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According to Yavapai College Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee Chairman Paul Chevalier, Verde Valley Campus Dean James Perey is looking to make a potentially career-defining move at Yavapai College Sedona Center.

“Perey is committed to this — he’s on the line for it,” Chevalier said of the upcoming two-year remodeling of Sedona Center. He added that the Yavapai College District Governing Board has allocated $3.8 million to the project and hired an architect to evaluate how best to use the available space.


Though encouraged by the development, Chevalier admitted to some skepticism about how well the facility can accommodate all that the Sedona community wants in the facility, including a culinary and hospitality management program, a continuation of Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offerings, a performing arts program and community-enrichment offerings that include core curriculum classes.

“This is a 15,000-square-foot building,” Chevalier said. “I think we may have a hard time fitting it all in.”

In order to house the culinary and hospitality management — perhaps the most talked-about addition to the Sedona Center — the architect will be tasked with designing four kitchens. In addition, the college is considering including a restaurant-like space where students can learn the second aspect of food preparation: Presentation and serving, potentially complementing the Verde Valley Campus’ viticulture and enology program.

Chevalier praised Perey and said that he looks forward to working with the dean on issues important to the Verde Valley. According to Chevalier, Perey has been “far-sighted and increasingly invested” in his approach, particularly when it comes to putting dollars toward marketing: To ensure its success, promotion of the Sedona Center will soon be ramping up.

Appealing to potential students, Chevalier added, includes not only appealing to locals but reaching out of state.

Chevalier criticized the approach of Yavapai College President Penny Wills, who he said holds the philosophy that percentage of spending should match percentage of enrollment. With enrollment numbers that have declined, from the Verde Valley’s heyday when it boasted approximately 30 percent of the colleges enrollment, to 15 percent today, the philosophy ensures poor funding for the Verde Valley.

As a result, course offerings have declined and facilities such as the Sedona Center have gone largely unused. Relationships, such as those once fostered between Yavapai College and Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Verde Valley Medical Center, have been damaged by attempts to cut career programs that contribute to a qualified workforce, according to Chevalier.

Nonetheless, Chevalier said that he is looking forward to the next few years, as residents in the Verde Valley and Prescott wisen up to how great the potential is to have a college that represents communities well.

“We need to keep the public’s interest .... We are making headway — very slowly, but it’s still headway,” Chevalier said.

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