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University Center opens doors

Posted: August 20, 2009 10:57 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.

People make their way into the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center for its open house Thursday afternoon.

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More than 400 people Thursday strolled through the halls of the new 110,000-square-foot University Center at College of the Canyons as the center celebrated an open house.

The $35 million Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, located on the Valencia campus overlooking Interstate 5, was created to meet the needs of local residents, primarily working adults and single parents, searching for upper-division, graduate school and continuing-education programs, said Cathy Ritz, interim director of the University Center.

The center currently has six partners, including California State University Bakersfield, University of La Verne and Chapman University, which created about 30 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and certification programs, Ritz said.

College officials hope to have up to 10 partners in the coming years, she said.

Local residents spent Thursday evening picking up information packets and mingling with university representatives.

Among the visitors was Wendy Greenberg, 44, who is interested in pursuing a career as a teacher.

The Saugus resident used to work as a preschool teacher, but she put her career plans on hold to raise her children. After spending 15 years at home with the kids, Greenberg said, she’s working at a local elementary school and has been inspired to get back into teaching.

The University Center would allow her to gain the skills she needs to get back into the work force.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for adults who are working jobs to be able to further their education,” Greenberg said.

Denise Norman visited the open house with a friend but soon found herself interested in the master of business administration program at University of La Verne.

“It’s a good opportunity to see what’s available right here in the local community,” said Norman, a Montrose resident.

Students still apply directly to the colleges and universities but are able to take their classes at the center, cutting out a commute to the distant campuses, Ritz said.

California State University Northridge offers a program for students to receive a master of public administration.

Classes meet weekly at night at the University Center, which benefits people who work during the day, said Yvonne Carrillo, CSUN program coordinator.

Taking classes at the center means students will save on everything from gas to tuition, she said Thursday.

Students are able to register and purchase textbooks online.

“We do everything for them so they don’t have to go to the CSUN (campus),” Carrillo said.

Since 2002, the college has maintained a 10,000-square-foot interim University Center and has seen more than 1,100 students graduate from the current higher-education programs.

The new spacious center is home to 21 classrooms, which are equipped with computers and projectors, and two computer labs, Ritz said.

Classrooms can hold up to 35 students while the labs have video conference capabilities.

Along with classroom space, the center houses Academy of the Canyons, which is the William S. Hart Union High School District’s middle college high school, along with the Small Business Development Center and college administration offices.


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