University opens new doors to student success

University of Nevada, Reno, along with the William N. Pennington Foundation and other donors, marks the anticipated start of construction of the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center

The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center Groundbreaking took place Tuesday, June 10 signaling the start of construction on the new student success facility.

6/10/2014 | By: Nicole Shearer  |

Officials at the University of Nevada, Reno, along with key donors and a community of supporters that includes the William N. Pennington Foundation, broke ground on the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center Tuesday, June 10 in a ceremony that brought to life the project's focus on student success.

This 78,000 square-foot facility will bring a myriad of student-success services now scattered across campus under one roof, exemplifying the University's commitment to the success of every student.  

"This is a transformative moment," University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson told the audience at the construction site of the new center. "The talent we will help develop here will create a stronger Nevada."  

At the ceremony, each of the individuals and organizations responsible for bringing the vision for the Pennington Center to life were recognized. Students, donors, regents from the Nevada System of Higher Education, state dignitaries and University officials were all paid tribute for their contributions to the project.  

"You will hear 'thank you' a lot today," President Johnson said. "The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center is one of the most important and most-needed buildings we've ever had on this campus. The type of excitement, involvement and interest received around this building are what the University requires in order to be successful. It shows the community spirit that stands behind this University."  

Donors honored at the event included the William N. Pennington Foundation for their $6 million naming gift, the Clarence and Martha Jones Foundation, Nell J. Redfield Foundation, E.L. Cord Foundation, Marshall R. Matley Foundation, Nevada Military Support Alliance, Bretzlaff Foundation, Mallory Foundation, Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation, Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation.   

"If there was a demonstrated need in the community that could affect the lives of many groups of people, Mr. Pennington was always there, happy to help," Rick Banis, William N. Pennington Foundation trustee, said. "This is what excited us so much about the project. The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center is going to help all students at the University of Nevada, Reno in ways that will benefit them long after they graduate and become leaders in our community."  

The Pennington Center will connect students to dedicated and convenient services to support their academic success and timely graduation, and it will foster diverse and truly engaged students. Offering sophisticated technologies and a personalized setting, it will provide ample opportunities for interacting with faculty, staff and fellow students. It will help the University continue to attract top students - the workforce and citizenry of Nevada's future - and serve the anticipated enrollment of 22,000 students anticipated for the University by 2021.    

"Today's ceremony is another important step for the state of Nevada, as the institutions of the Nevada System of Higher Education continue to find the best ways to bring a quality educational experience to the college and university students of our state," Kevin Page, chair of the Board of Regents, said. "The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center is a clear example of how student success is at the forefront of the University of Nevada, Reno's effort to ensure that students who enter this institution as freshmen will have all the resources they need to graduate in four years."  

The resources available to students in the Pennington Center were introduced through five symbolic doors on stage. A University student opened each door while Vice President of Student Services Shannon Ellis detailed the student's academic journey. Services include the Writing Center, Math Center, Tutoring Center, Career Services, Advising Center, Student Veterans Affairs, Disabilities Resource Center, Counseling Services, Trio & McNair Scholars, and student faith-based groups.  

Once the student finished her journey, representatives from the William N. Pennington Foundation and  President Marc Johnson were invited to join the students in pouring dirt from the construction site into a box representing a piece of the building's foundation. A truck then poured cement into the box, while small fireworks went off symbolizing the start of construction.

The total cost of the Pennington Center project is estimated at $44.5 million and is supported by private gifts and the capital-improvement fee paid by students. Partial planning costs for the facility of $456,000 were allocated by the State of Nevada. The William N. Pennington Foundation's gift represented half of the $12 million in philanthropic support the University sought for the center. The facility will be further funded by $21 million in student capital improvement fees and $11 million from the University.  

H+K Architects, based in Reno, is the architect for the Pennington Center and CORE Construction is the contractor. The project follows the Construction Manager at Risk model. Through this construction model, the general contractor is identified early on, fully participates in the architect-led design process and accepts a level of risk for the project cost.  

The building will be designed to be LEED equivalent, which means construction will follow environmental guidelines as outlined by LEED standards. A mid-district master plan, completed in spring 2013, evaluated pedestrian and bicycle traffic flow around the mid-campus area. Information from that master plan is being utilized in the design of the Pennington Center to consider pedestrian, bicycle and accessible traffic flow around the area. 


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