Mesa’s Promise: admin talks free textbooks, new quad, and student housing

Mesa+plans+to+redevelop+many+of+the+campus%27+old+buildings%2C+expanding+recreational+space+with+attention+to+environmentally+friendly+enhancements.
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Mesa’s Promise: admin talks free textbooks, new quad, and student housing

Mesa plans to redevelop many of the campus' old buildings, expanding recreational space with attention to environmentally friendly enhancements.

Mesa plans to redevelop many of the campus' old buildings, expanding recreational space with attention to environmentally friendly enhancements.

OJB Landscape Architecture

Mesa plans to redevelop many of the campus' old buildings, expanding recreational space with attention to environmentally friendly enhancements.

OJB Landscape Architecture

OJB Landscape Architecture

Mesa plans to redevelop many of the campus' old buildings, expanding recreational space with attention to environmentally friendly enhancements.

C.N. Williams, Staff Writer

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San Diego Mesa College’s administration presented programs for transitioning to public domain teaching materials and future campus development at a Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 8.

The details were part of a broader presentation to the Trustees about Mesa’s involvement in the San Diego Promise, touching on the various programs Mesa provides to aid Promise students who are committed to transferring within two years.

Several of Mesa’s programs addressed financial insecurity — including the infamous costs of college textbooks.

“So we know that textbooks are a huge barrier for our students to get on the (Promise) path and stay on the path,” said Mesa Librarian Lisa Burgert. Her presentation to the board discussed an ongoing program called Open Educational Resources, or OER.

She explained that the library set up a whiteboard at the beginning of the semester, labeled, “How much are textbooks costing you?” The options had ranged from tens of dollars to a thousand or more. Students marked their costs across the entire scale.

“They also wrote things like ‘Please make our suffering end,’” Burgert said of the whiteboard responses, “‘Access codes are awful,’ and even more heartfelt, ‘I didn’t have money for food at the end of the month.’”

According to Burgert, the OER program is an open-resource collection of public domain teaching and research materials. Over the summer, Burgert said, adoption cohort OER Track gathered to compare OER materials with their regular texts chapter by chapter and author by author, determining where the OER material matched or surpassed the high-cost textbooks.

When faculty began replacing teaching material with free OER material in their summer classes, Burgert said they reported that drop-without-fail (DWF) rates in their classes dropped and their students’ grades increased compared to the previous summer.

According to Burgert, OER saved students nearly $72,000 in this fall semester alone, as 19 sections at Mesa dropped expensive textbooks and transitioned to free material. Some courses already have hardbound class-copies of the OER textbooks, courtesy of a $15,000 grant from the Mesa Foundation.

Looking ahead, Burgert added, Mesa wants to secure permanent OER ebook licenses for the library, primarily to allow rentals of laptops loaded with OER textbooks. According to Burgert, the idea is to start with five-hour rentals, but to eventually progress to rentals lasting up to seven days.

Lorenze Legaspi, Vice President for Administrative Services, introduced another of Mesa’s developing projects.

“As we talk about sharing our students’ educational pathways,” he told the room, “it’s also important to consider the actual pathways we have for our students to walk on.”

First and foremost was The Quadrangle, a redesigning of the existing space atop the towering staircase by the Student Services building. According to the website of the firm hosting the development, OJB Landscape Architecture, The Quad project will create five acres of “central open space.”

The project not only intends to redesign the primary entrance to the hilltop campus, but also to connect other areas of the school with redeveloped pathways and landscaping — like the proposed “meandering bioswale,” a runoff drain of greenery snaking through campus to collect and filter excess water from The Quad’s future lawns.

The website says that the project is funded by $2 billion in public bond initiatives.

More “Projects in the Queue,” as Legaspi’s powerpoint called them, were plans for reinventing the K-100 building, demolishing buildings I and J, and renovating buildings B and D.

The K-100 building would potentially be home to a new Veterans center, Honors center, English classes, and a more permanent home for The Stand. Demolishing I and J would create the space needed to complete The Quad.

Building B would include space for “Child Development” and an “Innovation Lab,” while Building D would house new rooms for English classes and include space for planned events. But that wasn’t all Mesa had planned, according to Legaspi.

“We are in the pre-planning phases for an educational/strategic/facilities master plan coming online in 2020,” Legaspi said, a project otherwise known as Masterplan 2020.

He said the Masterplan was based on “some identified needs,” and included a new gym, expanded parking, a new aquatics center, a student resource center, a new performing arts complex — and, he tentatively added, even the idea of student housing.

“And then there’s the question,” he went on, “of the remaining buildings that were built in 1963.”

Although most current students may not be around to see the fruition of many of Mesa’s upcoming projects, the changing financial and physical landscapes at Mesa appear to hold potential for attracting and aiding future students.

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C.N. Williams, Staff Writer

Cara is a Journalism major in her second semester at San Diego Mesa College. She's originally from the Midwest but grew up all over Southern California...

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Mesa’s Promise: admin talks free textbooks, new quad, and student housing