Associate in Arts, Emphasis in Anthropology now available with zero textbook costs

Dr. Annalisa Alvrus and Laura Ballard standing behind counter with laptop and two human skull replicas.
Dr. Annalisa Alvrus and Laura Ballard.

MESA, Arizona – Oct. 19, 2023 – Mesa Community College introduces a new Z Degree, an Associate in Arts, Emphasis in Anthropology. This is the fourth Z Degree offered by the college that is entirely online using open educational resources (OER) saving students time and money.

Chief Online Education Officer Laura Ballard said anthropology was selected for Z Degree learning “because the department was already offering zero-textbook-cost courses – incorporating openly-licensed content, library materials, and instructor-developed content. This allowed us to focus on design and copyright when building out the degree because the content and practice were already in place. It was a quick win.”

OER, Ballard explained, are freely accessible, openly licensed instructional materials such as text, media and other digital assets that are useful for teaching, learning, assessing and research purposes. “Our Z Degrees use OER along with proprietary content the college pays for like library databases, books and media.

Senior residential anthropology faculty Dr. Annalisa Alvrus also placed courses online that weren't already designed to be online in addition to OER and proprietary content. “She was innovative and progressive in her vision for her discipline. Our students and college benefited greatly from this!”

As part of the MCC Online team working with Ballard and Alvrus, Amaranth Weiss, anthropology and cultural science faculty, said the new Z Degree was designed “to make anthropology more accessible to learners. The materials we selected are written in a student-centered way.”

“For students who need the flexibility to take classes that mesh with their schedules and demonstrate a cost savings, the Z Degree could be a program that works best for them,” said Ballard. She pointed out that by eliminating expensive textbook costs and commuting time and expense, the financial comparisons are significant. “Over the course of an entire associate’s degree program, students can save up to $8,300 in textbook and commuting fees over the traditional cost of a degree. That’s a 62% savings. If you include child care costs, the savings are even more.”
Students may take eight-week, online Z courses for a more focused semester and complete a degree in 18 months without taking breaks. There is also the option of combining Z courses with in-person or hybrid courses lowering the overall cost of earning their degree.

Another advantage of Z Degrees is the easy transfer of credits to Arizona state schools including Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona, and Grand Canyon University, resulting in an additional savings in time and the cost of taking unnecessary courses.

For more information, visit the MCC Z Degree webpage,

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Media contact: Dawn Zimmer,, 480-461-7892

Mesa Community College is nationally recognized for university transfer, career and technical programs, civic engagement, service-learning and innovative approaches to education. Host to more than 24,400 students annually, MCC offers degree and certificate programs at its two campuses and additional locations. On average MCC students provide 23,000 hours of community service annually. For more than 50 years, the college has served as a resource for education, workforce development and lifelong learning. MCC is transforming student success through Guided Pathways with Integrated Support Services and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. MCC is a Hispanic Serving Institution. Nearly 50% of MCC students are the first in their families to attend college. MCC has the largest indigenous student population of all the Maricopa Community Colleges. The American Indian Institute serves students from 22 federally recognized Arizona tribes and out-of-state tribes. Our diverse student body includes hundreds of international students from around the world. Award-winning faculty are dedicated to student success, providing the education and training that empowers MCC students to attain their goals. Located in the East Valley of Phoenix, Arizona, on the traditional territories of the O'odham, Piipaash and Yavapai Peoples, MCC is one of 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District. Visit to learn more.

MCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC),

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District. MCCCD does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator: (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, visit

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Publication Date: 
Thursday, October 19, 2023