College of the Redwoods

&

Humboldt State University

College Matters | CR rebuilds enrollment, builds up campus

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, July 28, 2022 - 2:15pm

Businesses in our region and state were severely impacted during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe that one of the most affected has been higher education. The College of the Redwoods prioritized the health and welfare of our community and the continuation of our instructional and student services above all other considerations. In response to the crisis and to ensure the safety of our community, we transitioned a majority of our classes to the virtual format, reduced the number and size of our face-to-face classes, implemented strict vaccination and masking orders, and increased our reliance on remote student services. We did not make these decisions lightly and, as a result, we have experienced a dramatic decrease in enrollment, marginalized our most vulnerable students, and introduced uncertainty in our long-term budget.

But I am happy to report that, while the past few years have brought unprecedented challenges for the college, thanks to the innovation and resilience of our faculty and staff, we are beginning to see signs of positive change. One indicator of the change is in increased enrollment. According to our Institutional Research Office, we saw a small but acceptable growth in this year’s summer semester enrollment over the prior year.

Actions we are taking to increase enrollment, such as adding intercollegiate sports, strengthening our prison education program, adding new academic programs, strengthening our collaboration with Cal Poly Humboldt, and implementing a registration process that will allow students to sign up for classes for the whole year, rather than one semester at a time, will have a positive impact on enrollment. We expect to have our enrollment fully restored to pre-pandemic levels by 2023-24.

We are also committed to campus upgrades that will enhance the on-campus student experience and create a stronger sense of community. When our students return in the fall, they’ll see additional outdoor seating, new hydration stations in our science, humanities and administration buildings, and a new, permanent food truck that will have an eclectic, rotating menu, and a farm stand area selling fresh produce from the Shively Farm. To enhance our learning environments, students will see that we updated classroom furniture, lighting, and installed cutting-edge technology in our labs.

Another indicator of positive change is in the investment in infrastructure on the Eureka campus. The vibrancy of a full campus, bustling with students, will be punctuated by the sights and sounds of new construction. We have a number of capital improvements and upgrades that are underway or planned: improvements to academic spaces, athletic and recreation upgrades, installation of a solar microgrid system, and residence hall enhancements.

I look outside my office window at the new creative arts construction site and marvel at the rapid progress being made on the 20,000-square-foot building. We expect the construction to be completed in time for the start of the fall 2023 semester. Shortly thereafter, we will demolish the old building, creating new green space for future projects. You can check out the progress we’re making on the Creative Arts Drop and Replace project at https://www.redwoods.edu/about-us/Home/Office-of-Administrative-Services/NewFacilities/Creative-Arts.

We are also in the final stages of planning for a new 80,000-square-foot physical education and fieldhouse complex and a new multi-story residential hall. We anticipate starting construction of the PE complex late next fall, with an expected completion date of fall 2024. This project will include new locker rooms, a training room, offices for coaches and officials, a laundry room, and public restrooms. When construction is complete, our PE complex will be one of the premier collegiate athletic venues in our community college athletic conference. Plans for the new dorm include three stories of living space, increased bed capacity, a dining center, and shared community spaces. We project it to be completed in the fall of 2024.

In an effort to remain at the forefront of sustainability and resiliency in the region, we are planning to convert the main campus’s power usage to renewable solar energy with ForeFront Power and they will be providing the campus with renewable education resources including several libraries of renewable education materials and the opportunity for student sustainability fellowships with the company.

At the May meeting of the board of trustees, approval was given to award the contract for demolition of the old life science and physical science buildings on our Eureka campus to Unlimited Environmental, Inc. This will free-up space for the solar array, and we expect the demolition process to begin after the barn swallow nesting season next fall semester. However, before the demolition begins, we offered the vacant buildings to local fire departments and law enforcement agencies to conduct training exercises, including controlled burns to help firefighters understand and react to structure fires and for SWAT exercises.

These are exciting times for CR and the board of trustees and I want to thank everyone in our capital projects and finance areas for shepherding these projects along the path to completion in a challenging environment. We would also like to thank Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblymember Jim Wood for their support in helping us get the state funding necessary to complete these projects.

Dr. Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.