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West campus gears up for growth

February 01, 2008

In a recent Arizona Republic editorial, ASU’s West campus was recognized as a flashpoint for “spectacular and sweeping change.” The growing campus, located on Thunderbird Road between 43rd and 51st avenues in the northwestern corner of Phoenix, has reframed its mission and repositioned itself within the university, with significant positive results to show for the effort.

Since 2002, what once was considered a satellite campus that enjoyed autonomy from its bigger sister in Tempe has become a learning environment of excellence that “serves as an example of the promise and reward that comes with a balance between the tradition of a liberal arts education and the responsiveness to the demands and dynamics of work force requirements,” says ASU President Michael Crow.

Scholarships granting students greater access to higher education at the West campus have increased to nearly a half-million dollars annually.

Degree offerings have jumped from 38 in 2002 to 54 in 2007, including 16 graduate and three doctorate programs. Enrollment has blossomed from 6,000 to nearly 9,000, and the campus is poised to welcome as many as 15,000.

Research projects undertaken by faculty and students are earning national and international attention from media and educational peers. Four centers for research and learning have been established to further the university’s impact in the community; another is on the way.

Created by the Arizona Legislature in 1984, the West campus has come of age, earning local, regional and national awards.

“Our model of ‘One University in Many Places’ is central to our plans for addressing the dramatic growth that is projected for college-eligible high school graduates in Arizona,” Crow says. “The Tempe campus has reached its approximate instructional capacity, so the enrollment growth we expect for the future will occur on the West, Polytechnic and Downtown Phoenix campuses. Students on the West campus are already benefiting from this approach and now have access.”

Elizabeth Langland, ASU vice president and dean of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, notes that the West campus reflects the university’s commitment to providing an unparalleled combination of academic excellence and engagement in the larger community.

“Across this campus, our students are benefiting from the emphasis we place on social embeddedness and partnerships with our communities,” she says. “Our faculty members embody the innovative teaching methods and real-world research that integrate and connect experiences inside and outside the classroom.”

West campus milestones over the past five years include:

• Scholarship support has grown. At the 2007 West campus scholarship luncheon, 191 students were awarded nearly $500,000 in scholarships. All students at the campus are eligible for annual awards of $130,000 to $150,000 from the Rodel Charitable Foundation.

• An example of the groundbreaking research being done at the West campus is the brain-mapping for leadership qualities being done by Pierre Balthazard in the School of Global Management and Leadership that was extensively covered in the Wall Street Journal and Business Week.

• Community-transforming research includes the award-winning “Mexican-Americans of Litchfield Park Oral History” project, in which professor Gloria Cuádraz worked with the town’s pioneering labor camp families to recover images and stories that transformed the understanding of the history of the community.

• The New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences has grown out of its original College of Arts and Sciences moniker and has unveiled an innovative science major focused on experiential learning and problem-based inquiry. Its Department of Integrated Natural Sciences (DINS) teaches the disciplines of biology, geology, chemistry and physics in a way that highlights the linkages between them.

“We expect the West campus to continue to develop distinctive, top-ranked programs that attract great faculty and students as it grows to ultimately serve 15,000 students,” Crow says. “We have scholarship programs that are unique to the campus, we have been doing groundbreaking, cutting-edge research, and faculty and students are earning recognition for excellence in their academic and research pursuits.”