That last point may be the one the region’s schools are most
powerfully embracing. To capitalize on the “water-cooler effect”
that can come only from being in the same building, many local
post-secondary institutions have established a presence at the
Energy Innovation Center overlooking Downtown from the Lower
Hill District. The center is a LEED Platinum-Certified and Historic
Preservation of what formerly was the Connelley Vocational Trade
School, where generations of Pittsburgh Public School students
came to learn skilled trades. It now brings together educators,
private corporations and community-based organizations to pursue
next-level energy research, technology development, workforce
training and community development.
At institutions elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, numerous
ventures also are underway or newly wrapped. Read on to learn
more about the highlights and projected benefits these projects aim
to provide for current and future students.
It’s been less than a year since Carlow unveiled the renovation of
its 82,500-square-foot, five-story Grace Library building. Completed
at a cost of $19.9 million, the project redesigned the space to create
the University Commons, a hub of student life and services that has
earned Silver LEED certification — a notable accomplishment for a
refurbished space originally constructed in 1970.
The old library occupied three full floors. The school’s modern,
digital library needs just a little more than one floor (and yes, it’s still
stocked with plenty of books), freeing up space for the Rita McGin-ley Center for Student Success (named for the Carlow alumna from
the Class of 1940) and consolidating other student services under
one roof. Here, students can get peer tutoring, advanced instruction
in writing academic papers and research methods, and additional
academic support. One added benefit: That peer support strengthens a sense of community at Carlow, as does the building’s Frank B.
Fuhrer Cafe. This flexible space serves as a social area and cafeteria
with walls that open to host film screenings, academic talks, student
performances and other events.
Also in the building, the Hopkins Communications Lab enables
students in any department to create professional-level multimedia
presentations or record themselves presenting to an audience, then
watch the video to fine-tune their delivery. Group-discussion rooms
contain two-way mirrors so faculty members can observe student
interaction without interfering with discussions. The school’s career
development office, also located within the Commons, can use these
studios to hold mock job interviews and post-interview critiques
with each student.
With so much flexible multimedia space for students in every
major, “We’re only beginning to scratch the surface on what we can
use it for,” says Carlow Director of Media Relations Drew Wilson.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY
“It’s just a construction site around here,” says Elizabeth John-
ston, executive director of public relations and marketing at CCAC,
as she offers up a list of recent projects and new ones on the horizon.
On the Allegheny Campus in the North Side, the first phase of
the Ridge Avenue Revitalization Project is complete; highlights
include upgrades to the physical education building that include an
enhanced fitness center and student lounge, an expanded bookstore
and a new on-campus Starbucks for caffeine-hungry students.
Other renovations include the addition of computer labs as
well as the transformation of historic West Hall into a new cultural
and fine arts center, scheduled to open this fall. This building offers students expanded space for art, music, speech, language and
criminal-justice classes, as well as an art gallery and performance
space, pairing modern amenities with preserved architecture honoring Pittsburgh’s past.
At the school’s South Campus in West Mifflin, a new access road
has improved traffic flow and safety, and a new sidewalk and nature
trails await students and staff this fall. Meanwhile, classes started in
the spring at CCAC’s space within the Energy Innovation Center, a
laboratory with an edgy, Warhol-esque design. Hybrid classroom/
labs offer credit and noncredit skilled-trade courses, including the
study of solar energy systems. Students also can seek networking
opportunities with engineering and energy-industry professionals
throughout the complex.
On the horizon: A study is underway to examine the feasibility of
creating a new workforce-development center in Donora. CCAC also
unveiled design concepts in June for a workforce-development center
at the Allegheny Campus that would be unlike anything the school
has built. That potential project, at least five years from construction,
would offer a variety of options — from STEM classes and welding
to an expanded culinary-arts program with a student-run restaurant
and greenhouse, plus a multipurpose event space that would take
advantage of stunning views from Monument Hill.
In April, Chatham completed the first phase of construction
of its 388-acre Eden Hall campus in Richland Township with the
opening of the Esther Barazzone Center. This 23,000-square-foot
multipurpose space, designed to exceed LEED Platinum standards,
is the heart of Chatham’s cutting-edge “sustainable campus” and
home of the Falk School of Sustainability. It includes a dining hall, a
sun-lit commons area and a commercial teaching kitchen.
This fall, more than 125 students are expected to attend classes
and tackle research at the Falk School. They’ll make use of high-tech
aquaculture and aquaponics labs, a certified organic farm and root
cellar, a demonstration garden and a solar greenhouse, all designed
to help students break ground in researching sustainable food
production and fishing. And students in the expanding Food Studies program at Eden Hall will go beyond the campus, gaining work
experience in the city and the region; past student contributions
have included helping the Pittsburgh Public Schools improve school
lunches and building a community bread oven in Braddock.
On Chatham’s main campus in Shadyside, work is ongoing to
keep up with growth in enrollment since the school switched from
all-women to co-ed enrollment at the undergraduate level in 2014.
No new construction is underway, but the university continues to
renovate existing residence and teaching spaces to accommodate