As part of Lehigh University’s ambitious Path to Prominence plan announced by President John Simon in 2016, Library and Technology Services has begun significant and crucial improvements to the school’s academic infrastructure.
Through a proposed $20 million investment plan developed by the Academic Infrastructure Working Group, co-chaired by Jack Lule, Professor and Chair in Journalism and Communication, and Bruce Taggart, Vice Provost for Library and Technology Services, Lehigh will enhance its instructional facilities, create new sites for innovative teaching and research, and strengthen its campus-wide network. This past summer, over $4 million of the work was completed. The improvements will enhance teaching facilities, enable creative learning and research, and enable advances in areas such as big data research, next-generation network needs, and faculty and student collaboration.
“With the Path to Prominence initiative, we have an opportunity to strengthen our campus teaching, research, and learning in ways that help facilitate faculty and student discovery and innovation through emerging technologies and creative spaces,” says Taggart. “These investments in academic infrastructure are the basic foundation for enabling new thinking, experimentation, innovation, and creativity.”
In February 2016, Provost Pat Farrell formed the Academic Infrastructure Working Group, which solicited input from a cross section of the Lehigh community and met with external consultants and corporate partners to determine the high-priority areas that address both immediate and long-term technology needs for faculty and students.
“One of the great, and unique, aspects of Lehigh life is the continual, rich collaboration between the faculty and LTS,” Lule said. “We are truly colleagues in the academic enterprise. The combined perspectives make such a difference when making complex and nuanced decisions about things like academic infrastructure.”
As a result of its information gathering, the group identified four strategic capital investment areas. The approved projects were begun this summer and represent immediate expenditures of $4 million to redesign and upgrade advanced technology large lecture halls, next-generation e-classrooms, the campus network, and develop a new immersive visualization lab, with another $2 million earmarked for related projects through June 2018.
“A major focus of the working group was to identify ways LTS can enrich both the teaching experience of our faculty and the classroom learning environment for students,” said Greg Reihman, Associate Vice Provost and Director of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. “Our goal is not only to keep pace with ever-increasing demands for high-tech classrooms, but to build out our infrastructure and facilities to serve evolving digital presentation, multimedia, collaborative and telepresence needs.”
This summer’s undertakings included the installation of ultra-high-definition video display walls in Packard 101, Sinclair 106, and Whitaker 303. Other projects include presentation technology upgrades, multimedia upgrades in 19 classrooms, and the digital conversion of 23 classrooms.
In addition, LTS completed a network infrastructure project that created diverse fiber paths between the Mountaintop and Asa Packer campuses, with an extension to Goodman Campus. Director of Technology Infrastructure and Operations James Monek notes that “while the Mountaintop fiber run provides the capacity required for Lehigh’s Data X initiative, extending it to Goodman Campus establishes a secure core cyberinfrastructure for all three campuses to support future growth in academics and research.”
Other network improvements completed this summer include adding a third Internet service provider (ISP) to increase Lehigh’s Internet capacity and resiliency, and to provide regional diverse paths for network redundancy. In addition, LTS deployed new wireless architecture in residential halls, and expanded wireless coverage in Packard Lab and Drown Hall, as well as outdoor wireless coverage for all campuses.
In the 2017-18 academic year Lehigh will continue to invest another $1+ million for new innovation spaces, advanced technology lecture halls, and further developing next-generation classrooms throughout the campus.
Photo by Jarrett Brown