2023-2024 Winners

Districtwide Winner

Girls Get IT Conference

Scottsdale Community College

2023 Girls Get IT conference’s goal was introducing girls (middle and high school age - everyone was welcome) to educational and career possibilities in the field of Information Technology.  Over 300 people registered. Through interactive workshops, attendees learned about emerging technologies while having fun in a safe and open environment. Students realized they can do anything and that IT Is Everywhere (the theme for the 2023 event). During the afternoon Think Tank session with professional women who already work in the IT field, representatives from Apple shared best practices they deployed to strengthen the talent pipeline of women into IT. Two new components were announced: the launch of an endowed scholarship and worksite field trips. Event sponsors included Salt River Project, Microchip Technology, Nationwide, Infosys, Center for the Future of Arizona, and the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. Girls Get IT was hosted by Scottsdale Community College and supported by MITI-EV (Maricopa IT Institute-East Valley).

Team Members

  • Dr. Lucas Messer, Dean of Instruction, Scottsdale Community College
  • Melanie Burm, Director, External Affairs, Scottsdale Community College
  • Diane Meza, Director, ITI SPF, District Office


Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) and the City of Chandler have partnered together to offer paid internships to create learning experiences and professional growth opportunities for students. The partnership addresses workforce needs at the City while providing students with real-world career preparation and professional development. The goal of the partnership is to align the City’s work-based experiences to academic programs at CGCC. A shared Internship Coordinator position was uniquely co-created and jointly funded by both entities, employed by Career Services with CGCC and Human Resources with the City, provided an innovative and vital bridge that recruits, onboards, and case-manages City interns from CGCC while ensuring both organizations remain fully invested and informed. We are currently the only City and College in Arizona partnered in this way and aspire to educate others on how to come together to support the success of their students and communities.

Team Members

  • Devon Mahon, Student Services Analyst (Career Services - Internship Coordinator), CGCC
  • Deb Ruiz, Manager of Academic Advisement and Career Services, CGCC
  • Rae Lynn Nielsen, Human Resources Director, City of Chandler
  • Greg Peterson, President, CGCC
  • Joshua Wright, City Manager, City of Chandler
  • Kristin Maier, Human Resources Manager, City of Chandler
  • Anne Suzuki, Dean of Student Development, CGCC
  • Alison Travis, Director of Academic Advisement and Career Services, CGCC

Client Services developed an integrated information model comprised of diverse communication channels to enhance connectivity among Maricopa employees and our district-wide HR partners. This was achieved by creating integrated employee-focused newsletters, websites, town halls, training materials, and district-wide HR briefing meetings to ensure the effective dissemination and understanding of HR information. This integrated model of information was built in response to employee survey feedback that stressed the need for a central location and greater visibility of HR information and resources while decreasing the number of emails being sent. The team condensed emails into one newsletter, established a central repository (for communications, town halls, and questions and answers), and redesigned HR websites to make information easier to find.  By streamlining and organizing information, tools, and resources in an intentional way, the integrated model allows employees to be more engaged, have a voice, spend less time looking for important HR information, and spend more time supporting students and performing their daily duties.

Team Members

  • Dr. Georgetta Kelly, CHRO, DO
  • Tamra Gagnon, Associate Chief HR Officer, DO
  • Megan Tormey, Human Resources Director, DO
  • Christin Brady, Program Analyst Senior, DO
  • Janice Fritsch, Program Analyst, DO
  • Jamie Herseth, Training Development Consultant ST, DO
  • Francis Klimenko, Training Development Consultant, DO
  • Karen Winters, Training Development Consultant, DO
  • Malia Uhatafe, Technology Training Services Supervisor, DO

Leaning into our identity as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the “Cultura Cura” (Culture Cures) Project aims to empower and mentor students while celebrating Hispanic cultural heritage through community connection. Students increase their awareness of campus and community resources while connecting, sharing, and celebrating culture through out-of-class experiential learning opportunities. Programming includes concerts, workshops, art exhibits, recruitment/transfer partners, and community events. The Cultura Cura epitomizes the community aspect of community colleges and the promotion of a sense of belonging. The Market Tuesdays part of the project embraces local vendors and student entrepreneurs and elevates their works to and through the campus community. The Project is a collaborative effort between EMCC faculty and staff, student clubs, community vendors, and the surrounding community.

Team Members

  • Dr. Cecilia Rosales, Faculty Chair, Modern Languages, EMCC
  • Dr. Natalie Rivera, Mathematics Faculty, EMCC

There is a critical shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that there will be 203,200 openings for RNs annually through 2031.  Compounding the issue is the fact that colleges in Arizona are finding it difficult to accommodate the growing need for RNs related to the scarce availability of meaningful clinical placements. In response, after requesting and receiving approval from the Arizona State Board of Nursing in 2019, GateWay Community College (GWCC) entered a pilot program to begin replacing 100% of clinical hours with simulation in the Practical Nursing specialty of maternal child health. By 2021, GWCC added practical nursing pediatrics and registered nursing maternal child health, pediatrics, and psychiatric specialties to the simulation pilot allowing for increased enrollment.

Team Members

  • Margi Schultz, PhD, RN, CNE, PLNC, FAADN - MaricopaNursing Faculty Administrator, DO
  • Jeri Lastine, MSN, RN - Chair, Nursing Division, GWCC
  • Jeanette Peterson, MSN-Ed, RN, CHSE, VA-BC - Nursing Continuing Education Program Director, GWCC
  • Maria Harmann, MSN, RN - Nursing Adjunct Faculty, GWCC
  • Jennifer Sheneman. MSN-Ed, BSN, RN - Nursing Faculty, GWCC
  • Gina Wilding, DNP, RN, APRN, CNM, WHNP-BC - Nursing Faculty, GWCC
  • Julia Leaf, MSN-Ed, RN - Nursing Faculty, GWCC
  • Lily Nolan, DNP-FNP, RN- Nursing Faculty, GWCC
  • Daniella Bryks, MSN, RN - Nursing Faculty, GWCC
  • Renee Fox, MSN, MA, RN, CMSRN, CRC - Nursing Faculty, GWCC
  • Elisabeth Escobar, MSN-Ed, RN - Simulation Coordinator, GWCC
  • Carolyn Sheridan, MSN-Ed, PMFNP, RN - Simulation Coordinator, GWCC
  • Lisa Jahnke, BSN,RN - Nursing Lab Manager, GWCC

The Glendale Community College (GCC) Peer Success Coach (PSC) program was launched in Spring 2022 to provide all incoming and continuing students with one-on-one holistic support as an effort to increase retention and develop a stronger sense of belonging at GCC. The goals of the Peer Success Coach Program are to increase engagement through connection to Fields of Interest (FOI), provide specific opportunities and resources, facilitate referrals to critical personnel in response to financial and academic needs, and coach in areas of academic success, time management and self advocacy to increase persistence and retention. We have not only created and facilitated meaningful matches between Peer Success Coaches and students based on the students’ preferences, but have also discovered that students who are matched in our coaching program demonstrate higher retention rates than those who are not.

Team Members

  • Luis Fragoso, Coordinator of the Peer Success Coach Program, Glendale Community College
  • Dr. Genesis Toole, Dean of Student Life, Glendale Community College

Proactive graduation is the practice of graduating students who have met all academic requirements for a program of study without requiring them to complete a graduation application. In the first phase, 1,400 students received over 2,000 certificates. Proactive graduation aligns the award criteria to include:

Immediate validation of program completion increases the quality of the learning experience and demonstrates that our programs of study contribute to workforce development.

Proactive graduation batch processing is more efficient and cost-effective than the traditional graduation application process, which saves time for students and employees while increasing the number of awards issued.

MCC’s successful proactive graduation pilot is a timely and creative solution to increase program completion that has been included in the Systemwide Strategic Enrollment Management (SSEM) Plan as a priority to replicate through a district-supported process for all 10 colleges by Spring 2027.

Team Members

  • Michael Voss, Dean of Instruction, MCC
  • Charmaine Curley, Academic Support for Proactive Graduation, MCC
  • Joy Bickham, Administrative Coordinator, MCC
  • Miranda Colony, Academic Support for Retention, MCC
  • Christina Santacruz Del Rosario, Planning and Research Analyst Sr, MCC
  • Nathan Smith, Planning and Research Analyst Sr, MCC
  • Tricia White, Planning and Research Director, MCC
  • Dennis Mitchell, Associate VP of Institutional Effectiveness, MCC
  • Ashley Hardin, Student Services Manager, MCC
  • Jeff Rhoads Student Services Director, MCC
  • Josh Lindenburg, Dean of Student Affairs, MCC
  • Rebekah Ward, Student Services Specialist, MCC
  • Lucy Rayford, Student Services Specialist, MCC
  • Arlene DeLeon, Student Services Specialist, MCC
  • Dee Kater, Graduation Assistant, MCC
  • Tuesdee Pfeiff, Student Services Specialist Sr, MCC
  • Laken Collins, Student Services Specialist, MCC
  • Jennifer Stroops, Instructional Services Supervisor, MCC
  • Mona Elaqad, Instructional Services Coordinator Sr, MCC
  • Andrew Green, Web Developer, MCC
  • Brian Schraum, Web Editor and CMS Trainer, MCC
  • Sheryl Begaye, District Business Systems Analyst Sr, DO
  • Helice Agria, District Director of Academic & Student Systems, DO
  • Christine Tranetzki, District Business Systems Analyst, DO
  • Paulette Schnyder, Business Systems Analyst Sr, DO
  • Jeff Salo, Tech Project Manager Sr., DO
  • Julie Smith, IT Manager, District Office
  • District Office departments: Academic and Student Systems, Academic Affairs, Academic Technology, ITS, and Enrollment Service
  • Various Mesa Community College Faculty Members
  • Former: Andrew Stone, Lori Lindenberg

The cost of textbooks and materials puts financial pressure on students attending college. The Education team at PVCC made the Bachelor of Arts in Elementary and Special Education accessible and affordable for people who want to be teachers by creating courses that are Zero Textbook Costs (ZTC) for students. The team also strives to make the Associate of Arts Degree in Education zero cost to students. The ZTC-Degree Bachelor’s Degree is aligned with the Workforce Preparation category because it prepares teachers for the field without sacrificing quality. The project is aligned with program criteria because the course curriculum, built from OER, open-access, and Library subscription content, models how to build a zero-cost course for other education programs within Maricopa and can be replicated with minimal difficulty. The ZTC-Degree creates an affordable way for students to reach their goals of becoming a teacher without the financial burden of textbooks and materials.

Team Members

  • Amy Boniface, Education Program Director / Education Faculty, PVCC
  • Meggin Kirk, Education Program Director/Education Faculty, PVCC
  • Samantha Lange, Librarian, PVCC
  • Paula Crossman, Librarian, PVCC
  • Vaswati Gosh, Social Sciences Department Chair, PVCC
  • Kari Barker, Education Adjunct Faculty, PVCC
  • Alice Heng, Education Adjunct Faculty, PVCC
  • Laura George, Education Adjunct Faculty, PVCC
  • Mark Vite, Education Adjunct Faculty, PVCC
  • Amy Sisk, Education Adjunct Faculty, PVCC
  • Jillian Cooper, Education Adjunct Faculty, PVCC
  • Jessica Parsons, ZTC/OER Specialist, PVCC
  • Ta’Lor Corley, ZTC/OER Specialist, PVCC

Institutions nationally have acknowledged that students cannot achieve academic success or well-being until their basic needs are met. PC has launched a comprehensive basic needs plan to reduce the burden of financial, housing, and technology barriers. The goals are to create a culture of care by 1) leveraging existing state and federal resources, 2) developing external partnerships, 3) establishing a sustainable housing program, and 4) addressing the digital divide. Collectively, these efforts align with student services and activities offering creative solutions while serving as a blueprint for replication within our district. Accumulating evidence demonstrates that basic needs programs correspond with increases in persistence and academic achievement for vulnerable populations. So far, the collective efforts have provided housing support to 12 PC students, eliminated the technology gap for more than 375 students, and helped 302 students gain access to $300,000 in public benefits.

Team Members

  • Kaylin Shady, Single Stop Coordinator, PC
  • Joanna Torres Perez, H.O.P.E Initiative Coordinator, PC
  • Dr. Roberto Villegas-Gold, Faculty/Counseling Department Chair, PC

The primary purpose of RioConnect was to address the lack of spaces where students can freely connect without feeling pressured, to increase inclusion and sense of belonging, and provide a place for meaningful connections among students across an asynchronous course modality. Proudly embracing our identity as 'The College Without Walls,' RioConnect emerged as the missing digital Student Union, establishing a vital online space for student engagement and connection. The pilot study revealed students reporting a higher sense of belonging through the use of RioConnect. RioConnect is now established as an ongoing student-centric platform prioritizing students’ feedback, promoting flexibility and access, while empowering individual goal attainment, fostering partnerships, and creating a vibrant tapestry of collaboration within our academic community. This fortifies RioConnect as an all-encompassing digital nexus, catering to diverse academic needs.

Team Members

  • Sasha Flores, Project Manager, RSC
  • Dr. Janelle Elias, VP Strategy & Advancement, RSC
  • Cordero Holmes, Student Alumni, RSC
  • Zoe Bell, Student, RSC
  • Dr. Lily Davidov, Faculty Chair, Accounting and Small Business, RSC

Virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly growing technologies that are revolutionizing our lives and taking us into a metaverse of expansive networks of real-time rendered 3D worlds. It is crucial for our students to learn these skills because companies are using VR and AI for doing business. The goals of the South Mountain Community College’s Reality Redesign Lab are to empower faculty and students by keeping them updated with emerging technology skills, while also leveraging AI and VR technology to provide immersive learning experiences through study sessions. Faculty can create immersive and interactive experiences that enhance student engagement and problem-solving skills while preparing students with competitive career skills. Outcomes include that 100 percent of students learning VR would like VR experiences to practice their course content; two faculty and one student have obtained VictoryXR micro-certification for teaching in virtual environments; and six partnerships and three grants have been implemented.

Team Members

  • Dr. Jeannette Shaffer, Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, SMCC