Ryan Family Student Center, a one-stop shop for student support

Sara Brennen
August 22, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On the University Park campus, located just inside a side entrance of Deike Building on Burrowes Road, a popular student center serves as an advising one-stop shop for undergraduate students in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS).

Featuring meeting, studying spaces and gathering spaces, the center has living-room style furniture, a refrigerator and microwave for student use, and complimentary coffee, tea or hot chocolate, giving EMS undergraduates a welcoming place to chat with fellow students, tutors and advisers. Students access free printing in the on-site computer lab or walk across the hall to use classroom space for team projects.

“You can often hear many languages being spoken here, and students are encouraged to talk with one another so they don’t need to be as quiet as might be expected in other study spaces,” said Kimberly Del Bright, the college’s Giles Writer-in-Residence.

A constellation of offices around the living room area houses advisers and tutors, and the associate dean for undergraduate education, along with an office for the EMS student council. Nearly 100 students per day frequent the center, which is open Monday through Friday, with hours extending into the evening during the fall and spring semesters. Students meet up at the center with faculty or graduate students for tutoring in topics including writing, career preparation, information technology and advanced math.

Ryan Family Student Center

The Ryan Family Student Center in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences integrates tutoring, advising, student work space, and areas for casual interaction into a one-stop shop for student success. A walk through shows the vibrant and engaging academic atmosphere we foster for our students — our goal is to create a warm, welcoming, and small-college feel amid the rich activities taking place on the University Park campus.

“The center provides a convenient way for our staff to connect with students on a casual level. You can easily strike up a conversation with someone on your way to peel an orange in the kitchen,” said Del Bright.

Enrollment in the college has tripled since the center opened in 2004, and the center helps to promote a family atmosphere within the larger University context.

“Everyone pitches in to keep the kitchen running and students help to keep the space clean,” said Martha Traverse, the center’s administrative support coordinator.

Students who commute to and from campus appreciate being able to refrigerate or heat their food.

“Instead of going home after classes are over, they are more likely to stay to work on projects with their classmates,” said Linda Spangler, administrative assistant and EMS student council adviser.

Only a few steps away

The team approach extends to student support. The three on-site advisers work in close consultation with faculty advisers and instructors. Students can see an adviser during morning or afternoon walk-in hours or make an appointment.

“An adviser may identify a student in trouble, and all that student has to do is walk a few steps down to my office to make an adjustment to their course schedule or pursue other options that will keep them on track to graduate,” said Traverse.

“It’s easiest when we can intervene earlier,” said Hilleary Himes, director of academic advising.

Student questions run the gamut from “Am I on track to graduate?” to “How can I switch majors or add minors?” to “How can I participate in study abroad?”

“EMS students can end up in surprising and neat careers. There’s so much variety in what our students do. They are passionate, and they want to do good in the world,” said Del Bright.

“We have a very active student council, and they have an office in the center. Younger students see the perks of having a great office location, get to know the council leadership, and become interested in getting involved.”

These leadership opportunities include involvement in the College of EMS student orientation (TOTEMS), EMS Benefiting THON and the annual EMEX open house for prospective students and families, as well as other social activities.

“The student center provides a central location for us to meet other students and include new students in our events and activities,” noted 2018 graduate and previous student council president Jenna Hakun.

“There’s a culture here of students advising younger students. They’re not afraid to say ‘I care,’ and it matters. It’s infectious,” added Del Bright.

Yvette Richardson, associate dean of undergraduate education, said the center sprung from the vision of Penn State President Eric Barron, who served as dean of the college from 2002 to 2006.

“Dr. Barron wanted EMS to be student-centered, and he realized that a collaborative space would create that kind of feeling. He really put us on a great trajectory,” Richardson said.

The center was created through a generous donation from the John Ryan family. Ryan, a 1908 graduate from the Penn State mining engineering program, was a founder of the Mine Health Safety company with fellow alumnus George Deike. Ryan's son also graduated from Penn State's mining engineering program.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 23, 2018