Castle Rock, Colorado, is one of the fastest growing cities in the state, with 19.5-percent growth in the past six years. Previously, 80 percent of residents commuted outside the city for work; however, citizens in Castle Rock and greater Douglas County, Colorado, have a newfound commitment to transform the city into a standalone community that offers residents an abundance of career opportunities.

In response, Arapahoe Community College (ACC), the town of Castle Rock, Castle Rock Economic Development Council, Colorado State University (CSU), and the Douglas County School District (DCSD) formed a joint venture to change the educational landscape for local students and the surrounding community. The alliance is also serving as a national model for communities seeking to create a collaborative higher-ed hub that builds a local talent pipeline and drives regional and state-wide economic growth.

Creating a collaborative higher-ed hub

When it opens this fall, the Arapahoe Community College Sturm Collaboration Campus will offer learners a seamless transition from high school diploma to associate degree to bachelor’s degree to career, with the goal of having multiple on- and off-ramps along the way.

An innovative approach to education opens pathways in Colorado #highered

ACC will own and operate the facility and will lease space to DCSD, CSU, and local businesses to generate capital and to provide built-in partnerships. Designed by DLR Group, the Sturm Collaboration Campus is strategically located between Castle Rock Adventist Hospital, one of the largest employers in Castle Rock, and Castle View High School, one of the largest high schools in the county, reinforcing the desired connection between K-12, higher education, and industry.

In March 2019, ACC received a private gift of up to $10 million from the Sturm Family Foundation, the largest in the history of the 13-institution Colorado Community College System. Approximately half of the Sturm’s gift will be immediately invested in several areas, including program and staffing startup and state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Matching dollars raised by the ACC Foundation will augment a unique program innovation fund, an endowed scholarship fund, and an investment in the future phase II of the campus.

About the Author:

Eric Dunker, Ph.D., is dean of business, technology & workforce partnerships at Arapahoe Community College in Colorado and has co-led the Sturm Collaboration Campus academic, partnership, and program planning. He can be reached at Eric.Dunker@arapahoe.edu.

DLR Group Principal Bob Binder, AIA, leads the firm’s higher education studio in Colorado. He can be reached at bbinder@dlrgroup.com.


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