New AWC president to strengthen Schoening's vision
Just weeks away from assuming the post as Arizona Western College's new leader, Marc Nigliazzo praises outgoing President Don Schoening's accomplishments and pledges to strengthen the programs Schoening established.
On Aug. 3 Nigliazzo will officially start at AWC, but he has commitments to stay at his present position as University of New Mexico vice president for Rio Rancho operations and branch academic affairs until mid-July, when he expects to arrive in Yuma to look for a home.
"I'm anxious to get out there," Nigliazzo said in a phone interview from his office at UNM. "I see AWC as an extremely attractive opportunity and so many of those things Dr. Schoening forged are the direction I want to continue and strengthen."
Nigliazzo said AWC has done an excellent job with its strategic and capital planning, yet the challenge for him will be to extend the path Schoening has set. He added he wants to strengthen new facilities at Parker, San Luis, and Wellton campuses, because AWC's challenge will be to serve multiple communities spread over a long distance.
Nigliazzo also praised AWC's growing use of online courses, which he said is a burgeoning trend among two-year colleges. And, he said, it is inevitable that students will start taking entire degree programs online.
"NAU-Yuma is a good example with an extremely large online program and online can make an impact on students who don't have the time to get to the base campus because of their commitments to a job or family," he said. "I believe as the partnership with AWC/NAU-Yuma grows, online will progress as well as the institutions coordinate programs."
Another concern of Nigliazzo's is making certain AWC credits are transferable to all four-year universities. It is important to get articulation agreements, he said, and he recalled when he first started in college administration in Texas, it was one of the first states to require a "core curriculum" for two-year colleges to guarantee transfer of credits. He lauded AWC for making sure its students do not lose out on credit when they transfer.
"Two-year colleges for many students is the college of choice because of finances," he said. "The four-year universities are nurturing relationships with two-year colleges because increasingly a greater percentage of their enrollment come from there."
One mission he would like to continue is the life-long learning vision of Schoening, whom he credits with doing a great job of defining AWC's relationship with public schools. At AWC it starts with the Child Development Learning Lab, where students become excited about learning at a young age.
That enthusiasm, he said, carries through their academic careers, in part because AWC maintains a close relationship with public schools at all levels of education.
"I'm a big proponent of dual-credit programs. Dual credit courses allow top students to accelerate toward a degree and encourages mid-level performers who may not see college as a possibility by providing a taste of college while still in high school."
"In my last year at Temple College, (Temple, Texas) we had 12 students receive an associate's degree two weeks before they got their high school diploma. Dual credits continue to verify for students that college is an option for them."
Nigliazzo acknowledged colleges are seeing dwindling support from the state, and he advocates they become more adept at grant writing as well as pursuing private donations.
In an economic downturn benefactors are not as willing to contribute, yet the AWC Foundation continues to grow stronger, he said, adding he is impressed by their success.
"Dr. Schoening has done a wonderful job to prepare the school to move on," he said. "But its not about the administration or the president. It's about serving the students, that's the bottom line. Any institution who continues that focus will continue to be successful regardless of the external challenges."