When it comes to crafting a curriculum, Ventura County's fledgling Cal State campus should consider a mix of traditional studies and courses designed to move the county into a new technological age, according to a survey of residents.
As its group project, the 1997-98 class of the Ventura County Leadership Academy--a group of educators, business leaders and other professionals--set out to determine what kinds of academic programs residents hoped to see at the new university, soon to take root at the former Camarillo State Hospital site.
Surveying more than 300 people, academy members found that 19% favored courses in computer science and 17% wanted a strong business emphasis. Fifteen percent listed liberal arts programs as their top priority, followed by 12% who favored an emphasis in education.
Few people had interest in programs dealing with biotechnology and agriculture, two courses of study that CSU officials believe will be in great demand when the campus opens in January.
Of the less-than-enthusiastic response to biotechnology programs, academic planners said they suspect many respondents didn't understand the term or didn't equate it to the county's biomedical powerhouses, such as Thousand Oaks-based Amgen Inc.
"The survey showed a high level of community support for a four-year university here in Ventura County," said Harry Lee, executive director of the academy, founded in 1994 to develop leaders dedicated to improving the quality of life in Ventura County. "Hopefully it provided a lot of good grass-roots information they can use as they develop their curriculum."
University planners have been scouring the county for months to identify educational needs and find ways to meet them.
To that end, planners asked members of the leadership academy last fall if they would be willing to help develop the academic program for the local campus, to be called Cal State Channel Islands.
Over nine months, academy members collected information through a newspaper survey and on the Internet asking about academic interests.
The results were provided May 1 to CSU's academic advisory council and again Friday during graduation ceremonies for the 1997-98 class of the leadership academy, created and sponsored by the United Way of Ventura County.
"It has been really well received," said Robert Peyton, senior academic planner for the Channel Islands campus. "This reinforces and builds on our network of information as we try to find out more about the community's needs."
The responses will be added to the results of other surveys that have been launched to help build the curriculum, including an ongoing assessment of the educational needs of local farming-related industries.
Although the academy's survey is by no means exhaustive, members say it provides a good opportunity to involve more people in shaping the academic content of the Channel Islands campus.
"Besides providing information for the CSU, I think that another component [of the survey] is that more people have become engaged in the development of this university," said Maricela Morales, one of the 20 members of the 1997-98 academy. "It's really a place to begin from, a good first step in encouraging the community to become involved in the development of their university."