Al Wurth, associate professor of political science, discusses the potential for the “New Horizons” catalyst.
More than 200 hundred members of the Lehigh community gathered in morning and afternoon sessions held in Lamberton Hall on Friday, March 22nd to exchange ideas on how to bring the recently adopted Campus Master Plan to life.
The sessions were organized along five major “catalysts” identified within the plan that have the potential to dramatically transform both the physical campus, the student living and learning experience, and the role the university can play in the local community:
- Interdisciplinary Academics, which demonstrates how renovations to historically important and centrally located building in the academic core of the Asa Packer Campus can create a hub for interdisciplinary activity
- Campus Crossroads, which focuses on the role a contemporary campus center can play in bringing campus constituencies together and transforming the existing University Center into a campus crossroads
- New Horizons, which would demonstrate how reimagined former Bethlehem Steel research spaces on Mountaintop Campus could provide unlimited potential for innovative and creative uses
- Living and Learning, which examines options for housing that merge academic and living spaces
- South Bethlehem, which looks at adaptive reuse of the Lehigh-owned Service Building on the South Side and the role it can play in the neighborhood’s ongoing renaissance
Two 45-minute sessions were held in each of the sessions, and participants were invited to select projects that interested them. Scribes in each group were charged with capturing the comments, ideas and questions that bubbled up within the discussions. These will be posted on an online site within the next week to share with the broader campus community, and begin what organizers hope will be an ongoing and robust dialogue.
For mechanical engineering major Chris Kauzmann ’13, the discussions presented an opportunity to understand the planning and thinking behind major campus projects.
“As a student, you only see the fruits of these efforts – like the STEPS building, for example,” he said. “It’s really interesting to have insight into the decision-making process and to learn about the long-range vision and where you might be able to have an impact.”
Kauzmann, who will be staying on at Lehigh as a grad assistant next year, said he’d like to continue his engagement with the planning projects, and to help foster “truly interdisciplinary” experiences for students that could help engage them in the process.
Zane Kratzer, a research analyst in the Office of Institutional Research, gravitated toward the discussions around South Bethlehem and their potential to lead to learning opportunities for students while benefiting the broader community.
Forging stronger links with the community was a motivation shared by Jeff Seymour, a manager in Access Control; Human Resources Associate Linda Parks; and Bob Wolfenden, associate vice president for alumni relations. They joined Kratzer and others in a discussion led by Dale Kochard, assistant vice president for community and regional affairs.
“If we really want to have an impact on the community,” Wolfendon said, “it would be great to have one place where everyone can gather – students, staff, faculty, people from the South Side. It would create a real bridge to the community.”
Provost Pat Farrell said that the participants faced an admittedly ambitious agenda.
“Yes, we are going to do some of all this, but probably not all of all this,” he said in discussing a series of proposed projects. “But we’d certainly like to have a go at it and that’s what we need your help with. We need your input on identifying what’s desirable and what’s achievable, and in establishing priorities.”
Vince Munley, deputy provost for faculty affairs, said that organizers wanted people to “feel that they are a part of this process and know that their input is an essential component.
“This dialogue will continue and we want to involve as many people as possible,” he said.
Pat Chase, director of facilities planning and renovations, said that ultimately, students, faculty and staff are necessary to fully realize any of the proposed projects and initiatives. “These are the people who are going to have to make it work,” she said. “We can have great ideas on the table, but they make it all come to life.”