By most accounts, WSU Vancouver is getting passing grades as it celebrates the first anniversary of its Salmon Creek branch campus.
Everybody agrees the new campus is a marked improvement over WSU Vancouver’s former digs. For eight years, Washington State University offered classes in extra space at Clark College. Most classes and faculty offices were in one building, Bauer Hall.
But many challenges remain: Enrollment is increasing but not meeting state goals. Class selection is sometimes thin. Questions about traffic and other neighborhood impacts linger.
Overall, faculty, students and government officials expect the challenges to lessen as the campus becomes more established.
“There is more of a sense this is a university community, rather than a bunch of people hanging out at Clark College,” said Jane Cote, an assistant professor of accounting and business law.
Steve Sylvester, an assistant professor of biochemistry and biophysics, came to Vancouver from WSU’s main campus in Pullman.
There, if he wanted a chemical for his laboratory, he’d fill out a request form, and it would arrive within minutes. Down the hall was $2 million in lab equipment.
Now as WSU Vancouver’s only biochemist, Sylvester must send DNA samples to Pullman - and wait two days for the lab analysis. It took him several days just to get the right requisition forms to get ethanol from a local state liquor store.
But Sylvester isn’t ready to head back east.
“It’s kind of fun being in on the ground floor, trying to shape this thing,” Sylvester said.
At WSU Vancouver’s old home at Bauer Hall, psychology classes did research on human responses in the back of a classroom.
Now students have a facility with private cubicles to do such research. They also have a noiseless laboratory to do auditory studies and the facilities and equipment to record human responses.
Bauer had a single computer lab with fewer than 20 computers. The new campus offers two independent labs, one for computer classes and another for students to do class assignments. Each offers about 30 work stations.
All classrooms and offices - including the cafeteria - have online ports to plug into the Internet. About 20 percent of classes are taught via microwave broadcasts from other WSU campuses.
“We’re able, on this campus, to let the technology be what it’s supposed to be,” said assistant campus librarian Karen Diller.
Not everybody’s got it so good yet. Engineering students still must return to Clark College to use laboratories there. Lecture classes are held at the new campus.
WSU is planning a building to house its engineering and life sciences programs, but hasn’t yet received state construction funding.
Beyond buildings, WSU Vancouver still is looking for more students.
For the first time in his career, Sylvester is a recruiter as well as a scientist and instructor. He meets with local high school teachers to discuss his research. Selected high school students help prepare solutions and do other basic lab work, in hopes they’ll consider enrolling there or at least pass the word to other students.
WSU Vancouver’s enrollment rose to 1,163 during the new campus’ first year but the growth isn’t keeping up with the state’s funding projections. The campus missed its goal by more than 100 full-time students during 1996-97.
“We couldn’t go to college if the campus wasn’t here,” said anthropology major Diane McElveny, who returned to college along with husband Kelly. “We own a home; it would have been really tough for us” to move, she said.
Before 2000, campus officials expect to add 12 undergraduate and seven graduate programs to the current roster of 23 undergraduate and six graduate programs.
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