On Aug. 25, Pima Community College Northwest will open its doors to an estimated 3,000 full-time and part-time students from this area. High-schoolers to senior citizens will now be able to access a community college campus designed to reflect the varied populations of the Northwest without driving 30 minutes to one of PCC's five other sites.
In a unique series of partnerships, PCC Northwest will be offering dual-credit courses for high school students wanting to get a head start on their college plans, a 2+2 program with Northern Arizona University, evening and weekend courses that can culminate in an associates or even a bachelor's degree, and numerous adult educational opportunities for folks who want to speak a foreign language, master yoga or learn to paint.
Located on the east side of Shannon Road between Ina and Magee roads, the Northwest PCC campus will feature six buildings and focus primarily on the sciences and foreign languages, although it also will offer a full compliment of general education courses, an extensive business administration component, psychology courses and a partnership with Northern Arizona University for a bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management.
"This is part of (Tucson) that hasn't been adequately served with higher education options," said Sylvia Lee, dean of student development for PCC Northwest. "Having this campus makes education much more accessible to a wider range of the community and it makes taking classes more convenient for our (current) students living on the Northwest side."
According to the college's Web site, PCC is the sixth-largest multi-campus community college in the nation. PCC Northwest is the sixth campus in the PCC system, which serves more than 82,000 students with 4,500 courses in 75 distinct program areas leading to certificates and associates degrees. Some of these degrees can be completed through the college's weekend accelerated courses or evening classes, making higher education available to working adults for whom traditional college class schedules are unrealistic.
For instance, a student will be able to receive an associate degree in business administration or liberal arts in 20 months at PCC Northwest by attending only one class per week during those months. With that associate's degree, the student could then continue on through the University of Arizona to get a bachelor's or master's degree.
The PCC Northwest campus takes the concept of "multi-use" to a new level, sharing facilities to get the greatest good for the most people without duplicating resources.
For instance, the Northwest PCC sits adjacent to the year-old Northwest YMCA-Pima County Community Center and has been offering physical education and art courses at that center since January, said Lee. Come Aug. 25, art classes will move to one of the PCC buildings, but physical education courses will remain at the YMCA site.
The $8 million Northwest YMCA-Pima County Community Center was built last fall and includes a cardiovascular wellness room, aerobic studios, gymnasium, a pool and sports fields on about 30 acres. Rosemarie Schulz, dean of instruction for PCC Northwest, said the college will offer intramural sports this fall, utilizing the fields located on the YMCA site, and hopes to add competitive sports teams next year.
In another example of multi-use, and the "community" in community college, PCC Northwest is in close partnership with local high schools and Flagstaff's Northern Arizona University, said Schulz.
"The deans from the college came and spoke with our department chairs last fall to get our input about what would benefit us," said Bob Wendel, assistant principal for counseling at Canyon del Oro High School, 25 W. Calle Concordia. "They've scheduled classes, particularly math classes, (before) school begins (at CDO) so our kids can take a class there that isn't offered here. Vector calculus would be one example. Also, they have sign language and they will be offering German. We couldn't sustain, after budget cuts, funding a German class anymore with such small numbers, and now that will be offered at Pima.
"The college, I think, has gone out of its way to cater to CDO, Ironwood Ridge (High School) and Mountain View (High School) to schedule classes where high school students will have the most access," he added. "It really helps to fill in the gaps where the high schools can't offer certain courses because we don't have enough students interested. But not only that, having this campus so close really opens a lot of doors for adults and seniors as well. I think Pima is really interested in knowing what the Northwest community wants and needs."
Lee said one of the most "exciting partnerships" Pima has formed is with NAU for the 2+2 degree program in hotel and restaurant management.
"Students will do their first two years here with us with our instructors in hotel and restaurant management, and then their third and fourth year through NAU at this campus," she said. "The student will receive a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management from NAU without ever leaving the PCC Northwest campus."
Original plans included a similar partnership with the University of Arizona, but state budget cuts have made that impossible for now, said UA Provost George Davis. The UA has invested $5 million into the campus' Building A and will be allowing PCC to hold classes there until the UA is able to fund a program at the site, said Kenneth M. Sternstein, interim campus director of administrative services.
"We had planned to have classes there, but budget cuts were so severe that I decided one and a half years ago not to invest in recruiting an interim director for the UA North Campus (at PCC Northwest)," said Davis. "We don't know when we might have a campus there. We have a team that is looking at different models, one being the 2+2 like PCC has with NAU … conceivably, we could have a four-year program at the site one day.
"The bottom line is the UA North/PCC partnership is an outstanding opportunity and we haven't lost interest. There are pressing needs on the Northwest side for a UA presence, but people have to realize the budget cuts have left it so we cannot, at this time, develop new programs," Davis said.
The $30 million Northwest PCC campus sits on 24 acres, although approximately 40 more acres are allotted for expansion. The site was designed to have a "Mediterranean" feel, said Sternstein. The "action" of the campus is meant to happen in its center, in between the various class and office buildings. A highlight is an outdoor amphitheater with a Gabion retaining wall system so impressive the owners of the Belagio Hotel in Las Vegas came to see it, Sternstein said. Gabion walls are walls of copper framing filled with tons of river rock.
"There are three levels on the campus. We have the Boulevard level, which is basically the street level where cars come in and pedestrian traffic arrives. Then we have the Promenade level, which contains campus services and the classrooms and then there is the Bridgeway, which is the third level of our buildings, where the buildings are connected by bridges overhead. You can walk around campus, from building to building, without ever having to touch the ground," he said.
Although construction is only complete on two of the six buildings, Schulz said the remaining four buildings, as well as the extensive landscaping, will be completed for the first day of classes on Aug. 25.
As with any college, the six buildings will all serve specialized functions, said Lee.
Building A will have writing, math and the social and behavior sciences. Building B is host to the library and computer center, as well as technical support for the university. The library will start out with 4,000 volumes, and is a "wireless facility," said Sternstein, meaning that students can connect to the Internet via a radio frequency "and not have to be tethered to a phone line."
The cafeteria is located in Building C, which also has outside patio seating. Faculty offices are located in the upper level of that building. Science labs, computer information systems and the bookstore are housed in Building D, and Building E has more science labs and classrooms, as well as some computer course rooms, Sternstein said. The final building of the campus is Building L, which will have astronomy, math and languages.
"The reason for the gap in alphabetical sequence is because we anticipate expanding the campus to fill between E and L at some point in the future," said Lee.
PCC Northwest will start the fall semester with 17 full-time faculty, 181 adjunct faculty, three administrators and 30 support staff, including lab technicians, lab specialists, secretaries and informational technology specialists. Tuition is $42 per credit hour plus a $5 registration fee per student per semester. Registration for fall classes is on-going at PCC's Northwest Learning Center, 8310 N. Thornydale Road, and will be available at the PCC Northwest Campus beginning July 7
By Patrick Cavanaugh
While the opening of the Pima Community College Northwest Campus Aug. 25 is anticipated by many, some neighbors living in the area are more than a little concerned about the traffic the school's students and employees will generate on Magee Road.
"We have a lot of concerns that have not been addressed. They've managed to come up with an awful lot of money to get that college built, but not even so much as a $1 million needed to adequately widen Magee Road that's going to run right in front of the campus,"said Peter Vokac, a member of the Central Village Alliance that represents several homeowners associations in Casas Adobes, and a supporter of the Northwest Area Transportation Coalition, which has worked with Pima County to bring road improvements to the region.
Vokac said he and his neighbors worked for more than two years to try to get the two lanes of Magee widened in anticipation of the college's opening.
"We had it all worked out that it would cost $750,000 to get the road widened, and then Pima County vetoed it just about six months ago," Vokac said. "We're very frustrated."
Ben Goff, Pima County's transportation director, said the project was canceled for a lack of available funding, but he points to several other road projects in the area of the campus that will help handle the increased traffic.
The county began planning transportation improvement around the proposed campus four years ago with PCC and a blue ribbon citizen's committee, Goff said. From those plans, Shannon Road and La Cholla Boulevard were identified as being critical to handling the traffic volumes expected in the area. Shannon was widened to four lanes last summer, and work on La Cholla is wrapping up.
Camino de La Tierra and the intersection of La Cholla and Magee also received less extensive improvements recently, Goff said.
"But the primary concern of the residents remains the two lane road of Magee and we're very aware of those concerns," he said."We know the project is hanging out there, but we don't have any bond money or other money identified for it at this time."
The county had looked at the bare-bones widening project advocated by Vokac and the other neighbors, "but quite simply, we just don't have three quarters of a million dollars right now," Goff said.
The cash-strapped county is looking at widening Magee sometime in the future, but the department is currently placing higher priority on projects that were planned under Pima County's 1997 bond election, he said.
"Magee will be busier than it is now, and the Shannon and Magee intersection will be a bottleneck, there's no doubt about it," Goff said. "We understand the concerns of the community, we know they want more capacity on Magee, but until we can figure out where the money is going to come from, we can't put it in the program."
Vokac said promises for the future provide little solace for those living in the area, or driving on Magee.
"There's no way two lanes is going to handle the traffic they're expecting there," Vokac said.
By Patrick Cavanaugh
Residents living in the area of the Pima Community College Northwest campus will be seeing a new police car in the neighborhood when the school opens.
The Pima Community College Department of Public Safety plans to start small at the new campus, with only one liaison officer based at the school, but that number is expected to increase as the student population begins to swell.
For now, the sole officer is Manny Amado, a veteran of the PCC Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff's Department who says he sees himself as a bridge between the campus and the surrounding community.
"One of the things I've been doing is driving through the neighborhood and just introducing myself," Amado said. "We're going to do everything we can to make the transition into the neighborhood as smooth as possible."
Amado said he's been encouraging the neighbors he's met to contact him if they see any crime in the area arising from the campus, or if they just have questions about the college's police department.
"I hope the public will also keep an eye out, and let us know if there is anything going on. Even if it's just questions about our campus, we want them to contact us. A lot of times we may have a quicker response time than the sheriff's department. If it's something like a suspicious person call, the sheriff's department may be tied up on an assault or something of a higher priority, and we can get to it and check it out," Amado said.
Lt. Don Kester, commander of the sheriff's department's Foothills district, said his agency has held meetings with PCC police to coordinate coverage in the area. Kester doesn't expect a surge in crime, and the sheriff's department has not increased its staffing in the district because of the college.
"The only thing we're expecting is more traffic around the college. The PCC police will be there to handle crime on campus, but we are there to provide back up if needed," Kester said.
In addition to support from the sheriff's department Foothills Substation located less than a mile away at Ina and Shannon roads, Amado will be able to call on the resources of the 40-member PCC department that is charged with keeping order on the college campuses spread throughout Tucson.
The officers at PCC are trained and state-certified and have the same arrest powers - both on campus and off - as any other police agency in the state.
Although the department has no set boundaries or jurisdiction, Amado said the PCC police will focus their activities primarily on the campus and it's immediate vicinity.
"We do direct traffic enforcement on the streets surrounding our campuses, but that usually occurs when there's a problem identified and we get a request from the community and direction from our police chief," Amado said.
At its 13 campuses, administrative offices and satellite community centers last year, the department responded to four aggravated assaults, 24 burglaries, seven vehicle thefts, 15 DUI's, 10 drug violations and a host of other crimes, according to PCC crime statistics.
To report criminal activity in the area of the campus, or to reach Officer Amado, contact the PCC police dispatch center at 206-2700.