Phoenix Employer Offers Free Glendale Community College Classes At Work

Published: Monday, July 22, 2019 - 5:05am

Glendale Community College is taking its classes on the road. It’s part of a partnership between the college and a large employer.

Twice a week, professors like Kendra Swensen hold classes at a campus in northwest Phoenix — the campus for Discover Financial Services. Her students are first- and second-line managers at the call center.

“They’re giving up their lunch hour and then the company has agreed to give them up from their day-to-day job for an hour,” she said.

Students take classes paid for by Discover and tailored to their work — like employee performance reviews.

“And we would actually utilize their real-life examples, and it got to the point that we’d come to class and as soon as we come in: ‘Okay, I’ve got a really good one for today’ and we would spend time talking about that particular human resource issue,” Swensen said.

Swensen is the Discover faculty lead and single point of contact between GCC and the company. When she presented the courses to upper management, she recalled one company vice president questioning a class she created called "The Art of Storytelling."

“I said, well as your employees or managers go and go to presentations and try to communicate business ideas and concepts, a lot of people struggle with how to do that successfully,” she explained. “And so the art of storytelling is going to help them put together more successful and effective presentations and help them communicate the benefits of their proposed solution or their proposed program to upper management and they just loved that.”

The partnership between Discover and GCC began with a pilot in the spring of 2016 with 26 students. They completed six classes, which equaled 18 credits to earn an Organizational Leadership certificate in spring 2017. A second certification program began in late 2017 and led to 24 students graduating in December 2018.

Swensen said GCC launched a program in January for Discover employees that completed the certification program and wanted to earn associate’s degrees in organizational management. Those classes are currently underway at Discover’s campus off Interstate 17 near Loop 101.

“There is no way I could go back to school without this program,” Bryanna Gelner, a 10-year Discover employee, said in a prepared statement. “I have a young son and live far away so juggling work, caring for my child, and the drive time to GCC would be impossible.”

By summer 2021, employees are expected to earn their degrees, and, if interested, they can pursue bachelor’s degrees through a partnership with GCC and Northern Arizona University. The partnership involves GCC professors teaching 90 credits of the 120 credits required for the bachelor’s degree program with NAU professors teaching the remaining 30 units on-site at Discover.

Swensen said GCC is anxious to replicate the program with other businesses.

Editor’s Note: KJZZ is licensed to the Maricopa County Community College District.

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