High-tech college’s new campus designed to spark students’ creative energy

Posted By Mike Padgett

Jan. 8, 2009

If he were standing in his old office at Collins College in Tempe, President Joshua Padron’s voice would echo off the walls. The office was bare. Good thing he was on vacation. Everything was gone – his desk, chair, computer and the executive accoutrements one could find in a college president’s office.

His office furnishings had been muscled onto moving trucks and hauled to his new office at his high-tech college of creativity’s new home in Phoenix. Padron is hopeful that someday his college’s future graduates will include the entertainment world’s next video game wizard, or another Stephen Spielberg, the former Phoenix resident-turned-movie mogul who created Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan, to name a few.

Padron, taking a deep breath, goes silent and smiles at his visitor at the thought of a Spielberg among his graduates. He admits that he has considered inviting the entertainment giant to his school. That possible invitation is still on Padron’s list of things to do.

“We’ve been here over 10 years,” says Padron, driving away from the old campus at 1140 S. Priest Drive in Tempe. He had stopped to talk with workers who were loading one of the last moving vans. Padron was headed on this rainy day to the new campus at 4750 S. 44th Place in Phoenix. There, his employees were supervising the relocation of their furniture and computers.

Padron, his staff and others were at their desks in their new offices by Dec. 29. Students returned to classes Jan. 5. The old facility had about 90,000 square feet. The new campus, which is in leased space, has more than 70,000 square feet. Collins College also has a film studio that will remain in Tempe at 1425 W. 14th St., Suite 101, and a north campus at 9630 N. 25th Ave. in north Phoenix.

The college’s old building was an office building modified into classrooms and other facilities. Padron says the new building is smaller because it was designed specifically “for our type of education,” which consists of design and technology.

“Seventy-five percent of what you’re going to see in our square footage,” Padron says, “is now focused on the student. About 25 percent is for administration.”

Padron beams with excitement on his power walk through his new facility. He points out classrooms, study areas, the library, administration, a student lounge, placement services, and areas where students’ works will be showcased. He hints at a new and innovative program that he expects will be announced later this spring. The program is not yet ready for publicity, “but almost,” he says.

The college’s new home is in a flex-space building in Liberty Cotton Center, a 280-acre office development southwest of Broadway Road and 48th Street in southeast Phoenix. The college’s new classrooms, offices and other spaces were completed Dec. 22. It has 39 classrooms. The contractor was Gioffre Cos. in Dublin, Ohio. The architect was Interior Architects in Chicago.

“This is where our motion-capture studio will be,” Padron says, pointing out the room where students will learn the techniques used in animation for video games and for such movies as Spiderman, Batman and The Matrix.

“Our students, from the graphic design part of our program, learn all the mediums,” Padron says. “Not only the print media, but they also learn the electronic media. They’re being placed, of course, in the Internet-type of graphic design environment.”

The college’s two campuses serve about 1,200 students, most between the ages of 18 and 27. The programs include Film, Video and Visual FX; Interactive Media; and Visual Arts and Design. Tuition is about $5,000 a quarter, or $60,000 for a bachelor’s degree.

The year-round college offers bachelor’s degrees in game design; visual arts with a major in game art; graphic design; interior design; and film and video production. Associate’s degrees are offered in digital video production and graphic design.

“Everything that we do is focused on design and creativity,” Padron continues. “Keeping our students involved with new ways of thinking, areas where they are able to challenge each other and become creative, that’s what we try to do.

Collins College is a private, for-profit career college. It began in 1978 as Al Collins Graphic Design School, founded in Phoenix by Al and Florence Collins. It was moved to Tempe in 1985. In 1994, it was acquired by Career Education Corp. The north Phoenix campus was opened in 2003. Both campuses have 104 faculty and 80 other employees.

Padron says his college offers similar programs found at major universities, like Arizona State University. However, he adds, Collins’ smaller classes offer students more mentoring and more hands-on experiences. He says there are 12 students to each faculty member.

He adds that because the college offers year-round instruction, students in a bachelor’s program complete their studies in three years, instead of the typical four years at a major university.

As he pulled out of the parking lot of Collins College’s new campus, Padron says he expects his enrollment to begin increasing in response to laid-off workers seeking new skills.

“We’re expecting a great return of students who may not have finished their bachelor’s (degree) and they may want to go ahead and finish it,” he says.

Another type of student he expects to see is the employed or jobless individual who simply wants certification in a special skill, such as in PhotoShop. Collins College will consider offering those classes on Friday nights and on weekends, Padron says.

“We feel that the adult market is going to increase due to the fact that they’re losing their jobs and they’re coming back to school,” he says.


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Jan 8th, 2009

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