Center for Higher Education
What is Mesa Center for Higher Education?
By Dolores Tropiano
The City of Mesa has created a hub of higher education that may be unlike anything else being offered in the country.
A distinguished legacy institution, Wilkes University, shares academic space to form The Mesa Center for Higher Education at 245 W. 2nd St., Mesa. Classes began in the Fall of 2013. A second school, Benedictine University, also opened its doors to students at its new campus at 255 E. Main St., Mesa. “This may be the first time in the country where you have a multitude of established institutions moving into a city with the idea of building a college town,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.
The original plan was to bring in one established liberal arts college but there was more interest than expected. “The idea has really morphed into something much more exciting than we originally started with,” Smith said. “We’re creating a new model for liberal arts education in the 21th century.”
Wilkes is well established, ranging in age from 79 to 160-years-old. Both are faith-based, liberal arts institutions and each will provide a unique niche of quality education.
A unique mentoring program is at the heart of Wilkes University, out of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., which offers master’s degree programs in Business Administration, Classroom Technology, Creative Writing, Engineering Management, Mechanical Engineering, and Teaching English as a Second Language. Bachelor’s degrees, including those in Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Accounting, will be offered in future semesters.
Students will have the opportunity to take classes at both learning institutions. “This may be one of the most innovative things going on in college today,” said Patrick Lehey, president of Wilkes University.
The city is taking the lead on the project and plans to draw nearly 800 local and regional students to the 53,000-square-foot renovated court building over 5 years.
Location was a draw for the schools, which were attracted to the city’s METRO light rail, the Mesa Arts Center and the nearby Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. The institutions are also eager to offer educational opportunities to the nearly 260,000 students enrolled in two-year programs within the Maricopa County Community College system.
Mesa Center for Higher Education Quick Facts
- Shared academic space from a distinguished liberal arts colleges – Wilkes University
- Former City Courthouse; underwent state-of-the-art renovations in 2013
- 53,000 square feet total
- First floor & lower level: approximately 42,000 square feet consisting of 13 classrooms, 6 fully-equipped science and engineering labs, offices, conference rooms and numerous student study and gathering spaces
- Second floor: approximately 11,000 square feet reserved for future expansion