Gannon University’s Board of Trustees met in late September to discuss and vote on several initiatives, one of which involves the renovation of the former Tau Kappa Epsilon house on West Sixth Street.
President Keith Taylor, Ph.D., said in a press release that the Board of Trustees approved creation of a new Forensic Investigation Center that will bolster the Criminal Justice program’s revised curriculum and strong investigative focus.
Employment projections for positions in criminal justice are expected to increase by 10 percent through the year 2018, so the choice to update the existing building for the program’s needs makes sense given the climate of the industry, according to the university website.
Student Government Association President Luke King also serves on the Board of Trustees alongside Taylor. “Renovations to the TKE House to establish a Forensic Science Center will vastly increase the opportunities for students within the Criminal Justice department to specialize in different topics in their field such as forensic investigation,” King said. “This will also allow students graduating from this program to pursue careers aside from just law enforcement. The Forensic Science Center will provide real-life scenarios for students to study and approach crime scenes.”
The criminal justice program at Gannon is an undergraduate major that incorporates “education, research and service in the fields of criminal justice, public safety, and social justice,” according to the university course catalogue.
Currently, the criminal justice program strives to provide students with critical thinking and effective communication skills as well as capacity for personal growth and creative problem solving.
By the same respect, the interdisciplinary program encourages a wide range of inputs to create the optimal criminal justice candidate.
At the same time, not only criminal justice students will be able to utilize the new building.
Taylor said that not only criminal justice majors, but also students in the journalism, theatre and history programs will be able to experience hands-on utilizing the Center.
Taylor said renovations are planned to begin in the coming months including an interview room with a control monitor room, a firearms training simulation room, three crime-scene simulation rooms, a classroom and more.
Currently, the TKE house is seen surrounded by construction workers tearing out portions of the old fraternity house.
This announcement follows the recent documentary on CNN that featured Jerry C. Clark, Ph.D., assistant professor in the criminal justice program, discussing the “Pizza Bomber” case he investigated in 2003.
The documentary, shown on Sunday, chronicled the story behind the book “Pizza Bomber: The Untold Story of America’s Most Shocking Bank Robbery,” which was written by Clark and his associate, Erie Times–News reporter Ed Palattella.
According to the Marketing and Communications office, Clark will continue his exploration of the Pizza Bomber case through a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), the first in the history of Gannon University’s criminal justice program.”
This will be a six-week course designed to help the student learn how to gather, analyze and process data in the course of large-scale criminal case investigations.
Sophomore environmental engineering major Zak Westfall said he is excited by the possibility of an expanding Gannon campus.
“I don’t have much of an opinion on TKE,” Westfall said. “I’m glad that Gannon is able to take a prime location on Sixth Street and convert it into an academic building that will benefit the university for years to come.”
According to Gannon’s website, approximately 97 percent of Gannon’s criminal justice students are employed or enter into a graduate program.
Gannon hopes to continue this trend through developments with the Forensic Investigation Center in the future.
This announcement came alongside several other announcements from the university. Gannon was gifted the building at 900 State St. in Erie by Mr. Wiliam C. Schettine.
This glass building will be the location for the creation of a new Business Innovation Center, Taylor said in a press release.
This building not only expands the physical presence of Gannon’s campus, but also provides a physical location for the Dahlkemper School of Business, Gannon’s Erie Technology Incubator and the Gannon University Small Business Development Center.
These three entities will collaborate in the new physical space after renovations.
Abby Cavalier, a sophomore communication arts major at Gannon, argued that the location of the new building doesn’t seem to fit with the current landscape of campus.
“The 900 block of State Street is two blocks away from Waldron Campus Center, and also on State Street,” Cavalier said. “Zurn, Beyer and even Morosky are in the same general area. Having a building that dethatched from the traditional campus may prove troubling for some students.”
The creation of the School of Communication and the Arts was also approved at the recent Board of Trustees meeting as well as an approval of the renovation of LCBA Building, located at the corner of Seventh and Peach.
The Gannovation process initiated the conception of the school as well as faculty and staff.
Several academic programs will be incorporated into the new school, as well as 90.5 WERG, the university radio station, the Schuster Theatre and Gallery and the Erie Chamber Orchestra, in residence at Gannon, according to the press release.
Finally, a portion of the Erie Technology Incubator building was approved to house the biomedical engineering program. This program was launched last year, and requires additional space to expand.
The press release highlighted the fact that all of the recent announcements are designed to “build on the position of strength” that Gannon possess specifically the faculty, staff, students and administration.