Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and University President Michael Crow discuss the impact that ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus has had on the area since it opened in 2006.
The campus is currently home to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the College of Nursing and Health Innovations, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and other university disciplines. The Thunderbird School of Global Management, currently located in Glendale, will soon be joining the downtown scene. It’s expected to be completed and ready to welcome students by January 2021.
“I think the way you quantify it [the effect of the campus] is in the change of center mass,” Crow says. “We now have a center mass for the metropolitan area. We have a vibrant downtown Phoenix, and I think ASU was a significant contributor to the building of energy vector in downtown Phoenix that can be sustained.”
Crow says that in deciding where to build a new campus, the leadership team saw Phoenix as a place where students could build connections to businesses, local government and social enterprises. He says the success of the campus is exactly what they envisioned, but Stanton says it’s better than he ever predicted.
“It was hard at first to get people’s minds around it. Remember, there wasn’t much of anything in downtown Phoenix at the time the ASU project was thought about and discussed,” Stanton says. “It’s bigger than I ever expected. Remember we don’t have only the original ASU project, but they’ve grown consistently in partnership with Phoenix in terms of the law school and the Thunderbird school now coming downtown.”
Stanton says the university was lucky to gain Crow as a president because he saw the necessity of the school having an urban presence. His goal was to expand a university that wasn’t trapped by walls and boundaries. He says he wanted the university to be where people worked and lived. With that in mind, he says it was obvious a campus needed to be downtown.
“The light bulb moment for me was, Phoenix is this great emerging new model of a city,” Crow says. “It’s a modern city and highly advanced technologically. It’s a post-ethnic city, it’s evolving in a new kind of way. We saw this huge opportunity to be a university in many places with a fabulous 15-20,000 student campus in downtown Phoenix.”
Luckily, ASU had strong support from the city council and city leadership to make this goal a reality. The decision was sent to the people for a vote and they voted in favor of the university. Once the ball was rolling, ASU received more funding from philanthropy and private sectors. Crow says he understood the difficulty of getting it done, but what kept him going was the understanding that it was doable.
“There is no better and bigger city-university relationship over the last 10 to 15 years than Phoenix and Arizona State University,” Stanton says. “What has happened in downtown Phoenix and what’s going to happen up in North Phoenix near the Mayo Clinic doesn’t happen elsewhere. I think the voters of Phoenix would say they have not made a single better investment.”
Having students in the downtown area has caused a cascade of positive effects from advancing the city’s efforts in climate change policy to helping advance the issue of disconnected youth. Stanton says the university’s outreach into the community has transformed the city to become smarter, more compassionate and empathetic.
Twelve years later, the downtown campus is home to the ninth highest ranked school of public affairs in the country, the fifth highest rank school of criminology in the country, the number one school of journalism in the country, a top two law school and many advancements in other disciplines.