When Charles Patrick assumed the role of chancellor and chief academic officer of Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus last year, he made students the top priority. “We’re all about student success,” became his mantra.
When first touring the campus, Patrick noticed that several key student services were located in different buildings. The former Engineering professor believed a central space for advising, tutoring and career development would be more efficient and would likely improve educational success and graduation rates, as well as enhance career opportunities. “You want to have students be able to go to one place,” he said, “and get help on a variety of things.”
His vision became reality on Oct. 22, when Penn State Fayette dedicated its bright and airy Student Success Center. This name was intentionally selected, according to Patrick.
“Student success is the primary focus of our campus; it is the primary theme of each of our major endeavors. The center, co-located with the Office of Student Affairs in the Williams Building, is an integral part of this theme," Patrick said.
Three departments comprise the Student Success Center: Academic Advising, Career Services and The Learning Center (TLC).
Academic Advising helps students to identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote intellectual discovery, to encourage students to take advantage of both in- and out-of-class education opportunities, and to become a self-directed learner and decision-maker.
Career Services offers a variety of resources and services to assist students in the career exploration process. Workshops, resume assistance, and information about graduate schools, government agencies, career fairs, job openings, on-campus recruiting and the career resource library are available to all students.
TLC provides a variety of free academic support resources, including individual and group academic tutoring with peer and professional tutors for writing, math, chemistry, physics, biology, physical therapy and various other courses. Students may also meet with staff to discuss time-management and study skills.
Mary Inks Budinsky, TLC coordinator, watched as the former cultural center underwent an "amazing” transition into the Student Success Center. Standing in the Center’s spacious main room, with natural light streaming in from two walls of windows, Budinsky said, “The renovations to the space create a bright, engaging, welcoming atmosphere where students feel more comfortable.”
The Student Success Center has a color scheme of bright green, blue, grey and white. Glass partitions, many of which were recycled, separate offices and workspaces. Comfortable couches and chairs fill the space, with computer workstations, desk and whiteboards scattered among them.
Pittsburgh’s Renaissance 3 Architects, which designed the Student Success Center, sought input from Budinsky, Academic Advising Manager Devon White, and Gina Jones, Career Services coordinator. According to White, the design process benefited from this collaborative approach. “Everything is integrated,” she said. “We’re not just three entities living in one space. We’re all working together.”
Like the administrators, Penn State Fayette students are making good use of the new accommodations. Gerald Hinerman, a TLC peer tutor, witnessed the transformation of his workspace from a small room crammed with two computers and three tables into a 3,500-square-foot showplace for learning. He said the Student Success Center is “a great facility.”
Mikayla DeBaker, a student whom Hinerman tutors in calculus, especially likes the Center’s large, open room and whiteboards, which help her to visualize math problems. “As a first-year, the tutoring I receive is very important to keep me on track with my courses,” she said. “Thankfully, Penn State Fayette has provided the perfect environment to work on my understanding of calculus.”
Jones, in her remarks during the dedication ceremony, said the Center is more than a fancy space with bright colors and an “awesome” green wall: “This is Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus’ continued commitment to add value to students—helping them to identify, pursue and achieve their personal and professional goals here at the campus, as well as in their post-college lives.”