History and Background

OSU-Cascades was established by the state of Oregon in response to a regional need for higher education in Central Oregon.  As far back as the 1980s, Central Oregon residents and elected officials were calling for a new university, and in the late 1990s, the Oregon University System developed a proposal for a branch campus to be located in Central Oregon. Oregon State University was chosen to manage the branch campus, in part because of OSU’s land grant mission to serve the entire state. An additional $7.2 million was included in the 2001-2003 biennial budget request so that the new campus would not come at the expense of existing institutions.  OSU-Cascades was also included in the small school subsidy for regional institutions, recognizing the lack of economies of scale for a new campus. 

OSU-Cascades started on the campus of Central Oregon Community College, only offering upper-division courses.  In 2015, OSU-Cascades started offering lower-division courses, and in 2016 moved to its own campus in southwest Bend.  As the fastest-growing region of the state, the need for university education in Central Oregon has only grown over time.  With its geographic isolation and a population over 250,000, Central Oregon is not within commuting distance of any other university, public or private.

OSU-Cascades contributes to the prosperity and well-being of Central Oregon and the state.  Prosperous communities require fewer social services and return more tax revenues to the state.  Providing graduates for the workforce reduces the costs of attracting labor from larger metro areas that command higher wages.  Hiring graduates who already live in Central Oregon also addresses the lack of affordable housing for new residents.

Throughout its short history, OSU-Cascades has aligned its mission with Oregon State University, including the land grant focus on teaching, research, and outreach.  While the breadth of academic offerings has been limited by the size of enrollment, OSU-Cascades has blended the strengths of OSU with the regional needs of Central Oregon.  The current academic programs include direct connections to many of the industries in Central Oregon, and core programs in arts and science provide pathways for students to careers and graduate school.

Vision for 2030

OSU-Cascades is a destination of choice for students, faculty, and staff seeking the excellence of Oregon State University in a unique environment.  While serving the fast-growing region of Central Oregon, OSU-Cascades attracts students from around the globe.  OSU-Cascades contributes to Oregon’s prosperity through educational attainment, workforce development, business development, research on pressing problems, and enriching arts and culture. 

OSU-Cascades demonstrates the excellence in teaching, research, and outreach that is expected at Oregon State University, however the unique environment of OSU-Cascades includes:

  • small class sizes, personal relationships, and experiential opportunities that come with a small campus; 
  • connections to faculty and expertise throughout OSU’s statewide footprint;
  • the natural high desert environment of the Central Oregon region and world-class recreational amenities; 
  • a distinctive, fast-growing economy with robust start-ups, small businesses, and diverse sectors for internships and employment opportunities;
  • distinctive academic programs that are aligned with Central Oregon and complement the strengths of Oregon’s research-intensive land grant university;
  • a vibrant arts and culture community;
  • a resilient campus environment that has transformed a pumice mine and former demolition landfill into a net zero campus in energy, water, and waste.

This unique environment complements the other offerings from OSU.


OSU-Cascades’ vision will not be realized without a deep commitment to creativity, sustainability, and social justice. 


OSU-Cascades embraces creativity, innovation and critical thinking as essential to success in a world where change is the only constant.  OSU-Cascades builds upon an entrepreneurial culture, leads with cross-disciplinary thinking, and generates new ideas that help address contemporary world problems.  OSU-Cascades sets high standards and embraces risk-taking.


OSU-Cascades commits to shaping a future that is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable and resilient.  The campus will build sustainability and resiliency into academic programs, operating procedures, built environment, and culture.

Social Justice

OSU-Cascades strives for a world in which all groups participate fully and equally in society. On campus, inclusivity is at the forefront with programs designed to meet diverse needs.  Distribution of resources is equitable, and people feel physically and psychologically secure.  Principles of shared governance are used in decision-making.

Academic Programs for Central Oregon and Beyond

Academic programs offered at OSU-Cascades will be interdisciplinary in their approach and aligned with Central Oregon’s needs and attributes, while maintaining global relevance.  These programs loosely fit under the categories of health and wellness, resilient natural ecosystems, innovation and entrepreneurship, and arts and sciences, although programs often encompass more than one.  Future schools will be organized to reflect these categories.  Collectively, these offerings provide OSU-Cascades students with creative and innovative learning opportunities that complement and expand the mission of our land grant university, and support the signature areas in OSU’s Strategic Plan 4.0.

Health and Wellness

Central Oregon is known for its healthy lifestyles.  It attracts active seniors and world-class athletes.  At the same time, throughout the rural and urban areas, people suffer from chronic illnesses that can be reduced through lifestyle changes.  The academic programs at OSU-Cascades will promote health and wellness of Oregon’s population through allied health degrees and the services provided in the OSU-Cascades counseling clinic.  Capitalizing on the clinical RN program at COCC, OSU-Cascades provides the classroom-based training to advance RNs to BSNs in collaboration with local providers. 

Resilient Natural Ecosystems

OSU-Cascades is surrounded by vast public lands that provide a natural laboratory for students and faculty to address global as well as local management and policy issues.  These lands also provide world-class recreation opportunities that draw residents, visitors, and businesses to Central Oregon.  The prosperity of Central Oregon relies on maintaining healthy natural ecosystems that are under increasing pressure from multiple threats, including overuse.  OSU-Cascades’ academic programs prepare graduates to address the issues facing natural ecosystems, including climate change and other disturbances.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Bend/Redmond is one of the fastest-growing economies in the country, and was named the best performing small city in the U.S. by the Milken Institute for four consecutive years.  Start-ups and small businesses benefit from an entrepreneurial ecosystem that includes a vibrant university.  Growing sectors include technology, biosciences, outdoor products, manufacturing, and food/beverage.  OSU-Cascades’ academic programs provide the workforce and research needed for these businesses to remain competitive and thrive, and in turn partner with these businesses to provide experiential opportunities for our students.

Arts and Sciences

At the core of every research university are the arts and sciences.  Providing fundamental knowledge and skills for students from all majors, and advancing the understanding of humans, societies, natural and physical systems, the arts and sciences are critical to OSU-Cascades’ mission. Graduates from OSU-Cascades’ arts and sciences programs are great communicators, critical thinkers, team players, problem solvers, and leaders.  They are valued employees across multiple industries and many obtain graduate or professional degrees.

Our Distinction in 2030

OSU-Cascades is distinct in its commitment to affordable and accessible education that brings the research and expertise from a land grant university into the classroom and out to the world.  The relationships built through small classes, experiential education, and interdisciplinary work within a thriving business environment and unparalleled natural setting promotes student and faculty success.  Coupled with our commitments to creativity, sustainability, and social justice, OSU-Cascades strengthens OSU’s land grant mission and our commitment to inclusive academic excellence.

Transformative Education

OSU-Cascades attracts excellent and diverse students from Central Oregon and around the globe, many of whom stay in Central Oregon and contribute to Central Oregon’s prosperity.

OSU-Cascades collaborates with academic units across OSU’s statewide footprint to enhance the student experience and allow seamless transfer.

OSU-Cascades attracts excellent and diverse faculty committed to innovative pedagogy and student success.

OSU-Cascades provides access to higher education for underserved students in Central Oregon, and ensures their success through graduation and beyond.

OSU-Cascades keeps tuition affordable and provides financial aid to ensure access.

OSU-Cascades has innovative degrees, programs and pedagogies that serve multiple learning styles, allow multiple points of entry and exit, and promote student success.

OSU-Cascades students apply technology and analytics to solve problems across disciplines.

All OSU-Cascades students have experiential learning activities throughout their four years, many of which directly benefit the local community.

OSU-Cascades meets emerging societal and workforce needs with academic programs that prepare students for the problems and jobs of the future.

OSU-Cascades Innovation District provides opportunities for internships and jobs.

Research and Scholarship

OSU-Cascades attracts excellent and diverse faculty who are productive researchers and scholars.

OSU-Cascades faculty have interdisciplinary partnerships across campuses to enhance research productivity.

OSU-Cascades faculty have access to resources at both campuses to support grant-writing, research, and scholarship.

OSU-Cascades makes progress on important social, environmental, and economic issues facing Central Oregon and the world by working across disciplines.

OSU-Cascades faculty are sought-after thought leaders.

OSU-Cascades undergraduate and graduate students are actively engaged in faculty research using cutting-edge facilities and natural environments.

OSU-Cascades faculty successfully compete for federal and foundation grants.

OSU-Cascades faculty have strong research partnerships with regional businesses and industry, including those located in the OSU-Cascades Innovation District.

Innovation by faculty and students is commercialized in the OSU-Cascades Innovation Co-Lab.

OSU-Cascades has endowed faculty members across all of its distinctive program areas.

Outreach and Engagement

OSU-Cascades is a hub for arts and culture in Central Oregon.

OSU-Cascades provides intellectual programming for the community.

OSU-Cascades’ athletics programs promote school spirit and connect campus and community members.

OSU-Cascades Innovation District transforms and stabilizes the regional economy.

Public-private partnerships leverage resources and increase impact.

OSU-Cascades drives the region’s prosperity through workforce development and economic impact.

OSU-Cascades attracts $5 million per year in philanthropy to support students, faculty, and programs.