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Inside the List: How Grand Canyon University keeps its curriculum updated to meet the needs of today’s workforce

Phoenix Business Journal

When it comes to assessing his university’s progress as well as its plans for the future, Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller has a positive outlook on both.

In conducting our annual survey for the Phoenix Business Journal’s Colleges & Universities list, we offered optional questions to the respondents. Mueller, who is both president of Grand Canyon University and CEO of Grand Canyon Education (Nasdaq: LOPE), provided detailed answers to our questions.

What is your institution’s primary focus in improving its curriculum over the next two years? GCU’s curriculum is centrally created and every course in every program goes through a standardized process every three years in which the curriculum is assessed and adjustments made to ensure it is current and meeting the needs of today’s workforce.

Our goal is to add 20 new academic programs every year. We look at where the jobs are and where the economy is going by regularly consulting with our 21 advisory boards and their 564 members who are industry professionals in Arizona. In the past 10 years, GCU has added programs in high-growth job fields such as engineering, computer science, cybersecurity, counseling and hospitality.

GCU also is continually expanding its curriculum opportunities in job fields where there are significant shortages. Here are three examples:

  • GCU added Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs by creating new sites in Tucson, Sun City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, and will be expanding into many other states in the coming years.
  • GCU created opportunities for its teacher candidates to serve as paid substitute teachers in Arizona schools that don’t have enough teachers. This benefits both the schools and our students.
  • Launched an electricians’ pre-apprenticeship program in which, after just one semester (16 credits), students can complete the pre-apprenticeship program and become qualified to move into an electricians’ apprenticeship and begin a professional career in a growing field that has a shortage of qualified electricians.

What is your institution doing to make life better for the residents of your area? GCU has in place a comprehensive and ambitious plan to transform our community through several public-private partnerships and initiatives.

GCU employs, along with its partners, more than 14,000 people in west Phoenix. As the university has grown, GCU and its partners now create an annual economic impact of $2.1 billion according to a study by Elliott Pollack & Co. GCU has also launched 10 new business enterprises, including a hotel, golf course, two public restaurants, a merchandise company, a student ad agency and coffee and pizza companies. These enterprises provide management opportunities for recent graduates and employment opportunities for nearly 500 graduates, students and local residents, while also providing an economic stimulus for west Phoenix.

In this first-of-its-kind partnership, GCU provides the funding and manpower to renovate an entire community of homes in its neighborhood through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Since 2015, more than $4.6 million has been raised and more than 29,000 volunteer hours contributed to renovate 421 homes in our community. Median home values have risen 789% in the 85017 ZIP code since 2011.

As part of a partnership with CityServe and its collaborative network of faith-based nonprofits, corporate, retail, farm and food supply partners, GCU has created 87,000 square feet of warehouse space on its campus that will provide millions of dollars worth of household goods to families in need.

GCU is having a significant impact on public and private K-12 schools in the community through two groundbreaking initiatives. Its Learning Lounge program provides free tutoring and mentoring to students in high school. The university also created a scholarship program for Phoenix-area students who seek academic assistance in the Learning Lounge.


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