By SUSAN JONES
Pitt’s building boom isn’t just happening on the Oakland campus. The two newest buildings in the University system are set to open Jan. 9 — just in time for the new semester — on the Greensburg and Bradford campuses.
Construction on both buildings started in September 2021, after the projects were approved by the Board of Trustees Property and Facilities committee.
“The Pitt–Greensburg Life Sciences and Pitt–Bradford George B. Duke Engineering & Information Technologies buildings are transformative in advancing STEM offerings on respective campuses,” said Dave DeJong, senior vice chancellor for business and operation. “Academic programs in these state-of-the-art facilities will have positive, life-changing impacts in developing science and technology leaders in the region beginning this spring and for decades to come. I am grateful to the teams at both Pitt campuses for their collaborative partnership to bring this vision to life.”
The two-story, 32,085-square-foot Life Sciences Building will house nursing, health science, biology, microbiology and chemistry labs, faculty offices, and shared study space. It connects to Smith Hall, which was built in the 1970s, through a new chemistry wing on the older building.
The structure was built at a cost of $19.5 million, provided by Pitt, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation.
“At Pitt-Greensburg, approximately 500 students each year are majoring in the sciences and health-related disciplines,” Robert Gregerson, president of Pitt–Greensburg, said in a statement. “The new Life Sciences Building will allow both the nursing program and our science programs to continue to grow — fulfilling an important need for space on our campus as well as fulfilling important needs in the region and the state.”
An open house is planned for the campus community from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 9, then an official ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony, which is open to the public, will take place at 4 p.m. Jan. 12.
The facility features seven laboratory spaces that will be used for anatomy & physiology, general biology, microbiology, analytic chemistry, general/advanced chemistry, organic chemistry, along with a chemistry prep space/research area for faculty.
Marie A. Fioravanti, associate professor and director of nursing at Pitt–Greensburg, noted that nursing is in great demand, “and having a state-of-the-art new building to educate students to get the preferred bachelor of science degree in Westmoreland County means that we can admit more students into a nationally ranked nursing program. Our graduates will be able to serve our communities and help with the need for more nurses. … We need nurses especially since many of the baby boomers are now retiring. … I often remind the students that I have high expectations of them, because I am preparing them to take care of me one day.”
A high-fidelity simulation suite with two simulation rooms and a control room will allow nursing faculty to program mannequins with specific symptoms and simulate a realistic nursing experience. The nursing area also has a tele-health room with technology students can use to practice assessing patients and providing care in remote or underserved areas.
Fioravanti said she’s excited “that all the nursing faculty offices are in one place making for easy collaboration and communication with other faculty and students. Students will have easier access to the faculty because we will be in the building where they will spend most of their time practicing and learning the art and science of nursing.”
Barbara Barnhart, instructor of biology, said working in small shared lab spaces meant that faculty and students needed to “get creative and work collaboratively in order to succeed — and we did.” She cited several awards students have won lately. “Adding new labs in the Life Sciences Building will provide more space for our faculty and students to not only offer lab-based courses but to also work on capstone and honors projects.”
The Life Sciences Building is the second sustainable building on campus. Its proposed silver LEED rating will be confirmed in approximately 12 months. Frank A. Cassell Hall, which opened in 2012, was the campus’ first sustainable building with a gold LEED rating.
The Bradford campus will open its first new academic building in two decades on Jan. 9, which will house the computer information systems and technology classes and two new programs —mechanical engineering technology and energy engineering technology.
The Information Technology program’s labs and offices previously were spread across three different buildings, but are now consolidated in the new space.
The cost of the 39,500-square-foot building was $24.5 million. It includes engineering shops and labs, computer labs, a campus data center and active large group classrooms.
The school received donations from a variety of groups, including Halloran Philanthropies, Northwest Bank and several alumni. The building is named for George P. Duke, the chairman and sole owner of Zippo Manufacturing Co., which is headquartered in Bradford. In early 2022, Duke pledged $2 million, dedicated largely to equipping state-of-the-art engineering labs in the new building. Additionally, Zippo, at Duke’s direction, previously contributed $1 million to support the computer information systems and technology program
Bradford President Rick Esch said the two four-year engineering technology degrees have been in the works for 30 years and “the building started to pick up steam in 2016.” He said they looked at buying an empty school building across the street from campus but found that building new would be less expensive.
“The Duke Building serves as our campus’ headquarters of innovation and features many specialized spaces where students will create, discover, innovate and collaborate, including a circuit lab, measurement lap, a machine shop, a strength and materials lab, a fluid dynamics lab, a maker space, and a virtual reality lab,” Esch said.
“This new facility was specifically built and equipped to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities that will prepare engineering technology and information technology students to meet the workforce needs of area manufacturers and industries and infuse their creativity, enthusiasm and innovation into our region and beyond.”
Matt Kropf, associate professor of engineering technology, said they worked with industry partners “to make this facility and our curriculum responsive to our region’s challenges to attract and retain a workforce with technical expertise in engineering. The focus on meeting this industry need has yielded a program that provides industry-relevant technologies for students. We are confident that this hands-on approach to learning with state-of-the-art equipment will give our graduates a competitive edge in the job market.”
He said he’s excited to see how students will use the machine shop, makerspace and project spaces and “how these spaces will support community’s entrepreneurs and innovators by giving access to early stage prototyping and proof-of-concept manufacturing capabilities.”
While students and faculty will move into the new building next week, it won’t be formally dedicated until March 31, to accommodate officials from throughout the University.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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