Carlow University Dedicates New University Commons

Carlow University dedicated its new University Commons, the first new construction on campus since 1999.

University Communications For Immediate Release
Drew Wilson, Director, Media Relations September 15, 2015
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First New Construction Since 1999 Makes Former Grace Library Building the Hub of Campus

Pittsburgh, Pa. – Carlow University President Suzanne K. Mellon, PhD, lauded the building that will be the new heart of Carlow’s campus at today’s dedication of the University Commons, the first new construction here since 1999.

“The University Commons project is a true transformation,” said Mellon, in her remarks at the dedication.  “The University Commons is the new heart of our campus and the momentum that its completion brings with it is inspiring.”

Alumni, benefactors, public and diocesan officials gathered today with the Carlow community on the campus green for a brief ribbon cutting ceremony to formally open the first new construction on campus since the A.J. Palumbo Hall of Science and Technology opened on the corner of Fifth and Craft avenues in 1999.

“University Commons is a showcase that is already at the center of student life and learning,” said Mellon.  “It addresses the critical need we have had for years: the need for a space designed for students and more importantly, a space designed for student success.”

The University Commons integrates an array of faculty and student services that support student learning and collaboration, and is designed to be the hub of student activity on the Carlow University campus.

Technology will play a large role in the University Commons.  There are “smart” classrooms and study rooms with flat screen monitors, where faculty and students can share information from their smart phone, tablets or laptops with their class or study groups.

“The key point is that we tried to find ways to enable our students to work together,” said Jeffrey Devlin, the Chief Information Officer at Carlow.  “We really tried to build collaborative spaces where students can easily work together on projects.”

More impressive, these monitors can be used for distance learning, so that students not in the same city or even in the same hemisphere, can take part in classroom activities.  The fourth floor contains an interactive learning room that can be used for long distance learning, something that Carlow is utilizing more and more in graduate and undergraduate classes.

Nowhere is the technology more amazing than in the Hopkins Communication Lab.

“This is the classroom of the future for teaching skills to students,” said Rachel Furman, director of the Hopkins Communication Lab and an assistant professor in the communication department.  “We can still do the basic needs of a communication lab for students who need tutoring or help with speech anxiety, but we can do so much more.”

The Hopkins Lab utilizes technology so students can record their presentations, but also two way mirrors so that faculty can provide immediate feedback to a student or group as they are working on a presentation.  Carlow is also finding that the technology can be used across disciplines to make nurses better caregivers and therapists better at interacting with patients.

“This is an innovative use of technology and learning,” said Furman.  “These are classrooms that are looking like more of a lab experience.”

Although the building will now be known as University Commons, it will still contain the library, which will still be known as Grace Library, named for Sister Regis Grace, the Sister of Mercy who was the first academic dean and the acting president for the first 22 years of what was then known as Mount Mercy College.  The library, however, like all libraries in the world today, has greatly changed since Sister Regis Grace’s days.

The same amount of information that was contained on three floors of the old library can now be contained digitally in far less space, which freed up additional space for things like smart classrooms.

“The library space in the University Commons is new and exciting,” said Andrea K. Leyko, the interim director of Library Services.  “Although we are now located on one floor instead of three, we offer our usual print and online resources, and a lot more, We now have an open and inviting space with well-equipped group study rooms, individual study spaces, a large updated computer lab, and lots of comfy seating.”

“It’s obvious that we live in a time of significant transition and transformation,” said Mellon.  “While we look with excitement toward our future, we honor our past, furthering the tradition and heritage of the Sisters of Mercy, who founded this institution with 24 freshmen, seven faculty, and makeshift classrooms in the Mercy Convent, in the midst of the Great Depression.  If they could only see us now!”

Construction began on the complete renovation of the 82,500 square foot University Commons – formerly known as Grace Library – in August 2014, and was completed prior to the start of classes in August, 2015.


About Carlow University
Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carlow University was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1929. Offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, Carlow University is a comprehensive master’s institution dedicated to learner-centered education at the collegiate levels and at the elementary school level in the Campus School of Carlow University.

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