Building Opens New Era for OSU-Cascades

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Following their Ascending New Heights fundraising campaign, the OSU-Cascades campus expansion project is looking toward a bright future as it nears the culmination of the first eventful leg.

More than 50 donors have put Oregon State University-Cascades $1.575 million closer to becoming a comprehensive, four-year branch campus of OSU with its own physical campus. The outpouring of community support came in less than two months.

Noting that a combination of state funds, loans and private support will be required for the campus expansion, OSU-Cascades launched the first phase of the Ascending New Heights fundraising initiative in May, with an initial goal of 40 gifts of $25,000 to demonstrate local support for a four-year campus.

Christine Coffin, director of communications for Oregon State University-Cascades says there have been some small updates to the program since May and everything is going smoothly according to plan.

“There have been a couple exciting new entries to the donor list over the past few weeks with the addition of some more names, which brings the total up to 58,” she said. “The fundraising initiative was to demonstrate community support for the expansion and provide awareness to state officials and educational leaders and it has proven very successful.”

“The Central Oregon community has stepped up to invest in a vision they’ve held for nearly three decades. The overwhelmingly positive response conveys to our state legislators that OSU-Cascades can help transform the future of Central Oregon,” said OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson.

The next hurdle is the State Board of Higher Education meeting on Friday, August 3 when Johnson and her staff and team are hoping the board will unanimously and enthusiastically endorse the campus’ expansion to a four-year offering university and move forward their capital budgets requests.

“Planning for our second phase is underway but until the August 3 board meeting, we’re waiting for that decision,” said Coffin. “It’s very important and we’re holding our breaths. We’re hopeful it will pass and the community support has been really encouraging.”

As plans continue to unfold, the 29,000 square-foot Graduate and Research Center was officially christened July 24 with a gala ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by 230 community leaders, elected officials, generous donors and education directors. It is the first structure completed in Phase One and the large turnout was a testament to the hard work and dedication by all who have championed this ambitious undertaking and kept the dream alive.

The move marks something of a departure for OSU-Cascades, as the recent acquisition of the property represents the first building it owns outright in the region and a more independent presence away from shared space at the Central Oregon Community College campus at the city’s western edge.

The building, located at 650 SW Columbia St. in Bend, was purchased using $2 million in lottery bonds approved by the Oregon State Legislature and $1 million contributed by OSU-Cascades, plus $800,000 in additional private support from former Bend Mayor Allan Bruckner.

Total enrollment for OSU-Cascades has been calculated at nearly 750 junior, senior and graduate students but that figure is set to explode to between 3,000-5,000 students by 2025, requiring the campus to surge ahead with these construction endeavors for the benefit of the students and the economic health of Central Oregon.

The stylish new facility provides a recognizable footprint in a centralized location in Bend and will also serve as an applied research center, with Bend Research leasing a portion of the space specifically for public/private research collaboration, and the Governor’s Regional Solutions Center leasing another 1,000 square feet. AT&T currently occupies 6,000 square feet and will continue to do so for three more years.

Construction services were provided by HSW Builders of Bend at a cost of $3.88 million. Architects for the building are Steele Associates Architects LLC.

Leaders say developing OSU-Cascades into a four-year branch campus is essential to meet the state educational achievement goal that says by the year 2025, 40 percent of Oregonians will have a bachelors degree, 40 percent will have an associates degree or post-secondary credential and 20 percent will have a high school degree.

“Our partners at Central Oregon Community College agree that both our schools will have to grow in order to join other state institutions in fulfilling the 40-40-20 goals. Now is the perfect time to transition off of the COCC campus, freeing up space for COCC and establishing a four-year campus for OSU-Cascades,” Johnson said.

OSU-Cascades’ growth is expected to enhance the region’s economic development and resiliency by providing the area with an educated work force and by partnering with local businesses. Central Oregon is the state’s only major population area without a four-year university.

“My company hires scientists, mostly from outside the area; I’d like to see that change,” said Rod Ray, president and CEO of Bend Research, which was among the first businesses to make a gift to the Ascending New Heights initiative.

“Campus growth is going to bring much-needed revenue to Central Oregon. So for industry, supporting OSU-Cascades’ momentum is simply good business,” Ray continued. “I think legislators will also have to agree that this is an excellent investment for our state.”

“The building will open for classes in September and will house our entire graduate counseling and teaching programs in addition to the administrative staff,” said Coffin. “It’s all very exciting. We’re looking forward to having students and faculty here in the building. We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

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