When Patty Charlton enrolled as a student at the College of Southern Nevada in 1985, the Henderson campus had one building.
On a recent cold and windswept afternoon, the walkway outside Building A was quiet with few students, along with the sidewalks and stairs leading to Buildings B and C — the only other academic buildings that have been added to the campus in its nearly 40-year history.
“The library we have here today is the same library when I came in 1985,” Charlton said.
That’s about to change.
Two new buildings will soon dot the vast acreage that extends from the current cluster of buildings to a line of trees and homes along Chimney Rock Drive. Charlton said she believes the campus will be fully built out in 10 to 15 years, finally mirroring its counterparts to the north. There’s only little more than 200,000 square feet of space developed on Henderson’s campus, compared to more than 600,000 and nearly 700,000 square feet at North Las Vegas and Charleston, respectively.
“I always knew that this campus would grow because this community is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Charlton, who was recently named vice president and provost of the Henderson campus.
‘Nimble and responsive’
Charlton’s new position is the most visible sign of things to come for Henderson’s campus — and the college’s broader goal of moving to a multicampus district model.
“The Henderson campus responds to that community directly. There is an opportunity for this to be a campus-based leader who is able to be more nimble and responsive to business, industry and workforce needs,” CSN Acting President Margo Martin said.
Martin said the idea behind the multicampus district model is to create a common student experience, so a student can get a comprehensive schedule at any of the campuses and be able to access services without having to travel around the valley.
“We can’t offer all things to all people on all campuses,” Martin said. “But at the same time, no matter where a student might take classes, they should have access to counseling and advising, and access to a consistent schedule of offerings. If you’re a veteran and you need veteran services, you should be able to access that at any campus.”
Martin said each campus needs a leader like Charlton, to ensure that facility, student and community needs are being met, and to be the immediate point of contact for decision-making.
“Henderson was chosen because it has the opportunity for the most growth and to try some things that are different,” Martin said. “It’s the campus where we have the least comprehensive services, and it’s an opportunity for someone to do a deep dive.”
Martin believes Charlton — who was a student at CSN and is ingrained in the Henderson community — is the right person to lead the way. Martin this month will launch a nationwide search for candidates to fill the provost positions at both the North Las Vegas and Charleston campuses.
“It’s almost like she’s got a head start on this,” Martin said. “She knows the people she needs to talk to, to move things forward.”
As vice president and provost, Charlton will oversee the construction of a new student union. This is another important step in the creation of a common student experience, Martin said.
“It will help CSN in the development of that sticky-campus concept,” Martin said. “It’s the opportunity to create a space where students will be able to spend time and not fly in with smoke on their heels, take a class and then dash away.”
Student unions also will be built on the college’s two other campuses, and will feature plenty of outdoor space for students to sit and gather under shade trees, and indoor space for meetings, studying and a place to grab food.
Clara Mata, a CSN student studying special education, said she wishes Henderson’s campus was larger.
“It is kind of small,” Mata said. “I went to UNLV for a semester, so then going from UNLV’s campus to a three-building campus, it feels really weird. It doesn’t really feel like it’s a school. I want this campus to grow. We got good views here, so why not?”
English professor Laura McBride, who’s been an advocate for Henderson to be a fuller campus since she arrived in 2006, is excited for the possibility of students having more space to congregate and have informal exchanges with each other and their professors. Conversations that continue beyond the confines of a classroom are just as, if not more important than the lectures themselves, she said.
“The Henderson campus has been pretty nuts and bolts for a long time,” McBride said. “But if we set up our campuses right and set up spaces naturally, people will want to be there.”
McBride said the shortage of usable space has occasionally hindered the education of students. There’s not enough office space for the number of full-time faculty, department chairs and deans that a college campus needs, she said.
“We have wonderful adjuncts, but there should be parity in the ratio of full-time faculty to students on all campuses in a perfect world, which is what we’re going for,” McBride said.
A new health sciences building, to be shared with Nevada State College, will be the next building in line after the student union. The Englestad Family Foundation recently announced a $3 million gift toward the project, which still needs another $3 million before the start of the next legislative session.
In 2017, the Nevada Legislature allocated planning funds for the 70,000-square-foot facility. Both institutions will ask state lawmakers for the remaining construction funds next year.
“I think we are just moving, moving, moving,” Charlton said. “I think building those student unions, having the health and sciences, it’s just going to massively expand the opportunities here.”