By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Julia Kiefer truly has the best of both worlds.
As a resident assistant in North Rim Apartments at Grand Canyon University, she has a living arrangement she loves. She calls her two-bedroom unit, which she has to herself, “the biggest apartment on campus,” and talks enthusiastically about how much she adores the environment of the tree-filled grove on Lopes Way.
But North Rim has another feature that might be an even bigger perk:
“You get a dishwasher! That’s not a big deal to most adults, but to a college student that’s a really big deal,” she said.
Not far away, there’s the home away from home for Kiefer – the Colangelo College of Business Building. That’s where she sets up shop almost daily, at a table near the offices of her two mentors, CCOB instructors Mark Jacobson and Alan Klibanoff, or in the peaceful, well-appointed Colangelo Library.
“I live in the CCOB,” she said. “Every morning, you wake up, get dressed, you walk over here and stay 9 to 5. It’s gorgeous here, and I totally feel right at home. It’s my favorite spot to study.”
The Honors College student’s work toward a finance and economics degree has helped her home in on an important internship. For 10 weeks from June to August, Kiefer will be working for The Vanguard Group, the prestigious investment advisor with close ties to CCOB.
It’s a well-deserved honor, in Jacobson’s view. And it’s the direct result of her dedication.
“We’re ready to give her an office over here, she’s here so much,” he said. “She’s one of those who’s overly prepared, gets A’s in every class, hard worker, well-spoken and wants to lead. She’s one of our top, top students. Awesome.”
Kiefer is Vice President of the Finance and Economics Club. As a freshman, after just a few weeks on campus, she was on a team that won the Stock Market Challenge, an annual fundraiser in which teams build a fictitious portfolio by reacting to market news and fluctuations. She works in the ACE Center. She is in her second year at GCU and plans to graduate in three years.
They say that 80% of success is just showing up, but Kiefer has done so much more than that. Which raises a pertinent question: How did someone from Cincinnati show up at GCU?
The answer is simple: She has a cousin, Andrew Finley of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who earned his marketing degree from CCOB and now is applying those skills in his hometown.
“He loved it,” she said.
But Finley also has reason to be sore at her, and it involves the comfortable study spot she has in the CCOB Building.
“He graduated the year it was built, so he’s always super jealous that I got to be here,” she said, adding, “We’ve gotten way closer now that we’ve been going to the same college. It’s been nice getting to know him.”
Her experience getting to know Jacobson and Klibanoff is instructive to other students eager to make their mark in CCOB and beyond. All of the college’s instructors make themselves available to students regularly. That’s why their offices are on the first floor and why there are numerous tables, chairs and study rooms.
Kiefer got to know Jacobson and Klibanoff simply by setting up shop at the tables outside their offices. Even though she didn’t have any classes with them as a freshman, she still could visit with them and pick their brains.
“They’re absolutely amazing,” she said. “They’re some of my best friends. If you let older people become your friends, you get so much out of that because they have so much wisdom. They’re super fun. They’re chill.”
She got to be in Klibanoff’s class last fall, and this semester she has Jacobson for two classes – which presents a humorous problem for him. “I’m not going to be able to use half my stories because you’ve already heard all my stories,” he told her.
Kiefer’s daily CCOB routine also has enabled her to get to know Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB Dean. When he told her that her regular table might as well be her office, it was yet another indication of the type of environment that has been created in the CCOB Building.
It is hard to imagine a more pleasant place to study and learn. As soon as you walk in the south side of the L-shaped building, you are greeted by comfortable chairs in a bright, well-appointed lobby with a huge Bible verse on the wall. Walk down the long first-floor hallway, and there are plenty of places to hang out and plenty of reminders of the college’s "Lopes First" culture.
The building doesn’t just house full-time CCOB faculty; adjunct faculty members have offices there as well, as do faculty from a number of other colleges.
And while the pandemic has curtailed the number of students hanging out in CCOB and the number of activities taking place, it isn’t completely quiet.
“Even during COVID, students leverage the open collaborative spaces to study,” Gibb said not long after he unlocked the Colangelo Library to let Kiefer in.
The improvements have continued as well – Gibb lauded the work of Grand Canyon Education’s Marketing team, led by Brandon Clarke, and Canyon Promotions for their work on the first floor, which includes painting the pillars purple. (What else?) The list of winners in the Canyon Challenge entrepreneurial competition and an internship/hiring wall of student photos also have been added to the decorations.
“It really has warmed up the area and highlights our amazing students,” Gibb said.
Students such as Kiefer.
She has another reason why she spends so much time in CCOB: She doesn’t have a roommate. “Why would I stay in my apartment all day when I can come here and hang out with my friends? I feel like everyone needs interaction,” she said.
And when it’s time to head back to North Rim Apartments, she has another place where the interactions come easily and life is good. Disneyland, she calls it. The happiest place on a campus that many consider the happiest place on earth.
“I’ve got the best spot to be an RA,” she said with a smile, “but don’t tell anyone that.”
Drat … there goes her secret. Like the CCOB Building, living there is out of this world.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].