Student Engagement
Center of Practice 

What is the Z Model?

The Z Model is focused on “facilitating positive organizational change while delivering student success.”  While any college can offer Z programming on their campus, the first campus to try aspects of the Z model was Paradise Valley Community College - one of the ten colleges of the Maricopa Community College District in Arizona.

Club Z is the student facing portion of the model that invites students into pursuing their personal definitions of student success, career success and life success (Z theme). The official description of the club is: 

Club Z is a fun, creative, and innovative student success club where strivers and thrivers work toward individual and team goals to prepare for intrapreneurship, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and life aspirations.  

Chris and Thirza – leaders of Club Z from the pilot at Paradise Valley Community College.

The super sized spoon represents “Go beyond spoon feeding and seek transformational learning experiences!” 

Whether you want to be an intrapreneur, entrepreneur, social entrepreneur or
you’re working toward your unique life aspirations, Club Z is here for you!

Want to get a sense of what a Z experience feels like? 

Z Imagine, National Entrepreneurship Week 2020

Student Engagement is about Each Student.

Invitations to engage in Club Z are based on individual student strengths and personal goals, not the goals of the club advisor, program or school. For example, on many campuses, we recruit in silos based on the programs of importance to us as leaders in a college or system.  In Club Z, we help connect students with their personal definitions of student success, career success and life success. Students are invited into a culture of belonging through initiatives such as the Z Achievement Award and the Z Imagine pitch exhibition. In this way, Z programming is customizable for each student (tools below). Permission to use the materials linked below on your campus for educational purposes is given. 

Z Imagine Materials Z Achievement Materials


Once students are engaged in person or virtually, one thing leads to another (Z theme) which, ideally, results in more engagement and more customized goal achievement.  Goals vary; some students primarily want connection and belonging, others have a project they want to develop and some think they’d like to start a business. Students involved in the Club Z portion of the Z model are likely to work on individual and team goals simultaneously. This includes mini-mentoring moments and mega-mentoring on advanced projects that also help students network with other mentors, programs, resources and opportunities. 

Photo, above: Students at the Z Imaginary Makerspace Gathering putting together Design Thinking kits organized by Z-Pod Leader, Kevin. Kevin’s individual endeavor promoting design thinking became a series of group projects for anyone who wanted to participate. “Everyone is Invited!” (Z theme).

Z Engagement: Students, Employees and Community Members

Within the Z model, the only way to engage students is to maximize engagement of everyone. This leverages the collective resources of micro and macro ecosystems.  What is a resource?  There are many examples including, but not limited to:  individual and shared talents/strengths,  courage/will, interests, passions, motivations, systems, and in-kind/financial resources.

While the Z model offers options to any campus that is interested in implementing Z, or aspects of Z, we know that there are many people around the country implementing innovative approaches to engaging students, employees and community members. Here are some thoughts from Z perspectives along with questions as we all come up with better and better ways to work toward our organizational visions. 

1. The startup of the Z Model, Club Z and the initiatives can begin and flourish anywhere in the organization, allowing talent to come forward regardless of role or title (although leadership buy-in and infludence are needed for ultimate scaling). This design feature allows entrepreneurship programming to be infused across curriculum and throughout the organization (Z design) rather than being perceived as activity belonging in the business department. 

QUESTION FOR YOU: How is your campus spreading entrepreneurial mindset
across disciplines and throughout the organization?

2. Z Programming relies on planning ahead and implementing a Strategic Calendar that engages students, employees and community members (Z design). The idea is that throughout the year, there are multiple invitations to engage so that all activity is strategically connected building momentum throughout each academic year. This also creates the silo busting framework of “integrative, integrated, sustainable, scalable programming (IISS-P; Z design)”; for example, the Z Imagine pitch exhibition is an ideal opportunity to engage everyone from the campus in a shared success.

Photo, left: Dr. David Pegram (English Faculty and Club Z Advisor) and Professor Sheila Beeler (Reading Faculty and English Division Chair) are members of the Z Network Leadership Team who implemented the pilot of Z programming at Paradise Valley Community College.  Collaboration across disciplines and throughout an organization are important to the silo busting Z design. David and Sheila are both business owners in addition to serving as full-time residential faculty. 

QUESTION FOR YOU: What programming does your campus/system engage in that integrates traditional silos through shared experiences and successes? How do you ensure that everyone really is invited?

3. The Z model represents both traditional/casual and more entrepreneurial/effectual design which creates structure for those who desire a clear path to success while leaving outcomes open for students, employees and community members to innovate. While casual thinking is default thinking where we start with a goal and then come up with a plan to achieve it, effectual thinking is more uncharted and iterative. When we build relationships through shared experiences and embrace uncertainty and ambiguity (Z design), we set the stage for innovation and entrepreneurial successes. 

Photo, right:
This is a Z Summit to kick off an academic year and share what is ahead. Many speakers, primarily students, paint a picture of the many ways to get involved on campus - within and outside of Club Z so that students can connect with what is of importance to them. Students, employees and community members are invited because in Club Z, Everyone is Invited! (Z theme).

QUESTION FOR YOU: How does your campus/system programming help people
engage in new experiences that tolerate/embrace the uncertainty and ambiguity of
entrepreneurial endeavors and increase potential for breakthroughs together? 

  Photo, right: Club Z students create and implement 
  an outreach booth as a team. When students are
  together, social incubation (Z design) naturally occurs
  and they encourage each other toward other
  individual and shared goals in addition to …
  innovations and entrepreneurial endeavors.

  4. Hospitality for a variety of stakeholders is built into 
  every Club Z activity to facilitate connections among
  students, employees and community members. With
  this in mind, a baseline goal of all gatherings is that
  they are percieved as fun and meaningful (Z design)
  because IF participants find Club Z gatherings to be fun
  and meaningful, it is likely that engagement will build
  with each experience. They will want to engage again. 

Even when we don’t have a food & beverage budget, we can still create an experience with generous hospitality.

QUESTION FOR YOU: As you invite people to engage in meaningful programming on your campus, how do you ensure that people experience what you hope they experience during each of your gatherings? 

Photo, right: During the Share-Z-Love event, students 
engage in a meaningful conversation facilitated by
Dr. Kelly Fitzsimmons Burton (Lead faculty for Philosophy
and Religious Studies) while others have fun designing Valentine Affirmations.  Kelly is also a business owner in addition to being full-time residential faculty.

To create partnerships, the Z Network Leadership Team looks for those with complimentary and shared visions. We design partnerships based on collaboration and leveraging resources rather than asking others to help us achieve our goals – we design for win, win, win plus (Z theme). We also shine a light on the work of others (Z theme) and promote a spirit of catching each other doing something right (Z theme) which can help overcome competitive norms in academic cultures.

For example, within Maricopa, the Z Leadership Team partnered with the Legacy Group led by Dr. Shari Olson (College President) and Dr. Bruce McHenry (Business Faculty and Director of the Community Entrepreneurship Center) of South Mountain Community College.  The Legacy Group was designed to connect employees of Maricopa interested in entrepreneurship throughout the district regardless of role.  Shari and Bruce brought people together to build relationships and share ideas while creating fertile ground for increased collaboration.  The Z Leadership Team offered to use the grant funded District Wide Club Z Canvas to promote individuals from each campus and help them connect with other interested parties on their home campuses. The Z Leadership Team also offered district-wide access to the Z Connect Scholarship and Program fund.

Within Maricopa, an ideal example of connective programming is the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation’s (CEI) Big Pitch. CEI is a comprehensive business incubator located on the campus of Gateway Community College and their leadership team created a business accelerator and competition where student entrepreneurs pitch to win $20,000 in cash and in-kind resources, including one year of business incubation. Competing students are selected to represent their colleges through qualifying events. This well-designed program culminates with a live event where participants pitch their business ideas to esteemed judges, and results in an aspirational and unifying celebration with students, employees and community members in March of every year.

For entrepreneurial programming to be inclusive and move individuals, groups and whole organizations toward more entrepreneurial behaviors/norms, combining Z programming with an ultimate pitch contest (most campuses already have one) represents strategically connected activity designed to increase engagement and impact year after year.

QUESTION FOR YOU: How do your internal/external partnerships demonstrate leveraging
resources and integrative, integrated, sustainable, scalable programming?

Photo, above: 
Big Pitch students and CEI leaders representing all 10 of the Maricopa Community Colleges. 
CEI is a comprehensive business incubator on the campus of Gateway Community College led by
Mr. Thomas Schuman (Executive Director) and Ms Patti BuBois (Assistant Executive Director).

Integrative, Integrated, Sustainable, Scalable Programming
at Phoenix College 

Phoenix College is the original college within the ten college district of the Maricopa Community Colleges. The President of Phoenix College, Dr. Larry Johnson, and his team have been busy with innovative and entrepreneurial endeavors that demonstrate inspiring design elements such as  integrative, integrated, sustainable and scalable programming.  Two examples include the Neighborhood College and the IT Institute that have already attracted more than 2.5 million dollars in funding.  

These two projects connected students, employees and community members in the design and delivery of programs that reduce barriers for learners and bring together academic affairs with workforce development.  Community partners include the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC), City of Phoenix and the Black Chamber of Commerce.  

Dr. Larry Johnson is one of several Maricopa Community College Presidents who has signed NACCE's Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge.


To connect with the Z Leadership Team, a team of social intrapreneurs and social entrepreneurs, contact Dr. Caron Sada. 

To connect with the Dr. Shari Olson’s Legacy Group, contact Dr. Bruce McHenry. 

Photo, right: Z Network Leadership Team – Caron Sada (Psychology), Jon Hayashi (Biology), Sheila Beeler (Reading), David Pegram (English), Bruce McHenry (Business)
representing Paradise Valley Community College and South Mountain Community College of the Maricopa Community College District. We are a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary team. 

Student Engagement Center of Practice

  • Dr. Caron Sada
    Dr. Caron Sada
    Residential Faculty, Psychology Paradise Valley Community College (602)430-1234
    Center of Practice Leader