Business Development Community Education Fara Illich April 27, 2018

(Photo: Fara Illich)

When the University of Arizona Eller College of Management moved its satellite MBA programs from Scottsdale to Downtown Phoenix in 2014, it caught a wave of momentum.
The wave: more than $5.5 billion invested in greater downtown since 2005, not only in the form of higher education institutions, but in areas of transportation, office and retail development, restaurants, arts and culture, and other key amenities.
“We really wanted to go where the people are and where the market is, and that’s increasingly in the Phoenix area,” said Amy Schmitz, the assistant dean of marketing and communications at UofA.
With 158 students currently enrolled across programs, Eller College is a small but growing presence downtown. Since the move from Scottsdale, enrollment is up 32 percent since 2013.
Based out of the 30-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus, Eller shares a physical footprint with the UofA colleges of medicine, pharmacy, nursing and public health — allowing for collaboration and efficiencies across schools.

Why the Biomedical Campus is good for business

Right now, the college offers two part-time MBA programs for working professionals — an Evening MBA and Executive MBA.
In addition to being closer to the rest of the UofA family, moving the graduate business programs to a biomedical and innovation hub offered key long-term benefits, according to Schmitz.
UofA is one of nine major Biomedical Campus tenants, which includes all three state universities, as well as private partners like the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the International Genomics Consortium.
It is precisely this proximity that makes urban campuses more likely to boost economic activity than their rural, suburban and small-town counterparts, according to a 2017 report by the Brookings Institution.
The data shows that downtown universities produce more patents, corporate partnerships and startups, acting as both economic anchors for the cities where they’re located, and the region.
For this reason, the entire University of Arizona is looking increase its strategic partnership with Phoenix, and downtown in particular. So being part of the Biomedical Campus, and more broadly, being within Arizona’s business and government center — definitely aligns with that mission.
“It’s one of the fastest growing cities in the United States and the fifth largest, so it only makes sense for the premier business school in the state to be in such a vibrant location and to serve that population,” Schmitz said.

Downtown as ‘hub for higher education’

Eller College of Management is home to more than 7,000 undergraduate, graduate and PhD students and will continue to maintain a strong home base in Tucson, where it also has several centers of excellence and research labs.
But expanding to the Downtown Phoenix market, and particularly the Biomedical Campus, opened doors of opportunity for the school, as well as other downtown stakeholders.
According to David Krietor, president and CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc., having a graduate business school added to the list of higher education options provides a major benefit to those working downtown, especially mid-career executives.
“Downtown is becoming a hub for higher education,” he said. “It would be hard to go anywhere else and find Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University — all within walking distance.”
To have the collective student population and faculty part of the downtown fabric “is a big plus” for the community, according to Krietor.
“It’s something that might have been a dream 15 years ago, but now we’re looking at the reality of those universities significantly contributing to the vibrancy of downtown, and at the same time, downtown is helping those universities better-connect many of their students,” he said.

More transit and amenity options for students

Connectivity, and particularly public transit, played a major role in Eller’s relocation downtown, according to Schmitz.
The college initially launched its part-time MBA programs in north Scottsdale back in 2006, where it was housed in a traditional suburban office park.
Downtown’s central location in the Valley, as well as a growing list of restaurants, things to do, residential options, light rail and other conveniences certainly helped attract the school.
“We also wanted to better serve our students, and while we had great success in Scottsdale, we felt that with the shifts taking place in Phoenix, the downtown location made more sense for us to really serve our students,” she said.
Following suit, Arizona State University recently announced plans in December to move the Thunderbird School of Global Management, previously located in Glendale, to the Downtown Phoenix campus. A new, state-of-the-art building is slated for the vacant site adjacent to the Beus Center for Law and Society, north of Polk Street between First and Second streets.