Industry donation of graduate housing bolsters Penn State fruit research

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State graduate students and visiting scientists from other institutions play a critical role in many studies conducted at Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville, Adams County. And now, thanks to the financial support of the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, new graduate-student housing at the center will help ensure those contributions into the future.

The association and its member companies provided more than $250,000 to fund construction of a new building to house grad students and visiting researchers at the center. The building, which replaces two small and outdated house trailers on the site, will be dedicated with a Jan. 28 ribbon-cutting and open house for dignitaries, industry representatives and others.

By accommodating more graduate students, the new building will enhance the research capacity of the center, benefitting the fruit industry and the local and state economies, according to James Schupp, professor of pomology and director of the Fruit Research and Extension Center.

"We thank the State Horticultural Association for this investment in the future," Schupp said. "This is a great day for Penn State and for the mid-Atlantic fruit industry. This support of graduate education at Penn State will help train tomorrow's leaders and will pay dividends in helping fruit growers for generations to come."

Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center is an important resource for Pennsylvania's $84 million fruit industry. The center creates science-based knowledge and innovative solutions that help keep the industry strong and viable. Methods and recommendations generated from research are shared with growers through Penn State Extension educational programs.

Rick Roush, dean of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, noted that graduate students and visiting scientists have been powerful engines driving the college's fruit-research efforts. "This project will provide the Fruit Research and Extension Center with safe, practical and affordable housing for a new generation of student researchers for many years to come," he said. "In addition to helping us train the scientists that will be here to assist our growers in the future, these accommodations will help to ensure the vitality of the region's agricultural economy."

Over the past 35 years, the center has housed 32 graduate students, seven postdoctoral scholars and two visiting scientists. Discussions began in 2014 about replacing the old trailers with expanded facilities to accommodate more graduate students. In spring 2015, the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, comprised of fruit growers from throughout the state and neighboring regions, agreed to provide funding for the new facility and launched a capital campaign.

Within just nine months, numerous fruit growers and several affiliated businesses pledged the necessary funds, which will come in to the association's endowment committee over the next several years. In the meantime, the committee advanced the funds to allow the project to go forward without delay.

"At our first meeting with the Penn State folks, they made it clear that the scientists at the Fruit Research and Extension Center considered replacement of the graduate housing units to be their top priority," said Phil Baugher, chair of the horticultural association's capital campaign committee. "This message resonated with the industry, and the outpouring of support clearly illustrates the partnership that the industry has developed with Penn State and the research team at the center."

Site preparation began in August 2015, and the structure was finished by the first of the year. "We are thrilled to be completing the project at the same time as the goal for the capital campaign was reached," Schupp said. "The new living quarters will give graduate students a competitive edge and will help Penn State to attract top talent to the center."

The grand opening event will start at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28, in the center's auditorium — at 290 University Drive in Biglerville — with a reception and brief remarks of appreciation for those companies and individuals who pledged funds for the project. Attendees then will move to the new building at the end of Rice Avenue for a ribbon cutting by current and former graduate students and tours of the structure.

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Last Updated January 08, 2016