin Gonzalez and Peter Vesely competed on the second PCC team.

Case details were not revealed until the day of competition.

“The case competition was that each team was hired as a consultant by Eller College,” Midei said. “We had to conduct a benchmark analysis of the three primary competitors who offer online business degrees.

“I didn’t even know what a ‘benchmark analysis’ was until this event, so it was a really challenging task for me,” she said.

After a brief orientation, teams were allowed to gather research, develop their proposal and prepare a formal presentation.

“We only had two and a half hours to complete our research and PowerPoint to present it to the judges,” Midei said.

Nine teams from Arizona community colleges presented to a panel of judges, who posed challenging questions to team members.

Midei was impressed with several of the other teams’ presentations.

“They all seemed very calm and keen, and were full of great ideas,” she said. “My knees were shaking during the presentation, but when it was over, I felt great.”

The competition featured seven teams from the Phoenix area alongside Pima’s two teams. Glendale Community College won first place.

“When the judge announced our team as the runner-up, I realized that we were so close to the winning prize, which was a $600 individual scholarship for Eller College,” Midei said.

“It’s too bad that we didn’t win, but I was very happy that I had the opportunity,” she said.

“It was a resume builder and confidence builder as well.”

Midei said she was happy to be one of the first students representing Pima at the competition.

“Last year, no one signed up from PCC, so my accounting teacher was eager to nominate students,” she said “I needed to challenge myself for something totally out of my comfort zone, so I signed up.”

Pg04-ACCE competition

PCC competitors included, back row from left: Peter Vesely, Rebecca Byers, James Brindley, Jasmin Gonzalez; front row: Alanna Castro, Rachael Drozdoff and Rie Midei. Not pictured: Kalinda Lindmark.