CI Breaks Ground on Sierra Hall

By Janet Herin
Sierra Hall groundbreaking

CI President Richard Rush, faculty, staff, students and community friends gathered on March 14 to celebrate a significant milestone in CI’s continued expansion, a groundbreaking for Sierra Hall. The event included comments from President Rush, Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, Academic Senate Chair Jeannie Greer and Student Body President Vanessa Bahena. Staff member and Chumash Elder and Vice Tribal Chair of the Chumash Barbareño-Ventureño Band of Mission Indians Raudel Bañuelos offered a traditional ceremonial blessing.

A three-story, cutting-edge science lab and instruction building, Sierra Hall will house CI’s growing programs in Anthropology, Computer Science, Geology, Environmental Science & Resource Management (ESRM), Physics, and Psychology. The 68,000-square-foot structure, located at the corner of Los Angeles Avenue and Ventura Street, includes indoor and outdoor learning areas. Designed in accord with sustainability practices, it will serve as a model for green technology.

President Rush began his presentation by thanking representatives from the external community for their support of the $42.7 million project—funded by lease revenue bonds. “Our community is essential to our growth and success,” he said. “We have been a public/private partnership since the beginning and would not have what we have otherwise. I thank you all for your steadfast support.”

Sierra Hall groundbreaking

County Supervisor Long, an advocate of the University for more than 10 years, echoed this sentiment by saying, “The public has truly embraced this campus.” Reflecting back on how CI has evolved in terms of size and success, she noted, “Building by building, the vision is working.”

Sierra Hall continues CI’s forward momentum in a variety of ways. “It will completely change how we teach,” said Colleen Delaney, Associate Professor of Anthropology. “Our program will be more holistic. We’ll be able to offer hands-on learning, and students can participate in independent lab studies. This improves their ability to get hired directly after or even before graduation.”

Associate Provost Dan Wakelee commented about the academic and social benefits of the new building. “Sierra Hall will increase quality of education by providing learning spaces that are better suited for these disciplines,” he said. “Sierra Hall’s location on the Central Mall also will help unite separate parts of the University and contribute to a more energized, engaged campus.”

Don Rodriguez, Professor and Chair of the University’s ESRM program, said Sierra Hall reflects the depth of CI’s commitment to environmental stewardship. “Institutes of higher education have the obligation to prepare students for the world they are inheriting,” he noted. “Elements of sustainability will be inherent in every decision this generation makes. This new building will allow us to integrate sustainability across the curriculum.”

Student Body President Vanessa Bahena praised President Rush and faculty members for their collaborative approach to the project and other campus decisions. “One thing that sets Channel Islands apart is the amount of student involvement,” she said. “We are part of the legacy. This is our University.”

President Rush smiled as he glanced across the Mall. “We’ve waited three years for this day,” he said. “It will be a beautiful structure and another indicator that we are realizing our dream.”

Sierra Hall is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2015.

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© Spring 2014 / Volume 18 / Number 1
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