On April 17 Oregon State University-Cascades announced Dr. Sherm Bloomer would succeed interim vice president Andrew Ketsdever, becoming the first long-term leader of the university since Becky Johnson left to serve as the interim president of all of OSU in May 2021. Bloomer is joining the university as it works toward moving from a small satellite campus with around 1,200 students to a 128-acre campus that can hold up to 5,000 students. Bloomer started his career as an academic, but over the years has taken on administrative roles. Most recently, he was the associate vice president of budget and resource planning for the university system.
"The experience I've had and the education I've had from my colleagues who work in capital planning, building and facilities management, treasury, human resources, all the back-end things, it's made me appreciate how much campuses like this are like small towns and cities. They have infrastructure. And you need to build a community that is built around staff support — functioning well, faculty functioning well, students functioning well. It is really a complicated community," Bloomer told the Source Weekly. "I'm hoping that the background that I've had is going to help me do that in collaboration with everybody on campus."
In 2018 the City of Bend approved OSU-Cascades master plan, allowing the university to start building an expanded campus. The first building erected after the city approved the master plan was the Edward J. Ray Hall, a 50,000-square-foot building with laboratories, classrooms and workspaces for artistic and educational activities. Prior to the master plan's approval, OSU-Cascades built Tykeson Hall and Obsidian Hall. The next project is the student success center. Students contributed $5 million to the project in a vote to increase their student fees, and in June 2021 Oregon legislators approved $13.8 million to create the building.
The student success center, located just north of Edward J. Ray Hall, will include spaces for studying, meeting spaces and offices for staff and student activities. It's expected to be completed by December 2024, after which Bloomer said the university will turn its attention toward the student health and recreation center.
"One thing that's underway is the funding for the wellness center. That's in front of the legislature right now — that we won't know about for a while," he said.
Students have already voted to increase their fees again for the health and wellness center, but it didn't appear on the Governor's recommended budget for the next two years. Students contributed $15 million through heightened student fees, but are still negotiating with lawmakers on a $45 million bond to cover the full cost. The building would have a gym and fitness spaces but is also slated to house teaching spaces for degrees in counseling, kinesiology and physical therapy. OSU-Cascades Director of Communication Christine Coffin said students are going to Salem on May 3 to seek to convince lawmakers to fund the project.
The university is also in the planning stages of the innovation district, an area with private-public partnerships between the university's academic and research programs and businesses. In a summary of the innovation district, OSU-Cascades imagined businesses in technology, recreation, brewing and aerospace as potential partners, along with amenities in the dining and brewing industry. Bloomer said the OSU-Cascades Board of Trustees is going to determine the next steps in creating the innovation district during a meeting in June.
OSU-Cascades is attempting to build gradually over the next several decades, with new construction completed every two years. Bloomer said the goal of the campus expansion is to respond to the needs of the Central Oregon community. The project's timeline of 30 years allows flexibility in how the campus is built. Bloomer said the opportunities for new academic programs at the university are still being ironed out between university leaders, students and the broader Central Oregon community.
"One of the design intents is that the campus is a part of the community, that the community is engaged with campus, that the industries are engaged with our students and our faculty," Bloomer said. "What it lets us do is build a small university experience. And as we build it, talk to the community about what does the community need, both in terms of workforce development, but also in terms of intellectual breadth of where we need scholarship and research and invention and opportunity."