Biggest stories of 2015 mirror GCU’s mission
By Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
No matter how you slice it, the most talked-about stories at Grand Canyon University in 2015 had something to do with students and creating for them the best possible academic, spiritual and social experiences.
With a record number of students matriculating on campus this year, new programs, new faculty and staff and — especially — new buildings were needed to help facilitate their learning. Additional residence halls and eateries were required for the students’ care and feeding, as were fields for their recreation and structures for their vehicles.
The University did not disappoint.
In what has become a year-end tradition at GCU Today, here are our top 10 stories of 2015, in no particular order of importance. (We do think you’d be hard-pressed to argue against the first entry, however.) Our list is by no means etched in stone, nor all-inclusive, but is merely meant to prompt water-cooler debates or a bit of reflection.
Thanks for the memories, GCU.
Up, up, up: student enrollment. If not for the 15,500 traditional students (a 21.6 percent jump over 2014’s ground enrollment) and the 59,200 online students (up 7.5 percent from last year) at GCU, there would be no stories to write. Hence, student growth stands alone atop this year’s big-news pile. By the time all academic records are finalized, it’s projected that an all-time high of more than 16,614 students will have graduated this year, more than doubling the number in 2010.
Up, up, up: construction. The crane has become a regular fixture at “Grand Construction University,” and we don’t mean the long-necked kind that stand around in water. In 2015, GCU started/finished building: one soccer field plus stadium, one administration building, two parking garages, two engineering classroom buildings, two apartment-style residence halls, four six-story dorms, two intramural fields, dining spots along Lopes Way and the Lope Shop. Artificial turf was spread across the intramural field and new sod was rolled out on the Quad.
At the 27th Avenue office complex, GCU turned a run-down motel into a purple palace, calling it the Grand Canyon University Hotel, and recently broke ground on a beautiful office building complex.
Neighborhood revitalization. GCU kicked off in January a partnership with Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona in which students volunteer their time and skills in the neighborhood. Already, repairs to roofs, fencing, landscaping and painting have been made to 100 homes, and more than $255,000 has been raised through GCU’s Donate to Elevate state tax-credit program to help pay for the repairs. The campaign continues in January — stay tuned for details.
STEM growth. In fall 2014, GCU launched the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, rolling out programs in computer science and information technology, then opened its
first engineering classroom building in August and broke ground on the second one in October. About a dozen undergraduate degrees are available in computer science, engineering and information technology, among others. GCU expects to have more than 10,000 students enrolled in STEM programs by next fall.
But the STEM focus doesn’t end with college students. In July, GCU saw its inaugural class of STEM Scholars (students at Alhambra High) take a biology course on campus as part of a program where they will earn 32 college credits, tuition-free, by the time they are finished with high school. And, on the heels of STEM Saturdays, when K-12 students come to campus to participate in science experiments, the University held STEM summer camps where middle and high school students felt the power of science and engineering at their fingertips. GCU also hosted in April for the first time the west regional of the Arizona FIRST Robotics Competition.
GCU Golf Course. The University invested $10 million to renovate and manage the old Maryvale Golf Course at 59th Avenue and Indian School Road in a unique partnership with the city of Phoenix. The groundbreaking was Jan. 2 of this year, and on Friday, a day shy of a year later, the new and improved course is scheduled to open to the public. Students in the Colangelo College of Business’ golf course management and hospitality management programs will get hands-on training there, and GCU’s golf teams will practice there.
Up, up, up: athletics. Big announcements came in May — four-year contracts for men’s basketball coach Dan Majerle and baseball coach Andy Stankiewicz and a five-year deal with Nike. GCU also hired Schellas Hyndman, the sixth all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s soccer history. Other big wins for the program: The men’s lacrosse team captured the national championship, the baseball team won the Western Athletic Conference title, the women’s soccer team beat Northern Arizona for the first time in school history, and the men’s basketball team shocked San Diego State and Houston in contests over Christmas break and closed out the year by winning 12 of its first 14 games.
Expansion of tutoring. Replicating an enormously popular on-campus tutoring program for nearby high school students, GCU extended to its own students the academic tools offered by the
Learning Lounge. The student-driven changes focused on four subject areas — math, writing, Excel and science — and were incorporated into the After Dark Series four nights a week. A First Year Center of academic excellence opened in Juniper Hall, home to a third of GCU’s 750 Honors College students, and Learning Lounge tutors, all GCU students, set up outposts in the GCU Library and new engineering building. Read more in this GCU Today Magazine story.
First EP for Center for Worship Arts. The center in April produced its first extended play, “Canyon Worship,” which immediately was met with a rave industry review. The original track, “Follow You,” was one that we couldn’t get out of our heads for weeks. The center’s talented students performed at two showcases during the year, demonstrating their love for God and their amazing progress.
New CONHCP dean named. GCU appointed alumna Dr. Melanie D. Logue dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions in April. Logue, who earned a BSN from GCU, a master’s of science with a concentration in family nurse practitioner from Arizona State, and a Ph.D. in nursing and doctor of nursing practice from the University of Arizona, was appointed in July to the Arizona State Board of Nursing by Gov. Doug Ducey. Click here to read a feature about her.
Speech and debate argues its way to the top. Despite being very young (it was started in the fall of 2013), GCU’s speech and debate team collected a ton of impressive hardware at tournaments this year. Last spring, the team repeated as champion in individual events at the National Christian College Forensics Invitational. Communication instructor Barry Regan‘s team lost a few seniors over the summer, but the team was undaunted, toppling ASU and the University of California, Berkeley, at a November meet and beating 34 other University teams at a tournament in December. The team is ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Honorable mention: Other stories that generated interest included: President Brian Mueller being named the Phoenix Business Journal’s 2015 Businessperson of the Year; GCU’s Neighborhood Safety Initiative, which brought positive changes to the neighborhood, including a
reduction in crime; the fifth annual GCU Foundation Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, which has raised nearly $375,000 for Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Children’s Cancer Network; the launch of Canyon Angels, an investor group formed by the CCOB to help GCU students learn about investment strategies and fund startup businesses; the decision by GCU to not raise tuition on its west Phoenix campus for the eighth consecutive year; the expansion of GCU’s Chapel music to three bands, increasing the number of students involved; and the growth of global mission trips, from 257 students and staff visiting 16 countries in 2014 to 388 students and staff visiting 21 countries and regions this year.
Contact Janie Magruder at (602) 639-8018 or [email protected]