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Chemeketa Community College
 
The history of Chemeketa Community College begins in a West Salem elementary school on McNary Avenue and 3rd Street. Operated by Salem Public Schools, Salem Technical-Vocational School offered Machine Shop Practice as its first full-time program in 1955. Ten students were enrolled that first year. Since that first year, the college has experienced steady growth, both in enrollment and in the number of programs offered. In 1957 enrollment reached 100 students, and electronics, engineering and practical nursing had been added to the curriculum.

Classes continued at the elementary school until 1964, when the school moved to the site of its present campus on Lancaster Drive. The campus soon included a one-story brick building, a machine shop, a welding shop, and a number of temporary buildings. In 1969 the voters created a community college district, which covers more than 2,600 square miles in Oregon's Mid-Willamette Valley. It includes Marion, Polk, most of Yamhill, and part of Linn counties. A contest was held to name the new school and entries were solicited from Salem Tech students, as well as from all the district high schools. In December 1969 the Board of Education approved the name Chemeketa, a Native American term for a place of peace. Historically it was a place where the various tribes of the Willamette Valley would gather together to conduct their councils, renew friendships and share ideas. It seemed a name ideally suited to the new college, and on July 1, 1970, Salem Tech officially became Chemeketa Community College. Paul Wilmeth was named the first president.

In the early 1970s Chemeketa's enrollment was more than 1,100 full-time students, an enrollment that has grown by approximately eight percent every year since. Also in the 1970s the college received accreditation by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.

As enrollment grew, so did the number of programs offered. In the eight years between 1974 and 1982, the campus added six new buildings to house the growing enrollment and the new programs. To better serve the district's population, the Dallas, Santiam, McMinnville and Woodburn campuses were established.

Chemeketa has always been responsive to concerns and needs of the business community, and in 1983, when Boise Cascade began cutting back its Salem operation, Chemeketa was asked to help retrain employees. As a result, more than 180 Boise Cascade employees made the transition into training and new careers. The project was so successful that Chemeketa combined several programs into a Training and Economic Development (TED) Center in 1986. Today the center, located in downtown Salem, is dedicated to the improvement of businesses and organizations throughout the Mid-Willamette Valley.

In 1993 Building 1 was opened, housing the staff offices and campus bookstore. In 1996 voters approved a $35.2 million bond measure, allowing the college to build new classrooms, repair existing facilities, and update training equipment for students in technical programs. This resulted in the 72,000-square-foot- Learning Resource Center, which houses the library and nine high-tech classrooms, and the Technology Classroom Building, with 14 computer labs and a 465-seat auditorium.

Chemeketa was the first community college in Oregon to offer students the opportunity to earn a degree without ever setting foot on the campus through home study courses . Today the college offers classes, certificates and degrees through study online. During winter term 2001 more than 3,300 individual students took advantage of a broad range of academic and technical courses and programs offered through distance learning, which, in addition to online classes, includes telecourses, Chemeketa Television and courses by mail.

Chemeketa serves more than 51,000 students in 2001. The diversity of the student body has also increased over the years and the college now has the largest Latino enrollment of any college in Oregon.

Compiled by Melaney Moisan, Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator, Chemeketa Community College.

Bibliography:
Contact Ms. Moisan for sources.

 

 
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