Imperial Valley College: 50 Years in the Making


IMPERIAL, Calif. — Slowly, IVC has taken shape as an educational hub for the Imperial Valley. Fifty years ago, IVC was built with the intention of bringing all of the valley’s higher educational needs to one central location. From there, it’s slowly grown and expanded into the farmland around it, and unlike the youth of 50 years ago, the younger generations now have a much larger local stepping stone to help them into the rest of their lives.

Aerial view of Imperial Valley College in 1959

Aerial view of Imperial Valley College in 1959

However, there seems to be a mixture of emotions among students on campus. Some are apathetic about the future and current renovations being done, and others only seem to be counting the days until they’re able to move out of the valley.

Michael Gurrola, 20, remembers his first time seeing the campus. “I was about or 13 years old, and when I saw IVC, I thought to myself, ‘I never want to end up here.’” Now a second-year student at IVC, Gurrola doesn’t feel so bad about attending, although he does still wish it was closer to his house in El Centro. “This place isn’t that bad,” Gurrola says. “If they [the administration] do what they plan, the students will be in good hands.” But when asked how he feels about campus growth, Gurrola admitted, “It would be cool to see if the campus grew, but I don’t think I’ll be around to see it.”

Aerial view of IVC 50 years later in 2009

Aerial view of IVC 50 years later in 2009

Others feel the same way. Daniel Jimenez, 19, of El Centro, says the new science building is “a waste of money” since he says he doesn’t like science. “And I won’t be here to see it. I’m moving to LA as soon as I can.”

Alejandra Mendez, an 18-year-old from El Centro, wasn’t as negative as her friend Jimenez, as they sat beneath the shade of a tree by the backside of the College Center. “It’s good that it will have more opportunities, but everything is so spread out, I hate walking so much.”

Just recently, this reporter was able to sit down to chat with the first teacher to ever be hired at IVC. Harold Richwine still works at the college, teaching a couple PE classes here and there. The following slideshow features Richwine’s talk about the history and evolution of IVC, along with some snapshots showing just how much the campus has changed in the past 50 years.

There are generally two types of people on campus today: those who are attending classes to get their Associate of Arts degree and then move to another town; and those who will be spending more than just two years in the valley. Everyone in the school administration falls into that second group, so naturally they have a more forward-thinking view about the campus.

Jimmy Sanders, the school architect, has been working extensively to solidify IVC’s place in the future. He battles between finding approval and permitting from the state, and then finding the funding necessary to build or renovate buildings in the future.

“With any major capital project, one of your big obstacles is where to get the funding, and the college has worked really hard the past year to get additional funds, and to get projects in the pipeline,” Sanders says.

Architectural plans for future Imperial Valley College

Architectural plans for future Imperial Valley College

The “pipeline” Sanders talks about has in it the renovations of the 400 building, and renovations to the 200, 300, and 800 buildings on campus, to bring them up to standard with college classrooms across the state. Sanders and his staff have an idea for the future of the campus, and it comes with an overall price tag of about $190 million.

“This is a vision of where we would like to go, but we have to stay flexible for the financial environment we’re in,” John Lau, Vice President of Student Services said. “If we don’t get the state funding we need, we’ll need to change how we do things.”

In between getting approval and also getting funds from the state, there isn’t much the administration can do to speed along the process of IVC’s renovations, additions and improvements.

But Lau remains optimistic, and he was proud to show the current future plans for IVC as a means of expanded opportunity for coming generations of IVC students.

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