By Dianne Van Hook
I want you to remember three numbers that pertain to the College of the Canyons Canyon Country Campus: 10, 5,000 and 55,000.
We’ll start with 10. It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway, and we are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes!
Envisioned to provide access to high-quality instructional programs, supportive student services, and robust community partnerships on the eastern side of the college’s service area, the campus has excelled in fulfilling that vision over the past decade.
A Long-Term Commitment
Our efforts to make higher education more accessible to Canyon Country and surrounding communities go back more than 25 years. In the early 1990s, the state Chancellor’s Office saw the valley’s burgeoning population and our college’s growing enrollment, and concluded that another campus would be needed to ensure access to higher education for local residents. We committed.. . then. to meeting that need, and incorporated a campus into our long-range Educational and Facilities Master Plans.
That decision focused our efforts as we took a major step forward and opened the Canyon Country ACCESS Center in the Jo Anne Darcy Library in 2001. Classes filled quickly there, so in 2002 we began looking for a permanent campus site, and seeking the four separate approvals from state agencies needed to open a new campus. It took another three years to locate and purchase the land, design the campus, and secure approval of our construction plans. In the meantime, we passed a bond in 2006 that supported its development, along with the continued buildout of the Valencia Campus.
Throughout 2006 and 2007, we transformed 70 acres of raw land into a welcoming campus, and it opened for the fall 2007 semester. Construction crews were still putting the finishing touches on parking lots, sidewalks, and the modular buildings where classrooms and labs were housed, but it didn’t really impact students.
Enrollment that first semester exceeded our five-year predictions, and continued to grow in subsequent years. In fact, enrollment at the campus exceeds that of 12 stand-alone community colleges in California. And that number I asked you to remember – 5,000? Here’s where that comes into play. We have offered more than 5,000 classes at the Canyon Country Campus in the past decade.
The campus has expanded access to higher education in the Santa Clarita Valley by providing 18 associate degrees and 13 certificate programs that can be completed by taking classes exclusively at this campus. The campus also offers more than 100 classes each semester in high-demand evening, weekend, hybrid, and accelerated formats. Campus enrollment averages around 5,000 students per semester, with more than 170 faculty teaching approximately 300 classes in 40 or so academic disciplines.
A Community Effort
The key to building this campus was the support the college received from the community through the passage of local bond measures in 2001 and 2006. Because the state does not provide funding to acquire land or build new community college campuses, it is up to local colleges and their communities to fund such efforts.
The community also played an important role in helping us shape the campus. A dedicated group of Canyon Country residents served on the exploratory/site selection committee that began meeting in 2002, evaluating numerous possible locations and providing insightful feedback. Many of those original members still serve on our Advisory Committee today, continuing to guide the growth and development of the campus.
And building on the vision of college leaders and the advisory committee members, we have worked hard to welcome the community to the campus. Whether through our twice-yearly Star Parties, Battle of the Bands musical exhibitions or Garden Walks, we have thrown open the doors to the Canyon Country Campus and welcomed our neighbors to visit.
So, What’s Next at Canyon Country?
The campus currently features 37 smart classrooms, including four computer labs, four science labs, and a 15,000-square-foot Applied Technology Education Center that is home to our automotive technology and plumbing programs.
To support student learning, the campus also contains a library, tutoring center, early childhood education center, student study lounge, and many student services such as counseling, financial aid, admissions & records, student business office, student health center, testing center, and food services.
Now, a decade after opening, the campus is poised for a major facilities expansion. And here’s where that last number – 55,000 – comes into play. With designs completed, we are in the final stages of approval for a state-of-the-art 55,000-square-foot Science Center, with groundbreaking planned before the end of the year.
The Science Center will address one our greatest areas of academic need by providing more science labs for high-demand anatomy & physiology, chemistry, and biology courses. Hundreds of students are waitlisted for these courses each year, slowing their efforts to earn a degree or transfer. With more classes available because of the new labs, students will be able to complete their academic goals much quicker.
The Science Center is only the first step in our plan to build out the campus to its full capacity.
Our most recent Educational & Facilities Master Plan includes substantial plans for programmatic, facilities, technology, and staffing improvements at the Canyon Country Campus.
With the passage of Measure E by local voters in 2016, we have the resources needed to build three more similarly sized learning facilities. And, if we receive state funding to help offset the cost of those buildings, we may have the ability to build two additional buildings on the site.
A Reason to Celebrate
The Canyon Country Campus is filled with students, staff, and faculty who exemplify the pioneer spirit that will continue to make this amazing site thrive. With their passion and dedication, we celebrate the progress made, and we are excited about the many opportunities ahead at College of the Canyons’ remarkable Canyon Country Campus!
I invite you to celebrate with us at our Open House, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, at the campus. Join us for a family-friendly day of exhibits, entertainment and food trucks, and see for yourself what a difference a decade makes! Details can be found at http://www.canyons.edu/Offices/CCC/Pages/10years.aspx.
Dr. Dianne Van Hook serves as chancellor of College of the Canyons.