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COMING OF AGE FIRST CLASS TO ATTEND 4 YEARS AT SCHOOL READY TO GRADUATE.

Byline: SUSAN ABRAM

Staff Writer

CAMARILLO - Four years after entering the stucco-and-tile Spanish-revival buildings, Kristi Adame is about to emerge as one of the pioneers.

She will graduate in May among the students known as the first four -- the first class to complete all four years at California State University, Channel Islands.

She also will be the first in her family to graduate from college.

"Going to college is a whole new experience in the first place, but being part of a new university allowed me to be a part of the growth and have a say in classes and committees," said Adame, a 22-year-old psychology major.

"On other campuses, I would not have been part of helping to make decisions."

After four full years in operation, the campus known affectionately as Cal State Sushi is entering the big time, with enrollment growing by 500 students a year.

Construction is booming, with crews working to expand student housing from 350 beds to 800 by the fall. The John Spoor Broome Library, named for the Ventura County philanthropist who donated $5 million to the project, is expected to be completed this year.

Also set for completion is the Towncenter, a mixed-use building with a bookstore, shops and apartments.

Last year, the campus erected on the site of the former Camarillo State Hospital received the largest portion of state bond money allocated to the California State University system.

About $62 million will be spent retrofitting the nearly 80-year-old buildings to meet seismic standards, building laboratories for a proposed nursing program and erecting a new entryway into the campus.

All of this is happening faster than administrators can have the letters CSUCI or the school mascot, a dolphin, silk-screened onto T-shirts and sweat shirts.

"Our enrollment has been greater than expected," said Richard Rush, president of the university. "One of the challenges is getting the facilities ready fast enough to meet the enrollment demands. It's more expensive to refurbish the buildings than it is to build new ones."

A place with history

Ventura County residents lobbied three decades for a four-year public university and seized the opportunity when what had once been the nation's largest mental institution closed in 1997.

Originally created as a satellite of Cal State Northridge, the campus became independent in late 2002.

"It obviously has some history," said Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long, whose district includes Camarillo and who has worked to bring the university to fruition.

"Administrators and the community have tremendous empathy for the history of that site," she said. "You have to respect the history, but also celebrate the future."

Surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains and fields of strawberries, cilantro and onions, the campus isn't expected to expand beyond its perimeters, a concern among some residents before CSUCI had opened, Long said.

"Because of our growth voter initiatives, it doesn't have the ability to become as big as a Cal State Northridge," Long said. "The full build- out is expected to hold no more than 15,000 students."

And while CSUCI is autonomous from Ventura County, its administration has made a concerted effort to connect to the community, partnering with some 600 local firms to link students with prospective careers in business and biotechnology.

Rush said he also receives 10,000 applications from prospective faculty members each year, despite the region's relatively high housing costs.

Recognizing that the real-estate market could be a deterrent, the administration opened University Glen, a community of 900 single-family homes and town homes sold at below-market prices.

"The faculty we hire have to have a pioneering vision, to have a sense of programs that have a future," Rush said.

Life's a beach

Despite its name, Cal State Channel Islands is three miles from the nearest beach.

And with a student body of just over 3,100 and student-to-instructor ratios of 18-to-1, some students say they feel as if they are attending a small and exclusive university.

"I'm happy with everything that's here," said Icela Rodriguez, a 20- year-old liberal-arts major from Newbury Park. "I didn't want to leave home to go to school."

Others said they longed for the university to have a sports team, but in the big picture, that didn't even matter.

"This school has everything I want. It's close to home, the classes are small and we get that one-on-one attention from professors," said John Sakla, a 21-year-old business major from Oxnard.

"If this school wasn't here, I'd have to drive far away," he said.

Steve Lapointe, 22, also a business major, said the school boasts a 6-to-1 ratio of females to males.

"I definitely like those odds," he said.

susan.abram(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3664

CAPTION(S):

6 photos, map

Photo:

(1 -- color) Students gather in one of the many courtyards at Cal State University, Channel Islands. It is the newest campus in the CSU system.

(2 -- color) The dolphin is CSUCI's mascot, and they figure prominently at this campus fountain, although the school is three miles away from the nearest beach.

(3) The Bell Tower building features ceiling work from the 1930s. About $62 million will be spent to retrofit the nearly 80-year-old buildings on campus and to construct new laboratories.

(4) Construction is booming on CSUCI's campus, with the John Spoor Broome Library expected to be completed this year.

(5) Sculptured heads sit on a shelf in an art class at CSUCI. "I'm happy with everything that's here," said Icela Rodriguez, a 20-year-old liberal-arts major from Newbury Park.

(6) CSUCI students Lindsay Land, a psychology major, Lorrene Black, a math major, and Nicole Wise, a liberal- studies major, from left, check out their class schedules.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

Map:

CSUCI campus

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 15, 2007
Words:951
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