Lily Raff / The Bulletin

The city of Bend is working to develop a 1,500-acre parcel of land called Juniper Ridge, on the northeast corner of town. Plans for Juniper Ridge center on a four-year university with a research and industrial park attached to it. In this series, we visit other communities that have achieved similar goals, to find out how they did it. Today we focus on the town of Merced, Calif., where the University of California opened its newest campus this fall.

MERCED, Calif. - Bob Carpenter's first stroll through the new university campus here was something of a victory lap.

For the last 17 years, Carpenter, 63, has led a grassroots charge to bring a University of California campus to this rural town.

On Labor Day last summer, Carpenter and his wife took a leisurely walk through what used to be cattle-grazing land a couple of miles from their home.

A new University of California campus officially opened its doors that morning. By the time Carpenter and his wife walked the campus, college life was under way.

A group of students used the last minutes of sunlight to play an informal game of soccer on a freshly sodded field. Others sat in circles outside their dorms, which still smelled of paint.

”It was great,” Carpenter said, grinning. ”It felt like a real university.”

The institution's leaders bill UC Merced as the first major research university opened in the 21st century.

A group of education and government officials in Central Oregon hope to someday feel the same thrill Carpenter felt. Higher education here consists of Central Oregon Community College and a small branch campus of Oregon State University.

But officials hope to add a comprehensive, four-year university to the post-high school offerings in the near future.