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Local leaders push Mville site for UW branch campus
EVERETT North county made an impression when more than 370 people showed up at a town hall meeting here on
Oct. 3 to voice their support for the placement of a new University of Washington branch campus.
Six sites in Marysville, Everett and Lake Stevens are on the final short list for evaluation by members of the governors office, the UW academic leadership team, and an architectural planning consultant. A trio of bigwigs heard more than three hours of testimony at Comcast Arena from residents of those towns, all making the case for the state to place the campus in their area.
A huge contingent from Marysville were wearing matching t-shirts saying Real Huskies Go North (of Everett); they met in town and trekked to the Comcast Arena conference room in a convoy, with members from Arlington, Smokey Point and areas north coming along for the ride. Before the meeting they waved signs outside the arena next to an inflatable Husky mascot while supporters of an Everett site tried to get Silvertips fans to sign their petitions.
The hockey game next door finished long before the meeting did.
Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall led off the early testimony with a back-and-forth contest with his Everett counterpart Ray Stephanson. Each city marshaled members of their planning commissions, parks departments and city councils to convince the panel to locate the campus in their hometown. Kendall said 687-acres of Smokey Point land near the trio of campus sites in the north part of his town is slated for industrial use, just the type of businesses the state is looking to partner with.
Marysville resident Jennifer Payne is a UW admissions worker who commutes to the Seattle main campus everyday. She said it takes her at least 20 minutes each morning to inch from south Marysville to Everett, and urged the panel to consider the Marysville location to keep students from getting stuck in traffic each day on their way to class.
Marysville School District Superintendent Larry Nyland is a triple Husky, earning his bachelors and masters degrees as well as his Ph. D. at the UW. He noted the availability of lots of housing around the Marysville area as a huge plus, saying that if he had not been able to live at home while attending college he probably wouldnt have been able to go to college at all.
College attendance rates in Snohomish County are significantly lower than the statewide average, and many students dont automatically think of continuing their education after high school, Nyland said. Snohomish County also has a lower percentage of college-educated adults than the state average, he added.
He echoed Paynes concerns about traffic, noting that students from south Snohomish County will enjoy a reverse commute, whereas students from north Snohomish, Island, Skagit counties wouldnt get stuck in traffic if the campus is built at one of the three sites just north of 152nd Street. The vast tracts of land nearby will allow the campus to grow over the next few decades, Nyland added.
While the officials were interested in hearing how the students at the potential campus would be served by partnerships with local businesses and educational institutions, speaker after speaker ignored their instructions and led a cheerleading exercise, complete with pom-poms, t-shirts and sign waving.
A new campus focusing on technical and engineering subjects could be up and running in temporary quarters by next year and a coordinated lobbying effort was made by the trio of cities that could land the permanent college. People lauded the parks and recreation opportunities, the nice views from their plots of land, the easy ingress and egress basically everything that Governor Christine Gregoires policy advisor told them the state wasnt interested in hearing, at least at this point.
The UW campus for Snohomish County will be a four-year institution from the start to serve the largest area in the country without access to higher education, according to Gregoires legislative director Marty Brown. He said planners want to know the nature of the potential campus and how students and the community will work together with it. Who is going to learn and what they are going to learn at the new branch were the topics the panel was interested in.
These are the kinds of things we need to know about, Brown told the crowd.
He wasnt interested in hearing people suggest their favored location he said he could garner a clue from the many t-shirts in the audience. He underscored the importance of sticking to the point, noting that a WSU branch campus for the Tri-Cities was delayed for a couple of legislative sessions when lawmakers didnt hear a cohesive direction from that area. The new college is slated to have a stem of science, technology, engineering and math courses, that could branch out and grow into other academic subjects relevant to the employment base in the county. One question to be answered was whether students will live on a traditional campus with dorms or will they be commuters driving home each night. The latter are usually adults, with families and jobs, making a huge difference in the college complexion. These issues need to be sorted out before the Nov. 15 deadline for a final site evaluation goes to the lawmakers.
If were divided, were going to have problems, Brown warned.
There is clearly a need for a higher education institution in this area, and the last time the state created new colleges was almost 20 years ago, the UW branches at Bothell and Tacoma. Those were initially two-year institutions designed to educate juniors and seniors transferring from community colleges, the UWs government relations director Randy Hodgins explained.
The state will want to be able to place students in internships at local businesses for at least one and possible two academic quarters as part of the bachelors degree requirements, Hodgins told the hundreds of people in the conference room.
They lined up, at least 50 of them over three hours, to plug their communities. The mayors of Marysville and Everett were two of the first, followed by superintendents of the Marysville and Arlington school districts, and many other government agencies, including parks and planning commissions, police chiefs from Snohomish and Lake Stevens.
Everybody got a word in.
For Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce executive director Jennifer Shaw, the fourth town hall held by the selection committee was the perfect opportunity to make the case for north Snohomish Countys dearth of higher education opportunities. She gave an interview to a local TV station before the meeting, explaining the need for a college so students could get an education in their backyards. She was there with a large delegation from Arlington and Marysville, including North County Bank senior vice president Jim Lonneker, a WSU grad wearing Husky purple just for the occasion.
We basically want to show our support for the university, Shaw said.
Oh, and we have the best site, Lonneker added.