Benedictine University at Mesa dedicated its student services center Thursday for the campus that will open in downtown Mesa next fall.
“Secular education is not at odds with faith,” said Mayor Scott Smith at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “Since its founding, Mesa has attracted people of all beliefs.”
Hoping to bring higher education to the downtown Mesa area, Smith said that many of the private, liberal arts schools they talked to started as faith-based institutions. It was a simple fit because the universities would become a part of the community, not just be in it.
“We only met yesterday, but I already feel as if we’re kindred spirits,” said Bill Carroll, the president of Benedictine University about Mayor Smith. The two, he said, share common values.
Benedictine was the first Catholic university to announce it will open a campus in Arizona.
The recruitment office, located at 51 E. Main St., which has remained vacant for about five years and is owned by the city, was once a travel agency and a restaurant. It is the first of the incoming Mesa universities to open a physical location in the city.
The office, which will be used to promote the school, will employ about 10 workers, said Charlie Gregory, Benedictine University executive vice president.
“There’s already an atmosphere of the faith community working with and in Mesa,” said Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. “Benedictine will serve to strengthen that relationship, yield good fruits and be a great thing for young people here in Arizona.”
“Now the real work begins,” Smith said. “The real excitement will be when we welcome the first class next year.”
The university expects to welcome around 100 junior and senior transfers when it opens the Mesa campus next year, Gregory said. In the fall 2014, the school will admit its first incoming freshman class.
When the campus opens next year, the university will have about 30 faculty and staff.
The university will offer scholarships to Catholic high school graduates and to practicing Catholics in Arizona, Carroll announced. Additionally, Mesa Chamber of Commerce members and their children will receive a 25 percent discount on tuition.
“We’re not here because we have to have it to survive, we’re here because it matches our current community,” Gregory said.
“It’s really phase one of a really big project,” said Dan Withers, the founder and owner of D.L. Withers Construction, the construction company contracted to remodel the buildings. “In one of the buildings, everything but the walls are getting torn out and we’re building it back up.”
The project, Withers said, would create about 300 jobs for masons, drywallers and others.
Benedictine University at Mesa plans to expand beyond just one building, Gregory said. The campus will eventually look and feel like a traditional university campus with collegiate sports programs, dormitories, its own unique mascot, a potential exchange program between campuses and the traditional Benedictine sense of community.
“It was never our intention to be a storefront,” he said.
Students who wish to apply for transfer to the university may begin on Monday, when admissions for the campus open online.
University of Mary, Bismark, N.D., also announced earlier this year that it will partner with Arizona State Unversity to offer a major or minor in theological studies or Catholic studies.
Benedictine University also announced its advisory board for the Mesa campus Thursday.
Members of the board include David Short, executive director of the Downtown Mesa Association; councilman Dennis Kavanaugh; Leo Archer, entrepreneur and curriculum co-chair for the Mesa Leadership Training and Development Program; Sally Harrison, acting CEO of Mesa Chamber of Commerce; David Wier, a vice president and senior business sales officer with Wells Fargo Bank; MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of schools for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix; Anthony Siebers, managing director of the solar division of HukariAscendent Inc.; Jo Wilson, senior administrator and special assistant to the executive vice president at Benedictine University at Mesa; Charlie Gregory, executive vice president of Benedictine University.
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