Arizona Western College

Our History

Since AWC was founded in 1963, the public community college has become a vital asset and resource to the communities it serves. Guided by its Strategic Plan, the college seeks to eliminate cultural, financial, time, and place barriers to education; cultivate an agile culture and institutional model that strengthens the future of the region; improve student success by leveraging technology that personalizes the student experience; and grow and sustain academic programs that fuel economic growth and position graduates for prosperity.


The Yuma County Junior College District was approved.


Dr. John Barnes was hired as AWC’s inaugural president.


Arizona Western College (AWC) opened its doors in August of this year. At the time, enrollment was projected to reach 600 students in five years, but the initial prediction underestimated the community’s desire for higher education for in the spring semester well over 900 students enrolled. By 1998, enrollment approached 8,000; and, as of spring semester 2008, enrollment stood at 12,051


The AWC Library was constructed.


AWC started its Nursing program.


Arizona Western College became accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).


In July, AWC began broadcasting as KAWC-AM 1320.

From the AWC TV Vault (Early 1980s)


Former AWC President Dr. James “Jim” Carruthers signed an agreement with then Northern Arizona University (NAU) President Eugene Hughes to create NAU-Yuma.


The TRIO KEYS Program was first implemented at Arizona Western College. The federally grant-funded program assists students in earning their associate degrees by providing a range of financial, academic, and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement, financial aid and scholarship assistance, financial literacy, cultural enrichment, grant aid awards, and transfer services – all in one location.


The Dr. Kathryn A. Watson Child Development Learning Lab became accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The CDLL provides a state-of-the-art laboratory setting where students observe and learn to work with young children as part of their college program.


The Academic Complex Computer Lab, or ACCL, first opened. The central, open-access computer lab on the Arizona Western College and Northern Arizona University in Yuma campus was an integral component of the ongoing partnership between Arizona Western College and Northern Arizona University in Yuma serving the computing technology needs of students from both institutions, as well as the general community.


AWC began its TRIO Talent Search Program. Talent Search identifies and assists middle and high school students who have the potential to succeed in higher education. At least two-thirds of the students in each local Talent Search program are from low-income economic backgrounds and families in which neither parent has a bachelor's degree. Talent Search provides these students with counseling as well as information about college admissions requirements, scholarships, and various student financial aid programs so that they can better understand their educational opportunities and options.


In South Yuma County, AWC’s San Luis Learning Center opened a new facility of 20,000 square feet.

In La Paz County, new construction of 20,000 square feet was being added to the Parker Center, and approximately 6,000 square feet in Quartzsite.

The Gadsden Math Project was started to provide the opportunity for highly-prepared middle school students to take college-level math (College Algebra and Precalculus) courses taught by AWC professors. The initiative was established by Dr. Raymond Aguilera, Everardo Martinez, Homero Chavez, and Professor Jesus Arrizon through a partnership with the Gadsden Elementary School District. Now called the South Yuma County Math and English project, the initiative expanded in 2022 to also include English courses with the support of Professor Daniel Herrera. As of 2023, over 2,000 students have enrolled in the program.


The first Student Showcase event was held at the AWC Yuma Campus to serve as a platform to highlight student projects from a variety of academic backgrounds. Over time, it has also become an opportunity for students to earn scholarships.


The Dr. James R. Carruthers Research and Education building, located on the AWC Yuma Campus, is dedicated to the former AWC President for his support in adding NAU as one of the recipients of funding from 2003 legislation for university research infrastructure projects.


AWC began inviting fifth-grade students to visit the college to inspire them to consider higher education and create a college-going culture in the community. As of October 2023, over 2,800 students have come through the I’m Going to College (IG2C) program.


The Library and Learning Resources Complex at the AWC Yuma Campus was dedicated to former District Governing Board member Steve Shadle and his wife Bobbie for their commitment to education.

AWC installed 5 MW of solar photovoltaic technology, financed via Power Purchase Agreements. As of 2023, the array has generated more than 60 million kWh and saved the campus more than $4 million in electric utilities.


AWC started the Veterans Art Project, which offers free ceramics classes for active-duty military, veterans, and their adult family members. This compelling community service project engages veterans, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic or combat-related stress disorders, and their direct support system in a healing, connective, and hands-on artistic endeavor. As of 2022, the program had served over 200 students, including widows and children of Vietnam veterans, Purple Heart recipients, and combat veterans.

In March, AWC held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new Public Safety Institute to house growing Administration of Justice, Emergency Medical Services (EMS)/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)/Paramedic, Fire Science, Homeland Security, and Law Enforcement programs all in one facility. The 8,500-square-foot building was a $1.6 million investment by the college district, developed with the help and vision of community partners from local, state, and federal law enforcement and fire agencies


A strong collaboration between the Arizona Western College Foundation and the Consulate of Mexico in Yuma, Arizona was established during a ceremony when a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed through the IME Becas program. The program of the Government of Mexico seeks to expand educational opportunities for Mexican students and those of Mexican origin living in the U.S. The fellowship program specifically aims to help low-income students earn their college degree.

The four-semester ASU@Yuma Secondary Education program began, allowing AWC students to transfer to Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College to earn their Secondary Education degree while still living in Yuma. The program offers in-person and online courses for students who wish to become middle school and high school teachers in Math, Science, History, and English Language Arts.

In November, AWC President Dr. Daniel Corr launched a 15-month Strategic Planning Initiative. He worked with the Classified Association, Faculty Senate, and the President's Cabinet to select Biridiana Martinez, Ellen Riek, and Lori Stofft as tri-chairs for this process.


In January, the Strategic Plan Kickoff took place on campus and the Task Force was launched.

AWC President Dr. Daniel Corr and the District Governing Board launched the inaugural Innovation Fund to support the development of AWC initiatives aligned with Strategic Planning. This limited-time funding is designed to encourage innovative thinking outside the parameters of the annual fiscal year budget. In the first year, nearly $184,000 was allotted for the Innovation Fund. The screening committee reviewed over 20 proposals submitted by faculty, staff, and students that included a written statement explaining how their idea tied to the strategic plan and how it would serve students along with a short elevator pitch video. Ultimately, 12 selected projects made up the 2018 cohort.

The District Governing Board approved a $25 per credit hour discount for students under the age of 18.


In January, the expansion and renovation of the Informatics building at the AWC San Luis Technology Institute was unveiled to the community during a ribbon cutting ceremony. The updated facility enables residents to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree in Informatics through the University of Arizona without ever leaving South Yuma County.

In January, AWC completed its Strategic Plan.

In March, AWC began offering a new Public Safety Dispatcher Academy. Through the program, graduates earn a basic telecommunicator certification and an emergency medical dispatcher certification that will prepare them for an entry-level public safety dispatcher job.

After being known for 48 years as KAWC AM1320, the station transitioned to KOFA 1320 Border Radio in April. The rebrand was a return to its roots as a “college radio” station, giving AWC students and other community members a chance to host music programs.

Arizona Western College’s spring commencement ceremony marked a historical milestone featuring graduating students from AWC as well as Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University, and University of Arizona. This was the first-ever combined commencement celebration with representation from all three universities at a community college.

In June, a cohort of 30 students from the AWC Nursing program achieved a 100-percent pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam. This is the first group of nursing students to achieve such an accomplishment in known AWC history.

In August, AWC receives a $400K National Endowment for the Humanities grant for AWC/NAU-Yuma Academic Library.

AWC added Geospatial Technology and Unmanned Aerial Systems certificate programs to their list of Career and Technical Education offerings in August. These programs prepare students for employment in the rapidly growing geospatial workforce as well as create additional educational opportunities for those with existing training and experience in the geospatial technology field.

In September, AWC and Arizona State University launch American Dream Academy to help families navigate college.


The Arizona Western College Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program returned to La Paz County. Students interested in a career in the nursing field can earn their certified or licensed nursing assistant certificate through the program.

Through a local donor, and the Just Seeds project out of the Center for Biological Diversity, the AWC Yuma Campus became a mural host site for a 76-foot by 22-foot mural featuring two endangered Sonoran Desert species, the Sonoran pronghorn and the Yuma clapper rail. 

In February, KAWC Public Media announced the launch of its new FM Service with KOFA-AM also being simulcast on 94.7 FM.

Andale’s Food Pantry was established as part of the AWC Innovation Fund. Students enrolled at AWC can receive non-perishable food items and basic necessities through Andale’s Food Pantry. The service is designed to meet the immediate needs of students and their families.

In March, AWC & NAU Yuma co-host Start Up Weekend for regional entrepreneurs.

In April, AWC starts a new full-time Law Enforcement Training Academy at the Ray Croc Sports Complex. The new local academy was made possible through a partnership between Arizona Western College, the City of Yuma, and Yuma County.

In May, AWC launched debt-free education in Parker with the La Paz Promise. Starting with the class of 2019, high school graduates who enroll at AWC as full-time students and complete their associate degree within five consecutive semesters can be reimbursed for the entire cost of tuition and program fees as part of the new La Paz Promise.

In August, AWC graduates 10 students from its first full-time Law Enforcement Training Academy. The program was formed over the course of a four-month period in response to area agencies requesting a local, more affordable training option. Yuma agencies were previously paying around $25,000 to have their cadets trained at out-of-town academies.

AWC was announced as a subrecipient of a $2.7 million grant awarded to Northern Arizona University Yuma by the Helios Education Foundation to help high school students successfully transition into higher education and careers. The grant funds the Yuma Educational Success (YES) program, which is a collaborative initiative between AWC, NAU Yuma, and the Yuma Union High School District that creates systems to support enrollment, transferring, and retention from high school into college and between AWC and NAU.

In September, debt-free education comes to 2020 high school grads in Yuma County with the Yuma Promise.

In December, AWC holds a ribbon cutting for Arnold’s Lounge which is a gathering spot for students located at the San Luis Learning Center in honor of retired student advisor Arnold Trujillo.


International students at AWC began utilizing the culinary kitchen to prepare meals from their home country through a new partnership with the Culinary Arts program. A ribbon cutting ceremony for Rosemary’s Kitchen for International Students was held on Jan. 24.

In March, AWC established an Esports program. After the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) announced the creation of the NJCAA Esports League, there was an immediate student interest in forming competitive teams. Esports consists of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between individual players or teams.

In August, AWC began representing community colleges across the state as part of the Arizona Delegation to the national Reskilling and Recovery Network. The network was launched by a coalition of 20 states, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and the American Association of Community Colleges to equip workers with the skills needed to get back to work and help their communities recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Arizona Innovation Alliance (AIA), a tri-university partnership to enhance public higher education in Arizona, launched a new project to support student success and increase educational opportunities in Yuma. The Yuma initiative aligns with the AIA’s overarching focus on improving the retention, graduation, and academic performance of traditionally underserved students, ensuring students from all walks of life increasingly have access to higher education.

AWC announced a new partnership with Arizona State University to provide students a seamless transfer experience with the MyPath2ASU program. MyPath2ASU™ allows students to take the steps needed, at the start of their college experience, to successfully plan their transfer to ASU, ensuring a smooth transition process and student success. 

Andale's Apparel opened in April as AWC's free business clothing resource. A 2021 Innovation Fund award winner, the program was designed to give current and recently graduated AWC students access to professional clothing that encourages confidence when pursuing opportunities like job interviews, networking events, and conferences. 

In August, AWC’s Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Program was ranked as the best in the state by The organization of nursing experts analyzed 12 LPN programs from community colleges, technical centers, and private career schools across Arizona. Top rankings were made based on first-time passage rates on the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) test, which is administered to students by the Arizona State Board of Nursing.

In November, the long-standing DeAnza Residence Hall at AWC was demolished to make way for the construction of a new dorm. The rebuilding of the DeAnza Residence Hall is funded through a board-approved $35 million revenue bond for the college’s capital building effort.

The AWC Technology Service Desk expanded its hours to offer 24/7 support for students, faculty, and staff ahead of finals week in December. These critical service enhancements provide continued on-site and in-person technology support across district campus locations, ensuring that the college community has access to the resources they require to be successful in real-time.


In January, AWC was awarded a $500,000 agricultural workforce training grant by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The funding supports AWC’s Growing Opportunities for Agricultural Learning in the Southwest Workforce (GOALS) Project, which aims to expand career opportunities by providing increased access for students to obtaining their professional agricultural certification as Pest Control Advisors (PCA) and Certified Crop Advisors (CCA). 

In March, Arizona State University and AWC hosted a ribbon-cutting and open house for ASU Local–Yuma, ASU’s new hybrid university experience that empowers former AWC students and graduates to stay rooted in Yuma while earning their degree from ASU. ASU Local’s hybrid experience combines 130+ online bachelor’s degrees with personalized college and career success coaching and programming in person for students at AWC’s Yuma campus. 

In April, AWC held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the expansion of the AWC/NAU-Yuma Academic Library. AWC, in collaboration with the AWC Foundation, was awarded a $400,000 Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant for the project in 2018 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The funds, as well as a 1-to-1 match requirement from a local donor, were used to enhance student learning experiences by expanding library facilities and services. The funds allowed the college to expand 2,029 square feet and create a large learning space and other spaces on the northwest side of the library. The AWC Library was constructed in 1965 and underwent extensive remodeling in 1991, but had not been expanded or partially renovated until this time.

The AWC Foundation realigned its organizational structure to become more closely linked to the strategic priorities of the college district and position the team for an expanded scope to contribute to capital improvements, in complement to its already successful and historic role raising and distributing scholarships for AWC students. Since its establishment in 1963 as a supporting organization to the college, the Foundation has set the pace for scholarship development and distribution in Yuma and La Paz County. As of 2022, the team manages over 200 scholarship and programmatic funds, and distributed over $370,000 to provide over 190 students with scholarships and to help countless students from across the entire college district with program support.

During the summer, AWC teamed up with the Local First Arizona Foundation to provide aspiring food entrepreneurs with the unique opportunity to grow their food business through a Restaurant Startup Boot Camp. Participants enrolled in the first two cohorts of the new Yuma Food Businesses Incubator pilot program at no cost, thanks to a $145,000 grant from the Arizona Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and institutional funding. 

In August, AWC celebrated the start of construction on its new two-story, 45,000-square-foot Matador Activity Center with a groundbreaking ceremony. The space supports multiple instructional modalities, shared common areas, conference rooms, Maker Space, esports, an eatery option, the Honors Program, IT Services, TV Services/Broadcasting with KAWC, Andale’s Pantry, and a game room.

In September, after nine months of listening, surveying, and designing, the AWC Marketing & Communications team officially launched the college’s new brand. The new institutional logo features brand-specific colors of Matador Red and Skystone (Turquoise). As a community college that has strong partnerships with Arizona’s three state universities, the logo is iconic and stands up strongly amongst them. The new athletics logo was also created with a design unique to athletics and utilizes AWC’s new official colors to complement the new institutional logo. 

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Sept. 29, to showcase the new Allied Health Lab at the AWC San Luis Learning Center. The 1,855-square-foot lab provides students with the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Computer Informatics. The new lab also allows AWC to offer programs in Allied Health in San Luis. Prior to the construction of the building, students had to travel to the Yuma Campus to fulfill science lab requirements. The project was funded through $750,000 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Title III STEM Instinct2 Federal Grant Program, as well as grants from Career and Technical Education, and institutional funding.

In October, Northern Arizona University announced a new, first-of-its-kind partnership with all ten community college districts across the state and the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) to launch the Arizona Attainment Alliance (A++). This unique partnership with AWC and other statewide partners aims to harness the collective impact of distinct institutions based on a shared desire to dramatically boost Arizona’s postsecondary attainment rate. AWC was the first partner to commit to this initiative. This program aligns with the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of AWC’s Strategic Plan to double the rate of earned baccalaureate degrees in Yuma and La Paz Counties by 2035. 

In November, AWC was honored as a 2023 Bellwether Finalist for its workforce development program growth. AWC was recognized for being the first college in the country to complete the Transatlantic Business and Investment Council (TBIC) College Certification Program. 

The AWC Small Business Development Center underwent renovations to better serve entrepreneurial clients in Yuma and La Paz counties. Changes to the facility were unveiled to the public during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 17. The space now consists of four cubical workstations, a director’s office, conference room, client waiting area, and a break area for employees. The renovations were made possible due to funding from the Cares Act Grant, Proposition 301 dollars, and institutional funding. During 2021, the SBDC contributed to the growth of the local economy by generating $3.2 million in capital formation, $5.6 million in sales growth, and $43.9 million in annual sales. 


The KAWC/KOFA Border Radio team created a new platform for students to share their higher education journey called Siendo Primero. The podcast allows AWC students to produce videos that tell their stories of being first-generation college students. This initiative is a cross-departmental collaboration between representatives of KAWC/KOFA-Border Radio, the CAMP program, TRIO/KEYS, and AWC Marketing and Communications. 

With a shared vision of transforming healthcare education in Yuma County, AWC and Yuma Regional Medical Center entered into an affiliation agreement in February to create new programs and facilities for a sustainable future of a wide range of healthcare training. The early plans include a new allied health training facility adjacent to YRMC. Construction on this project is expected to begin in 2024.

In March, the inaugural TEDxAWC event took place at the AWC Theater to inspire creativity and ingenuity, and to honor the voices of AWC students, faculty and staff, and the larger community of Yuma and La Paz Counties. The TEDxAWC project was one of eight proposals approved through the 2022 AWC Innovation Fund. The conference featured nine finalists selected to speak on the theme “Shift the Drift.”

To help address nursing shortages, AWC expanded its Nursing Program in April to accept an additional 20 students per semester for a total nursing cohort of 60 students. 

The AWC Police Department began working in partnership with the Heal the Hero Foundation to provide a technology-based health and wellness program for local emergency first responders. Housed at the AWC Reskilling and Technology Center, the Command Performance brings cutting-edge, neuroscience-driven brain performance technology to police, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in Yuma. The innovative program is accessible to first responders thanks to a grant from the Arizona Governor’s office to the Heal the Hero Foundation, with the statewide program delivered by Vitanya Brain Performance.

In May, AWC launched its new Entrepreneurial College to meet a growing demand for an evolving entrepreneurial and workforce-based industry. The “Second Pillar” of the college was developed to align career-connected learning with the region’s rapidly evolving employment needs. Based on input from more than 20 roundtable sessions from Career and Technical Education leaders, professors, and staff across all 10 of the college’s campuses, the Entrepreneurial College is one of the nation’s first of its kind.

The Burton Family Foundation donated $565,000 to benefit first generation and early college programs at AWC. The historic donation will be disbursed by the AWC Foundation over the next five years to provide additional funding for initiatives including the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), I’m Going to College (IG2C), IME (Institute of Mexicans Abroad) Becas, (Scholarships), and the South Yuma County Math and English Project.

AWC’s partnership with Yuma Regional Medical Center to create innovative solutions in rural healthcare garnered global recognition. AWC was selected as one of five Triple E Awards finalists in the running for Community Engagement Initiative of the Year. In June, AWC and YRMC leaders had an opportunity to travel to Barcelona, Spain for the Triple E Awards ceremony where they were celebrated as finalists and showcased their first-of-its-kind partnership to address the rural healthcare workforce shortage.

AWC hosted Yuma County’s state elected officials from District 23 and 25 as they discussed the outcomes of the 2023 Legislative Session during a public Town Hall event in September. As a key workforce and economic driver in Yuma, AWC was able to secure a historical $15 million investment in workforce development programs at the college. 

On October 5, AWC celebrated the beginning of construction for the new state-of-the-art Law Enforcement Training Academy during a groundbreaking ceremony. Housed on the AWC Yuma Campus next to the Public Safety Institute, the over 20,000-square-foot facility will provide a centralized space for cadets from across the state to receive training to become certified peace officers. The Law Enforcement Training Academy was funded by the Yuma County Board of Supervisors who contributed $7.5 million toward the project from CARES Act funds that Yuma County received from the Office of Gov. Doug Ducey, as well as an additional $2.7 million in AWC funds. Construction is expected to be complete by Fall 2024.

On Oct. 24, a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony was held to commemorate the unique partnership between education partners AWC, Sonora State University, and local Arizona Board of Regent University partners from the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, and Arizona State University, together in a shared gathering with 4FrontED, Elevate Southwest, and community leaders. With the MOU, these institutions are collectively deepening the friendship ties and improving the level of cooperation and comprehension that unite these participants. It collectively recognizes the mutual interests and a multitude of opportunities for education, workforce development, science and technology, agriculture, agricultural technology, and binational business programs.  

Three departments at AWC cultivated a partnership sure to yield delicious results. The Facilities department prepared an area with basic landscaping located outside of the Culinary Arts classroom and installed an irrigation water supply to turn the space into a fully functioning herb garden. The Agriculture program laid down topsoil and transplanted plants grown in their greenhouse so that Culinary Arts classes could harvest the herbs and incorporate them into their dishes.