EOU offers vision of future

By Observer Upload July 02, 2012 02:40 pm

Sure, it’s just an as yet mostly unfunded wish list. But people need a vision of what the future can be to make it happen. Marching into the future blindly winging it may work for a while, but in the long run is not a good idea.

Eastern Oregon University has just such a vision for its future. An architectural consultant unveiled the plan recently at a La Grande City Council work session. The plan calls for, among other things, a new, high-tech learning center, a redesigned portal connecting the campus with downtown, a landscaping makeover. Allison Wildman of SERA Architects showed off the plan that’s been in the development stages since the fall of 2011 and is nearing completion.

EOU is a major part of the local economy, and there are ripple effects for whatever happens at Eastern, good or bad. Such ripples impact all of us who live here. We’re lucky to have the university in La Grande, for the talent it attracts and for the talent it keeps here to build our community in more ways than we can count.

The university currently serves some 4,300 students, 53 percent of them participating in on-line, distance education. Its outreach is indeed global. The plan projects what the university calls “modest growth” in enrollment but what seems to us, considering the recession, robust growth, over the next few years: 6 percent for on-campus students, and 11 percent for those in distance education. 

The plan, among other things, strives to create open spaces and honor the school’s small-town ambiance. At the same time, it aims to meet Eastern’s “core themes” of quality, access, engagement and affordability.

A new building, the Eastern Learning Commons, would house the university’s data center, equipment to support distance education and technology-rich classrooms. 

Also in the plan is a proposal to re-establish Eighth Avenue as the ceremonial and main entrance to the  campus. The university needs a portal that gives visitors a strong sense of arrival at the university. It also needs to connect better to the downtown area. That’s a grand idea. We need university visitors to have a great first impression of this educational hub for the region.

Since quality education equals economic opportunity, and the region needs economic opportunity, the city, county and university should work together toward a funding strategy to make as much of the EOU plan as possible a reality.