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‘Field of dreams' changes face of local education

October 02, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — As one speaker dubbed the 200-acre gift of land east of here a "field of dreams," nearly everyone attending San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus's gift recognition ceremony Monday agreed the campus to be built at this site would change Imperial Valley education and the Valley itself.

"We believe this is going to transform educational opportunities in Imperial County," said San Diego State University President Stephen Weber.

The land, about one mile east of Brawley along Highway 78, was donated by the Alamitos Land Co. to house the future SDSU-IV campus-Brawley. The California State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to accept the donated land.

Weber cited the low number of Imperial Valley high school graduates attending college and the disproportionately low enrollment of North County residents at the Calexico campus as reasons for the creation of the campus.

"It seems to me one of the best things we can do for the people of the Imperial Valley … is provide them better access to higher education," Weber said.

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"This is only the beginning," he said.

Many speakers pointed out what they hoped would be the new site's far-reaching effects on the county.

El Centro Mayor Cheryl Walker said the additional campus would not only improve residents' quality of life with its cultural events and lecture series, it would also increase the "homegrown talent" by providing more local people with skills and qualifications for higher level local jobs.

County Supervisor Gary Wyatt, who represents North County, touched on a similar theme. As the county tries to improve its economic development and attract new businesses, the county needs an educated, qualified work force, he said. Additional educational facilities like this will go a long way toward reaching that goal, he added.

SDSU-IV campus Dean Khosrow Fatemi, credited by several speakers as one of the driving forces behind the expansion, said while the school still needs money to construct the campus, the gift of land is the foundation upon which the campus and all its anticipated effects will be built.

SDSU-IV hopes to have classes starting at the Brawley campus next year. University officials expect as many as 200 students to initially attend classes in portable buildings at the site. Permanent buildings will be constructed as funding is secured.

Sample site plans and artist renderings were on display Monday depicting Spanish mission- and Mediterranean-style architecture, similar to that on the Calexico campus.

The North County facility will offer the same educational programs and services as the Calexico site, which offers 11 baccalaureate degrees, five master's programs and course work leading to three teaching credentials.

The Brawley facility will focus more on agricultural business while the Calexico campus will focus more on international business. Students, however, will be able to complete degrees in either field at either campus.

Staff Writer Darren Simon contributed to this story.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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