Growing up in Sedalia, Colorado, identical twins Antonio and Ernesto Gesi took nearly every class together through elementary, middle, high school and now – college. After years of learning together, the twins celebrated the end of their schooling in May 2021 as the first graduating class of the Colorado State University/Arapahoe Community College Sturm Collaboration Campus in Castle Rock, Colo.
As the first graduates from the Sturm campus, Antonio and Ernesto are trailblazers in the Castle Rock community.
Bringing the University to the Castle Rock Community
Opened in 2019, the Sturm Collaboration Campus is a partnership between Arapahoe Community College (ACC), Douglas County School District, and the Colorado State University System, combining the diverse resources of the three CSU campuses (CSU Fort Collins, CSU Pueblo, and CSU Global).
The Castle Rock campus offers educational solutions for the modern learner: meeting students where they are geographically, cultivating vibrant communities, connecting through experiential learning opportunities, and creating a career pipeline for local talent. Previously, residents of the south metro region seeking four-year degrees had to travel far from home, but the Sturm campus is changing that.
“There really isn’t another four-year program available so close, and you get a really good, high-quality education,” said Antonio. “The Sturm campus was set up for students like us. It was a great opportunity that presented itself at just the right moment.”
The Sturm Collaboration Campus offers degrees in business, health and technology and provides a smooth pathway from high school diploma to associate degree to bachelor’s degree. High school students can start college-level academics and career exploration during their junior and senior years through ACC’s Concurrent Enrollment program. Students can then earn an ACC associate degree and further their education with a bachelor’s degree from CSU, all in one place.
A Hybrid College Experience
Sturm employs state-of-the-art technology to connect students in Castle Rock with their counterparts at other CSU campuses in real-time, allowing students to participate in classes remotely via video-conferencing technology.
Falene Young, CSU Accounting Lecturer & BSBA Program Coordinator, identified the technology as a strength of the Sturm Collaboration Campus.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with large classes that fill an auditorium (in pre-COVID times), down to very small class settings with only a few students,” said Young. “It has also been great to witness successful hybrid instruction through CSU’s Mosaic program. In this setting, our Castle Rock students virtually attend live classes being taught at the Fort Collins campus. They have the ability to interact with the instructor and rest of the class in real-time.”
In addition to remote classes via video conference, the hybrid structure includes a combination of fully-online and in-person classes, allowing students to enjoy a more flexible and personalized college experience.
“It’s really cool to have a mixture of the in-person and online classes,” said Antonio. “In-person is really good for learning, online is really great for balancing your schedule. Even while working, I never felt overburdened. The hybrid program makes for a balanced college experience.”
Preparing Students for the Workforce
Antonio and Ernesto graduated from the accounting program at Sturm with Associate degrees in Business from ACC and Bachelor of Science degrees in Business Administration – Accounting from CSU.
The accounting program places students in workforce internships, setting them up for long-term success.
“Participating in the career events helped me obtain my internship, which definitely helped set me up for success going forward,” said Ernesto.
The faculty in CSU’s accounting department are also highly involved and dedicated to the success of their students.
“All the teachers have been very supportive and very helpful. My professor, Falene Young, sent me an email and I applied through the link that was provided…it was certainly something CSU did for me to get that job,” said Antonio.
Ernesto recently completed a Tax Internship with CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA). Antonio is currently employed as an Accounting Consultant with Plante Moran.
Supporting Local Business and Economic Development
The degree options offered at Sturm were strategically chosen based on the needs of the community, industry growth potential, and opportunities to support economic development.
“Accounting has been identified as a high growth industry in Colorado and Douglas County,” said Young. “Sturm Collaboration Campus’ focus on developing our business talent pool comes at the perfect time. We serve a community that previously did not have a direct link to a four-year institution. Instead of spending time and money on commuting to the north or south, students now have the opportunity to pursue business locally.”
Jill Garber, Director of CSU Collaboration Campuses, works with communities, businesses, and educators to coordinate academic and community-based programming and services. She sees the campus as a local talent pipeline for Castle Rock and the south metro region.
“Primary employers in Castle Rock now have access to a local talent pipeline and trained workforce,” said Garber. “By cultivating and retaining talent locally, we’re supporting Castle Rock’s development climate.”
Welcoming the Next Generation of Sturm Students
While Antonio and Ernesto may be the first generation of students to graduate with four-year degrees from the Sturm Campus, they certainly won’t be the last. With graduation now behind them, Antonio and Ernesto shared some advice for future Sturm students:
“Be willing to adapt,” said Antonio. “It is a brand-new program, but you get a lot of support from faculty and staff.”
“You’ll need to put in the work. It can be challenging, but also very fulfilling. If you can, pursue an internship or part-time job. It’s a great experience and can count toward your college credit,” said Ernesto.
“Overall, Sturm was a great experience for us and I’m sure it will be for other students as well. It was close to home, a degree we wanted, and a combination of in-person and online,” said Antonio. “It’s a great way to set yourself up for success going forward.”
Learn More About Opportunities at Sturm
The Sturm Collaboration Campus offers educational opportunities from across the CSU System.
- CSU Fort Collins: Business Administration – Accounting
- CSU Pueblo: Computer Information Systems – Cybersecurity of Software Development
- Designed for students who have completed an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) Degree in Cybersecurity or Secure Software Development at Arapahoe Community College, this program allows students to earn a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Information Systems with emphasis in either Cybersecurity or Software Development from CSU Pueblo’s distinguished Hasan School of Business. Learn more.
- CSU Global: Lifelong Learning and Community Partnerships
- As the fully online, independently accredited university in the CSU System, CSU Global supports the Sturm Collaboration Campus with flexible, anywhere-access to lifelong learning opportunities and career-relevant success. Learn more.
- Rafa Hernandez, Senior, Journalism & Media Communications
- Annie Albrecht, Communications Coordinator, CSU Office of Engagement and Extension