Campus expansion impacts student services

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Over the next 10 years, Lehigh will welcome 1,000 more undergraduate students and 500 more graduate students. 

The expansion under the Path to Prominence initiative will impact the demand for student services on campus.

Counseling Services

Ian Birky, the director of counseling and psychological services, said his staff is already at full capacity.

“Any time more students are added to a university, there is likely to be a percentage of those students needing counseling at least equal to the numbers seeking assistance as in the past,” Birky said.

At any given time, 15 percent of students utilize Lehigh’s counseling services. With the expansion of the student body over the next 10 years, approximately 225 more students will seek counseling services.

Birky said the counseling center will likely feel some strain from the expansion of the student body, as will other offices and the students.

While no plans have been finalized, administrators will not only need to consider an increased demand for counseling services, but also the potential need for staff in other offices within Student Affairs, such as the Health and Wellness Center, the Center for Academic Success and Health Advancement and Prevention Services.

Birky said staff are challenged by the increasing number of students coming to the counseling center reporting anxiety and interpersonal discomfort.

“Staff will continue to maintain faith that humans are wonderfully made, and despite change with its consequent stress and anxiety, students and other members of the (campus) community will ultimately be able to cope, adapt to change and flourish so long as they feel they are not in it alone,” he said. 

Dean of Students Office

Lori McClaind, the associate dean of students, oversees Academic Life and Students Transitions, which includes the Center for Academic Success, Office of Academic Transitions, Disability Support Services and Office of the First-Year Experience.  

McClaind said she is excited by the growth Lehigh will experience, but is not ignoring the challenges it presents. Her office is considering how the enlarged student population impacts its work and ability to support students.

“Particularly for our resource providing offices and areas, we are actively thinking about how our overall student population may change, the implication for how we deliver of services and the need for increased staffing,” McClaind said.

The Dean of Students Office’s model for supporting academics is focused on one-on-one coaching with students, so McClaind said the number of students seeking her office’s guidance is assumed to grow as the student population does. 

Admissions Office

Director of Admissions Bruce Bunnick said Lehigh is holding its own against other universities of the same approximate size and rank.

He said Admissions is aware of the changing climate of the college recruitment landscape and how the anticipated increase in applications will advance Path to Prominence.

“To a certain extent, technology and its efficiencies have helped our efforts to date in terms of collecting information and communicating on a routine basis with prospective students, but the personalization that stems from human interaction is still a valuable asset to our practices,” Bunnick said. 

Overall, he said, admissions officers’ duties have been stretched greatly in the past 20 years. 

Bunnick said Path to Prominence will provide greater opportunities for a more diverse student pool, domestically and internationally, which will alter the student body’s makeup racially, socioeconomically and geographically.

“There is clearly more work to be done, but we have leveraged our partnerships with a number of community-based organizations and educational partners that have served in an advocacy role on behalf of their students to help diversify our campus and broaden our reach through the U.S. and around the world,” Bunnick said.

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