Why I Chose to Attend a Community College

As a high school senior, I felt pressured when I noticed my peers were applying to and planning to attend four year universities. But, I never felt obligated to follow the crowd and pursue something that I knew wasn’t for me. Going into college, I wasn’t sure about many things, but I was sure I wanted to attend a community college and I had my reasons.

  1. Affordability – Community colleges are known to be much cheaper than four year universities and the price variation is one of the biggest reasons why many students attend community colleges.
  2. Smaller classrooms- I’ve been accustomed to classrooms with no more than 30 students my entire life. I wanted to make sure that my transition from high school to college wasn’t too different because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Auditoriums with about 200 students sounded too overwhelming. I also like the idea of small classrooms because it allows for the students to establish a relationship with the professor which makes it easier to communicate about your school work.
  3. Staying local- Community colleges are meant to serve and be available to those in the same community. I was really fond of the idea that I didn’t have to drive far to attend my classes. It makes showing up to class so much easier.

At the end of the day, there is no certain medal or certificate that one gets for the school they attend. Instead it’s about being financially smart and responsible. No one’s accomplishments should be judged by the type of college they attend.

By NVC Student Haneen Rafati

NVC Student Researcher Determines there are no Sasquatch on Campus

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Over the summer NVC student Allie Sanchez used camera “traps”—motion-sensor cameras affixed to trees—to conduct an exploratory study of campus wildlife. Having been bitten by the “research bug” last year while studying, presenting, and publishing on students’ knowledge of climate change research alongside other NVC students, Allie embarked on a student-faculty, extracurricular study of her own design.

Allie worked with Dr. Scott Walker in Geography and Environmental Sustainability to plan out where to place three camera traps around wooded parts of our campus and to map their locations using geospatial technology. For eight weeks Allie checked the cameras and retrieved the photos to determine what wildlife roams NVC day and night. She discovered raccoons, whitetail deer, opossum, skunk, a sounder of six feral hogs, coyote, grey fox, and a black-crested titmouse—a small bird common to this area. She was unable to “capture” any wildcat images.

Allie said “all this experience alone is worth more than a four-year degree.” When asked exactly what that means, she stated that she learned “not to be intimidated by something that seems monumental by taking a big project and breaking it down into smaller pieces.” She learned how to plan research, do a literature review, conduct statistical analyses, work with her research colleagues to write a peer-reviewed journal article, and present at a professional academic conference alongside graduate students and faculty from research-one universities—schools like the University of Texas-Austin and Louisiana State University.

She stated this work has boosted her self-confidence and she now finds herself doing some literature review work at UT Health San Antonio where she works as a full-time administrative assistant. Allie is moving on to Texas A&M-San Antonio this semester to pursue a BS in Biology with a concentration in Ecology.

Students interested in doing student-faculty research in Geography and Environmental Sustainability as an extracurricular activity, or for GEOG 2389-Academic Cooperative (independent study) elective credit, contact Dr. Scott Walker, swalker6@alamo.edu. Dr. Walker can also update students on the new BS in Environmental Science Field of Study coming in 2020 and discuss transferring to UTSA’s upcoming Environmental Studies BA degree.

 

NVC Honor Society Sets Bar High for Success

Are you destined to be a leader? Do you want to improve your self-esteem? Gain valuable networking skills? Or are looking for a motivating group of peers to help you achieve your goals?

Look no further than the National Society of Leadership & Success honor society at Northwest Vista College. This is the nation’s largest leadership honor society and the first honor society to become accredited as a leadership program by AdvancED. At the college level, the decade-old NVC chapter is the largest leadership organization on campus. Last year, members participated in over 3,800 hours of engagement on campus and over 1,000 hours of service in the community to earn the U.S. President’s Volunteer Service Award.

For the last three years, the NVC chapter was placed on the NSLS Founder’s List, one of the highest honors of NSLS’s Pillar Program. Based on the 10 best practices (pillars) of a healthy chapter, the National Office developed the program to help set up chapters for long-term success. This year, the NVC chapter earned an additional four pillars making their pillar total 14.

“We have an amazing group of dedicated student leaders. They have all graduated and are attending universities this fall,” said Kelly Blanco, NVC chapter advisor.

NSLS provides a step-by-step program for members to build their leadership skills. Upon completion of the program, members receive their leadership certificate and are able to list their affiliation on all statements of personal accomplishment, including their resume.

Membership is for life and provides access to benefits including scholarships and awards, employer recruitment through an online job bank, and discounts on computers, and much more.

Students are selected by their college for membership based on either academic standing or leadership potential.

For more information about the NVC chapter of NSLS, visit https://www.alamo.edu/nvc/experience-nvc/campus-life/student-life/honor-societies/

 

Developing the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

The popular show “Shark Tank” has a simple premise: find a solution to a problem and if you can make money off of it, you may find yourself leaving the show with an investor.

This premise opened the eyes of Northwest Vista College students who put their Shark Tank skills to use last semester. The Northwest Vista College Discovery & Innovative Competition offered a platform for students to pursue an idea, innovation or discovery project they were passionate about. Working in collaboration with faculty mentors, students developed their idea over three rounds of training to create a written business proposal and then give a presentation in front of judges.

Instead of investors, four students received seed money from Alamo Colleges’ The Learning Company to execute their projects. The winners also received an opportunity to attend “The Future Festival” earlier in July in Philadelphia which focused on the development of ideas. In addition to The Learning Company, the NVC Student Activity fee provided prize money for the top four winners of the competition.

“The Future Festival gave us a unique opportunity to understand some of the biggest trends affecting our business, life, and the world. Before the conference, we knew that research helps us formulate our strategy for any project or decision,” said Calvin Fogle, assistant professor & program coordinator of the NVC Business & Entrepreneurship Institute. “But we did not know about the extent and efficiency of research that companies are able to do with data analytics.”

For the students involved in this project, some will never forget it, such as Analisa Rojas, who created Studipedia, which has the goal to create short college videos tailored to a specific course. She’s hoping to solve the problem that most study videos are too general. As part of the process, Analisa had to write a reflection of her experience:

“This phenomenal journey, that started with a concept idea and morphed into the incubation stage for my presentation, was an educational voyage that tested my motivational endurance, pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and taught me the value of entrepreneurship,” said Analisa who won the grand prize of $1,000 and will begin implementing her business with the help of the seed money.

Three other students won prize money provided by the NVC Student Activity Fee: Farhana Khan won the second-place prize of $900, Adrian Arevalo received the third-place prize of $800, and Shantal Rivera snagged the fourth-place prize of $700.

Two of the winning student proposals focused on reducing plastic waste and recycling, and the other business proposal is a digital application for the eye care industry.

Calvin said the competition was targeted to students in Institute of Health and Biosciences, Institute of Creative & Communication Arts, Institute of Science & Technology, and the Institute of Business & Entrepreneurial students.

He added students also received content-specific training and were shown how to prepare budgets, and how to manufacture and market a product. He said a huge thank you goes to the NVC Business Council, and The Learning Company, which is a collaboration between the Alamo Colleges and local business leaders to train the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.

“We created the competition to support entrepreneurship and innovation in the classroom with a platform for students to pursue an idea they are passionate about,” Calvin added. “A lot of times we don’t see our impact, but reading the reflection papers by the students provided us some good feedback of our attempt to expand innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Contest winner Farhana Khan wrote in her reflection paper:

“When the Discovery and Innovation Competition was first announced earlier this spring at Northwest Vista College, I was sure not to participate in it. I assumed that competitions like that are for scientists or business-oriented people. However, during the spring 2019 Faculty and Student Mixer, Professor (Ralph) Mendez asked a simple question, ‘Do you see a problem around you?’ That question made a lot of students start sharing ideas during the event. I took out my pen and paper and started writing the issues that I always wanted to fix. Within a week, I had six to seven problems and possible solutions for them.

Still, I was not sure how far I would go. But I knew that there is a 100% chance of failure if I don’t try. The experience of going through the idea formation and business plan, although painful at times, is well worth the effort. It conditions the participants to be solution finders, not whiners.”

NVC faculty are already preparing for the next competition, which will have sign up dates of Aug. 26 to Sept. 15. Winners will travel to an entrepreneurship conference in New Orleans in January. For questions, email Calvin Fogle at cfogle5@alamo.edu

Health Experts Talk with Students About Careers

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The Northwest Vista College Pre-Health Delegation (PHD) club had another successful, well-attended event with over 100 student participants.

The event featured health professionals who volunteered to talk to our students and offered a glimpse into their careers and academic journeys. Our health care professionals were:

  • Linda Doyle,PharmD, RPh-Pharmacist, Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital
  • Raphael Guerra DDS- Dentist, owner of Raphael Guerra Family Dentistry
  • Kenny Hogan, DPT, PT- Physical Therapist, co-owner of Stratton Rehabilitation
  • Isabel Ramos- Lebron, MS, RDN, LD- Dietician Wellness Education Manager- San Antonio Food Bank

Students interacted with our panelists and asked them various questions. It was hosted by PHD President John Pinion and VPs Samantha Williams, Aisha Landeros and Alice Heugel.

The PHD club is NVC’s Health and Science Student Club and is currently recruiting officers and members for fall of 2019. Interested students can submit their applications to be a part of the club via AlamoSync throughout the summer and will be notified in August. Just search for NVC Pre Health Delegation on AlamoSync.

Learning to Become a Scientist on Campus

You never know what you are going to find by taking a microbiology class at Northwest Vista. A bit of clarification is needed in a recent science experiment done in campus bathrooms by students.

Initial test results showed there might be some strains of the bacteria Chlamydia and Staphylococcus in some of the tested areas.

Further discussion with faculty showed it’s unlikely that the organism from the student experiments found on the hand dryer is actually a Chlamydia species. Staphylococcus species are commonly found in restrooms and other areas humans frequent, according to NVC Microbiology faculty Dr. Adam Reeves.

Also the bacteria Chlamydia does not survive well outside the human body and typically is only contracted through sexual intercourse. To learn more, check out the CDC website. While Staph can live outside the human body and is common in many public bathrooms, NVC’s cleaning service uses hospital-grade disinfectants daily in the bathrooms.

Remember to always wash your hands and nails and cover any open wounds, and never walk barefoot in public areas. To learn more about staph infections, go here.

And if you want to know more about the science behind the experiment or have interest in Microbiology for Nursing and Allied Health – 27495 – BIOL 2420 – 007 at NVC, fall registration opens to everyone on April 24. There are plenty more experiments to do on campus! Register here.

NVC’s Dr. Reeves gave some more details about his classes’s experiment:

I will start with the protocol of how we find and identify microorganisms.

  1. Students are encouraged to swab areas and streak their swabs onto selective media.
  2. The student then isolate colonies on agar plates to grow for DNA amplification of a 500 nucleotide sequence within the rRNA gene (https://jcm.asm.org/content/45/9/2761).
  3. The amplified sequence are then sent off for sequencing before the sequences are compared to a database for identification.

We did have a sequence come back that indicated that we could have isolated a Chlamydia strain. Here are the problems:

  1. Chlamydia species are obligate intracellular parasites, which means they can only be grown in cell lines and our colony grew on an agar plate.
  2. The rRNA gene sequencing comparison has many limitations, including:
    1. It has poor discriminatory power for some genera, meaning the results are often incorrect.
    2. The DNA databases, private and public, are dependent on the “deposition of complete unambiguous nucleotide sequences” and how labels are applied to each sequence. This means that not all databases contain all sequences and the sequences could be labeled incorrectly. (https://jcm.asm.org/content/44/4/1359.long)
  3. Other issues relate to the researcher’s ability to perform the DNA isolation, extraction, amplification, and purification procedures, which all contribute to the ability to correctly sequence a sample.

As for the “Staph” strains found, micro labs have found isolates in the bathrooms by putting the samples on selective and differential media. This means that we are highly confident that a strain exists on the surfaces in restrooms, but we would have no clue that pathogenicity (ability to cause disease) of the organism.

Reasons to not be concerned:

  1. Staphylococci are normal microbiota on your skin and mucosal membranes, which can commonly be shed to surfaces.
  2. A study that shows the common organisms, including Staphylococcaceae species, found on different areas in a public restroom –https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3223236/pdf/pone.0028132.pdf

Living on the Road and Studying

I decided to take online classes since I am constantly on the move. You see, my husband and I decided to travel cross country via RV once our youngest daughter got into college. Once we moved her into her dorm, we packed up and put the house up for sale.

We are now full timers in our RV. I am enjoying all of the sightseeing. However, with us being on the road it is impossible for me to find temporary employment or attend classes on campus. My professional background is in the medical field. Since these positions aren’t easy to get into, especially for short term, I decided to look into something else.

There are many job opportunities that you can do online but there are many scams as well. I have come across many people that work online doing virtual assistant, blogging, social media management, websites, data entry, and much more. Unfortunately, these are areas I’m not too familiar with so my only option was to look into a degree plan that would allow me to study while on the road to be able to achieve a career with my current lifestyle.

This is my second semester taking all online classes. It can be very stressful and challenging at times. Living on the road in the RV, you have to make certain that you have good internet service, but prepared to hit a lot of dead spots. You definitely need to have a time management plan. Believe me, it is very easy to fall off track. This is something you have to train yourself on and stick to it.

Make it a habit to check on announcements, emails, and assignments daily. It was always my belief that all assignments were due on Sundays by midnight but that is not that case. Checking these sites daily will help you stay on top of your courses throughout the semester.

Also, if you have any questions or simply need clarification on assignments, you should contact your professor as soon as possible. They are there to help you, you just need to reach out.

By NVC Student Connie Miller

 

Studying Tips and Living Away from Home

I have been attending college for about two years, and this is my first semester that I am taking courses for my degree. In the beginning of my college career, core classes were very easy to me. I could easily finish assignments and get good grades, which I though would be impossible with me living out of the house and having to work full time.

Now that I am starting to take courses for my degree, there is a noticeably different difficulty level to them. With a higher difficulty there is more time consumption attached, which is kind of hard due to the limited time I already have. But over these two years of living out of the house and attending college, I have picked up a few tips and tricks. When I first moved out, my roommate always had people over and I had too many distractions while trying to complete my homework and projects. I found that my room was a great quite and safe space from all of the distractions happening on the outside. Another thing I learned quickly was that finishing my school work first was more important than hanging out and working, this led to me finishing my work early in the week so I had more free time throughout the rest of the week. Putting your school work as your top priority really helps out in the long run so you do not have to rush in the end.

Learning to study was also another great trick I figured out. Previously in grade school, I never studied for anything, I just went with the punches. Studying became important when I entered college because I knew that I wanted to keep a good GPA. Unlike high school, I found that studying, even though it may be boring, really helped out in the long run. Studying kept the stress off while taking a test, and even made class work easier at times. There are a lot of tricks and tips to learn in college, and I hope these few help.

By NVC Student Ethan Wise

What I Learned From My First Semester

My first semester was a wonderful experience, I liked the college lifestyle better than high school. Even though in college you get more freedom, you do have more responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities are your classes. After completing my first semester, I had to make a change. So I learned a few things:

Do Not Procrastinate

I would always do this in high school, although it did not affect me until I got to my first semester of college. Procrastinating affected my grades and the way I performed on my work. For me, if I procrastinated, I would not really learn anything about the subject that the work was going over. When you focus on finishing as fast as you can, you do not really grasp all of the information. When you take your time and you do not have to worry about turning in your work that same night, you tend to learn more about the subject. I have also experienced I produce better quality of work when I am not procrastinating, like doing an essay, you have time to review and correct any mistakes.

Here is a link to an article of how to get over procrastination: https://student-cribs.com/en/blog/66/8-Ways-to-Stop-Procrastinating-and-Start-Studying/

Manage Your Time

This is an important topic because in college you do not only worry about school. You need time for studying, working out, resting, school, and social life. Make a schedule in which you can work with because if you do not, your school and life will get mixed up. Plus, having a routine will help you mentally. So this semester, try to write or type your schedule.

Study

I was never good at this, because I always procrastinated. If this is your first semester, study everything you learn because it really helps you pass those quizzes or exams. In my first semester, I had General Psychology, which is a very fascinating subject. I did not study to prepare for the exams, and on exam day I was confused. There was only one time that I did study for the exam, and as a result, I did way more better than my first time.

Here is a link to a video that will really motivate you to study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74nGnjFFapo

Set Reminders

For some of us, we have many things to think about, and we forget that the homework assigned two days ago is due at night. I have learned from my first semester to always set reminders to do the homework. So now every time a professor tells my class that there is an assignment, I type it on my phone, and set it to remind me as I arrive home. There is also a feature on Canvas that can notify you of any assignments.

By NVC Student Hector Padron

Setting Goals for the New Semester

As often as I tell myself to make sure I set at least one goal for the new year or the beginning of each semester, I always tend to fail.

Which is ironic, because I refuse to set goals out of my fear of not achieving them. I think this is a common obstacle I can share with a lot of other students. This year I want to challenge myself to set more than one goal, and understand that it is okay if I don’t accomplish them. What matters is that I had the intention of achieving my goals in the first place.

I have three simple goals

  1. Ask more questions
  2. Learn instead of memorize
  3. Better time management 

I think the importance of setting goals is to allow yourself to overcome an obstacle. Whether your obstacle may be procrastination, bad grades or fear; fear of failure or fear of stepping out your comfort zone. 

When writing down my goals, I kept them doable and made sure they would better me as a person. I’m hoping to eventually utilize said goals throughout the rest of my education journey and in my future career. 

I encourage you to set goals for this semester, and know that it’s okay not to achieve the goals in their entirety. Continuously working towards them and getting close to achieving them is important and valid. 

By NVC Student Haneen Rafati