BEND - Oregon State University officials have spent months talking to the residents of Central Oregon, working with a local advisory board, doing surveys, finding out what services people want and need in higher education, and trying to work closely with them in developing a proposal for a new branch campus in Central Oregon.

Now that process is going to start all over again.

With the unveiling today of a preliminary plan for the new branch campus, OSU faculty members, administrators and staff say they are now going to hit the road once more and see if the plan they have developed accurately matches what residents of the area said they wanted.

"We think this is a tremendous proposal and it's based on what we heard from Central Oregonians about their needs and priorities," said Linda Johnson, director of the OSU Central Oregon office, a local resident and a key leader in developing the new plan. "But what we think isn't important. What matters is putting this plan on the table at meetings all over Central Oregon and finding out if the local residents like what they see."

Only when that process is complete, Johnson said, will the plan be finalized, any needed changes made and the result submitted to the Oregon University System as OSU's official proposal for a new branch campus. In the meetings to come, OSU officials will brief area residents on the history of efforts to bring higher educational programs to Central Oregon, outline the OSU proposal, answer questions and seek feedback. Meetings are already under way and will continue through late November.

OSU President Paul Risser has visited Central Oregon three times in the past month, and held three public open houses in August to discuss OSU's proposal.

There are two additional opportunities planned for the general public to hear about the OSU proposal and provide feedback to the university. Those meetings are Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Bend Armory, from 6-8 p.m.; and Monday, Nov. 6, at the OSU Central Oregon office on Highway 97 and Empire Ave.

Other meetings will be announced as they are scheduled. Written comments on OSU's proposal are also welcome, and can be mailed to Linda Johnson, OSU Central Oregon, 20365 Empire Ave., Bend, Ore., 97756.

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Linda Johnson, 541-312-8361