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Richard Cuprak, Jr.

Residence: Tempe, AZ

Organization: Rio Salado College

Occupation: Faculty Chair, Applied Technology & Engineering

First job: Delivering newspapers in 7th grade to more than 90 homes in a rural community.

Philosophy: Create change through quiet disruption. Push the limits in everything, striving to achieve a greater good. Positive change requires that you do something, and you’ll know it’s an improvement if you focus on the constituency, not the organization.

Favorite music: Classic Rock, Heavy Metal

Favorite TV Show or Movie: Twilight Zone

Most Recent Book (Favorite book): The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic)

What got me interested in my work: I come from a family of educators. My father, a brother, and a sister were or are teachers. When I was thinking about a change in engineering jobs I realized that I had spent my career in industry teaching people. I went back to college to get my master’s degree so I could teach engineering. I now oversee a program in construction and automotive technology for those who are currently incarcerated, and I also teach Introduction to engineering courses.

Success is... Doing something for the right reasons rather than doing nothing because it might be “wrong.”

Pet Peeve: Complacency rather than taking a risk to embark on an unknown future, resisting change, doing it because it has always been done that way.

Favorite Quote:I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.” —Vincent van Gogh

Current Project: Working with college leadership to create opportunities that allow incarcerated individuals to embark on learning using computer technology. Through the use of “controlled internet access,” this population can access information that historically has not been available. We are in a technology age, but this segment of society is currently denied access. If we expect them to successfully reintegrate upon their release, we must investigate tools and approaches that allow what are considered normal and necessary workplace skills. Additionally, this provides an opportunity to expand learning outside the classroom: accountability for things like research, writing essays, or completing spreadsheet entries. This frees up class time for the application of “hard” (task-based) skills while still incorporating necessary exposure and use of computer software and applications. “Soft” skills result from the combined experiences of both.

What impact has NACCE had on your college's entrepreneurship efforts? As an engineer, I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. However, because of NACCE I have come to recognize that informed risk and financial commitment to support improvement of the educational opportunities for underserved/underrepresented populations is entrepreneurial. Rio Salado College has successfully obtained grant funding from several sources, and we are just embarking on research to support the creation of the computer-access project described above. NACCE provides both the framework and the network to successfully engage in this work.