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Penn State Lehigh Valley Completes $14.4 Million Expansion Project

By Colin McEvoy on September 30, 2021

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Sept. 29 for a new $14.4 million expansion at the Penn State Lehigh Valley campus in Upper Saucon Township. (photo courtesy Dan Z. Johnson Photography)

Penn State Lehigh Valley has celebrated the completion of a $14.4 million expansion at its campus in Upper Saucon Township, which includes a high-tech STEM wing complete with a state-of-the-art organic chemistry lab.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Sept. 29 for the expansion project, which has been 18 months in the making and has resulted in a number of significant upgrades to the campus to better serve students and the larger Lehigh Valley community.

“Because Penn State Lehigh Valley first and foremost serves our local community of students who live and work here in the region, this expansion, enabling students to complete the full complement of undergrad courses required for medical school here at the local campus, is a tremendous asset to our talent pipeline preparation,” said Karianne Gelinas, Vice President of Business Development and Talent Supply of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

Work on the project began in early March 2020, just before the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 crisis. But PSU-LV Chancellor Tina Q. Richardson said the students, faculty, and staff persevered throughout the entirety of the project despite delays caused by the pandemic.

“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.

In addition to the new STEM lab, the expansion project includes enhanced space for student programming on the second floor, as well as a new full-service cafeteria featuring a 9-by-8-foot tiled mosaic wall done by artist Chris Bonner.

The new expansion at Penn State Lehigh Valley includes the Charles W. Dent STEM Wing. (photo courtesy Dan Z. Johnson Photography)

The Charles W. Dent STEM Wing, named for the former U.S. Congressman and 1982 Penn State graduate, is entirely dedicated to STEM education and includes new faculty offices and classroom space, a prep lab, equipment room, and other offices and amenities.

“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.” 

The wing also includes 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, according to PSU-LV officials.

“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,” Richardson said. “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.”

Penn State University President Eric J. Barron said 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,” Barron said. “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 also noted that the campus serves the region’s working families, as 82% 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,” he said. “The education they earn on this campus has transformative power. And today, we begin a new chapter of inspired innovation and economic vitality.”

Chelsea Lopez, a senior majoring in bio-behavioral health, said the expansion resolves a previous lack of dining options and student space. She is the campus representatives from the Student Government Association, which contributed $1.6 million to the project,

“I sincerely appreciate the partnership that was bestowed upon us as a student body,” Lopez said. “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.”

The mosaic wall by Bonner was done in collaboration with PSU-LV Gallery Director and Arts Coordinator Ann Lalik.

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