Westminster College looks to expand to Mesa, AZ

Apr 23, 2012

Westminster College in Fulton is attempting to open a new branch campus in Mesa, Arizona.

The Mesa City Council is slated to vote April 26 on a measure that would allow negotiation about leasing Mesa’s old city court building to Westminster College for 5 years. According to a press release, Westminster proposes offering three programs at the campus in Mesa: Transnational Studies, International Business and Environmental Studies.

This would be Westminster College’s first “branch campus.” The press release says students would have the opportunity to move between the two campuses, in order to experience the different cultures in Missouri and Arizona. Westminster proposes starting classes in Mesa in fall 2013. The projected enrollment for the branch campus would be 560 students by the year 2018.

Westminster College and Mesa city leaders held a press conference in Arizona Monday to announce the agreement.

Here is the full press release:

WESTMINSTER ON VERGE OF FIRST EVER BRANCH CAMPUS IN ARIZONA

Westminster College officials joined city officials in Mesa, AZ, today to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that would bring the first ever branch campus of Westminster to downtown Mesa in fall 2013.

“On behalf of the entire Westminster College community, I want to say how excited we are to form this partnership with the City of Mesa,” says Westminster President Dr. George B. Forsythe.  “Both the City and the College will benefit from the opportunities for growth afforded by our collaboration.  Mesa will benefit by having an historic liberal arts college in the city and Westminster will benefit by extending the College’s profile to a growing region of the country.  We are eager to get started and look forward to meeting members of the community in the near future.”

Westminster Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Muehlhauser, President Dr. George B. Forsythe, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Carolyn Perry and Professor Bob Seelinger were all present at the Mesa City Council Chambers for the 3 p.m. (MST) official ceremony.

“Partnering a growing engaged community with a college which has been providing outstanding educational experiences for over 160 years looks like a win-win,” says Chair of the Westminster College Board of Trustees Robert Muehlhauser.  “Westminster College and the City of Mesa are creating an opportunity to have a positive and lasting effect on the lives of many.  I congratulate President Forsythe and Mayor Smith and other officials involved for their foresight and determination to move this initiative forward.”

Mesa officials at the announcement included Mesa Mayor Smith, City Manager Chris Brady and City Councilman Chris Glover.

Westminster College has an outstanding academic reputation and a wonderful tradition and it is quite an honor they have selected Mesa for their first branch campus,” says Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.  “This announcement is more proof that we are achieving our goals to expand higher education options and economic development opportunities in Mesa.”

The Westminster branch campus is proposed at 245 W. 2nd Street in a 53,000 square feet facility that was formerly the Mesa City Court building.  Adjacent parking is available for faculty, staff and students.  The Mesa Center for Higher Education would be a shared academic space with Westminster the first institution of higher education to occupy it.

Westminster plans to offer major programs in three areas at its Mesa campus—International Business, Environmental Studies and Transnational Studies.  Westminster has one of only two undergraduate transnational study programs in the United States.  Minor programs in pre-med and pre-law will be offered as well.

Westminster students will have the unique opportunity of being able to move between the two campuses to broaden their educational and personal experiences, enjoying the differences in the cultures of Missouri and Arizona.

“The opportunity to take our Westminster education to Mesa opens up a host of opportunities to students in the Midwest as well as the Southwest,” says Dr. Carolyn Perry, Westminster Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. “The programs we are offering and the partnerships we are forming will give all our students—those in Fulton and Mesa—a deeply enriching education.  We plan to see our Fulton students come to Mesa for a semester, summer, or year, to engage in an urban experience, take special classes and take part in outstanding internships.  Because we will be one college with two campuses, we will be able to offer all our students a superior grounding in the practical liberal arts, a dynamic developmental experience, while learning within a global context.”

Westminster officials have already selected Dr. Robert A. Seelinger, Westminster Professor of Classics, to serve as Dean of the Mesa branch campus.

“It is a tremendous honor to have the opportunity to serve as Dean and to work closely with members of the Mesa community to establish a campus of Westminster College in the very heart of the city of Mesa,” says Dr. Seelinger.  “I have had the good fortune to serve Westminster in a number of capacities and look forward to applying my previous experience as Dean of Faculty, Director of Assessment and Professor of Classics to this unique and exciting partnership with the community of Mesa.”

A MOU is a non-binding document designed to establish a period of exclusive negotiations between the City and Westminster to finalize a development agreement.

The goal is to negotiate a five-year lease between Westminster and the City of Mesa.  The Mesa City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal at its April 26 meeting.

In addition to allowing the City of Mesa to reuse a city-owned building for educational purposes near its light rail line, city officials believe the new Westminster campus will attract more students to the downtown, increase the vibrancy of the urban core, create new high paying jobs, increase the higher education offerings for resident and attract students from outside the region and the state.

Mesa is the third largest city in Arizona and the 38th largest city in the United States.    Major industries include Boeing and Empire Southwest/Caterpillar.  The Mesa Arts Center across the street from the new Westminster branch campus is the largest arts center in Arizona and Mesa is the spring training location for the Chicago Cubs. 

“This is an exciting step toward making Mesa a destination for higher education,” says District 4 City Councilman Chris Glover.

Founded in 1851, Westminster College is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation, according to the rankings of U.S.News & World Report.  Forbes magazine selected Westminster as one of America’s Top Colleges and Universities, one of the Best Liberal Arts College in Missouri, and one of the Best Liberal Arts Colleges in America.   The Princeton Review recently named the College as one of the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the tenth straight year.  Newsweek-Kaplan named it “One of the 372 Most Interesting Schools in America” and Westminster has also been recognized as one of 240 Colleges of Distinction.  This selective college for men and women is situated on an 86-acre residential campus with small class sizes taught by an excellent faculty.  Westminster is a challenging academic environment where students are educated to lead and inspired to succeed.