As workers put the finishing touches on state-of-the-art classrooms, offices and landscaping, the new $30 million Pima Community College Northwest Campus opened with a bang last week.
"We had 3,600 students - 600 more than our target for June of '04," said Dr. Angela Zerdavis, campus president. "It's a wonderful problem to have." Classes started at the northwest campus, 7600 N. Shannon Road, Monday, Aug. 25.
Cassandra Kitzberger, 19, is taking writing, math and CPR in preparation to become a paramedic. "I like this campus," the 2002 Canyon del Oro graduate said. "It's new, it's nice."
Envisioned since 1995, Pima's startup campus for the Northwest existed in a storefront at Thornydale and Cortaro Farms roads from 1998 until just a few weeks ago. "Having worked on it all this time, we knew the outpouring of interest would be tremendous," Zerdavis said.
To better serve a "crush of students," the college will offer a special series of 10-week courses in art, business, computers, French, fitness, math, music psychology and writing starting Oct. 6.
The northwest campus, with about 50 staff and 150 adjunct instructors, is the newest addition to the six campuses that now make up the Pima Community College system in Tucson. Core areas of study include languages, education, writing, math, computer science, business and accounting and the basic sciences.
"We're also developing a biotechnology degree and an agribusiness curriculum with the College of Agriculture at the University of Arizona," Zerdavis said. Additionally, Northern Arizona University is offering junior and senior level courses leading to a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management.
The campus president sees the new campus serving three groups of students: young university-bound students taking their first two years of college coursework; working adults who want to upgrade their skills or change careers; and those who just want to take a class for fun.
"We just added a guitar class to the 10-week courses starting Oct. 6," she said.
The 100-acre campus represents a novel four-way partnership between the college, the University of Arizona, which has a north campus building on site, a new Northwest YMCA Community and aquatic center at Magee Road just north of the college and Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation.
"In a time when things are so difficult financially, everyone is interested in sharing and pooling resources," Zerdavis said. "We contributed $800,000 to the building of the Y, where we can now offer fitness, wellness, yoga, meditation, dance and stretch and tone classes."
The YMCA too, is "bursting at the seams," she said. "They were expecting 1,500 family memberships and they got 9,000."
Built in three tiers into the surrounding hillside, the college's glass and stucco buildings lead up to grassy athletic fields put in by the county's parks and recreation department.
"We didn't have enough money to complete the nature trails, but eventually we want students to be able to walk up to the ball fields and neighbors walk their dogs or go for a run," Zerdavis said.
She added that the college has also done "huge outreach" with the four local high schools in the area - Marana, Mountain View, CDO and Ironwood Ridge. "Principals and counselors told us what they needed," she said. "Now, if you're a senior at CDO and want to take a course in Chinese that's not offered there, you can take it here."
Like other PCC campuses, the new northwest campus also houses AZTEC Middle College, an alternative high school to help committed students between 17 and 21 finish high school while taking community college classes.
Most classrooms and the library are equipped with the latest flat-screen computers and modular workstations. Flexible, self-paced instruction is available with weekend and evening hours for those who want it. Traditional lecture-style classes are also offered.
Andrew Bouck, 18, who graduated from Flowing Wells High School in May, is taking math, English and history and hopes to go into architecture or construction management. Jerome Meyers, 22, is taking pre-calculus, philosophy of science, political science and yoga. He likes "the new buildings and the technical access" and eventually plans to transfer to the University of Arizona. "I'd like to be a professor, do research on artificial intelligence," he said.