Several area colleges working together to educate at Cranberry campus
By Debra Erdley
Published: Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, 11:59 p.m.
At the end of a road that winds through Cranberry Woods Office Park, the Regional Learning Alliance could be easy to miss.
But the nation's largest collaborative college campus, one of 32 sites across the country specifically designed for multiple schools, might hold a few lessons for policymakers seeking to link the nation's colleges and universities with workforce needs.
“The (Regional Learning Alliance) might be classified as a well-kept secret, but I think it's a good example of debunking the tradition that schools cannot play together,” said Jim Shankel, director of Carlow University's graduate and adult enrollment at the site. “I think we've all worked well together there. We've had an agreement that if we're not running a class on a particular semester and another member is, we'll give our students credit for taking it.”
In addition to Carlow, the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State and five other colleges and universities offer courses at the alliance, situated just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 79. Pitt focuses on graduate engineering programs. Penn State offers an MBA program and degrees in information sciences and nursing, and a program in organizational leadership.
More than 400 businesses and professional groups tap the 28-room high-tech center for training seminars, business meetings and professional development programs.
And it is home to the HeartPrints Center for Early Education, a nonprofit, private academic institution offering education for children age 3 through kindergarten.
“We are the only self-sustaining collaborative campus in the country. We were listed as one of the top 10 reasons for Westinghouse, which is located up the hill from the alliance, staying in Pittsburgh,” said CEO Justin Griffith.
“It clearly was an important part of our decision to locate here,” said Westinghouse spokesman Vaughn Gilbert. “We hold a number of events there. We have a very close and mutually beneficial relationship.”
Colleges tend to succeed at the facility because their offerings are designed to meet specific needs that businesses identify, Griffith said.
The facility provides technologies that allow colleges and businesses to connect with remote sites around the world.
“We've upgraded our technology four times since we opened in 2004,” Griffith said.
“It is just a fabulous facility,” said Nancy Miller, co-director of continuing education at Penn State New Kensington.
Business and industry have been partners from day one. Located next door, Mine Safety Appliances offered Bob Smith, who has since retired as Slippery Rock University president, a site for the facility.
Smith shepherded the sprawling, green building with a three-story atrium from concept through construction.
“I was vice president for academic affairs at Slippery Rock. We had a fledgling continuing education program that was going nowhere. There was a cry, ‘You need to be in Cranberry,' ” Smith recalled.
At the time, 16 colleges and universities had outposts scattered at shopping centers and strip malls in the township. Smith thought there had to be a better idea and remembered a collaborative facility in Tennessee.
“I thought it would be far better to be collaborative, share the costs and gain that advantage than it would be to be a competitor across the street,” Smith said.
Then-Gov. Ed Rendell liked the idea, promised a state grant, and the project took off.
But colleges initially were less than eager to join forces.
“It was a hard sell. It broke so many molds in higher education,” Smith recalled.
Shankel said Carlow's location at the alliance has helped the Oakland school, which offers a bachelor's degree completion program for registered nurses and a master's in nursing that enrolled about 200 students over the past five years.
“We were the first school to sign on to become part of it in August 2004. And we've deemed it a success,” he said.
Debra Erdley is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Man dies in overnight Butler house fire
- Cranberry family grateful to organization providing specially trained dog
- Seneca Valley Middle School earns national recognition a second time
- Coroner called to car crash in Muddy Creek
- Butler County’s unemployment rate lowest in area
- Cranberry Twp. class helps foreign children learn English before first grade
- SV, Mars students earn accolades for artwork, writing
- Haine Middle School concept gets township approval
- Wolf leading pack among Democratic gubernatorial candidates
- Butler Township finances get boost from land sale
- Cranberry women take part in PSU fundraiser