The Suite Life at California University of Pennsylvania

By Strother, Timothy A. | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 21, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Suite Life at California University of Pennsylvania


Strother, Timothy A., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Students, alumni and visitors at California University of Pennsylvania likely have observed changes the campus has undergone over the past few years. Bulldozers, construction crews and alternative traffic patterns have become the norm for students, faculty and staff at the 155-year-old campus.

Beyond the new bricks and drying mortar, however, lies a brighter future for members of the community, according to university President Angelo Armenti, as it prepares to welcome a new generation of students to an attractive and revitalized campus.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable changes has been the construction of housing facilities, one of which opened to students this fall.

Armenti said most of the newly renovated dorm rooms accommodate two students, who share a bedroom and a bathroom. Other living arrangements accommodate four students who share a common living area, two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

"At worst, a student might have to share a bedroom or a bathroom with three other people," Armenti said. "That's certainly better than sharing one bathroom located at the end of the hallway with everyone who lives on the same floor."

When Armenti began his tenure in 1992, he said he knew student housing needed to be improved.

"I recognized immediately when I got here that we had to do something with student housing," he said. "The facilities we had were state-of-the-art in the 1960s, but by the 1990s they had become obsolete, and students didn't want to live in them anymore."

Because of the need for new student housing, Armenti said Phase I of the university's revitalization program aimed to provide students with facilities in which they could feel comfortable.

Armenti explained that the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education receives $65 million a year from the state to be distributed among the 14 state-supported universities. Most of that funding has been used for student housing.

"The majority of the funding comes from public-private partnerships that have been worked out with the commonwealth," Armenti said, "and most of the new construction has come in the form of new residence halls for students."

Since 2002, six new residence halls have been constructed and are now occupied, increasing enrollment at the university by 25 percent, Armenti said. Early figures for this school year show an estimated 8,200 students registered for fall-semester classes, and that number is expected to grow next year.

For many years prior to his tenure, Armenti said the university had been a "conservation conscious" institution. That tradition has continued, he said, with the construction of its new residence halls.

Each building features a geothermal heating and cooling system, which relies on the fact that underground temperatures are constant. In warm weather, underground temperatures are cooler than air temperatures, so heat energy can be dissipated there to cool the rooms. In winter the underground temperature is warmer than the air temperature, and it gives the heating system a boost.

In addition to the geothermal heating and cooling system, Armenti said the university also invested in an energy control system, which provides the ability to control heat in rooms that aren't occupied.

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