BEND - With hundreds of new students already enrolled, 19 bachelor's or graduate degree programs ready to go, faculty and staff moving in, and a permanent infrastructure under construction, a promising new era of higher education in Central Oregon is about to begin.

The Oregon State University-Cascades Campus will hold a grand opening celebration on Sunday, Sept. 16, to recognize the occasion, and begins its first classes the next day.

"This is a culmination of decades of work by hundreds of citizens to bring a complete and prestigious institution of higher education to Central Oregon," said Paul Risser, president of OSU. "We have been honored to help turn their vision into a working reality, and we share their excitement in the tremendous new educational opportunities this will open for generations of students."

The opening celebration from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. will be free and open to the public, with a range of family activities and a concert by Neal Gladstone that offers a blend of music, comedy and cabaret. Most events will be at or near the bookstore parking lot at Central Oregon Community College, which is adjacent to the new building that next year will house the OSU-Cascades Campus.

There will be OSU coaching clinics for children in grades 3-8; many information, food and activity booths; the OSU Fan Fair; local music and dance; a grand opening ceremony at 2 p.m.; and the concert which begins at 3:15 p.m. More details on the events can be found on the web.

"The grand opening celebration is our way of saying thank you to Central Oregon for inviting us to be a part of their community," said Linda Johnson, associate provost for community relations and administration for the new campus. "People can drop by whenever they like, enjoy some fun activities and entertainment, and find out more about all the new programs to be offered at OSU Cascades."

The celebration, OSU officials say, culminates a year of enormous effort to create virtually from scratch a new institution of higher education that is creatively designed for the new century. Work was intensive on student service and scholarship programs; course and degree offerings; collaborative agreements with many other universities; hiring of faculty and staff; community outreach programs; advisory boards; and thousands of other details that will ultimately help the institution touch the lives of children, college students, families and working adults across Central Oregon.

"It's really amazing, and a tribute to the work and devotion of many people, that we've come such a long way in such a short time," said Henry Sayre, the associate provost for academic and student affairs at the new campus. "There is still much to do, but we have a blueprint for a great institution that really reflects the needs and vision of the people of Central Oregon.

"It's going to serve the needs of this community well into the 21st century," Sayre added, "and we believe it will form a national model for higher education."

In one of the most significant steps forward, ground was broken last spring on a $5.4 million building that, when finished, will house most of the classes and operations of the new campus.

Also, the OSU Foundation has created a $3.5 million endowment for student scholarships at the campus, which will provide $120,000 of additional assistance each year for at least 50 academic merit scholarships, financial need scholarships and diversity initiatives.

Another important agreement was recently signed that will allow a student's home university at the new collaborative institution to continue to pay financial aid even if the student takes courses from other schools participating in the campus.

This fall, students will be able to select majors and even some graduate programs from such fields of study as natural resources, environmental sciences, management, business administration, general agriculture, general science, human development and family sciences, nursing, teacher education, social science and many others. Each degree, officials say, is a direct response to community needs identified in surveys and by public feedback. And more degrees will be added in coming years.

Other important steps that have been taken include:

  • An innovative "dual enrollment program" plan with Central Oregon Community College will facilitate the smooth transfer of students between institutions, coordinate financial aid and allow access to the courses and services of both schools. 
  • The search for a new campus executive officer to lead the new institution is well under way. 
  • A web site for the new campus, at, can provide a wealth of information about the new institution, including details on courses, enrollment and registration. 
  • Aggressive student recruiting and campus marketing programs are in place.
  • The popular and successful OSU Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience, or SMILE Program for elementary through high school students will soon be operating in Central Oregon.
  • A Board of Advisors for the new campus will ensure that regional community leaders have constant input into its development and operation, especially in the early years when many critical decisions will be made.

The end result of these initiatives, officials say, appears to be an even higher level of student interest than had been expected.

More than 450 new and returning students have already signed up to attend the branch. Although the numbers of full-time versus part-time students won't be completely clear until class registration is complete, officials say they are confident the institution will more than meet its first year goal of 250 full-time students.

"Helping the people of Central Oregon create a new institution of higher education has been one of the most ambitious steps that OSU has ever undertaken, and also one of the most rewarding," OSU's President Risser said. "We still have a long way to go, but we're off to a great start."

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Linda Johnson, 541-322-3102