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Private university coming to Tucson has local business leaders lining up to collaborate

Private university coming to Tucson has local business leaders lining up to collaborate

A new private university setting up shop in the Old Pueblo has some of Tucson’s top business leaders lining up to help mold the management program to fit the city’s needs.

The Catholic University of America, based in Washington D.C., is opening its first satellite campus this fall in a unique partnership with Pima Community College, giving Tucsonans the opportunity to get a bachelor’s degree from a private, Catholic university locally.

The hybrid model will allow students to first get their associate’s degree with specialized curriculum from PCC and CUA’s Busch School of Business. Those credits will then transfer for a business degree in general management from CUA.

Tuition for the four-year program will be about $35,000.

Local business leaders have been active with CUA since the university began planning its expansion to Tucson over the last few years and have had influence over curriculum.

Jim Click Jr., president of the Jim Click Automotive Team, said it didn’t take much coaxing to get him involved.

“When I heard about this innovative Catholic University program, with its desire to form deep partnerships with local Tucson employers while providing a quality education at a fraction of the cost, I just had to collaborate,” he said. “This is a wonderfully amazing opportunity for our young people right here in Tucson.”

Pima College has been working for several years to align its programs to what the local business community needs, so this partnership was a priority, said Chancellor Lee Lambert.

“This will serve as an extension of what PCC has already started,” he said. “Business is a very popular major overall, so we view this partnership as an especially positive option for all our students.”

Barbi Reuter, CEO and principal with Picor Commercial Real Estate Services, is enthused about seeing future employees emerge from the new program.

“We know that partnering with Catholic U will afford us positive connections where we can share insights and opportunities and collaborate with the next generation of leaders,” she said. “As a homegrown Tucson company for 35 years, (Picor) loves to keep talent in this community after graduation.”

Although the university is open to anyone regardless of religious affiliation, it wants to target the growing Hispanic population.

“An overwhelming majority of Hispanic families in the United States report they are Catholic, but historically they have lacked access to nearby Catholic colleges,” said university president John Garvey. “This is a population we’re very much interested in serving. With this new, non-residential program we look to provide a high-quality, Catholic undergraduate education that is affordable, opening a new pathway for more students in the Tucson area to realize their college dreams.”

For Rob Lamb, chief operations officers with GHLN Architects & Engineers Inc., it’s the perfect marriage.

“When I first heard about what CUA was doing in Tucson, I lit up like a Christmas tree and it was for two reasons,” Lamb said. “One, preparing local people to be part of business (and) two, what it means to be a human being and fully who you are — it’s needed in a lot of our education today.”

The school is accepting between 20 and 25 students for its first year and that group will go through the program together, working both with online courses, classes at Pima and weekly in-person meetings with professors and adjunct teachers from the business community.

“We wanted to find a way to have high-tech and high-touch,” said Jay Richards, research assistant professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America, and curriculum head for its Tucson initiative.

A call “out of the blue”It was in 2017 when the Catholic University of America started researching a satellite program in the Southwest with affordable tuition — rather than breaking ground on a new campus.

Officials looked at several cities in the Southwest with a large population of Hispanics and Catholics, Richards said.

Meanwhile, former Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was making recruitment calls to different universities that were looking to expand.

He had found CUA on a list from another Arizona city that was making a pitch.

“Out of the blue, Mayor Rothschild called our provost,” Richards said. “Now that was a piece of evidence that Tucson was right.”

Rothschild connected the university with the bishop and business leaders.

“Tucson was the right size, and we had ties to companies and employers from the very beginning,” Richards said. “There was enough industrial activity and lots of Catholic high school and elementary schools in the area but no Catholic universities.”

After several visits to Tucson, CUA officials had found the right spot.

“This is great news for Tucson at a very difficult time,” Rothschild said. “The idea of bringing high-quality, private school liberal-arts education to our community and focusing those studies on part of our population that has historically been unable to access this education will make us a stronger community in the long run.”

Mayor Regina Romero was pleased with the groundwork laid by Rothschild.

“Through their collaborative program with Pima Community College, students will be prepared to enter the workforce with the skills local employers are looking for, helping us retain local talent right here in Tucson,” she said. “I’m excited for this opportunity to increase access to affordable higher education, especially for first-generation college students.”

The university is now accepting applications for the fall semester.

Visit catholic.edu/tucson for more information.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com

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