Lehigh’s health, science and technology building rendering, which is part of the Path to Prominence initiative. Despite the pandemic, the College of Health construction is continuing. (Courtesy of Lehigh University)

Path to Prominence initiatives move forward despite COVID-19

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Following delays related to COVID-19, Lehigh will continue the construction and expansion of multiple academic buildings and residence halls as part of its Path to Prominence initiative

University Architect Brent Stringfellow said in an email that these delays have mainly impacted the construction of the Singleton, Hitch and Maida Residential Houses and the Health, Science and Technology Building, which houses the College of Health.

In his email, Stringfellow said the new residential houses, which were scheduled to open for fall 2020, will now open for the spring 2021 semester. The HST building, however, is still anticipated to open in fall 2021.

Lori Friedman, director of media relations, said in an email that while COVID-19 has delayed certain projects, the goals related to Path to Prominence are as much of a priority as they were previously.

Design work for the expansion of the College of Business is almost complete, Stringfellow said. Once these designs are submitted, the university will be reviewing when construction might start.

Additionally, the undergraduate population will continue to increase next year, Friedman said. She said although COVID-19 temporarily slowed the pace of student body growth this year, Lehigh is still growing. Friedman said she hopes COVID-19 will be less of a factor in undergraduate growth come fall 2021. 

GO: The Campaign for Lehigh, which funds the projects and goals that are a part of the Path to Prominence, was not largely affected by COVID-19, said Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Joseph Buck.

As a comprehensive campaign, the GO Campaign responds to the university’s priorities, which change over time, Buck said.

Buck said in some ways, the coronavirus pandemic has actually helped to fund certain projects.

“Opening a College of Health in the middle of a pandemic has actually brought more attention and support,” Buck said. “A lot of alumni and donors are now really interested in what we’re doing. Because (the College of Health and the HST building) had started before COVID, we have more of a reason to promote both of those priorities.”

The Path to Prominence was created in 2015 during President John Simon’s first year as president. Earlier this month, Simon announced that he will step down at the end of this academic year. Though Lehigh will operate under a new president come July 2021, Friedman said Path to Prominence initiatives will continue through both the presidential transition and the new administration.

Buck said new Provost Nathan Urban, however, may take the university through a strategic plan and set different institutional goals than the ones currently addressed by the Path to Prominence.

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