GCU recognized with Best of the West award
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Buckeye and Goodyear are among the fastest growing cities in the United States.
The Crystal Lagoons Island Resort, an 11-acre public access lagoon that will be surrounded by white sand beaches, is going up at the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale and will bring an estimated $700.8 million to the city, county and state over the next 25 years.
And the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. plant continues to carve out opportunity just north of Loop 303 near Interstate 17 with an under-construction $12 billion computer chip operation (some reports say $35 billion) that is expected to significantly boost the economy.
No doubt, Phoenix’s West Valley is booming, and Grand Canyon University is part of that boom.
In recognition of its place in moving the area’s economy forward, GCU received the West Valley Regional Advancement Award on Thursday night during the Western Maricopa Coalition’s 29th annual Best of the West Awards Dinner at State Farm Stadium. The WESTMARC accolade honors an entity that has strengthened and transformed the West Valley’s position for economic growth.
GCU President Brian Mueller, who accepted the award from Phoenix District 5 Councilmember Betty Guardado, shared the University’s role in job creation.
“We put together this five-point plan, and the first part of it was jobs. We were going to grow the University here, and what a city like this needs is an economic catalyst,” Mueller said. “It needs jobs, and we created 14,000 jobs here in the last 10 to 12 years. We cut 14,000 checks every two weeks.”
GCU also has invested $1.5 billion in educational infrastructure in that time, said Guardado in her award presentation, and along with its partners, the University generates approximately $2.1 billion in economic impact annually for Phoenix.
Mueller spoke about the University’s desire to get to know the business community and to develop its own business ventures. GCU launched 10 new businesses in the last five years that employ more than 500 people.
“That created more jobs,” he said.
He also shared other key aspects of GCU’s five-point plan to strengthen and transform the community: the work with the city of Phoenix Police Department to make the neighborhood safe; the partnership with Habitat for Humanity to improve homes in the area (it is the largest Habitat for Humanity program of its kind in the world); and the partnership with surrounding schools that has grown to include a Learning Lounge where 1,200 GCU students provide one-on-one tutoring to K12 students, along with full-tuition scholarships for those neighborhood students.
Besides GCU, other award-winners at WESTMARC’s Best of the West were:
- Flite Goodyear for its adaptive reuse project;
- The Peoria Community Arts Project to turn metal utility boxes into public art by student artists;
- The West-Mec Southwest Campus, which supports the education of students in the West Valley with a focus on energy and sustainability programs;
- Peoria Forward, a partnership between the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute at ASU and the city of Peoria designed to accelerate economic development;
- Goodyear Mayor Georgia Lord, who received the Inspiration in Leadership Award;
- SRP Senior Project Manager Karla Moran, given the President’s Choice Award.
“As GCU continues to grow, we are excited to continue serving the local community in partnership with others in the West Valley,” said GCU Government Relations Director Dana Drew Shaw.
WESTMARC President Sintra Hoffman said at the ceremony that the West Valley depends on its educators to help build the economic strength of its communities.
“We look to our education partners constantly,” Hoffman said of WESTMARC, a public/private partnership that promotes economic development in the West Valley. “… Find one in the room and thank them for grooming our future workforce.”
Colangelo College of Business Dean Dr. Randy Gibb said of receiving the Best of the West award: “This is a great honor for GCU as it validates our crucial role, specifically in the West Valley, to support economic development and growth with workforce development. We are helping to attract and then, in turn, support business success because of our amazing students in needed career fields.”
Mueller said one of the things he’s most proud of is how GCU has been able to grow a diverse student body. Approximately 23,500 ground students call the University home, including students from all over the world alongside students from the inner-city families in GCU’s own neighborhood.
The University also has made the cost of getting that education affordable, Mueller said, with students taking out less debt than the average state university student.
“We’ve really created a model where education can be an equalizer, and we’re extremely proud of that. We’re extremely proud of the diversity that has led to, and we’re extremely proud we can come to this campus every day,” Mueller said.
“We can be very productive in a very diverse population of people. That’s a very exciting thing … and we’re anxious as this grows to 40,000 students to continue all of that.”
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-623-7901.