Rodríguez: Partnering to build an innovative campus in Milpitas
A rendering of a classroom in the Innovation Campus partnership between San Jose-Evergreen Community College District and Milpitas Unified School District. Image courtesy of MUSD.

Since opening its doors to students in early 2017, the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District (SJECCD) Milpitas Extension has served thousands of students and community members, bringing higher education classes and services to Escuela Parkway in Milpitas and creating one of the first locations anywhere in the United States where a kindergarten-to-college pipelines exists within a single city block.

In the more than five years since those first classes at the Milpitas Extension, SJECCD and Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) have continued to build our partnership, coming up with new and innovative ways to serve students and the broader community. The next phase in this longstanding partnership is MUSD’s new Innovation Campus.

While we are still exploring precisely how best to partner and combine the services and expertise of SJECCD and MUSD in a manner that best serves students at the Innovation Campus, one thing is certain: this campus represents the latest in 21st century learning and will prepare students to succeed in the modern workforce fueled by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first two revolutions evolved over time with the development of mass production lines and factories, making adaptation and lifestyle changes gradually. In our generation, we are experiencing the overlap of both the third and fourth industry disruptors. Where manufacturing became automatic and “just in time” in the 1990s, it is quickly becoming autonomous and real-time with machine learning and data analytics.

These changes impact the way we connect with one another, shop, drive, work, learn and almost every aspect of our lives. It is imperative our students are not left out of the next phase of the economy and workforce. We must ensure we are preparing students not just to be consumers, but to be at the forefront of creating and building the economy of the 21st century.

Even before COVID, the World Economic Forum identified technology and health care as two fields that would see substantial job growth in the coming decades. The Innovation Campus will provide transformational pathways in these high-growth areas for learners—high school through adult students—to advance their career pathways.

In partnership with stakeholders, MUSD identified four key outcomes for learners participating in programs at the Innovation Campus:

  • Adaptive to the interconnected world;
  • Compassionate and inclusive;
  • Inspired, passionate and purposeful; and
  • Curious, joyful and creative thinkers.

The design of the campus integrates flexibility for applied learning through internship and apprenticeship opportunities, maker spaces and collaboration with partners in industry and higher education. It is common in education to find partnerships existing in various combinations between K-12, higher education, business and industry, local government and nonprofit organizations. The MUSD Innovation Campus is unique in that it will intertwine these partnerships in uncommon ways. The campus is designed so that no time spent in its facilities goes wasted.

The campus is planned to include 75 classrooms, more than a dozen experiential learning labs, outdoor learning spaces and courtyards and space for collaboration. Phase One of the project is scheduled for completion next summer with Phases Two and Three following in subsequent years. The goal is to create an ideal learning space where we can cultivate a homegrown, highly skilled workforce that lives and works in Milpitas to help ensure it remains one of the Bay Area’s leading technological hubs.

While these goals are ambitious, they are also attainable. But they are only attainable if we build a strong coalition of engaged partners, including those who can help ensure final stages of the Innovation Campus are fully funded and built on schedule. While the majority of the funding—about $67 million—will come from MUSD’s Bond Measure AA, which passed with 71% of the vote in 2018, and an additional $17.75 million raised through grants and donations, approximately $25 million more is needed to complete the full campus.

To learn more, including how you or your company can join our growing coalition of partners to help ensure the success of this vital project, please visit our Innovation Campus Campaign site.

This column was written in collaboration with Cheryl Jordan, superintendent of Milpitas Unified School District.

San José Spotlight columnist Raúl Rodríguez is Interim Chancellor of San Jose-Evergreen Community College District, which operates San Jose City College, Evergreen Valley College, the Milpitas College Extension and the Community College Center for Economic Mobility. His columns appear every first Wednesday of the month. He can be reached at [email protected]

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