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Bellisario’s Willard Media Center Construction Delayed, January Opening Targeted

Following Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s order to temporarily shut down all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, construction of Penn State’s Willard Media Center was halted earlier this spring.

Originally, the $48 million student media center’s final construction phases would’ve been completed in May, allowing students to begin using the space in time for the fall 2020 semester.

Marie Hardin, dean of Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, announced the school has a tentative plan to move forward with the center’s construction and hopefully open in January 2021. The dean said she and her staff are eager to continue the project as soon as conditions allow. In the meantime, they’re working to fine-tune plans and set reasonable expectations for meeting deadlines.

“We’re being optimistic but realistic, and we feel good about that possibility,” Hardin said. “As Pennsylvania starts opening in certain sectors, construction can resume.”

Hardin commended the communication efforts of the project’s contractor and construction workers and said she and the faculty are planning to continue regular operations if Penn State returns to in-person instruction in the fall. In that case, the College of Comm will still offer classes held at Innovation Park for those that require studio space and recording equipment.

“We are very hopeful about getting back to normal on-campus operations in the fall, but the university can’t predict at this point what that’s going to look like because the health and safety of our students and community are the top priority,” Hardin said.

Though students will not be able to use the media center during the 2020 presidential election, the department will be just as committed to enabling student involvement in election coverage as it’s shown in years past.

Hardin said she’s disappointed student-journalists won’t be able to utilize the center to cover the upcoming presidential election. However, her school will continue providing resources to its students and promoting collaboration to produce “exceptional quality” coverage of the race.

The department will also work closely with Penn State’s student media outlets throughout the fall semester and assist in the relocation of their offices to the Willard Media Center upon its completion.

“In terms of all the different student media organizations who were hoping to be engaged in the media center in the fall, we will continue to do our very best to support and engage those student media organizations as much as we can,” Hardin said.

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About the Author

Meredith Lea

Meredith “Deedle” Lea is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. You can find her hanging out with her ZTA sisters, eating Canyon pizza, or playing the saxophone somewhere in the Blue Band. Follow her on instagram @meredee.lea or on twitter @meredeed.

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