The word Zeitgeist represents the spirit of the times and the prevailing ideas and beliefs as society moves forward. As we look to the new decade and beyond, how can we lead the Zeitgeist on our campuses and better serve our students, colleagues, and communities? Club Zeitgeist, or Club Z, is designed to help bring about positive organizational change while delivering student success through experiential learning for students, employees, and community members.

Available to any college campus, Club Z includes regularly scheduled gatherings for Z Social Incubation and turnkey initiatives such as the Z Achievement Award. Implementation of the Club Z pilot at Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) in Phoenix, Arizona, has gained national attention for student engagement, with more than 300 students earning the Club Z Achievement Award.

The Z Achievement process includes students creating and implementing a project individually or as part of a team, followed by the completion of ten reflective questions about their experience. Students can engage in any type of project of interest to them, such as service learning, civic engagement, the arts, research, and social entrepreneurship. At PVCC, students who complete the process receive an award certificate and are eligible for additional prizes funded through the Z Connect Program and Scholarship Fund.

In addition to Club Z gatherings and Z Achievement Awards, examples of initiatives include Z Imagine Pitch (an interdisciplinary pitch contest), Share Z Love (a recruitment and exhibit event), Z-Imaginary Makerspace (a recruitment and social incubation event), and Social by Design (an approach to leading change initiatives for college administrators). These activities are designed to give all campus stakeholders new experiences that inspire innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in action—the culture of a thriving makerspace even if we find ourselves in a board room.

PVCC students learn about the Z Achievement Award.

How is Club Z innovative? The following design features differentiate Club Z from many other campus initiatives:

1. The startup of Club Z and its programming can be initiated from anywhere in the organization, allowing talent to come forward regardless of role or title (although leadership buy-in and influence are needed for ultimate scaling).

2. Club Z programming can be infused throughout the organization for students, employees, and community members.

3. Club Z represents an intentional culture with shared concepts such as “Shine a Light on the Work of Others” and “Everyone is Invited!”

4. Students, employees, and community members can engage in person or virtually through a variety of strategically connected experiences. This facilitates inclusion and deeper engagement over time.

5. Club Z represents both traditional causal design and 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.

6. Club Z demonstrates the Z Design Standard of integrative, integrated, sustainable, scalable programming. This helps overcome silos and creates opportunities for collaboration and leveraging resources without predefined limits.

7. The overall Z Vision is to facilitate positive organizational change while delivering student success. This bottom-line assertion holds that we can become better at what we do while taking action on our highest priorities.

8. Hospitality is built into every Club Z activity to facilitate connections among interested parties. The college hopes that participants leave gatherings feeling that they were meaningful and fun.

Makila Barnes prepares to pitch her idea.

While PVCC was the first college in the Maricopa County Community College District to implement Club Z, all ten colleges and the district office now have Z-Legacy Ambassadors, or individuals who self-identify as wanting to create and implement innovation and entrepreneurship opportunities throughout the system. This group has been brought together by Dr. Shari Olson, President of South Mountain Community College, who held an open call throughout the district. Dr. Olson’s approach is consistent with Z Philosophy: Anyone with an interest can engage—individuals do not have to be recruited or given permission to do this work based on their title or role within the organization.

As we move into the future, with new challenges and opportunities, everyone’s talent is needed. And, to better serve our students, colleagues, and communities, it is important that everyone really is invited.

To learn more about the implementation of Club Z and Z Initiatives at Maricopa Community Colleges, or to find out how you can initiate the Z model on your campus, contact Dr. Caron Sada, creator of the initiative, at

Caron Sada

Residential Faculty, Psychology, Paradise Valley Community College


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