Cal Poly released a study detailing the feasibility of constructing its own hotel conference center and an events center. | J.J. Jenkins/Mustang News

Suha Saya & Katharine Gore
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Though the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) recently began discussing the construction of a new academic facility — the James G. Boswell Agricultural Center — that’s not the only project in mind for Cal Poly.

The center, which has been given $8 million by the James G. Boswell foundation, will replace building 52, across from the new Warren G. Baker science building. However, it is just one of many projects — including a revamped Julian A. McPhee University Union and Learn By Doing Commons — that play into the revamping of Cal Poly’s campus.

According to Cal Poly Provost Kathleen Enz Finken, there are at least three or four drivers around the conversation.

One includes a 20-year campus master plan that every California State University (CSU) campus is required to have. They include plans for new buildings, parking structures, residence halls and changes in circulation patterns, she said.

“Because this is required by the CSU, it’s shaping the vision of buildings and the rest of the structures on campus over the next 20 years,” she said. “In addition to that, both Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and Cal Poly Corporation are undergoing some master planning efforts … all of those master plans have to be tied together, because of course, all of these components are part of the Cal Poly community.”

ASI is interested in potentially adding some new structures or renovations of older structures based on the anticipated number of students, she said.

“Though anticipated student growth may not be huge and will most likely be over time, if we grow, we will certainly need additional facilities to support the constructions as well as the residence halls,” she said.

According to Enz Finken, Cal Poly is currently in a comprehensive campaign — a massive fundraising campaign that physically provides opportunities to fund new buildings, and in some cases, major renovations on existing buildings.

CAFES Dean Andrew Thulin said plans for the agricultural research center include facilities such as laboratories to support sensory science, teach food safety and research plant pathology, enology and genomics. There would also be an area where students, faculty and staff could interact with the goal of innovation, Thulin said.

“We’re in desperate need for upgraded, modern facilities to do some of these things that are critical to newer technologies that our students need to understand,” Thulin said. “Anything that can help our students to excel and become the best they can be, and anything that can help our faculty to excel in the teacher-scholar model.”

Programs for the building include possibly providing office, teaching and research spaces, Enz Finken said.

“Right now, a lot of students in (CAFES)  in particular don’t have sufficient space for project-based research,” she said.

Regarding classroom space on Cal Poly’s campus in general, Enz Finken explained it’s a work in progress.

“The thing that we are working on, and I think we need a lot of attention to, is renovating the classrooms we currently have,” she said. “We do have an opportunity to go in an existing building, a couple of larger classrooms, because we have very few spaces on campus that hold more than about 60 or 70 students.”

Cal Poly isn’t making many large classes, Enz Finken said, but instead aims to fix existing classroom sizes.

“When people want to offer classes, trying to find such classes where they can fit a certain number of students with the right technology is difficult in our current situation,” she said.

In a May 2 press release, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong expressed his thanks to the James G. Boswell foundation for its investment and partnership in Learn By Doing.

“This generous gift from the James G. Boswell Foundation will jump-start a project that will help keep Cal Poly’s agricultural programs at the leading edge, advance the interdisciplinary nature of our hands-on education and further transform the heart of our campus,” Armstrong said in the statement.

The center is anticipated to cost $25 million, and construction is expected to begin when the rest of the funds are raised, according to the release. Cal Poly has gathered $5 million in pledges, for a total of $13 million toward the project. Thulin said he thinks Cal Poly should have the funding secured within the next three years.

The research center is the beginning of several new facilities, such as a winery and an animal health center, Thulin said.

“It’s a great time to be at Cal Poly with the new facilities coming on board across campus, not just in this college,” Thulin said.

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