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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- Over the past nine months, the former Greenberg Indoor Sports Complex has been renovated and converted into the new home for the Morgan Academic Center, providing a central and expanded academic hub for Penn State student-athletes.
Morgan Academic Center staff members began moving from the Center's previous four locations to the new facility earlier this month and student-athletes attending the first summer academic session have already begun exploring and using the space.
Members of the media had an opportunity to see the new Morgan Academic Center for the first time on Wednesday, with the tour led by Russ Mushinsky, Director of the Morgan Academic Center. Penn State Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour and Rob Pangborn, Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education, also participated in the tour.
The Morgan Academic Center is a critical component in keeping Penn State's academic services and the academic performance of its approximately 800 student-athletes at the forefront among the nation's premier Division I institutions. Tutoring, advising, computer labs, group study areas and meeting rooms previously were located in four separate locations on the University Park campus: East Area Locker Room, Lasch Football Building, Rec Hall and the Bank of America Career Services Building.
The mission of the Morgan Academic Support is to provide appropriate academic support services to all student-athletes, including academic counseling, a first-year enrichment program, which includes two seminar courses and a study table program, individualized learning support services and career development.
"This is a physical manifestation about our commitment to academics," said Barbour, who made a gift of $100,000 for the Morgan Academic Center project within several months of arriving at Penn State. "Having this project be first (prior to the facilities master plan) speaks to the priority, the urgency and our commitment to academics and student-athlete welfare and development at Penn State. It's incredible space; it's the perfect location (for student-athletes to access). First and foremost, this is about our current student-athletes and helping them get the most out of their experience at Penn State."
The project has consolidated the Morgan Academic Center to include all services and staff in one physical location to better support and advise student-athletes, while providing them with a more student-centered academic support facility. The project includes office space for staff members, including academic counselors, learning specialists and a sports psychologist; 15 collaborative learning spaces; along with conference rooms, classroom space, a multimedia interview room, and student lounge. The facility also houses the new student-athlete welfare and development unit and features state-of-the art technological enhancements, including wireless access, charging and printing stations, 125 desktop computers, a fueling station and other improvements.
"Having all of our student-athletes in one location is great," Mushinsky said. "The upgraded space itself, it's student-centered, which is the way students learn today and that's the kind of environment we needed. We think this is a very good location for our student-athletes. Starting next week, we'll have a lot going on here with our new students and our returning students for the second summer session."
Mushinsky said a maximum of 350 student-athletes could be using the Morgan Academic Center simultaneously, which is approximately 44 percent of the Nittany Lions' 800 student-athletes.
"As a student-athlete, academics come first," said Joe Hampton, a freshman on the Nittany Lion basketball team, who enrolled in the University in May. "It's a tough transition (as a freshman), but I didn't have this help in high school. It's (Morgan Center) so convenient to get to; it takes me two minutes to walk here."
The Morgan Academic Center includes photographs and graphics of recent student-athletes and academic award winners, including CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, Big Ten and NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients and Big Ten Medal of Honor winners.
Also included in the features is a blue line on the floor just to the right of the main entrance. Mushinsky explained that when a student-athlete crosses the blue line, he or she will be expected to completely devote themselves to their academic work, similar to crossing a line when heading to practice.
The team of PJ Dick of Pittsburgh, and Hoffman Leakey Architects of Boalsburg, Pa., designed and constructed the $7.2 million facility.
The Greenberg Indoor Sports Complex was vacated with the completion of the Pegula Ice Arena in 2013. A portion of the building has since been renovated to serve as a swing space for multiple science laboratories being renovated as part of the University's five-year capital renewal plan.
The Morgan Academic Center project is included in the "Bridge to the Future" Fund, which will enable Penn State Athletics to renovate and upgrade athletic facilities for the basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, track and field, volleyball and wrestling programs. Barbour gave the first major gift of $100,000 to the fund, announced in February 2015, for the Morgan Academic Center project.
In November 2015, the NCAA reported that Penn State student-athletes continue to graduate well above their peers, with an 88 percent Graduation Success Rate, five points above the national Division I average. Penn State's 193 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time ranks No. 4 among all Division I institutions.