CSU System partners to launch
Sturm Collaboration Campus in Castle Rock

story by Cyrus Martin
published August 6, 2019

On Aug. 16, Colorado State University System institutions will join community members and partners from Arapahoe Community College (ACC), Douglas County School District (DCSD), and the Town of Castle Rock for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of Sturm Collaboration Campus in Castle Rock – a project more than four years in the making.

ACC originally conceptualized the campus in response to the identified needs of educating people where they are, and cultivating vibrant communities in the south metro region. In the past, Douglas County residents seeking four-year degrees had to travel outside their home region, but Sturm Collaboration Campus wants to change that.

The Castle Rock Economic Development Council and ACC partnered to host a series of focus groups to gather feedback and insight from local businesses and ensure the project’s alignment with industry needs. Faculty and staff from CSU institutions and DCSD joined the discussions to help identify educational pathways that would best support the community and close the state’s skills gap in high-growth and emerging industries.

Ultimately, the partners settled on offering courses and degree pathways in information technology and cybersecurity, business and accounting, healthcare, entrepreneurship, and general education – allowing students to begin obtaining college credit in high school, finish an associate’s degree at ACC, and then continue two additional years of coursework to receive a bachelor’s degree from one of CSU’s campuses.

“Sturm Collaboration Campus fits the mission of a 21st-century land-grant university system – and utilizes the diverse and complementary resources of all three CSU campuses,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System, which includes CSU in Fort Collins, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global. “Through this robust partnership with ACC and Douglas County School District, we’re meeting students where they are geographically, and providing a pathway that allows students who may not otherwise be able to obtain a four-year degree, to do so.”

All three CSU System institutions are directly involved with the project. CSU Pueblo will offer a degree completion program in cybersecurity and software development; from the Fort Collins campus, CSU Online and the CSU College of Business will partner to host a business degree completion program with an accounting concentration; CSU Global has offered bachelor’s degree completion programs for ACC students long before conversations around the new campus in Castle Rock began, and also offers a 10 percent tuition discount to all staff and faculty of ACC and DCSD, including the opportunity for DCSD faculty to complete the required graduate coursework to teach dual enrollment courses in English or math to high school students.

“The new Sturm Collaboration Campus enables more students with nontraditional educational paths to complete their undergraduate degree,” said Beth Walker, dean of the CSU College of Business. “This is an incredible community partnership to expand the skills of today’s workforce and broaden opportunities for everyone.”

CSU Online played an integral role in coordinating the successful launch of the accounting degree program at the new campus.

“CSU Online has been in the distance education game for decades,” said Amy Smith, associate provost of CSU Online. “This partnership represents a unique opportunity to contribute our expertise to help make this vision a reality.”

The two-phase project will consist of two buildings – with around 42,000 square feet of usable space in the Phase 1 building – on a 14-acre lot at the northeast corner of The Meadows community in Castle Rock. The CSU System will lease two classroom spaces from ACC in the first building and intends to support additional degree completion programs within the second building, which is slated for future development.

Collaboration, exemplified

Sturm Collaboration Campus partners raise shovels commemorating the site’s groundbreaking on May 18, 2018.

Living up to its name, Sturm Collaboration Campus represents an unprecedented, highly collaborative approach to educational pathways for Colorado students, with partners from K-12 schools, community colleges, higher education institutions, industry, and the public sector contributing their time, skills, and resources to ensure the project’s accessibility and relevance.

Initial funding for the campus was provided by the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) and ACC. Given the project’s unique approach to educational pathways and its focus on community impact, the Colorado-based Sturm Family Foundation contributed an additional donation of up to $10 million to support the campus’s buildout – the largest donation to any one of CCCS’s 13 campuses in history – which will go towards operations and technology upgrades with matching opportunities for scholarships, an innovation fund for staff, and investment in Phase 2. The Town of Castle Rock contributed an in-kind investment of $3 million over three to five years for site improvements such as utilities, grading, and parking.

“This is really a unique partnership, and I honestly think this speaks to what people are talking about when they reference delivering education in the 21st century,” said Kathay Rennels, special advisor to the Chancellor at the CSU System. “People want their education in place, real-time, and convenient.”

Rennels has been heavily involved with the campus’ development since the CSU System was first brought to the table more than four years ago due to its ongoing engagement efforts across the state. Joined by then-colleagues from the CSU Office of Engagement, she participated in regular meetings with external partners and entities from CSU System institutions to incorporate programming to align closely with the University’s land-grant mission.

Sturm Collaboration Campus also will be home to the CSU Office of Engagement’s second Regional Engagement Hub in Colorado. The University’s Regional Engagement Hub Network creates a platform for the CSU System to serve and engage with communities across the state through research opportunities, student support programs, and work-based learning opportunities.

The Northeast Regional Engagement Center, located in Sterling, Colorado, was the first hub to be created and has shared University resources with Northeastern Junior College, Morgan Community College, and residents in seven northeastern Colorado counties since 2011.

Jill Garber serves as the director of the new hub at Sturm Collaboration Campus, working with communities, businesses, and educators to coordinate academic and community-based programming and services.

Garber, a 17-year resident of Castle Rock with deep ties to the local community, sees the campus as a key driver of economic development for the Town of Castle Rock and the south metro region.

“We want to continue to provide jobs locally and cultivate that talent,” said Garber.

“CSU’s College of Business is proud to be part of this work with Douglas County Schools and the Sturm Collaboration Campus that truly supports our mission of transforming lives.”

— Beth Walker, dean of the CSU College of Business

Affordable, accessible, state-of-the-art

Castle Rock’s population has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and growth is expected to continue with the rest of the state. The campus’s location will create access for students who may not have previously felt college was an option available to them.

“Research demonstrates that college credits earned during high school pave a path for cost savings to attain a postsecondary degree,” said Fida Obeidi, ACC’s interim dean and director of instructional innovation. “This supports families and students who otherwise might not be able to gain access to higher education.”

Affordability played a significant role in determining tuition costs for the various programs being offered. As an example, tuition for the business and accounting program offered by CSU Online and the CSU College of Business in Fort Collins will cost $381 per credit hour, roughly $200 less than the average cost per college credit hour in the U.S.

Early rendering of ground-level community space at the new Sturm Collaboration Campus.

Students following CSU Pueblo’s cybersecurity degree pathway will have the opportunity to begin concurrent enrollment in high school, maintain full-time enrollment throughout higher education, and graduate in as few as four years for as little as $30,000. According to BestColleges.com’s list of Best Online Cybersecurity Programs, the average tuition cost of the top 14 four-year accredited online or hybrid cybersecurity degree programs in the U.S. is nearly $60,000.

Reducing tuition costs and providing remote access to courses will allow students the flexibility to live at home while accomplishing a four-year degree and save money that may otherwise be spent on expenses such as room and board and transportation.

The campus’s state-of-the-art technology will improve students’ access to the available courses, which will be especially important to those who may have difficulty attending classes in-person due to job schedules, household responsibilities, or mobility challenges.

Sturm Collaboration Campus is utilizing SyncRTC’s mashme.io video collaboration technology to deliver higher education curriculum within a more accessible, collaborative, and blended learning environment. The mashme.io technology will be hosted in one of the campus’s classrooms, with 18 ultra-high-definition digital panels. Five mashme.io “delegate” rooms will feature high-definition video screens and virtual seats, allowing both remote and local students to participate in virtual, blended sessions.

“We are going to use the latest and cutting-edge technology to bring innovations to teaching and learning,” said Obeidi.

Inside the new Sturm Collaboration Campus.

Seamless pathways

Starting in their junior year of high school, Douglas County students will have the opportunity to take concurrent enrollment courses in their chosen pathway that feed directly into two-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Science (AS), or Associate of Arts (AA) degrees with ACC; credits earned will then carry into degree completion programs within CSU or CSU Pueblo. Students will be equipped with the skills and degrees to enter today’s workforce in their desired career field — without leaving the region.

Students’ concurrent enrollment curricula will also include work-based learning programs with local companies, including job shadowing, mentorships, internships, and paid apprenticeships.

Dr. Bruce Raymond, dean of CSU Pueblo’s Hasan School of Business, has played a critical role in establishing CSU Pueblo’s involvement with the campus. Working with his counterparts at ACC, he created a new credit system to ensure that the cybersecurity program mirrors the existing four-year degree program. 

Roughly 10,000 of 28,000 cybersecurity-related jobs in Colorado remain open today, due in large part to a lack of vetted, industry-aligned training programs.

CSU Pueblo was designated as a U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (NSA-CAE/CDE) in 2016 and is home to the Center for Cyber Security Education and Research (CCSER). With nationally recognized seals of approval, Raymond is confident that students who complete this pathway at Sturm Collaboration Campus will be in high-demand by Colorado companies with vacant cybersecurity-related positions.

Kathay Rennels, special advisor to the Chancellor at the CSU System, addresses local community and project partners during Sturm Collaboration Campus groundbreaking ceremony on May 18, 2018.

Looking ahead

More than 500 students have enrolled for the first round of courses offered by ACC, and nearly 100 high school students will take concurrent enrollment courses with ACC on the campus in the fall of 2019. CSU campuses will also host the first cohort of students in August.

“This is an amazing opportunity, and it’s really satisfying to see all of the CSU System participating,” said Rennels. “The exciting part is what will happen now.”

The Sturm Collaboration Campus grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held 2-6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, 2019, at 4500 Limelight Ave., Castle Rock, Colorado. Community members are invited to attend and enjoy interactive campus tours alongside faculty and staff from the schools and organizations that have brought the site’s vision to reality.

For more information on planned programming and future opportunities at Sturm Collaboration Campus, visit arapahoe.edu/about-acc/locations/castle-rock.

About the Colorado State University System

The Colorado State University System encompasses three distinct universities: CSU, a leading public research university and the state’s only land-grant institution, located in Fort Collins; CSU Pueblo, a regional-serving campus and federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution; and CSU-Global, the nation’s first fully accredited online university. The CSU System’s institutions serve nearly 60,000 students annually. Learn more about the CSU System and its institutions, projects, and partnerships at csusystem.edu.