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Engaging a Whole City to Design a New College


The Education Design Lab is excited to be working with The Catholic University of America to design prototypes for a low-cost, high quality college degree in Tucson, Arizona. With strong support from the Mayor and the Bishop of Tucson, as well as Pima Community College, the team is exploring a range of program options that could address the needs of underserved students in the area. The Southwest is the largest growth area for Catholics and there are very few opportunities to pursue a faith-based education, yet research shows that spirituality positively impacts student engagement and thriving (particularly for Latino students and other underrepresented groups).

We have spent much of the past year doing design research with local government, employer, community, and education institutions, and most importantly, students and parents. These insights point toward a model designed around the fact that most of the “new traditional” students need to work while in school, they want strong community and in person mentoring and, above all, career preparation at a highly-affordable cost.

Students deep in a design session aiming to reimagine what university looks like. 


We will continue to involve community partners and employers and families in the design process, so if you want to learn more or be involved, please contact our project team at

The Lab brings its work on employer-codesigned pathways, 21st century skills development, badging and work-integrated learning to test models that involve the whole community. We appreciate the support of the Mayor’s office, the Diocese of Tucson, Pima Community College, many high schools, many employers, as well as College Success AZ and Cradle to Career.