SIERRA VISTA — Last week Cochise College welcomed students and faculty back virtually, with a few exceptions. Along with the new students and staff were three new deans hoping to help those they serve navigate the untraditional start to the fall semester.

Abe Villarreal and Thomas Guetzloff joined the Cochise College team as new deans, while Bethany Hill was promoted to Dean of Nursing and Allied Health. Villarreal is the dean of Student Success and Guetzloff is the dean of Mathematics and Sciences.

Abe VillarrealVillarreal comes to Cochise College from Western New Mexico University, where he spent the last 17 years. Although he’s been in New Mexico, Villarreal isn’t a stranger to Cochise County. The new dean of student success is originally from Douglas and graduated from Douglas High School in 2000. After graduating, he attended Western New Mexico University and began working there when he finished his schooling.

“I really wanted to come to Cochise College,” Villarreal said. “It’s more about the role I have at Cochise College. The dean of student success increases academic success and is involved in initiatives and programs that help students achieve success inside and outside the classroom.”

He added that he likes that in his new role he has the opportunity to “change lives.”

With most students attending class virtually this semester Villarreal said he is relying on instructors to help make students aware of the academic services available to them, like tutoring, even through the virtual learning environment.

“We want to hear from our students,” Villarreal said. “We will have advisor check-ins throughout the semester.”

Outside of work, Villarreal likes to write and give back to the community. He said he has written multiple commentaries for publications across the southwest.

Bethany HillYears of dedication to Cochise College resulted in Hill becoming dean of the program she graduated from. When Jennifer Lakosil, the previous dean of nursing and allied health, announced she was retiring effective March 2020 she recommended Hill apply for the position. So she did.

“I really want to see the allied health program grow,” Hill said. “(My goal is) to get everyone through their program in lieu of what Covid brought us.”

She graduated from the program in 1994 and after 20 years in the field she joined the college in 2015. Hill started her career as an EMT and then spent “a bulk” of her career as an ER nurse before moving into an administrative position. Hill said what she likes about being in an administrative role is seeing the excitement students have when they learn a new skill or something new. She added that oftentimes after many years in the career people lose that excitement.

With the current pandemic and restrictions new challenges have risen, including finding places for students to conduct their clinical work. Hill admitted while it’s nice to have the virtual option for students to learn, hands-on experience benefits students more in the case of feeling how to do certainting and connecting with people like they’d have to do in the workforce.

“As always, this first week is hectic as we are working with students in registration, financial aid, getting access to all of their course materials, and other issues that always arise during the first week of school,” Hill said. “It was somewhat different this year without having them physically here and feeling their excitement, nervousness, and eagerness to learn. Even though we were able to interact in the Zoom orientations, I really missed the student’s physical presence on campus.”

Thomas GuetzloffGuetzloff saw the opening at Cochise College as the perfect opportunity for him and his son. He joined the college from West Virginia University and said coming to Cochise College gave him the opportunity to advance his career with both his children finished with school.

“I’m impressed with the facility and the people,” Guetzloff said. “Every single person here is unique and I was very impressed with the people at Cochise.”

Prior to the hiring of Guetzloff, there was an interim in the dean of Mathematics and Sciences position for a year and a half. Guetzloff said becoming a dean is something he’s always wanted to do and has been moving up in administrative positions throughout his 25-year career.

The start to his new position hasn’t been easy as he has had to work with his faculty about how to provide safe in-person labs. Because of the hands-on nature of science labs students are taking them in person, with smaller class sizes and safety precautions.

“Our first week went great,” Guetzloff said. “All of our face to face classes occurred and everyone had a very very positive experience.”

He added that he has asked his staff to be more proactive in reaching out to students who are struggling or seem to be falling behind because of the virtual environment. Guetzloff said he feels if instructors can make contact with students early on, if they are struggling, it will be easier to help the student recover and finish the course with a better grade.

In his free time, Guetzloff enjoys running and has run marathons in every state. He also enjoys hiking, gardening and activities that help clear his mind.