Thursday, January 1, 2009
Rising in the East
SDSU's Imperial Valley Campus celebrates 50 years.
Twin sisters Jazmin Jesus Leon and Jessenia Maria Leon. Photo by Lauren Radack
Fifty years ago in Calexico, a fledgling university and a sleepy farming community existed side by side.
In the same spot today stands a thriving university town. It is a town whose prosperity is inextricably linked with the San Diego State’s Imperial Valley Campus, which has educated thousands of students.
Calexico’s growth owes much to its fortunate position on the U.S.-Mexico border during a period of flourishing cross-border trade in goods and services. As it grew, Calexico required teachers and the Imperial Valley Campus supplied them. The city needed public administrators and people with business acumen; the Imperial Valley Campus met those needs.
Recognizing a growing demand for local higher education, the university built a second campus about 20 miles north of Calexico in Brawley. Bixby Land Co., long-time owners of the Luckey Ranch near Brawley, donated 200 acres for the project, which opened in 2004.
Next year, the Imperial Valley Campus will celebrate its 50th anniversary supported by a large and loyal alumni base. Many of its graduates chose to remain in Calexico, Brawley and the surrounding communities, forming the backbone of a modern and thriving Imperial County.
“Having a university here transforms the community,” said Stephen Roeder, dean of the Imperial Valley Campus. “We are creating leaders for this community. You will find our graduates at every level of government and private industry.”
Robertta Burns, recently retired CEO of Imperial County, is an alumnus. So is Victor Carrillo, a county supervisor and twice mayor of Calexico, who serves on the dean’s advisory board.
Joining them as alumni this year are twin sisters Jazmin Jesus Leon and Jessenia Maria Leon, pictured on the opposite page. They represent the Imperial Valley Campus’ changing demographic.
Both are Freshman Scholars—students who enrolled directly from high school, rather than transfer from community college—and both are considerably younger than the typical 26-year-old Imperial Valley Campus student.
A younger student population could translate in the near future to increased demand for graduate programs to train a new generation of border residents. If so, the Imperial Valley Campus will be ready to respond.