2020-2021 Winners

Districtwide Winner

Estrella First-Generation of Many Student Conference, Celebrating and Building Community

Estrella Mountain Community College

Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) serves approximately 67% of students who identify as first-generation (FG) college students.  To further EMCC’s mission that learning happens anytime, anyway, any place, the First Generation of Many Student Conference (FGM) supports student development. It allows EMCC students to learn new skills that will help them succeed while enrolled at EMCC and provide them the social capital to be successful beyond our campus.  FGM took place virtually on November 13, 2020, and offered participants the chance to hear from a keynote speaker and attend breakout sessions.  Based on theory and research, breakout session topics were carefully selected to build community and garner success: imposter syndrome, financial literacy, wellness, writing, family support, and more. By hosting FGM virtually, it has allowed the planning committee to create a program that can be accessed at any time, to even more students, and be replicated for future semesters.

Team Members

  • Regina Hernandez-Garcia, Student Services Analyst, EMCC
  • Dr. Elizabeth Cantú, Communication Faculty, EMCC
  • Dr. Nuria Sanchez, Instructional Services Supervisor, RSC
  • Adriana Minjares, Student Services Analyst, EMCC
  • Jennifer Armour, Student Services Analyst, EMCC
  • Sandra Chavez, Administrative Specialist Senior, EMCC


A widely recognized issue in Education over the past 20 years has been the success gap between courses delivered online and those delivered face-to-face. This issue was amplified by the rapid transition to online course delivery necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (CTLA) of Chandler-Gilbert Community College responded by creating a 4-day, 16-hour training to provide faculty with the essential tools and skills for teaching in any modality. 

Focusing on four areas of faculty development: 1) outcomes, objectives, alignment, and organization, 2) student engagement, 3) measuring learning, and 4) instruction, Base Camp: Essentials for Instruction in Multiple Modalities has demonstrated an immediate, direct positive effect on the quality of instruction and a longer-term, major influence on new and existing faculty development efforts at CGCC. 

The future of this project is bright. The initial phase was successful in part because it was necessary for the face of the crisis. However, the principles extend beyond the environment of the current crisis and provide a mechanism to continue positively influencing the development and delivery of high-quality instruction for years to come.

Team members

  • Dr. Mary McGlasson, CTLA Faculty Liaison, CGCC
  • Jennifer Peterson, CTLA Faculty Liaison, CGCC
  • Lesley Cryderman, CTLA Online Learning Coordinator, CGCC
  • Juliet Crocco, CTLA Course Production Coordinator, CGCC
  • Hayley Steinberg, MCLI Instructional Program Developer, MCCCD
  • Dr. Jeremy Tutty, CTLA Teaching and Learning Director, CGCC

The Maricopa Community Colleges District offers paid tuition to eligible employees, their spouses, and dependents for credit hour courses taken within the Maricopa system. Prior to 2020, the process to utilize the waiver as payment for course fees entailed a paper process that required submission of the form either by email, fax, or in-person to the respective college cashier. A district audit of the waiver process established that the waivers were not filled out entirely.  Different versions of the paper form were circulating throughout the system, causing student frustration due to the most current version not being submitted; Student Business Services representatives would need to track and follow up with students in order to process the current form. The dynamic forms process centralizes the steps, allowing students to access the benefit and fiscal agents to process requests for payment via an online platform. This facilitates workflow efficiency and eliminates lost forms.

Team members

  • Teresa Toney, Director, DO
  • Holly Rouse, Business Systems Analyst, DO
  • Julie Wright, Manager, CGCC
  • Yoel Lopez, Fiscal Supervisor, RSC
  • Rene Martinez Davila, Bursar, SCC
  • Danay Bell, Paralegal, DO

Maricopa County Community Colleges District (MCCCD) Healthcare students are required to complete several health and safety documents before enrolling into a healthcare program. These documents can take weeks to complete and are costly. A large demographic of MCCCD’s student population are underinsured or uninsured and the health and safety costs are a huge barrier for students enrolling in healthcare programs.  High costs of immunizations and health and safety requirements limit access and can take students months to complete.

This project provided low-cost alternatives to students by increasing available resources and removing barriers for enrolling healthcare students, in turn increasing access to programs.  The free resources and immunization clinic are also open to the public, and leverage resources through partnering and collaborating with industry partners.

Team members

  • Jennifer Kline, Program Manager, GWCC
  • Rochelle Rivas, District Director, DO

We are currently dealing with a troubling completion problem in community colleges. However, as Dr. Duckworth says, “It is impossible to disentangle the academic outcome of graduation from social, emotional, and physical well-being.” Since we are unable to pinpoint a single cause for poor completion rates, the solution needs to focus on “taking care of the whole student.” Unfortunately, current educational efforts have failed to address students’ underlying mental health and emotional problems.

As a solution, we developed a resilience and well-being program called Psychological and Emotional Resilience Training (PERT), delivered in the CPD 180 classroom. The goal of our PERT curriculum is to foster resilience and well-being thereby enhancing student learning, academic performance, and increasing completion rates. Individuals who have taken a course using the PERT curriculum have shown improvement in standardized assessments. They also report renewed commitment to their academic goals.

Team members

  • Dr. Thomas E. Rojo Aubrey, Residential Faculty/Director GCC
  • Dr. Lynn Mizzi Brysacz, Residential Faculty, GCC
  • Sarah Padelford, Residential Faculty, GCC
  • Dr. David Gerkin, Residential Faculty, GCC
  • Dr. William Beverly, Residential Faculty/Director, SMCC
  • Andrea Scherrer, Residential Faculty, SCC
  • Dr. James Wilson, Residential Faculty, GCC

The online lab was created to help students in CIS105 and BPC110 prepare for online classes. The online lab then expanded to create promotional materials and provide easy access lab support to Maricopa Information Technology Institute-East Valley (MITI-EV) workforce initiatives.

With the recommendation from Dean Voss, the online lab has developed into the Thunderbird Tech Studio, a campus-wide resource available to students outside of the CIS department. This new resource provides advanced technical support to students and instructors struggling with issues related to online learning.

Inspired by the online lab, the CIS department is currently developing the CIS Virtual Front Office. Upon completion, it will serve as a new online resource that will aid students in enrollment and general departmental questions using similar features as the online lab. With the campus-wide expansion, the online lab has proven to be a gateway to create new services to aid students in an abundance of ways.

Team members

  • Dr. Angeline Surber, Department Chair, MCC
  • Michael Voss, Dean, MCC
  • Tyler Rowles, RPS employee, MCC
  • Diane Meza, Director, MCC
  • Deanna Smith, RPS employee, MCC
  • James Williams, RPS employee, MCC
  • Samantha Malaki, RPS employee, MCC
  • Bethann Partin, Residential Faculty- Occupational Program Director, MCC
  • Melissa Carpenter, Instructional Svc Director, MCC
  • Laura Ballard, Teaching and Learning Director, MCC
  • James Bowles, Network and Systems Administrator, MCC
  • Stephanie Williams, Instructional Svc Manager, MCC
  • Liz Murphy, Administrative Specialist, MCC
  • Autumn Williams, RPS employee, MCC

Few K-12 teachers are underrepresented minorities.  In colleges, practical STEM experience is limited to lab work, with few STEM service-learning opportunities. This program allows college STEM students to explore a career in STEM education through service-learning. Elementary students were paired with PVCC students to develop a science fair project for the Arizona State Science Fair with the goal to expand STEM instruction, increase awareness of science education as a career, and elevate the college’s profile as supportive of STEM education in the community. This raises the quality of learning by connecting college students to real-world STEM education. A written manual allows the program to be replicated at any school site. This program is the first of its kind in the PVCC STEM division.  PVCC students indicated they developed compassion, new relationships, empathy, and an appreciation of the complex and rewarding nature of a career in STEM education. 

Team members

  • Ilse Kremer, Professor, PVCC
  • Chad Caudle, Principal, PVUSD
  • Danielle Hartzel, Leadership Team Educator, PVUSD
  • Robin Ubaldini, Leadership Team Educator,  PVUSD
  • Phil Howardell, District Science Coordinator, PVUSD
  • Steve Kaiser, Community Liaison, PVCC
  • David Weaver, Engineering faculty, PVCC

Rapidly create a sustainable solution and deploy a service that enabled remote access to specialized Apple & Windows computer labs amid transitioning online during a pandemic. The IT team creatively assembled and developed a platform that delivered a cost-effective technology service aligned to serving all students and faculty, reducing the digital divide, lowering entry while increasing access. IT staff leveraged existing licensing, collaborated with 3rd party developers at no cost, used open-source software, and staff's existing skills. Close2Home, from concept to initial deployment, has been shared across the Maricopa County Community Colleges, expanded to 5 sister colleges. The solution combined Apache Guacamole, Sassafras, VMware, and a custom interface designed in-house personalized to the student's academic program with remote access through the Internet, using a standard Internet browser with no specialized software, from a Chromebook, Windows PC/Laptop, or an Apple device.

Team members

  • Paul Ross, Associate Vice President Chief Information Officer, PC
  • Scott Morken, Software Engineer, PC
  • Anton Spevacek, Chief Technology Officer Information Technology, PC
  • Brandon Larkin, Deputy Chief Information Officer Information Technology, PC
  • Jon Massey, Network and Systems Administrator, PC
  • Symeon Larson, Network and Systems Engineer, PC
  • Peter Kim - Technology Support Specialist Computer, PC
  • Aron Love, Technology Support Coordinator

Prior to the July 1, 2020, federal deadline, colleges were scrambling to find solutions on how to best notify prospective and current students on whether their programs met the academic requirements for licensure and certification across the country. This presented numerous challenges: licensure requirements had to be researched; information needed to be presented in a consumable way for students and advisors; processes had to be developed to automate the disclosures; and the solution needed to be replicable for future programs.  

  1. Create a visually appealing solution of high-quality
  2. Automate written disclosures for efficiency
  3. Leverage resources for cost-effectiveness
  4. Create processes that could be replicated as new programs are developed
  5. Implement a creative solution that was both interactive and informative 
  6. Roll out the innovation in a timely way to meet the federal disclosure deadline

Rio achieved its goals through tableau mapping and automating disclosures in CRM. 

Team members

  • Karol Schmidt, Dean, RSC
  • Jalae Ulicki, Program Analyst, Senior, RSC
  • Aaron Coe, Quality Assurance Program Manager, RSC
  • Eddie Calderon, Web Manager, RSC
  • Denise Estrella, CRM Systems Administrator, RSC

We all work hard to create inclusive classrooms. We are fair, compassionate, and try to minimize unconscious bias. But no matter how hard we try, we cannot possibly relate to every single student. In addition, many community college students are the first in their families to go beyond high school. This can be intimidating and the pressure to earn certain grades can be demoralizing.

The guaranteed grade system was developed to remove these impediments so that students can focus on learning with confidence. Students can choose a grade track (A, B, or C) for their course. They chose the track that best fits their personal circumstances, and are guaranteed to earn that grade as long as they do the work. 

The system is new and original but it is straightforward and can be replicated in almost any course. The students who have experienced the guaranteed grade have given it high marks for quality in terms of fairness and effectiveness.

Team members

  • Mark Barton, Residential Faculty, SCC

Design jams are a mini-think tank to build solutions in a short period of time while invoking the participation of the entire community. Design jams include silent, analytical, hypothetical, and collaborative brainstorming.

The process is comprised of several steps:

  • Sailboat technique to identify problems
  • Categorization of themes
  • Creating the opportunity question
  • Voting up ideas
  • Impact/effort matrix
  • Action plan

Design Jams have been used to find solutions for:

  • CIS105 Assessments (in-person): Students, faculty, and staff worked to "hack" CIS 105 assignments so students would be encouraged to use creativity when submitting evidence of their learning and understanding.
  • Alexa Voice (virtual): Students, faculty, staff, and the community worked to build solutions for communicating information students need from the college and their courses.

The Design Jam process produces unexpected solutions with action steps to implement immediately. The co-creating of ideas for the innovation of teaching and learning is producing great results while getting the whole campus involved in building solutions.

Team members

  • Dr. Jeannette Shaffer, Director, SMCC
  • Christopher Stevens, Residential Faculty, SMCC