Education Shake-up

Posted by Paula Paine on February 11, 2011 in Arizona, Communiversity, education, "School of Education"

Mover. Shaker. These are words that described Todd Aakhus ’00 AZ in a recent Phoenix area magazine article that featured him for his innovative work as director of community partnerships at Rio Salado College in Arizona. Aakhus definitely fulfills the meaning of those descriptors as he works to bring the curriculum of different colleges, includingOttawa University, together to offer students progressive degrees in one location.

This new educational concept, the Communiversity @ Surprise, was launched in 2009 and offers programs from three community colleges, two universities and a high school district, in partnership with the City of Surprise, Arizona. With more than 40 educational programs offered in the partnership, Aakhus is responsible for streamlining programming and services while working closely with educational partners to offer students of all ages and life stages pathways to meet their educational goals. Over the past 12 months, more than 1,000 students have enrolled in Communiversity programs, and during the remainder of the 2010- 2011 academic year, the Communiversity is forecasting substantial growth.

Aakhus’ own educational pathways have led him back to where he began his educational journey, at Rio Salado College, where he earned an associate’s degree in 1987. He followed his associate’s degree with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Arizona State University, a Master of Arts in Human Resources from Ottawa University-Arizona in 2000, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Education from Walden University in 2008. It’s not déjà vu that he’s feeling, working at Rio Salado College and working with Ottawa University; it’s a passion for education and helping others be successful in their educational pursuits.

At the Communiversity, Aakhus works with OU administration and staff on a regular basis. “Some of the folks I work with are friends from when I was a student at Ottawa,” he said. “They are like family to me.” Ottawa University is one of the largest contributors to the Communiversity model. OU’s eightweek terms align with the Communiversity’s schedule, and OU’s students benefit from the expanded articulation agreements available. OU currently offers bachelor’s degrees in four program pathways at the Communiversity and is in the process of expanding those offerings.

In addition to his work with the Communiversity, Aakhus is responsible for the Rio Salado College Lifelong Learning Center, which offers community education programs and hosts the college’s RISE Learning for Life program, one of 200 Institutes for Learning in Retirement in the nation. He establishes partnerships with community agencies, businesses and professional associations to ensure the success of these programs.

By definition, a mover/shaker is a “powerful and influential person.” Todd Aakhus doesn’t hold the power of success for the students at the Communiversity or in other Rio Salado College programs, but he most certainly is the influence behind the successful partnerships, program offerings and ultimate achievements of the students in those programs, because without someone like Aakhus working behind the scenes, they just may not exist.