Business education should reflect the complexity of modern commerce and intensified interest in business throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania has prompted Penn State Worthington Scranton to increase designated classroom space for only the second time in 30 years. Plans call for a $4.6 million Business Education Building Project with a current fundraising effort to raise $1.2 million through additional philanthropic support. The balance of funding for the program includes the Trustee Capital Improvement Plan and campus monies generated from fundraising and income producing programs.
Penn State Worthington Scranton has the third largest enrollment among the former Penn State Commonwealth College campuses and the second largest business program. However, it has the lowest ratio of assigned square footage to full time students and an acute need for more faculty office space.
Dr. Mary-Beth Krogh-Jespersen, chancellor of Penn State Worthington Scranton, noted that the growing need for business education in our region spurs the project. "There is a dire need to include space for interactive learning that will engage this community in business related partnerships," she said. "Conferences, lectures and an expanding assortment of business related ventures mandate that Penn State Worthington Scranton take a bold step now to insure our future and address the needs of students."
The most recent expansion at the campus was the James D. Gallagher Conference Center which opened fall semester 1998. The building provided much needed space and now with the onset of additional bachelor's degree programs, the need exists for additional square footage to accommodate the focus on a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, the keystone program to be housed in the proposed facility.
Throughout Penn State Worthington Scranton classrooms have been retrofitted to include computerized interactive learning systems. The proposed building will be fully fitted with state-of-the-art interactive technology and be available to the public. Interactive systems will include video conferencing, multimedia and student response systems. The building will also go far to alleviate the acute shortage of faculty assigned office space.
The Penn State Worthington Scranton facility will also consolidate business oriented academic activity into one facility. Similar consolidation was accomplished recently with the school's Nursing Education renovations.
Dr. Krogh-Jespersen outlined five major issues prompting the facility. "Penn State Worthington Scranton needs to meet and exceed the expectations of students, alumni, corporate clients and other professionals," she said. "Secondly, we must address the fact that with the third largest enrollment statewide, and the second largest business program enrollment, we must expand access for all constituencies. Third," she added, "is our need to stay current and truly reflect the realities and expectations of modern business life. Fourth, northeastern Pennsylvania corporations look to us for workforce development expertise and support. This facility is a tool to fulfill that role. Finally," added Dr. Krogh-Jespersen, "Penn State Worthington Scranton will meet the needs of our faculty's professional development and the accreditation mandates for top-notch business programs. We believe that kind of attention to excellence ensures the highest degree of quality of which we are capable as business educators."
The planned Penn State Worthington Scranton facility may comprise a minimum of 10,000 square feet up to 15,000 square feet, depending on the level of private support secured. The proposed site is near the southeast corner of the campus, directly accessible from the O'Neill Highway. Planners have allocated nearly a third of the square footage for a corporate community center with a tiered lecture facility. Plans also include a lounge and reception area, technology classroom, board room and pantry.
An additional goal is to create two E-learning classrooms and five breakout classrooms in the building. Fifteen faculty offices, a securities trading room and a cyber café are also planned.
Over $700,000 has been raised toward the $1.2 million goal through the "Investing In People" Campaign. This fund raising effort, launched in March, is being led by Campus Advisory Board member and Wayne County Commissioner, Donald E. Olsommer and his son, Keith C. Olsommer, former Penn State football standout.
Patrick J. Sheridan, CPA, chairman of the Penn State Worthington Scranton Advisory Board, noted that the Board recognizes enormous value in the business building. "This project is needed on so many levels," said Mr. Sheridan. "By investing in this business building, contributors are giving back to the community and to our people right here at home. The focus of our business program is to provide students with the knowledge and tools they need to make informed decisions, recognize potential, and succeed as qualified professionals. These same students will graduate and make important contributions to this community."
Immediate past chair of the Penn State Worthington Scranton Advisory Board, Richard M. Walsh, noted a common misconception about Penn State. "I think many people still have the misconception that Penn State gets all of its funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Until I became involved at the campus, I thought so too."
Unlike many counterparts in the public sector of higher education, Penn State is not state owned and operated. It is separately incorporated with an independent Board of Trustees and is designated as a "state related" university. Walsh added. "Currently tuition represents two thirds of Penn State's income. Only ten percent of Penn State's total operating budget comes from State funding."
Mrs. Maria Russoniello, director of institutional advancement at Penn State Worthington Scranton, acknowledged the work of the "Investing In People" Committee. "While there is obviously much work to be accomplished," she said, the local community and Penn State family continue to respond. We are optimistic that we will secure the entire $1.2 million. In just a few months, we have surpassed the half way mark. We are on a "fast track" to raise these funds and our intent is to reach goal by early fall. "
Mrs. Russoniello stressed that the campus has received some generous gifts and some spaces of the facility have been designated for naming opportunities. Additional areas of the facility remain to be named such as the Lecture Hall, the E-Learning Classroom, the Cyber Café and others. "There is interest in these areas of the building and the Committee continues to discuss philanthropic support with individuals and corporations throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania."
"In the coming weeks, we expect to announce several large gifts in support of this project," she added. "I believe that the business community and our neighboring corporations recognize that support of this project is a solid investment in the future of Penn State Worthington Scranton and that investment has always paid enormous dividends for the community. Everyone associated with the project is extremely excited."
In an announcement last spring the campus announced that Penn State Worthington Scranton had contributed $67.3 million to the state's economy and $37.5 million to Lackawanna County's economy in 2003.
The Penn State Worthington Scranton "Investing In People" Committee includes: former Lackawanna County Commissioner Ray Alberigi; Joseph Alu, CPA; Dante Cancelli, Esq.; Gavin Cerco; Ann Hawk; Matthew Mackie, Jr.; Sally O'Brien, Esq.; David Sanders; Maryla Scranton, Patrick J. Sheridan, CPA, David Tressler and Richard M. Walsh.
Sixty nine percent of Penn State Worthington Scranton's students are first generation college students. Seventy-five percent receive some form of financial aid. Most Penn State Worthington Scranton students reside primarily in Lackawanna County, and other counties in our service area to include Wayne, Pike, Susquehanna, and parts of Luzerne, Monroe, and Wyoming counties.