Campus Connection, Sept. 29, 2010

The Merciad has partnered with student newspapers at Gannon University (The Gannon Knight) and Penn State Behrend (The Beacon) during the 2010-11 school year.

Our goal is to bring you the most important news happening on local college campuses each week.


Penn State Behrend ponders doubling enrollment to 10,000 students

By Jenna Abate

Penn State Behrend is no stranger to change. In the last decade and a half, it has seen the facilities on campus expand, enrollment skyrocket, and amount of programs increase.

However, the college could soon be entering a period of unprecedented growth.

As soon as next fall, enrollment could increase 300 students in an effort to bring Behrend’s total enrollment to 5,000. This effort, dubbed “Project 300” by the Admissions Office, is not just geared to enroll more freshmen but students of all ages and majors.

Chancellor Donald Birx, who began his term at Behrend last summer, has even higher goals for the long-term.

In five years, Birx said, he hopes to see Behrend reach 7,500 students and potentially grow to 10,000 in the next decade. These numbers do not represent a firm target, but more a paradigm shift and an acknowledgement by the administration that it is in Behrend’s best interest to expand into the future. This push for expansion has been in the works for some time, however, with the overall goal of making Behrend a more competitive learning annex nationally and internationally.

To do that, quality must be maintained throughout the expansion, Birx said.

“We want to increase faculty rather then the class sizes. This way there is room for more activities and new programs, but Behrend staff will not lose touch with their students.”

David Christiansen, Associate Dean, says that expansion could lead to new opportunities for majors at the college.

“There needs to be something for every major,” he said. “There is no one size fits all program, so several need to be created and implemented as soon as we can.”

To that aim, he said, he is spearheading a curriculum committee comprised of faculty and students to examine new program possibilities.

According to Birx, some of these new programs may include specific studies related to the Fine Arts Center, which is still several years away but represents a goal for the university in expansion.

Part of the effort to bring new programs to Behrend is motivated by the fact that the majority of Behrend students now stay at the college for all four years of their education – nearly 75 percent, according to Christiansen.

Those who do transfer to University Park, he says, do “exceptionally well” after transferring.

“Out of all 23 satellite campuses, Behrend students either maintain their high GPAs or increase them [after transfering] better than most.”

Many classes will take students out of the desks, too, Birx said.

“Not only do we want to expand physically, but virtually too, with online classes,” he said. “We also want to offer more traditional mini sessions in the summer.”

Birx feels that the community of Erie is growing around the campus and can absolutely support the changes to come. Behrend owns eight hundred acres surrounding the campus to expand upon.

Such land will absolutely be needed to make more residence halls such as Trippe Hall [see left], which will offset some of the housing concerns of more immediate expansion plans.

Developers are also looking to create more upperclassmen housing on Jordan Road. In later years, more academic buildings will need to be added to campus to accommodate classroom space and faculty office space, which are both already identified problem areas on campus. Out of all of the 23 Commonwealth campuses, Behrend has displayed the largest need for additional classroom space, says Ken Miller, Director of Student Affairs. This could serve to give Behrend a leg up on competition for University Park funding for new academic buildings. Funding can come from many sources, though, and donations can always speed up that process.

Miller feels that an expansion would allow the university greater ability to provide students with a quality education experience.

“We are doing things with the students, not for them,” he said. “The expansion of Behrend will do fantastic things for our students and our staff.”

To that end, he said, student concerns on current issues with Behrend must be addressed. While many of those needs have been taken care of recently with renovations to Reed, the upcoming convenience store, and new lounge space, a new fitness center on campus is likely the next big project. This could be funded with a combination of donor funds, capital funds, and Student Activity Facility Fee funding, which originates from tuition charges.



Gannon to host graduate school fair

By Kelly Moreland

Career Development and Employment Services will host Gannon University’s annual Graduate and Professional School Fair from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Yehl Room.

All Gannon students are encouraged to attend this year’s fair.
More jobs require master’s degrees than they did 10 years ago. As a result, more undergraduate students need to be looking at graduate schools.

Jim Finegan, Gannon’s director of career services and cooperative education, said, “It’s a good opportunity for students to meet with grad school admissions representatives and learn firsthand about entrance requirements, application process, financial aid, and assistantships.”

Finegan said it’s important that students get as much information about potential grad schools as possible. They should also start looking at programs earlier than most students realize.

Students should be looking at grad schools as early as freshman and sophomore year. By senior year, they should have a good idea of where they want to go. For juniors and seniors, now is the time to apply, Finegan said.

Senior history major Eli Coppock, who is interested in applying for international studies programs, attended the fair last year and will be going again this year to see what’s new.

More than 50 schools participated in the event last year, and more than 300 students attended the event.

Coppock said last year he got too many ideas at first.

The array of schools and programs was overwhelming at first, but Coppock said, “It helped me narrow down my choices and now I know what to look for.”

He said the event will be especially helpful this year because he already has a couple ideas in his head. Now he can compare and contrast schools to come up with a solid list.

More than 50 schools are scheduled to participate in this year’s event and close to 100 graduate programs will be represented.

The schools participating in the fair come from around the Erie County region. Finegan said it’s important for students to remember that this is just a selection of what’s out there.

Nevertheless, he said the fair is a perfect starting point for Gannon students.

Programs representing humanities, business, law, engineering, science and health sciences will all be present at the fair. Finegan stressed that there will be something for everyone at the event.

There will also be cash prizes for the clubs and organizations with the most attendees.

For more information on the fair, students are encouraged to visit the Career and Development website,
Students can find a list of the schools participating in the event at