The Willits Center

A Vision for the Future

by Tina Tyler

Since the mid-1970s, the Mendocino College Willits Center has provided college services in Willits and several rural valley communities in Mendocino County (Round Valley, Laytonville, Anderson Valley). Students have come to rely on the Willits Center for a variety of college programs and services from classes in many disciplines to student services such as counseling, financial aid, tutoring and more. Over the years, as college resources have changed over time, the services in Willits have changed, too. As Mendocino College approaches the next century, staff at the Willits Center have been working with others at the college and in the Willits region to plan an exciting vision for the future.

As part of college planning processes, Mark Rawitsch (Assistant Dean of Community Extension), Peggy Randrup (Willits Center Operations Supervisor), and other college staff have been working closely with several regional agencies to plan a cooperative project that could lead to a new Willits Center site near the Mendocino County Library/County Museum/City of Willits Recreation Grove area in Willits.

"One of the things that is critical to our efforts in Willits as we look toward the 21st Century is a vision for the future," says Mark. "No one ever knows all the details of what the future will bring but we must use our best judgment now to foresee future needs. We must also maximize the good community relations that we have been able to develop and maintain in Willits over the years to help us with new ideas for the future, even though we know that we will always be working with limited resources. Everyone knows that we might not ever realize all our dreams but if we don't dream about what we can do for our own community, who will?"

For example, as part of the Willits vision for the 21st Century, Mark has proposed that the college work together with other Willits groups to plan a new 3-classroom complex with support facilities and a college administrative office space at the Library/Museum/Recreation Grove area in Willits. A much larger community-based project is already in the works for that site and people in Willits have expressed a strong interest in having the college join the project. The new location would provide a high profile presence for the college in the heart of the new Willits cultural, educational and recreational complex which has already received substantial funding and conceptual support from a wide variety of funding sources and civic groups in Willits and the north county. Always mindful of the need to limit or reduce costs to the college whenever possible, Mark's efforts have also included proposals for a possible reduction of long-term college facility lease costs in Willits as part of the proposed relocation project. College planning committees, faculty and staff have offered support to proceed with ideas that might lead to a new Willits Center, and architectural drawings for the new complex have already been prepared at no cost to the college.

At this time, it is envisioned that our new center would be developed through a lease arrangement with the County and it would consist of:

One "high tech" classroom with a computer lab format with all affordable technological support systems such as ISDN line, INTERNET access, Distance Education components, etc.;

One "traditional" classroom with a basic lecture classroom format with features that can be adapted to the widest variety of uses possible. This room might also include selected technological advantages to support Distance Education access;

One multi-purpose classroom ;

One Administrative and Student Support Services Office Building possibly consisting of the present County of Mendocino "Program Center" structure already on the site.

Incidental support facilities such as student restrooms with handicap access, a small utility room, parking lot, campus-like grounds of the larger complex, would also be used as part of the new center.


Over the last decade, the Willits City Council has directed City staff to develop community information and support for the constantly evolving East Commercial Street cultural, educational and recreational complex which currently consists of:

Recreation Grove

Frontier Days Rodeo Grounds

Mendocino County Museum

Mendocino County Regional Branch Library

Baseball, Football and Soccer Fields

Roots of Motive Power Outdoor Display Area

At a Willits City Council meeting last year, additional City support for the Redwood Empire Railroad History Project, developed by the County of Mendocino and many other Willits organizations, was also garnered from the City of Willits. Extensive support from a wide variety of civic organizations was also expressed at the Council meeting and plans are moving forward quickly for an expansion of the phased project as part of the East Commercial Street complex.

"When the several phases of this project are finished, Willits will enjoy one of the most complete community and visitor service centers in the region. Its high-profile location and function as a center of community values and activities will serve the college well if we decide to proceed with a creative Willits Center relocation plan," says Mark. "The many advantages to our students for access to surrounding facilities (the County Library and its comfortable study environment, the "campus" of the museum grounds and Recreation Grove, student internship possibilities with the Library and County Museum in a variety of disciplines) all provide a unique and visionary opportunity to expand our presence and improve our services to students without significantly increasing our costs. We've also worked with others in Willits and Ukiah to create the new Willits Small Town Network, an informal group of agencies providing educational, cultural and recreational services to Willits residents, so we can continue to work on our dreams together to plan future cooperative projects that will benefit students here for many years into the next century. After all, if you don't have dreams, they never come true," he concludes.

Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1995
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited

[Return to Index for This Issue]
[Return to Eagle Home Page]
Author:The Eagle Staff
Email: The Eagle
Last Update: 5/20/96