William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center preview

Set to open in January 2016 the new building will offer students a hub for success services

The University of Nevada, Reno will open the new William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center in January 2016. The center will offer a centralized location for a number of student success services all designed to help students graduate.


11/17/2015 | By: John Trent and Nicole Shearer  |

The revolving door located at the main entryway of the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center may perhaps offer the perfect metaphor for the University of Nevada, Reno's newest building. Set to open in January 2016, the 78,000-square-foot building will bring together a myriad of student-success services all designed to assist students in their efforts to attain a degree in four years.

"The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center is one of the most tangible reflections of our University's daily effort to assist, retain, engage, and ultimately, to graduate students," University President Marc Johnson said. "This is a facility that will be of benefit to all of our students, from all walks of life, in their path toward earning a college degree."  

The strategy behind the building's purpose is two-fold: Not only will it cluster together many of the University's student-centered services in one central location, it will also create synergy through flexibility in scheduling by offering evening hours to accommodate students' schedules. Increased operations are a central focus to the building's intent, as evening hours are not currently available for many of the services that will re-locate from at least six other buildings to the new facility.

Building on momentum
Services that will be relocating to the center include the Writing Center, Math Center, Tutoring Center, Career Studio, Advising Center, Nevada Military Support Alliance Veterans' and Military Center, Disability Resource Center, Counseling Services and TRiO Scholars Programs.

In addition to these student services, the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center will include two smart classrooms, each designed with help from a University faculty focus group. The classrooms will offer 360-degree capability with projectors on each wall. All four walls also serve as white boards allowing students and professors space for collaboration.

A Meditation and Reflection Room is also included in the new student achievement center to help meet the different spiritual needs of the University's diverse student population. Just outside the room is a foot wash along with two private reflection spaces.

"This is one of the most important and most-needed buildings we've ever had on this campus," Johnson said. "The facility will cater to every student, in every imaginable way. In many ways, it will be our most socially and academically welcoming building. It will foster a culture of support, and it will help all of our students."

Social circles
Throughout the building, students will find ample space to study, congregate and engage in a complete student experience. One of the building's main focal points is its social staircase that connects the entryway on the north side of campus to the second, main floor, of the building. The stairway includes steps on one side and seating areas on the other.

There are also 14 student collaboration rooms. These rooms feature a wall with white board paint, a 50-inch flat panel screen on another wall and configurative furniture. Rooms will accommodate six to 10 students and can be scheduled by students through the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center's scheduling system.

Two computer lounges will also offer students a space to study. Each will include University-provided computers and furniture for students to work independently on their personal devices. The fourth floor computer lounge also features an outdoor deck with views of the Quad, downtown Reno and the Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.

Students won't have to travel far for food services as Nevada Dining will offer its newest food service on the second floor of the building - Deli NV. Similar to Elements, located in the Davidson Mathematics and Science building, Deli NV will offer sandwiches, salads, wraps and refreshments.

Honoring the past
In a nod to the generations of students who passed through Getchell Library, (the building sits on the site of the old library in the heart of the campus' "traditional" south end), The Associated Students of the University of Nevada will place a commemorative Graduation Wall on the second floor near the main entryway. The Graduation Wall is made from the red granite, formerly a part of Getchell and has an engraved image of the old library, along with a note about the number of graduates who have passed through that space.

It reads: "In honor of the 93,141 graduates from 1890 through 2014 and those to come."

Starting in spring 2015, and every year thereafter, the total number of University graduates from each academic year will be added to the wall.

"The Graduation Wall will encourage our current and future students to persist and graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno," ASUN President Caden Fabbi said. "As students compare the humble beginnings of our campus to the expansive and proud University that we are today, they will be able to reflect on the historic past and be excited for our bright future."

In addition to the ASUN Graduation Wall, seating along the building's south side stairway also includes the white granite from the Getchell stairs.

Campus engagement
Student success on campus has reached record levels. Milestones that have been reached in the past year include record graduation numbers (nearly 4,000 in 2014-2015); retention (81 percent freshman-to-sophomore retention in 2014-2015); enrollment (a record 20,898 students in fall 2015), diversity (35 percent of enrolled students are from underrepresented groups) and National Merit and Presidential Scholars (more than 300 in fall 2015).

Johnson said the Pennington Student Achievement Center, a $45 million project, should help the University cultivate many more student success stories in the coming years.

"National higher education studies strongly suggest that the most successful academic experiences are provided by institutions with interconnected learning support networks," he said. "An institutional philosophy centered on student success, and, even more directly, on the talent development of its students, is a winning philosophy where students are more likely to engage, persist and reach graduation."

Added Shannon Ellis, vice president of Student Services: "We work diligently to connect the student to campus. We want to engage them, help them find people with whom they can relate. We want our students to know they are not alone."  

The William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center exemplifies the University's commitment to a culture of student success. As students come and go, the University remains intent on providing them with all the tools necessary to ensure lasting success. 

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