As Juniata looked to the future, it was clear that the library must not only evolve to provide many forms of information, but also host spaces and ideas that would strengthen the ability of our community—students and faculty—to learn. Thanks to the Stattons, along with Fred ’75 and Susan Wulczyn, Henry ’57 and Joanie Gibbel, Mike Smale ’85, and many other donors, the library is soon to become a place reflective of contemporary learning.
The Learning Commons will be a place where the parts more easily come together. The intellectual synergy that comes from those interactions especially those that involve disciplines other than your own will keep the liberal arts tradition at Juniata flourishing.
For millennia, libraries have resided at the core of learning, housing accumulated information accessible through the latest technological format. For centuries that was books. Today, it is a mix of learning resources, including digital tools from around the world, peer and professional advisors, and faculty talent, in addition to books. Juniata can now renovate and expand Beeghly Library to include these resources—among them spaces, people, and technology—that students, faculty, and staff will rely upon. The transformation will ensure that the library is the academic and intellectual hub of campus used to amplify the learning enterprise.
The Stattons are excited to see the Learning Commons come to life with activity.
“To be perfectly honest,” they said, humbly, “we were students of the new way of learning, and our ‘professor’ was Provost Bowen, who taught us about what the Learning Commons could become—a place for collaboration and a place where students could get help. It will be very gratifying to see students working with each other and learning together. This should greatly enhance the students’ learning experience.”
Today’s students seek and find value in collaboration; they often arrive with learning styles and fluencies that benefit from interactive learning environments: small gathering areas, technologically enhanced spaces, video conference rooms, and the like. The future Statton Learning Commons will harness this spirit of collaboration and interaction, shaping the way people teach and learn.
Seeing Tim and Kathy lead the way on this project, Fred ’75 and Susan Wulczyn quickly realized they too could help make this transformation possible. “If we can help meet the fundraising objective so that the Learning Commons becomes a reality sooner rather than later, Susan and I had to ask ourselves— why not?”
“I think everyone understands that technology has changed how students access the resources they need to succeed in a rigorous academic environment,” continues Fred, a senior research fellow at the University of Chicago. “We also understand that how we approach student learning is also changing. Traditional libraries have to be updated to meet these changes. The Statton Learning Commons keeps Juniata in-step with what today’s students need.”
As a long-time supporter of Juniata who remembers his Juniata days fondly, Mike Smale ’85 was also happy to support the Learning Commons project. “My daughter, Nicole (’13), also graduated from Juniata, and had the same experience I did—leaving with a great education and great memories but even more important, life-long friendships,” he said. Both are keenly aware that alumni support is a vital part of Juniata’s success. “We have always talked about being able to give back, even in a small way, to benefit the future of Juniata and allow others to share in the experiences we had,” Mike explained.
When approached about the library renovation, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. “Nicole and I are very proud we were able to help,” Mike said. For Lauren Bowen, Juniata’ provost and senior academic officer since 2014, the promise of the Learning Commons extends to collaboration among faculty as well.
“The Statton Learning Commons creates opportunities for faculty to rely on library resources in more interactive ways with students,” Lauren said. “The experimental classrooms ensure they can explore new teaching methods in conversations with peers. It ensures they can refer students to resources that promote student success. I am so grateful for the support of Tim, Kathy, Fred, Susan, Mike, and so many others for their support of this vision. The impact will be felt at Juniata well into the future.” The innovative plans and support from the Juniata community were recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as the College was awarded a $4 million grant funded through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). RACP provides funds for community and economic development projects that will have a regional or multijurisdictional impact.
In addition to collaborative learning spaces, the Statton Learning Commons will also bring resources together in one place to facilitate interaction and partnership—an important step in updating the intellectual heart of Juniata.
“Juniata is a place where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” Fred pointed out. “The Learning Commons will be a place where the parts more easily come together. The intellectual synergy that comes from those interactions—especially those that involve disciplines other than your own—will keep the liberal arts tradition at Juniata flourishing.” Fred, like many of us, always had a mental image of libraries as staid places known for hushed voices so as to avoid disturbing your fellow students. Instead, he recalls that some of his most interesting, intellectually powerful conversations as a student were in the dorm, late at night.
“You couldn’t do that in the library because the space was about solitude,” he admits. “Bringing those dynamic conversations into a Learning Commons will transform how students approach their work after college. In particular, it is important that we learn how to work together, even when we disagree. The Learning Commons, if it is working well, will promote discourse that strengthens civic engagement. I can’t think of a more important outcome.”
Tim is a firm believer in the transformative power of the Learning Commons. It holds the promise of something that a business partner once shared and made an indelible impression on him. “He said college is the place where you ‘learn how to learn.’ The Learning Commons will certainly add to this process of learning how to learn for Juniata students for years to come.”