This semester’s earlier columns have explored two key elements of Alvernia’s new vision statement:  our commitment to inclusive (intercultural) learning and the roots of our Franciscan heritage. As the semester winds down, let me report on the implementation of our strategic plan, focusing on improvements in the student experience. This month’s report will cover campus facilities, anticipated during 2008 and 2009. A report on program improvements will follow next semester.

Upland Center: Along with the O’Pake Science Center, the Upland Center is our second new major academic facility opened in the last year. The new home of our Graduate and Adult Programs, it provides all students with a range of high-tech learning spaces. From a large, multi-purpose room suitable for large lectures to small seminar rooms, the nine classrooms and accompanying lounge spaces have enhanced the learning environment. 

Student Life Center: Opening in January ’08 next to the PEC in the old graduate and continuing studies building, is this 24x7 facility, with a lounge and computer lab. It will house student life offices and promises to be the new hub of student activities on campus.

Campus Student Center:  Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring ‘08 on a first-floor renovation and expansion of this facility. The food serving area will be expanded, and seats for dining will almost double. A new addition will house an expanded college store. Financial support from both Aladdin and Follett’s has helped make this possible.

Campus Commons: A large, park-like greenspace will provide an attractive gathering place for students in the center of campus. It will replace the parking lot, so a new parking plan will be necessary, as will the addition of some satellite parking. But as students, faculty, and staff widely agreed, a central campus greenspace is worth some inconvenience and is perhaps the most dramatic improvement in the campus master plan. 

Student Services (Bernardine Hall):  Plans are evolving to transform the lower floor of the West Wing of Bernardine into a “one-stop shopping” location for student services. The Offices of the Registrar, Student Financial Planning, and Student Billing will be housed together to improve coordination and streamline service to students. 

“Lower Campus”:  The large area nestled against our beautiful, south-side hills is also scheduled for improvement, tentatively beginning in 2009. Current plans call for the first of several phases of apartment-style housing, targeted to seniors, and including fully equipped kitchens and many single rooms. A new all-weather turf field, surrounded by our first track, will be built below an expanded PEC (second gym and new fitness center), with a large parking lot added below Francis Hall on the site of the current baseball field.

Angelica Park:  The development of “lower campus” is made possible by a partnership agreement between the City of Reading and Alvernia covering our improvement and use of the baseball and softball fields. (We already use the tennis courts.) Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring ’08, with the fields ready for play in Spring ’09. We hope to have use of the new approach road to campus, winding through Angelica Park, sometime this spring.

One other important project is also envisioned: initial renovation of Francis Hall and the accompanying upgrade of arts facilities, along with the construction of a new entry road to Francis Hall. Fundraising is already underway for this project.

Obviously, the pace of campus expansion will depend on available funds, from both the annual budget and from fundraising.  And we must balance all this with support of important program needs. But as I have told prospective students and their families at our Admission Open houses, look for bulldozers on campus over the next few years!

As we celebrated Thanksgiving, several faculty had special reason to be grateful. Congratulations to Professors Beth Berret (Business), Neil Penny (Occupational Therapy), and Di You (Psychology) for completing their doctorates. And to all, best wishes for a blessed Christmas and happy holiday season.

Flynn Files