Theres Change and Then Theres GCU Change

August 11, 2011

Submitted by Zane Ewton on August 11, 2011 - 9:03 am

By David Smith

Monday, August 3, 2009, was pretty much a typical August day in Phoenix - hot, in other words - but it also was my first day in my new position at my new place of employment. 

I was starting a position as director of academic excellence - whatever that meant - at the College of Education for Grand Canyon University. As I look back over the last two years, I cannot help but marvel at the change that has overtaken this once-sleepy university.

I wasn't sure what to expect, since I was going to be the business guy with an MBA in a sea of former K-12 educators. I was reporting to Building 33, on the site where the new COE building now stands. We had 40 campus students in the college at the time. Our chairs taught all of the education courses. We knew each student intimately.

This fall, we will have something around 500 COE students on campus. Building 33 is long gone, and our new building has really nice offices and classrooms and state-of-the-art equipment. If you had told me on that first day that this would be all that would happen over the course of my first two years, I would have considered myself fortunate, blessed and happy.

These changes, however, are but the tip of the iceberg as far as what has changed at GCU. As I look back, I am amazed by how all of this has happened in a weird sort of choreographed manner. 

The construction on campus has been unbelievable. Our COE building, which opened last January, is amazing - but it's just part of the picture. GCU built and opened the Student Recreation Center. Canyon Hall opened, and another new residence hall, Prescott, opens this month. As soon as one residence hall is finished, work begins on another. I hope you like the color brown - as in dirt - because it's a staple of life here at GCU.

As I look out my office facing the College of Nursing, the world is a sea of dug-up dirt, with construction crews working to put in the new east-west promenade. What used to be the parking lot by Fleming Hall is now a gorgeous sea of grass, set aside for intramural athletics. And work is beginning across from that field on the new building for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Then there's GCU Arena. Watching college basketball games these past two years in Antelope Gym was fun - but sitting your 50-plus-year-old butt on bleacher seats for three hours a night was not. So this fall and winter we get to watch basketball in a 5,000-seat arena with real seats? Not to mention concerts, speakers and worship services? Holy cow!

And how about the basketball teams that will play in the Arena? In my two years, the men competed for a Pacific West Conference title and the women - led by the National Player of the Year - advanced to the Sweet 16 in NCAA Division II.

GCU brought back the College of Fine Arts and Production, and we have plays and choral concerts on campus again. This place is alive with a buzz that wasn't present two years ago. 

Think about it - all of this in the short span of two years.

What's in store for the next two years? Just the other day, our CEO stated that the goal is to grow our campus to 12,000 students. What will it take to make that happen?  Can it happen? My only thought is to never sell this university short.

These past two years have been quite a ride, and I can't wait to see what the next two will bring.

David Smith is the director of academic excellence for the College of Education.