From left: SouthSide Commons, Bridge West, University Center, and Chandler-Ullmann and are several different major construction and renovation projects that have broken ground on and near campus over the past few years, including the construction of two new residences. Lehigh seniors have attended the university during a time in which the school forged forward in its Path to Prominence plans. (Devon Saturnia, Logan LaClair, Jessica Mellon, Brian Lucas/B&W Staff)

From 2015 to 2019: Seniors see major changes over four years

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When the class of 2019 arrived on campus as first-years, many were unaware of the changes that would lie ahead for their new school.

But as it turned out, the past four years have been a transforming time for Lehigh under Path to Prominence, both in the physical campus as well as the dynamics and diversity.

Director of Admissions Bruce Bunnick reflected on the changes that Lehigh has made in terms of admissions. When the class of 2019 applied, almost 12,900 students sought admission to Lehigh and 30 percent were accepted, Bunnick said. This past year, applications rose to a record-breaking 15,647 and acceptance dropped to 24 percent.

The acceptance rate for the class of 2023, though, is slightly higher than the rate for the class of 2022. 

Despite these changes, Bunnick said he believes the strength of Lehigh’s entire student body remains evenly distributed throughout class years.

“While there’s a difference in empirical measures, such as test scores, the consistency between the class of 2019 and 2022 is more noticeable than the differences,” Bunnick said. “They’re all bright students who are committed to their studies and are looking to become engaged in the community.”

As the number of students applying has changed in the class of 2019’s time on campus, so has the types of students.

“Students are presenting better scores all across the board,” Bunnick said. “In terms of leadership and qualities outside of the classroom, it’s also going up. So the job has gotten tougher. Fundamentally though, the process of reviewing applications has stayed the same, but what we seek modifies year to year, especially with all the growth on campus.”

Campus growth takes a multitude of forms, one of which being the physical development of buildings across campus. Brent Stringfellow, associate vice president of facilities and the university architect, sees the past four years as a period of “building booms” at Lehigh.

Within the seniors’ time on campus, Chandler-Ullmann and the University Center began the early stages of remodeling, Williams Hall was renovated as a student building and global center in 2015, SouthSide Commons made major progress this year, and Mountaintop Building C was completed after renovations began in 2016. Bridge West is in its development stages, and a concert headlined by Halsey was the first major public kick-off of Lehigh’s $1-billion GO Campaign

Steps have also been made toward creating a more pedestrian-friendly campus with the new route of the bus stop, Stringfellow said.

“If you think that’s a lot, just wait for the next four years,” Stringfellow said.

Much of this dynamic phase at Lehigh is propelled by Path to Prominence. Deirdre Kwiatek, director of the GO Campaign, sees the class of 2019 as being on campus during a pivotal time in Lehigh history.

While they may not see every change in store for Lehigh, they are meeting the leaders who are working to create the change.

“Senior leaders on campus such as President (John) Simon, Ricardo Hall, Khanjan Mehtha, Dan Warner, Donald Outing and Cheryl Matherly all joined Lehigh during the senior’s four years here,” Kwiatek said. “The class of 2019 has been on during the time where all of this is taking shape and bubbling.”

Despite seniors’ leaving during much of the Path to Prominence plans being implemented, the campaign goes further than what’s happening on campus and will follow the class of 2019 even when they leave Lehigh.

One major initiative of the campaign is the strengthening of the alumni base, Kwiatek said. The class of 2019 will be graduating into an alumni network that is much stronger than it was four years ago and will only continue to strengthen, she said.

“The class of 2019 will look back and see the evolution of this university, and they’ll know that they were here during the seeds of it,” Kwiatek said.

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