Monday, May 02, 2011

Hey, My Kid Goes to CMU

Depending upon your life experience and/or geographical location, the title of this post can mean a lot of different things to different people. For me, last week's news of the Mesa State College Board of Trustees voting to change the name of the institution to Colorado Mesa University brought to me a decidedly mixed reaction, mainly because I focused on the new initials and associated them with the Pittsburgh institution that most readily came to mind. The resulting disconnect was kind of obvious.

Carnegie-Mellon University here in Pittsburgh already owns the "" Internet domain, and the recognition that comes with it. There is also Central Michigan University, but no others that pop up readily on a Google search.

Aside from the esoteric, yet overly-stressed-about-in-some-corners approach to this change, I seriously doubt that anyone will confuse the two institutions. One is a prestigious private university with many high-profile alumni. The other is part of the public higher education system in Colorado, with a reputation for a decent learning environment, recent significant growth in both size and coursework offered, and an administration with solid political connections.

My son goes to the "new" CMU in Colorado. He enjoys it there, and feels he is getting a very good education and access to other opportunities. As a parent, I can't help but be happy with that, no matter what they decide to plaster on the signs, business cards, and letterhead.

If one were going to compare Mesa State/Colorado Mesa to a college in the Pittsburgh area, a more appropriate choice would be Robert Morris University, across the Ohio River from us in Moon Township. RMU had it's own naming crisis, a dispute with similarly named institution in Chicago that seemed to be resolved in its favor.

As it happens, Leslie's daughter Gianna has been accepted to the Pennsylvania RMU, and plans to start in the fall.

As a child, I remember the suburban campus as Robert Morris Junior College, just as many in Grand Junction remember Mesa College as a 2-year institution. Both schools have experienced prodigious growth over recent years - while Robert Morris is a private school with a over 200 acres of land to grow on, Mesa State has used its status as an arm of the State of Colorado to grow where it can, as it is exempt from local zoning and development regulations, including fire codes as has been discussed here previously.

To be fair, Mesa State has been a willing partner with the City of Grand Junction in identifying areas for redevelopment. The City's recent efforts to gather public comment for a long-term blueprint of the North Avenue corridor echo this, but the one meeting I attended felt like the college was an 800-pound gorilla looming invisibly over the proceedings.

The Mesa State trustees' recent vote to expand west to Seventh Street emphasizes both the importance of a planning effort, and the City's otherwise anemic efforts at developing a plan without a binding agreement with the college as to how and where they will grow. Otherwise, this has the potential to be another example of development outstripping the City's ability to respond to it, especially when the culprit is an arm of the government, exempt from both local zoning and taxation.

Here's to a bright future for Colorado Mesa University, Robert Morris University, and my two favorite students. May they not grow too fast, too soon.

Have a great week ahead.

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