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PCC awaits accreditation ‘focus visit’

PCC awaits accreditation ‘focus visit’

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Pima Community College student Ricquel Burnham studies in the cafeteria at Northwest Campus. The Higher Learning Commission will visit all PCC campuses Sept. 26-27

Pima Community College student Ricquel Burnham studies in the cafeteria at Northwest Campus. The Higher Learning Commission will visit all PCC campuses Sept. 26-27

By EDDIE CELAYA

Pima Community College’s long struggle to maintain its accreditation may be coming to an end, according to college officials.

The Higher Learning Commission will make a “focus visit” to all PCC campuses Sept. 26-27. Its governing board will then meet in February 2017 to review Pima’s accreditation status.

The HLC is an accrediting board that evaluates whether institutions of higher learning meet criteria to have their degree programs recognized by other colleges and universities.

PCC Vice Chancellor of Accreditation Bruce Moses said Pima is ready to get out of the figurative doghouse.

“It’s been almost four years now, two on probation, about 16 months on notice,” he said. “The college is ready to get out from under this. It’s time to shed this.”

Moses believes the current semester is PCC’s most important ever.

“I’ve said that it’s the most critical semester, because it is,” he said. “We don’t need students and the public to be worrying about this, we need to get back to even keel.”

Chancellor Lee Lambert concurs.

“The upcoming HLC focus visit is the first step in getting Pima back,” he said. “You can see evidence of that at every campus.”

Identifying initiatives

Moses is a former research analyst and a current peer reviewer for the HLC. His Pima position was created specifically to help deal with implementation of data tracking systems.

PCC has responded to HLC concerns by identifying areas of deficiency and implementing various information systems.

Moses and his team developed 26 initiatives within 11 areas of concern highlighted by the HLC. From there, they grouped the initiatives into four categories. By last fall, about 40 percent of the initiatives identified had been completed.

All identified initiatives have been addressed, according to Moses.

“To date, based on the report we submitted, we’ve addressed all of them,” he said. “The HLC will say, ‘how much evidence can you produce?’ to try and prove that.”

Humanities instructor Michael Parker, who served as lead writer for Pima’s compliance report to the HLC, echoed Moses’ remarks.

“Pretty much everything has been done to improve towards those standards,” he said. “I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”

Mario Gonzales, chairman for the Tucson-based Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility, said his organization sees things differently.

“As far as C-FAIRR is concerned, there are quite a few areas of concern that definitely need improvement,” he said.

Gonzalez calls C-FAIRR a community-centered watchdog group made up of “mostly retirees and locals.”

The group’s areas of concern include “a continued culture of silence” and diversity issues within Pima’s hiring process.

“We understand the spin that has to go on at the college,” Gonzales said. “It’s not as rosy as the administration wants people to believe.”

The beginning of sanctions

Pima has been in the HLC’s crosshairs since late 2012.

After voicing concerns about the leadership of then-Chancellor Roy Flores, C-FAIRR filed a complaint with the HLC.

CFAIRR’s initial complaints centered on actions by Flores and on concerns about a move away from open enrollment.

An ensuing HLC investigation found unaddressed sexual harassment allegations against Flores, a work environment based on intimidation and policies that conflicted with the purpose of the college.

HLC investigators listed 11 major areas of concern, ranging from the tracking of student learning outcomes to a “culture of fear.”

The findings set off a chain of events that eventually lead to the HLC placing the college on probation. The probation period was lifted in February 2015, and since that time PCC has been on “notice.”

Mark Hanna, chair of PCC’s Board of Governors, said the era of sanctions has deterred new students from enrolling.

“There are many factors involved in our enrollment drop; the specter of uncertainty in terms of accreditation has played a part,” Hanna said. “Once that is completely removed … confidence will be restored and that will have a positive effect.”

Board of Governors fears have been soothed, according to Hanna.

“Based on the reports that have been presented to us and our own personal observations of the work being done by our great faculty and staff, we are optimistic about the upcoming visit from the HLC,” he said.

Addressing key issues

The HLC will require evidence documenting the success of newly implemented programs, according to a letter sent to the college in March 2015.

The letter, which informed the college that it would be moved off probation and put on notice, also listed what PCC must do to reach full compliance with HLC accreditation guidelines.

Actions focus on collecting “evidence of the effectiveness of newly adopted policies, processes and procedures.”

Some systems were easy to implement but it will take time to prove their effectiveness, Moses said. He cited Pima’s new Strategic Student Enrollment Plan as an example.

“The SSEP was something the HLC just told us to implement,” he said. “They didn’t ask us to prove that it was effective, because they realize the difficulty of implementing a plan of this magnitude in one year. It’s going to take time before we realize how effective it is.”

Parker agrees. “Look at the letter the HLC sent us,” he said. “They say, ‘It looks like you’ve put the things in place that are needed to remedy this, but not enough time has elapsed to test their effectiveness.’”

Other systems will prove more difficult, for implementation and data collection.

For instance, the HLC requested “evidence of the effectiveness of the assessment process for making changes to the teaching and learning process based on learning outcomes, including documentation of the completion of assessment cycles in all programs.”

That takes time, Moses said.

“Typically you want to collect longitudinal data which is three years or more, to determine whether a system is effective or not,” he said. “Some of the programs we’ve instituted for just a semester or two. But the HLC understands our timeline.”

Fostering culture change

Pima’s initiatives are part of a larger change, according to Moses.

In past years, he said, the college “would put something in place, and it would die out after a year or so. It wouldn’t be sustained.”

And now?

“There is a strong, conscious effort where we put systems and processes in and we are evaluating them constantly,” he said.

From C-FAIRR’s perspective, that’s just not the case.

“We don’t believe the college’s culture has changed,” Gonzales said. “They still operate under a cloak of secrecy. We don’t believe they are better than when they were placed on probation.”

Focus visit outcomes

Pima’s change in culture, or lack thereof, will be on display and put to the test during the upcoming HLC focus visit.

The visit will bring one of three possible outcomes.

The first is being removed from “notice” completely.

The second would see the college removed from notice but continue to provide the HLC with reports on deficient areas.

The third, least desirable outcome is a “show-cause” finding by the HLC.

Show-cause would essentially give Pima a year to justify why it should keep its accreditation.

The third option won’t happen, Moses said.

“I’m confident we’ll be taken off notice,” he said. “Now, will we have to report to the HLC on some things? Probably. But show-cause? No.”

Chancellor Lambert also expressed confidence.

“I am very optimistic we will come off ‘notice,’” he said. “I am very confident we are moving in the right direction as an institution.”

The Board of Governors thinks so as well, according to Hanna.

“We also are confident that the HLC will indeed remove our ‘notice’ status when their board convenes in February to review our case,” Hanna said.

Continued progress

While all parties connected to the college expressed confidence in PCC’s ability to finally rid itself of the specter of sanctions, Moses stressed that continued progress is especially important.

“It’s real important that the HLC sees progress all the way through this semester, because the decision will be based on data derived all the way up until then,” he said.

Though PCC has come a long way, Hanna said, there will still be oversight of some kind.

“There is no doubt that we will have to strictly monitor and report on the issues they have pointed out to us in their reports, as well as plenty of other challenges our college faces in terms of continuous improvement,” he said.

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THE WORD: Did you have any trouble with financial aid this semester?

THE WORD: Did you have any trouble with financial aid this semester?

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Photos and interviews by Casey Muse Jr. and Nick Trujillo on West Campus

 

Major: Astronomy Devante Howard

“The only problem I had was transferring my financial aid from Tohano O’odham (Community College) to Pima.”

Devante Howard

Major: Astronomy


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“Yes, I have had to drop a class I really wanted to take because my financial aid says that it is not a transferable credit.”

Nick Roxas

Major: Liberal Arts


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“When I was registering for financial aid, the system had issues processing everything.”

Sarah Roxas

Major: Liberal Arts


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“It’s hard to get my parents to fill out the information and then I just forgot about it, to be honest.”

Mariana Eubanks

Major: Engineering


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“I don’t qualify for financial aid. My parents make too much.”

Ja’len Edwards

Major: Business

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Retirees battle cancer, family tragedy

Retirees battle cancer, family tragedy

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By EDDIE CELAYA

Two Pima Community College retirees have fallen on hard times and are seeking help from the community they served for so long.

David Bass

Former writing instructor David Bass was recently diagnosed with a form of terminal liver cancer.

Bass taught at PCC for nearly 29 years, mostly at the Downtown Campus. He also taught English to adult inmates in the Arizona prison system.

Rankings on the website ratemyprofessor.com award Bass a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars and show he was well liked by his students.

Bass’s friends Mike and Irma Parisi have set up a gofundme page to help with living, medical and other expenses. For further information or to donate, visit gofundme.com/2fpa4ppd.

 

Craig Winters

Craig Winters, who retired in June as student service manager at West Campus after a 30-year career at Pima, survived a harrowing incident while traveling in an RV this summer.

The RV caught fire as Winters was driving to San Diego with his wife, Jeannie, his son, Justin, and the family’s three dogs.

Winters pulled to the side of the road and the family attempted to evacuate. However, the RV’s propane tanks exploded, severely burning Craig, Jeannie and the dogs.

Jeannie Winters, who worked as a private music and voice instructor, remains in a medically induced coma and is awaiting further surgeries.

Craig Winters has been released from the hospital but has temporarily relocated to San Diego to care for his wife.

One family dog died and the two surviving dogs, Izzy and Pandora, will continue to need treatment.

A gofundme account has been established to help with ongoing medical expenses. For further information or to donate, visit gofundme.com/2n5qm74c.

 Social media editor Melina Casillas contributed to this story.

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Pima hires new police chief

Pima hires new police chief

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Police Chief Christopher Albers says he will emphasize relationship-building.

Police Chief Christopher Albers says he will emphasize relationship-building.

BY BRYAN OROZCO

Pima Community College hired Christopher Albers as chief of police effective Aug. 22, after a selection committee named him its top choice.

The position became vacant in June 2015 after former PCC police chief Manny Amado retired.

Michelle Nieuwenhuis served as acting police chief, and has returned to her previous position as commander.

In his role as police chief, Albers oversees all day-to-day operations of the PCC police department, supervising more than 75 officers, dispatchers and support staffers. He will also advise college leadership on issues related to safety and security.

Albers reports to Vice Chancellor for Facilities Bill Ward.

“We will communicate daily on matters related to his operation,” Ward said via email. “He has my full backing and confidence, and we will work together to exhibit a standard of excellence.”

Albers received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in organizational leadership from Biola University, a private Christian college in La Mirada, California.

 With 23 years of law enforcement experience in higher education, Albers has held varying levels of authority.

Most recently he worked for Georgia Piedmont Technical College in Clarkston, Georgia, as a senior police officer. He previously served as chief of police for Georgia Perimeter College and as deputy chief of police at Biola University.

“Each position is different in terms of job responsibilities, but all are alike in that they require relationship building,” Albers said in an email interview.

“I don’t find the transition between responsibilities difficult,” he added. “I thrive on relationship building and interacting with people.”

Albers emphasized the importance of quality relationships.

“I am a big believer that relationships are everything but it is not just about being in relationships,” he said. “It’s about the quality of the relationships.”

As chief, Albers said the campus police department will focus on building quality relationships with “students, faculty, staff, guests and our surrounding community and first responders.”

Albers also wants a cooperative relationship with the Tucson Police Department and with TPD’s newly hired Police Chief Chris Magnus.

“I have some unique ideas that will strengthen that relationship and I look forward to presenting them to Chief Magnus,” he said.

During a public candidate forum held last spring, Albers called PCC’s lack of staff and equipment a significant issue.

He repeated that emphasis during the email interview.

“My number one priority as I enter this position is staffing,” he said. “However, like any other institution of higher learning, we are limited in what we can do by funding.”

Ward said the college is currently reviewing additional sites for possible installment of technology, such as the security cameras previously installed at the Downtown Campus and at the Maintenance and Security facility.

“The chief will be responsible for managing his budget, which includes staffing and resources,” Ward said.

Albers is experienced in strategic planning, disaster preparedness and community policing.

He plans to create new campus initiatives and will continue existing programs such as Rape Aggression Defense, also known as RAD. Pima implemented RAD instruction last year.

“RAD will remain at Pima as long as I am here,” Albers said. “You can be assured that our department will remain engaged with the community and will continue to look for opportunities to better meet the needs of the college.”

Examples of similar community-centered programs include outreach to the elderly and to the LGBT community, Albers said. He also plans to provide seminars in personal safety.

 

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AZTEC CALENDAR: Sept. 15-28

AZTEC CALENDAR: Sept. 15-28

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TUCSON EVENTS

 

Sept. 15: Tucson Beer Cup, Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Ten local breweries compete for Best Flagship Beer. Age 21+. General admission: $25. Details: hotelcongress.com, 622-8848

 

Sept. 16-24: Arizona Underground Film Festival, The Screening Room, 127 E. Congress St. International and local independent movies. Festival pass $45, individual movie admission $8. Details: azuff.com.

 

Sept. 17: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., 11:55 p.m. $6. Details: loftcinema.com.

 

Sept. 17-Oct. 9: Mount Lemmon Oktoberfest, Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, 103000 Ski Run Road. Monday, Thursday, Friday: 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Details: skithelemmon.com.

 

Sept. 22-25: Tucson Greek Festival, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church,1145 E. Fort Lowell Road. Thursday: 5-10 p.m., Friday: 3-11 p.m., Saturday: 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $3. Dance performances and live music, with Greek food and beverages available for purchase. Details: tucsongreekfest.com.

 

Sept 24: Free entry to Saguaro National Park for National Public Lands Day. Details: nps.gov/sagu, 733-5100.

 

Through Nov. 13: “Frankenstein,” The Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway Blvd. Tuesday-Thursday: 7 p.m.; Friday, Saturday: 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Sunday: 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. $18.95. Details: thegaslighttheatre.com.

 

 

LIVE MUSIC

 

Sept. 15: The Mexican Consulate and The Instituto Cultural Mexicano de Tucson’s 3rd Annual Independence Concert, Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St., 6 p.m. Free. Details: foxtucson.com.

 

Sept. 15: Hirie, The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave., 7 p.m. $13-$15. Details: rocktucson.com.

 

Sept. 16: Bob Log III, Club 191 Toole, 191 E. Toole Ave., 7 p.m. $12-$15. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 17: Diät 11, Club 191 Toole, 7 p.m. $5. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 18: Coheed and Cambria, Rialto Theatre, 6 p.m. $29-$37. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 20: Bret Dennen, Club 191 Toole, 7 p.m. $22-$24. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 21: The Naked and Famous, Rialto Theatre, 7 p.m. $27.50-$95. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 22: Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., 7 p.m. $10-$12. Details: hotelcongress.com

 

Sept. 23: Tech N9ne, Rialto Theatre, 7 p.m. $35-$45. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 23: The Weeks, Club 191 Toole, 7 p.m. $10-$12. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

Sept. 24: YG, Rialto Theatre, 7 p.m., $36, Details: rialtotheatre.com

 

Sept. 26: Band of Skulls, Rialto Theatre, 7 p.m. $18-$20. Details: rialtotheatre.com.

 

 

 

MOVIE OPENINGS

 

Theater releases

 

Sept. 16

“Bridget Jones’s Baby”

“Blair Witch”

“Snowden”

 

Sept. 23

“The Magnificent Seven”

“Mr. Church”

“Storks”

“Goat”

“Queen of Katwe”

 

 

DVD/ Blu-Ray releases

 

Sept. 20

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”

“Labyrinth”

 

 

 

PIMA HOME SPORTS

 

Sept. 16: Cross country, Dave Murray invitational, Del Urich Golf Course, Tucson. Women’s race–5 p.m. Men’s race–5:45 p.m.

 

Sept. 17: Football vs. Scottsdale CC, Kino Stadium, 7 p.m.

 

Sept. 21: Volleyball vs. Arizona Western College, West Campus gym, 7 p.m.

 

Sept. 24: Men’s soccer vs. Paradise Valley CC, Kino Sports Complex, 4:30 p.m.

 

Sept. 24: Women’s soccer vs. Paradise Valley CC, Kino Sports Complex, 7 p.m.

 

Sept. 28: Volleyball vs. Mesa CC, West Campus gym, 7 p.m.

 

 

 

CAMPUS EVENTS

 

Sept. 15-Oct. 15: Hispanic Heritage Month, Northwest Campus Student Life Center, D-201, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Details: 206-2121.

 

Sept. 15: Video game competition, West Campus bookstore lobby, 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m. $1 buys 10 tries. Details: barmour@mail.pima.edu.

 

Sept. 15: Hispanic Heritage Kickoff with Pima Dance Jams, West Campus cafeteria area, 1-1:45 p.m. Free. Details: 206-6752.

 

Sept. 15: Celebrate National Constitution Day, Northwest Campus Student Life Center, D-201, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Free. Details: 206-2121.

 

Sept. 15: PCC Faculty Exhibit artist lecture, West Campus Center for the Arts, Bernal Gallery, 7 p.m. Free. Details: 206-6942.

 

Sept. 19: Constitution and Citizenship Day Celebration, East Campus Student Mall, 1-3 p.m. Free. Details: 206-7616.

 

Sept. 20, Sept. 22, Sept. 26, Sept. 29: Mi Familia Vota voter registration, Downtown Campus CC-115 atrium, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Details: diegom@mifamiliavota.net.

 

Sept. 21: International Day of Peace, Northwest Campus Student Life Center, D-201, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Details: 206-2121.

 

Sept. 21: Davis Bilingual Elementary School Las Aguillas Mariachi Band, West Campus cafeteria area, noon-1 p.m. Free. Details: 206-6742.

 

Sept. 21-Oct 2: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” West Campus Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre. Fri-Sat, 7 p.m.; Sat-Sun matinees, 2 p.m. $8. Box office: 206-6986.

 

Sept. 22: National Voter Registration Day, Northwest Campus Student Life Center, D-201, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Details: 206-2121.

 

Sept. 22: “They Call Me Q” one-woman show, East Campus Community Room, 11:30 a.m. Free. Details: 206-206-7616.

 

Sept. 27: Hispanic Heritage Beyond Borders, Northwest Campus Student Life Center, D-201, 10 a.m-2 p.m. Free. Details: 206-2121.

 

Sept. 28: National Latino AIDS Awareness Day health resource fair, West Campus Santa Catalina building bookstore lobby, 10 a.m-2 p.m. Free confidential HIV testing, free condoms and more. Details: 206-6742.
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PCC previews Kahlo exhibit

PCC previews Kahlo exhibit

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By ANDRE CHAVIRA

Broadway set designer Scott Pask discussed inspiration when he previewed an upcoming Frida Kahlo exhibit during a Pima Community College reception.

“This is very special for Tucson, and a very special collaboration as it’s the first that the New York Botanical Gardens has ever had” Pask said during an interview before the presentation.

After record-breaking attendance during a New York exhibition, Tucson Botanical Gardens partnered with PCC to have Pask bring the Kahlo exhibit to Tucson. The exhibit will provide a look into Frida Kahlo’s famous Casa Azul.

PCC hosted a reception April 22 at the Pima District Office to bring together the community and give insight into the construction and inspiration of the exhibit.

The theme of “Welcome Home” will be highlighted by bringing the Tucson community into the house of one of the most celebrated artists in history.

During the exhibit there will be a two week installment period which will close off the wildflower garden. The unveiling of the exhibit takes place opening night.

Tucson will be the second and final stop of the continuation of the New York Botanical Garden’s celebration of Kahlo’s first solo exhibition in over 25 years.

Patricia Houston, PCC acting vice president of instruction for Downtown Campus, explained that along with celebrating Kahlo’s work this event serves as a tool that has brought many different parts of the Tucson community together.

“Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life” will open on Oct. 10 and will remain open until May 16 at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way.

For more information on Pask’s Frida-inspired work, visit nybg.org/frida.

Patricia Houston, Scott Pask and Michelle Conklin pose for a photo during a reception for Pask at PCC’s community boardroom on April 22.

Patricia Houston, Scott Pask and Michelle Conklin pose for a photo during a reception for Pask at PCC’s community boardroom on April 22.

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Desert Vista showcases campus programs

Desert Vista showcases campus programs

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Pima Community College’s Desert Vista campus celebrated its second annual student showcase April 28, spotlighting programs ranging from culinary to surgical technician.

More than 200 students and 25 faculty and staff members participated, according to coordinator Rene Forsyth.

Visitors enjoyed music and food, as well as an opportunity to win gift cards to Fire House Subs.

Raffle items offered Pima “swag” including T-shirts, notepads, pens and a Desert Vista banner.

The free event was open to all Pima students, faculty, staff and community members.

-By Melina Casillas

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Culinary student Juan Cordova demonstrates how to properly cut a raw chicken during a display at the Desert Vista Showcase on April 28.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phi Theta Kappa members, from left, Sergio Castro, Lyra Troy and Sage Cutler present information about the national honor society.

Phi Theta Kappa members, from left, Sergio Castro, Lyra Troy and Sage Cutler present information about the national honor society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community resident Belgica Macias, left, listens as  surgical tech student Yasmin Espinoza de Mendoza shows how to properly handle surgical tools. The Desert Vista Showcase spotlighted a variety of campus programs.

Community resident Belgica Macias, left, listens as surgical tech student Yasmin Espinoza de Mendoza shows how to properly handle surgical tools. The Desert Vista Showcase spotlighted a variety of campus programs.

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Aztec Press wins awards

Aztec Press wins awards

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The Aztec Press team can add two more awards to the newsroom wall of honors.

The Society of Professional Journalists awarded the newspaper first place as best non-daily newspaper in its Region 11 Mark of Excellence award on April 30. The annual contest recognizes the best in college journalism.

Published work from 2015 issues was judged against publications in Arizona, California, Nevada and Hawaii.

The paper will now compete with winners from the other 11 regions in the national competition, with finalists announced this fall.

Exiting editor-in-chief Jamie Verwys was awarded second place in Community Public Service reporting in Arizona Press Club competition. Her series was about Pima Community College’s history of transparency with the media and PCC police reports.

 

-By Jamie Verwys

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FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR LECTURE Physician to discuss diabetes research

FULBRIGHT SCHOLAR LECTURE Physician to discuss diabetes research

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By S. PAUL BRYAN

Bow-tied  Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Reginald N. Oputa shows his kindness with a welcoming handshake and a smile.

Dr. Oputa, a Nigerian endocrinologist, is enjoying his tenure in Arizona and says he’s looking forward to his upcoming lecture on diabetes.

He will discuss “Diabetes Mellitus: A Global Epidemic with a Potential Solution” on April 26 at 6 p.m. at the PCC District Office Community Board Room, C-105, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd.

Oputa speaks highly of Pima Community College and Tucson.

“Pima College is a great institution,” he said. “I am happy to be here and very grateful for the people here who have assisted me in so many ways. And the weather, it is beautiful.”

The Fulbright Scholar Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“Having Dr. Oputa here has been a wonderful experience,” said Mary Beth Ginter, an academic dean at West Campus.

“I helped write the grant that brought Dr. Oputa here,” she added. “I believe, in this society, it’s very important to try and internationalize the PCC campus.”

Oputa was thrilled the Fulbright program allowed him to bring his wife , Prisca, and two of his five children with him from Nigeria in January.

His wife will remain with him until his residency ends in June, but his two children had to return home for school.

During the residency, Oputa has made presentations and engaged with faculty of the University of Arizona School of Medicine and School of Public Health.

He also works to promote civic diplomacy and outreach, and has participated in the PCC Faculty Senate.

Oputa is a consultant physician and a lecturer at the College of Medical Sciences at Imo State University in Nigeria.

He has spent his lifetime working in medicine and was a member of the Nigerian military, predominantly working to assist both his community and the world in the areas of HIV and diabetes.

His work on the HIV epidemic in Uganda and Nigeria provided both knowledge and insight.

“As a colonel in the Nigerian military, I worked with members of the U.S. Defense Department,” Oputa said. “We were able to build an infectious disease institute in Uganda and we went from three to over 100 clinics in Nigeria.”

Working with Americans also exposed Oputa to U.S. culture.

He retired from the military as a colonel in 2006 and continued his research and work in medicine.

Along with his medical degree, he earned a master of science in chemical pathology and is a fellow and vice president of the Endocrine and Metabolism Society of Nigeria.

Oputa’s current research explores the relationship between peptides and the duration of diabetes mellitus. His latest study, released in January, was conducted at the Federal Medical Center in Owerri, located in southeast Nigeria.

The objective of the study was to evaluate any connections between C-peptide estimation and important variables in the management of diabetes.

The variables include the duration of illness, blood pressure, body mass index, age and gender.

The study, the first of its kind at the Federal Medical Center, concluded that C-peptide values decrease as the duration of diabetes increases.

It also found that obese diabetes patients have higher C-peptide values than non-obese patients, suggesting a greater degree of insulin resistance among obese patients.

Taking care of one’s self is the best form of preventative care, Oputa stressed.

“I believe that self management is key,” he said. “Ninety percent of diabetes patients are type 2. They should focus on healthy living.”

Reading plays a significant role in the doctor’s life. He speaks excitedly of books that have made an impact on him.

“Obama’s two books were important to me,” he said. “Those books show the beauty of American culture.”

He is currently reading “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo.

“It shows me an example of the American life … very interesting,” he said.

The Billy Graham book “Death and the Life After” was another important book in his life.

Although born into a Roman Catholic belief system, Oputa became a born-again Christian after meeting his wife in 1988 and choosing to follow her faith. He now considers himself to be a Pentecostal Christian.

“God is for everyone,” Oputa said.

In his free time, Oputa enjoys playing squash. Along with his wife, he is also an active member of Siloam Freeway Church in Tucson.

“My belief is anyone who is living a good life will have a meeting with God,” he said.

Oputa is quick to share his goals related to his work with diabetes.

“My primary goal is to have well informed, educated people,” he said.

FYI

Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence lecture

Topic: “Diabetes Mellitus: A Global Epidemic with a Potential Solution”

When: April 26 at 6 p.m.

Where: PCC District Office

Community Board Room, C-105,

4905 E. Broadway Blvd.

Details: 206-4778

Photo courtesy of PCC Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Reginald N. Oputa will lecture on diabetes April 26.

Photo courtesy of PCC
Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Reginald N. Oputa will lecture on diabetes April 26.

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Former employee sues Pima

Former employee sues Pima

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By EDDIE CELAYA

Pima Community College and Chancellor Lee Lambert are facing a civil rights lawsuit from a former employee, who alleges she was fired due to retaliation stemming from her reporting sexual harassment at the hands of former chancellor Roy Flores.

The former employee, Imelda Cuyugan, alleges that she was fired from her position of assistant vice chancellor for government relations due to her gender and for reporting the sexual harassment allegations.

“We are unable to discuss pending litigation, other than to say that we do feel Ms. Cuyugan’s claims are without merit,” PCC spokeswoman Libby Howell said.

Cuyugan had been appointed to the government relations position once during the Flores administration, only to leave the job after alleging sexual harassment at the hands of Flores.

The claim alleges that “her work environment became so hostile, she had to transfer to a staff classification position within PCC as campus director of administrative services for the Northwest Campus.”

PCC issued a response letter saying that Cuyugan’s work wasn’t up to snuff and the college had “a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for taking the employment action it took.”

Cuyugan was reinstated to the government relations position after a court settlement in 2012. She reached a settlement with PCC  and also received $30,000 in the lawsuit alleging harassment by Flores.

Soon after, Cuyugan alleges, things began to go south.

During an Aug. 16, 2013 meeting between Lambert and Cuyugan, according to the claim, “Chancellor Lambert was adversarial with Ms. Cuyugan, and accused her of being a problem.”

This seems to fly in the face of evaluations and commendations that others within PCC were giving Cuyugan at the time. PCC Interim Chancellor Zelema Harris, Cuyugan’s immediate supervisor, said Cuyugan was doing “an excellent job,” according to Cuyugan’s file of claim.

After Cuyugan met with Lambert, she reportedly arranged a meeting with Board of Governors member Sylvia Lee to complain of Lambert’s treatment of her.

The Aztec Press reached out to Lee for comment on multiple occasions.

Her reply: “PCC policy is to not speak on pending litigation.”

PCC also may have violated its own college policies according to the claim.  Section II (D)(1) of PCC’s Administrative Personnel Policy Statement reads: “An administrator will be offered a new contract for the ensuing fiscal year unless he/she is otherwise notified in writing on or before February 15.”

According to Cuyugans’ claim, it was not until June 13, 2014 that “Provost Harris notified Ms. Cuyugan that her contract for academic year 2014/2015 would not be renewed.”

Lambert then notified Cuyugan that she would be offered a three-month contract and an opportunity to compete for positions that were open.  According to Cuyugans’ claim, he also eliminated the government relations position and department, keeping the one male staff member and hiring another female.

The case will now go before a jury.

 

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PCC bill  signed into law

PCC bill signed into law

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By EDDIE CELAYA

Pima Community College and other state community colleges will gain more flexible access to funds already raised.

SB 1322 passed the Arizona State House on March 21 by a vote of 39-18.  There were three abstentions.  The bill went to Governor Doug Ducey’s desk, where he signed it into law on March 24, 2016.

SB 1322, which was backed by the PCC Education Association and Arizona Community College Coordinating Council, allows the colleges to determine their Full Time Student Enrollment figures by using either a 5-year or 10-year average of enrollment.

It will also allow for weighted enrollments for students enrolled in career and technical education classes and programs, since those programs are more expensive than more standard curriculum.

Under the old expenditure limit formula, FTSE was determined by each college’s estimates of their enrollment.

The Arizona Tax Research Association, which opposed SB 1322, had insisted the colleges move away from estimation , due to over-reporting.

ATRA proposed using audited enrollment, but the college’s lobbying efforts convinced legislators of the plan’s infeasibility.

The signing of SB 1322 is a “major leap forward for the economic development of the state,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said.

“Pima Community College is grateful to Gov. Ducey, and to leaders in Southern Arizona’s business, education and academic communities for their support of an initiative that will help Arizona’s workforce be competitive in the rapidly changing 21st-century global marketplace,” said an official PCC press release.

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THE WORD: How are you helping the environment?

THE WORD: How are you helping the environment?

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Photos and interviews by Andres Chavira at East Campus

“Recently they put a recycling bin in my building and I also compost as much as I can.” Brandt Birkholm Major: Business

“Recently they put a recycling bin in my building and I also compost as much as I can.”
Brandt Birkholm
Major: Business

“I throw things into a recycling bin, I try not to use plastic as often and I also reuse a lot of it to make art projects.” Angelica Valenzuela Major: Fine Arts

“I throw things into a recycling bin, I try not to use plastic as often and I also reuse a lot of it to make art projects.”
Angelica Valenzuela
Major: Fine Arts

“I stay green by unplugging all electrical devices that I don’t need when I leave the house to conserve energy.” Max Bracamonte Major: Film and Media Production

“I stay green by unplugging all electrical devices that I don’t need when I leave the house to conserve energy.”
Max Bracamonte
Major: Film and Media Production

“I use a lot of old plastic containers again; my grandmother taught me to do that. I also do a lot of recycled material DIYs.” Naya Cordova Major: Nursing

“I use a lot of old plastic containers again; my grandmother taught me to do that. I also do a lot of recycled material DIYs.”
Naya Cordova
Major: Nursing

“When it comes to recycling, I usually reuse plastic containers and attend sustainability conventions in Tempe every year.” Arturo Noriega Major: Business Management

“When it comes to recycling,
I usually reuse plastic
containers and attend sustainability conventions
in Tempe every year.”
Arturo Noriega
Major: Business Management

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From the Editor: It’s not goodbye if you take it with you

From the Editor: It’s not goodbye if you take it with you

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By JAMIE VERWYS

At first, I wanted to be a poet and play distracting games with punctuation, use commas carelessly and write the ugliness of the world into something pretty.

Somewhere in the weird beginning of adulthood I just wanted life  to get better. I made so many  mistakes. Without those little poems I scribbled, the ugliness might have never let me step out from under it.

About two years ago when I joined the Aztec Press, I said entertainment was the section for me. It’s kind of funny because now I love AP style and cover hard news.

This was an upswing in  my life. I was back in school, done partying and had spent a summer writing for music blogs. I wanted to be a music journalist but  resolved  to write a little bit of everything.

As I sit here and write my last From the Editor, I can’t help but feel emotional.

I wrote what felt like 1,000 leads. All the stories from the past couple of years flashed through my head. I remembered going to the strip club at 11 a.m. for  a piece on exotic dancers, all the time I spent on the transparency series and  the voices of all those interesting people. I sure wrote some of everything.

For three semesters I have addressed you, readers, as editor in chief. In that time, I have come to know you well. I have seen the passion and love at Pima Community College and I’m proud to have helped tell this college’s story.

Thank you for being such a wonderful subject. All the newsworthy  events—good and bad—that have happened at Pima, have trained me so well. It was great to meet you, look you in the eyes and talk. I will miss the diverse group at Pima.

The hardest part of this piece, is that I am trying to say goodbye and really honor this paper and this team. There’s no way I can sum up this life-changing experience in anything less than a novel’s length.

It’s not really goodbye, because that newsroom at West Campus will always be in my heart, and the Aztec Press continues on.

Thank you to the all the wonderful reporters and editors I have worked with during my time here. Some of my best friendships were made over printouts and junk food. I have learned so much from my peers and I wish I had room to share our funniest, warmest and craziest moments.

I’m also proud to announce that the newspaper has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists as a Region 11 finalist in the Mark of Excellence awards again. The 2015 staff did incredible work that I’ll never forget.

I was lucky to be part of multiple award-winning semesters.

I am so grateful for everything adviser Cynthia Lancaster has taught me. I wish my accident hadn’t taken me away from our last semester together. It’s going to be weird not checking in with and seeing her every week.

As I run out of time, I will say to the future reporters of Aztec Press, take good care of the paper. It’s an important service to Pima and can change your life.

To my dear “journo-friends,” I know we are going to succeed together and I feel blessed I get to be a part of it . Thank you for teaching, accepting and loving me.

You all mean so much to me.

It was an honor. Enjoy the issue.

Pg06-Opinion-Jamie Verwys

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PCC hosting April 22 reception to announce Frida Kahlo exhibit

PCC hosting April 22 reception to announce Frida Kahlo exhibit

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By ANDRES CHAVIRA

Tucson Botanical Gardens and Pima Community College are partnering to bring a blockbuster Frida Kahlo art exhibit to Tucson.

The exhibit will open Oct.10 and run until May 31, 2017.

“FRIDA KAHLO: Art, Garden, Life” was created by the New York Botanical Gardens. It replicates the rooms of Kahlo’s famous “La Casa Azul” home and gardens in Mexico City.

The exhibit is “a living tribute to her relationship with art and nature,” said Patricia Houston, Downtown Campus’ acting vice president of instruction.

Scott Pask, an eight-time Tony Award-winning Broadway set designer who graduated from the University of Arizona, designed the exhibit.

Pask will be in Tucson on April 22 for the public announcement and reception.

The reception will be held from 5-7 p.m. in PCC’s Community Board Room at the District Office, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd. Local musician Salvador Durán will perform, and light refreshments will be provided.

For more information on Pask’s Frida-inspired work, visit nybg.org/frida.

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Pima News

Pima News

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Desert Vista screening ‘My Depression’ documentary

Desert Vista Campus will screen the HBO documentary “My Depression (The Up and Down and Up Of It)” on April 25 beginning at 4 p.m. in the community room F-123.

A panel of professionals will answer questions about depression following the screening. Student Life will provide free pizza and drinks.

For more information, call 206-5030.

-By Melina Casillas

Downtown Campus hosts international festivities

International Community Day will take place April 28 at Downtown Campus from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The free event will honor various Tucson-area cultures.

Everyone is welcome to experience an international blend of storytelling, cuisine and music. Participants will also host cultural displays and exhibits of traditional clothing, arts and crafts.

The activities and events will take place in the free speech area located south of the administration building.

For more information, email Michael Lopez at mlopez@pima.edu or Geselle Coe at gcoe@pima.edu.

-By Katta Mapes

Showcase to spotlight Desert Vista programs

Desert Vista Campus will hold a student showcase on April 28 from 4-7 p.m.

The event will spotlight student achievements in programs such as Culinary Arts. Activities will include demonstrations, academic and artistic presentations, campus tours, food and music.

The free activities are open to everyone in the community, and will take place in various locations throughout the campus.

For more information, call 206-5030.

-By Melina Casillas

May 3-5 Cram Jam offers

tutoring, games, stress relief

Northwest Campus will hold a Cram Jam on May 3-5 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. each day in the Student Life Center, Room D-201.

All currently registered PCC students are invited to enjoy free tutoring, games and snacks.

Stress reduction options include chair massages by students in the therapeutic massage program. Campus counselors will share stress reduction techniques and dogs will be available for pet therapy.

For more information, contact Student Life at 206-2131 or StudentLifeNWC@pima.edu.

-By Katta Mapes

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