Five years of planning took its first step into reality Thursday when officials broke ground for the Redfield Campus.
"With a shovel full of dirt, a dream becomes a reality," said Jerry Smith, director of the Redfield Foundation. "A spade full of dirt is thrown today and higher education in Northern Nevada will never be the same."
The Redfield Campus, located just east of Galena High School, will serve as a common learning ground for students enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno and Truckee Meadows and Western Nevada community colleges.
"The partners can pursue collaborative educational programs as well as private ones," said Neal Ferguson, Redfield Campus operating officer and dean of the college of extended studies.
The campus will be the first of its kind in Nevada and one of the first in the nation. Although specific programs have not been identified, the academic pursuits of the school will focus primarily on technology, construction and health sciences.
"It's another opportunity for us to go to our students," said WNCC president Carol Lucey. "We'll use the facility that provides the best access for our students."
Mike Thomas, the executive director of the Tech Alliance, an organization dedicated to retaining high-tech companies in Nevada and drawing in new ones, is optimistic about the campus.
"This type of campus will really do a lot to increase the skills of the work force in the area," Thomas said. "Right now, the best students are leaving to get jobs and we want to change that."
The idea to build the campus came five years ago as UNR President Joe Crowley spoke with Ferguson and the two recognized how Reno was growing.
Crowley said he charged Ferguson with finding a parcel of land in south Reno where they could build the facility.
"He discovered one chunk of land where we might go and we're standing on it today," Crowley said in his address at the ground breaking ceremony. "We are going to build something really significant on these 60 acres."
Over the next five years, two buildings, four bachelor of technology programs and a goal of 1,000 students will sprout up on the 60 acres.
The first building will house a lecture hall, science laboratory, library and computer facilities. The $15.4 million building will be built in three phases covering 75,000 square feet and will open in fall 2002.
By 2020, organizers hope to serve up to 10,000 students in six to eight buildings covering 500,000 square feet.
Ferguson told those gathered at the ground breaking that it was important to remember the contribution of the late Jim Randolph, former president of WNCC, who wrote the first draft of the Redfield Campus plan.
"I don't think it's widely appreciated how great a role Jim played in those early days," Ferguson said.