Get to know the Navy Virtual Education Centers

By Kathleen Ritchie, M.Ed., enrollment advisor, Columbia College-NAS Jacksonville

kathleen ritchie, enrollment advisor, nas jacksonvilleAs with many facets of life, education is a constant evolutionary process. The same holds true for the U.S. Navy Voluntary Education process. As one of our largest populations, our military students at Columbia College-NAS Jacksonville once utilized Navy College offices that have now become fully online Virtual Education Centers (VEC). Sailors must use the Virtual Education Center for a variety of reasons, from counseling to research and approval of tuition assistance.  As with any change, a time of adjustment has occurred.

We encountered a difficult time while working to put out the word that Columbia College-NAS Jacksonville was still physically present during the transition period, as we saw a decline in foot traffic but a large increase in the volume of phone calls and emails. We’ve worked to combat the hearsay that the transition to a virtual education also meant that we would no longer have a physical presence both at Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Mayport. We’ve done so by recognizing the needs of our military students: disseminating information in a timely manner, with an appropriate follow-up from advisors and staff they have already come to know and trust. We’ve also developed the model of firsthand knowledge of U.S. Navy Voluntary Education processes in order to assist sailors through the process of counseling sessions, submitting documentation and becoming tuition-assistance eligible. Our knowledge of these processes allows sailors to feel more at ease when starting their education.

We are happy to report that, during the transition of the Virtual Education Center, our current and prospective student base has remained strong. We rely upon our reputation aboard both NAS Jacksonville and NS Mayport to continue to service students with a mission of improving the lives of our students. By keeping students at the forefront of our focus, we continue to respect flexibility and innovation in changing processes. We look forward to any new changes that may come our way and taking head-on any new challenges we may face.

For more information regarding U.S. Navy Voluntary Education, the website can be found here:

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Credo Reference – A place to start your research

Are you writing a research paper but struggling with how to get started? Columbia College’s Stafford Library has a tool that can help.

Credo Reference offers more than three million reference entries from more than 800 titles in major academic subject areas to offer a great starting point for research. Credo’s collection contains resources such as:

  • Dictionaries
  • Thesauruses
  • Encyclopedias
  • Atlases
  • Images, audio files and videos
  • All with full citations

mind map screenshotMind Maps, interactive, visual tools for exploring related concepts, are available to help you learn about a topic. Your search term becomes the central concept in a map of related ideas to help you brainstorm. Check the image to the right for a look into how Mind Maps function.

Topic Pages give you a full-text article containing background information on a subject. A list of related topics, images, videos and other Credo articles are also available from the topic pages. For more information on how Topic Pages work, you can watch this video tutorial.

Students can access Credo Reference from Stafford Library’s list of databases. Simply click on this link and type in “Credo Reference” in the search bar to find the database. Enter your CougarTrack username and password when prompted if accessing the database from off campus.

And you can always contact Stafford Library by emailing or calling (573) 875-7381 or (800) 231-2391, ext. 7381.


Top time management tips

By Maria Haynie for Ready.Aim.Hire.

time management graphicFinding the time you need to get through your to-do list, let alone your wish list, can seem impossible for working adults and students. Here are four time management tips from Columbia College managers to help you tame the calendar.

Build your team

Assuming that time management problems are yours alone to fix can be problematic. Taking the time to express your goals and your situation to others can help them understand how important your education is to you and how hard you are working to achieve your goals, said Debra Hartman, Region II and Crystal Lake location director.

“When others see, they are much more likely to make sacrifices on your behalf,” Hartman said.

Jean Simmons, Evening Campus and Region I director, agrees that sharing your struggles and successes is important to help you find support. “Get your family on board. If they feel like part of the solution, it makes life easier for you, and they will tend to be more supportive,” Simmons said.

Tools for you, tools for the team

Whether you prefer pen and paper for scheduling or type it all into your digital calendar, you need something to help you keep track of dates, block out hours of time and keep you aware of what’s coming up. But more importantly, your team needs to know, too. If you can communicate the big test you have coming up on Friday to your team, they will understand why you need extra time to prepare that week and can work out a plan. Because digital calendars such as Google Calendar are so easy for multiple people to share, they’re a great option for families.

“My husband and I share documents, calendars and message all day long so we stay on the same page about where to be and when and who’s picking up which kid from where,” said Brandi Herrman, instructor of business administration. “We also have Google Hangouts on our phones — making sure that it’s easy to contact each other and we have a record of it.”

Only balance the right things

It may be tempting to try to keep everything on the schedule and treat school as an add-on, but that will lead to “emotional and physical wear and tear,” said Mark Bowles, Student Support Services director.

Instead, consider a blank weekly schedule. Add in your most essential items, such as work hours, child care hours and most important appointments. As you add each item, consider the impact it will have on your day and if there are any ways to reduce the amount of time or effort it would take to accomplish that task.

Hartman encourages the use of carpools as one schedule-saver. Then schedule school time in, right with these essential activities, to show yourself and your team that it is a priority.

Before you try to squeeze in anything else, carve out space for a little self-care and family time. “When one steals from downtime to try to catch up somewhere else – that’s a cure that does more harm than the disease itself, which is the problem of not having enough time for other responsibilities,” Bowles said.

When you schedule in time for some fun with your family, “this gives everyone something to look forward to as they work through the responsibilities of their week,” said Becky Gordon-Bocklage, director of the Fishman Center for Entrepreneurship.

See the big picture

With any luck, after essential activities, school and a bit of downtime are on your calendar, there may be a few hours left. Decide what you will spend on social life, volunteer service, personal projects and other activities. If you don’t have as much time as you’d like to dedicate to those aspects of your life, be patient with yourself and remember that you won’t be in school forever.

“Do not hesitate to explain that you may need to take more than you give at this time,” Hartman said. “We all go through seasons in our life when that imbalance occurs and when you are able, when the degree is done, it can be your turn to give more than you get.”


Tips for a smooth tax season

By Department of Student Success and Money Stacks

taxes, tax form

It’s never too early to start thinking about preparing your taxes. And, with tax day a little more than three months away, the time will be upon you before you know it.

With that in mind, Rachel Smith, Project & Student Services Specialist for Columbia College’s Department of Student Success and Money Stacks, has some advice on what you need to stay prepared.

Consult a checklist

Articles such as this one on run down all the things people need to have handy in order to fill out their taxes. A checklist can help you keep track of what you need to know about your personal data, yearly income and possible deductions and credits for your paperwork.

Detailed rundowns like this can also help alert you to deductions and credits that you may not have known about, such as claiming a deduction for tuition and fees for your schooling and applying for American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning credits that benefit college students.

Have last year’s tax documents available

This is especially handy, according to Smith, when you’re receiving a number of tax documents from different sources.

“I personally find it helpful to pull out my tax documents from the prior year so I can remember what forms to expect in the mail or what I might need to log in and print out,” Smith says. “Sometimes just reading a list of documents isn’t enough to spark my memory. I need to see the form from the organization from the prior year to really remember what I’m waiting on.”

Check into IRS resources

If you’re planning on preparing your own taxes, seek out software that could help you along the way. The IRS has a Free File site that includes a list of free software tools for applicants who meet certain criteria.

Understand your withholdings

Have you ever gotten a bit of an unwelcome shock when your taxes come back and you see what you owe? Want to do something about it?

The IRS has a site that can help you understand how to fill out your W-4 form and the withholding options for which you could be eligible.

If you need any more guidance about preparing for tax season, the Columbia College Department of Student Success and Money Stacks is here to help. You can contact the Department of Student Success and Money Stacks at (573) 875-7860 or


Asking the right interview questions

By Grossnickle Career Services Center

interview, handshakeYou’ve made it. You secured an in-person interview for a job, presented your qualifications and strengths in an enticing manner and answered all of the questions the interviewer had for you.

All except one, the one they usually save for last: “So, do you have any questions for me?”

The staff at Columbia College’s Grossnickle Career Services Center gets this all the time: people who come to them seeking advice on how to respond when asked if they have any questions for the interviewer.

“It’s critical that you ask questions during an interview,” director of Career Services Dan Gomez-Palacio says. “If you don’t, the subtext might be that you just want the conversation to be over ASAP and that you really aren’t curious about the position.”

But you shouldn’t just ask any question that comes to your mind. You should prepare with questions beforehand, much as you’ve prepared answers to the questions your interviewer might pose of you.

Articles such as this one from offer helpful advice on the right and wrong types of questions to bring to a job interview.

If it’s a first interview, “anything that smells even a little bit like it’s self-serving,” in Forbes’ words, should not enter the equation. It’s too early to start asking about salary, vacation time, work schedule and other logistical questions.

Instead, focus on questions that delve more into the opportunity the job presents, as well as the work environment at your prospective place of employment.

Gomez-Palacio suggests questions such as:

  • Can you tell me what you enjoy about working here? What do you appreciate the most about working here and if you could change one thing about your company, what would that be?
  • What attributes make the ideal candidate for this position?
  • What do your clients say about your company?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges the organization will face in the next six months?

These questions could serve as an opportunity to further align yourself with the employer, as well as opening the door to more information into the company’s culture and the expectations placed on the position. Alternately, they show a deeper level of thinking, consideration and interest in the job that is attractive to interviewers.

So don’t fret about that dreaded “any more questions?” portion of the interview. Prepare yourself and seize the moment!

If you’re in need of advice, you can also reach out to the Grossnickle Career Services Center at (573) 875-7425 or email