CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Putting the capper on a monumental achievement 18 months in the making, Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) celebrated the completion of its $14.4 million campus expansion project Wednesday, Sept. 29, with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on the campus grounds.
The invitation-only event was attended by numerous members of the campus and local communities and featured remarks by Penn State President Eric J. Barron, Penn State Lehigh Valley Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson and Director of Academic Affairs Aníbal Torres Bernal, campus Student Government Association representative Chelsea Lopez, and former U.S. Representative and Penn State alumnus Charlie Dent, namesake of the campus’ new Charles W. Dent STEM Wing. Following the ceremony, guests were invited to tour the expanded facilities.
The expansion project was undertaken to better serve students and the Lehigh Valley community at-large, and has resulted in a number of significant upgrades to the campus, including: a new full-service cafeteria featuring a 9-by-8-foot tiled mosaic wall done by artist Chris Bonner in collaboration with PSU-LV Gallery Director and Arts Coordinator Ann Lalik on the first floor; enhanced space for student programming on the second floor; and the Dent STEM Wing on the third floor.
The Dent wing is entirely dedicated to STEM education and includes new faculty offices and classroom space, a prep lab, lab technician office, equipment room, lounge and office for STEM tutoring programs, and a 2,199-square-foot laboratory that will allow the campus to offer organic chemistry courses and give students the opportunity to complete their undergraduate requirements for medical school entirely at the campus.
Richardson led off her remarks by recalling that the expansion project’s groundbreaking ceremony was held in early March 2020, just before the lockdowns imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, she said, the campus’s students, faculty and staff persevered throughout the entirety of the project and are now poised to reap its benefits.
“I’ve never been more sure that the decision we made to pursue this 20,500-square-foot expansion was the right thing to do for our students and the long-term economic viability of the Lehigh Valley,” Richardson said. “Health care was already our largest employer – even before COVID created a greater need – and STEM remains the most crucial and sought-after skill sets. Today, thanks to the support of the University, and the tireless efforts of the many people involved in this strategic undertaking, this campus is better equipped to educate in STEM fields at a higher level and in the very personalized setting that differentiates Penn State Lehigh Valley.”
Barron noted the expansion is just the latest in a long line of enhancements the campus has made to serve the needs of the Lehigh Valley since its founding in 1912.
“As this region continues to grow in population and in business and industry, the opportunities for careers in innovation and STEM fields will also expand. With this important new addition to the campus along with the entrepreneurial StartUp Lehigh Valley, Penn State Lehigh Valley is answering the call for training a skilled workforce and fueling the wave of innovation,” Barron said. “What’s more, this campus serves the area’s working families. Eighty-two percent of the student body at Penn State Lehigh Valley is from the immediate surrounding area. These students are saving money with our differential tuition structure, by living at home and continuing to work at part-time jobs. The education they earn on this campus has transformative power. And today, we begin a new chapter of inspired innovation and economic vitality.”
Dent joked that although he didn’t pursue the engineering degree his father wanted for him, two of his children wisely pursued careers in STEM.
“I was honored to be the recipient of this naming opportunity,” Dent said. “The STEM wing is vitally necessary to the Lehigh Valley campus. … STEM is probably the best path to economic mobility for anyone in this country.”
Torres said the addition of the Dent STEM Wing is a game-changer that will significantly enhance the campus’s academics.
“Now, with the addition of the organic chemistry lab, classroom and tutoring spaces, we have greatly increased our capabilities to meaningfully contribute to the education of our community members, our neighbors and the next generation of STEM professionals and leaders,” Torres said. “This physical expansion reflects our fierce passion and commitment to our land-grant mission and the people of the Lehigh Valley.”
In her remarks, Lopez recalled the lack of dining options and student space that pre-dated the expansion. She said the $1.6 million contribution that the Student Government Association made to the project was well worth it, given the considerable improvements that came out of it.
“I sincerely appreciate the partnership that was bestowed upon us as a student body,” said Lopez, a senior majoring in bio-behavioral health. “Our $1.6 million student contribution to this space is a testament to our belief in this campus. We may be on the smaller side -- but we have a lot to offer.”
For more information on the expansion project, visit: lehighvalley.psu.edu/giving/current-projects/campus-expansion-project. And, to make a financial contribution, contact Kate Ginnard, interim director of development at Penn State Lehigh Valley, at 610-285-5072 or [email protected]. Naming opportunities are still available within the Dent STEM Wing.
Gifts will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st-Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.