A neighborhood college experience

By Phoenix College

An Arizona college partners with its city to take classes off campus and into the community.

The pandemic changed a lot about how business was done. How education was done. How life was done. Through the last year, people found themselves with altered plans and new visions of what the future would look like. So, knowing its surrounding neighborhood needed help and support, Phoenix College (PC) did what it does best: Met the needs of its community.

It all started in early 2019 when Rosa Richardson from Payroll Solutions Credit Union was working with Phoenix College’s Dawson Dopp to develop Black History Month events. During their initial planning meetings, the two came up with a plan to help PSCU employees get their General Business Certificate while conveniently staying on the worksite. After presenting to a large group of the credit union employees about what PC could offer, they knew the partnership was a slam dunk.

That’s because it’s part of the mission of the Neighborhood College, which was established by the city of Phoenix and Phoenix College in 2019 to provide onsite courses for city employees.  The intention of the program is to expand city employees’ careers; by obtaining educational experience in various business-related areas, employees will be better equipped to apply for advanced positions within the city.

The partnership was developed after PC President Larry Johnson met with City Manager Ed Zuercher to discuss the needs of the city’s workforce, and how they could eliminate the need for students to physically travel to the college campus.

Subjects offered include accounting, web development, communication, and customer service, though employees have access to all of Phoenix College’s business courses.

A strong start

The General Business Certificate cohort class began spring of 2020 for PSCU employees. The program used the company’s tuition reimbursement/assistance program to include seven classes, each running 8-10 weeks. The classes are offered in-person on Tuesday evenings on the PSCU campus. The first class started with Introduction to Business, and the first night of class, the partnership’s top champions were right there: PC President Johnson, Dawson Dopp and Dean Maria Reyes attended to show support for the partnership.

When, in March of 2020, PSCU classes could no longer be offered in person because of Covid-19, PC quickly transitioned the classes to online for the remainder of the cohort, which ends in May of 2021. Soon, eight PSCU will earn their certificates that otherwise may not have been able to get to the PC campus due to work or other conflicts. By providing the classes and degree/certificate programs right on the PSCU company campus after work, PC provided an opportunity for employees to complete a degree or certificate. Truly, a neighborhood college experience.

“What struck me as so special about the PSCU cohort was the excitement of the students and how visibly pleased they were to have the opportunity to learn alongside their professional peers,” said Adam Zingg, business faculty at PC. “There was a sense of camaraderie that I’ve rarely witnessed in my years as a professor, and the results spoke for a high-energy atmosphere where discussion about the material at hand dovetailed so naturally with uplifting conversations about the conversation of the learners themselves. Never once did class discussion descend into badmouthing, either about coworkers or the organization. The students clearly had the right set of incentives: to grow both personally as well as professionally and to do credit to their employer.”

Student Regena Paterik said, “I will always be grateful to PSCU for giving this opportunity to further my education. Every class was applicable to my current position and in spite of the hard work involved, it was worth the prize at the end, a certificate in Business.”

The next PSCU cohort will begin in August 2021, and everyone is excited to begin. The many instructors to teach classes for this first cohort were Adam Zingg, Steve Leming, Ashley Brown, Mark Sassetti, Xavier Ortega. It took many people to make this partnership happen. Working on this partnership with Rosa Richardson has been such a positive experience. PSCU and Phoenix College look forward to remaining great partners.

“Students at PSCU were engaged during lectures and appreciated the new learning,” said Ashley Brown, adjunct faculty at PC. “Some of the students provided feedback during our last class meeting stating that this new partnership was wonderful and would love to enroll in another class because of the convenience of the online class meetings and the future convenience of possibly not having to travel to the Phoenix campus.”

This article originally appeared here.

Phoenix College

is a community college in Phoenix, Arizona, and is part of the Maricopa Community College District.