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Jahanian announces 'New Scaife'

President Farnam Jahanian used his Oct. 26 inauguration address to announce that “the Allegheny Foundation has committed a $30 million lead grant toward the transformation of Scaife Hall into a modern, new home for Mechanical Engineering.”

The transformation will mark the seventh significant change to the infamously-latticed 1962 engineering building. This time it will be a complete rebuild, with an emphasis on modern labs, reconfigurable classrooms, and collaborative spaces, and probably a goodbye to the Pringle-shaped lecture hall in the front.

The large grant came from the Allegheny Foundation, a subsidiary of Scaife Foundations, another namesake of Alan M. Scaife. According to their website, the Allegheny Foundation “confines most of its grant awards to programs for historic preservation, civic development and education.” The grant for the new Scaife Hall is the largest grant ever offered by the foundation.

Past grants of the Allegheny Foundation mostly include local educational and community-oriented donations. Outside of the community, the foundation mostly donates to conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute, and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

President Jahanian noted in his inaugural address that the grant from the Allegheny Foundation pushed the “total infrastructure investments in engineering over the past decade to more than a quarter billion dollars.”

The Tartan interviewed Allen L. Robinson, Engineering and Public Policy Department Head and Raymond J. Lane Distinguished Professor in Mechanical Engineering, who shed some light on the potential impact of a new Scaife Hall from the perspective of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Currently, Robinson says, Scaife Hall and Mechanical Engineering spaces are “lacking in several dimensions.” With the move towards more project-focused and flipped-classroom courses in the College of Engineering, traditional classroom spaces are not optimal, Robinson said. He continued, “New Scaife will have those sorts of flexible classrooms. This will benefit MechE, other engineering departments, and [the] university as a whole.”

Robinson also notes that “the number of MechE students has more than doubled since I joined the faculty about 20 years ago,” with large growth in undergraduate, graduate, and faculty populations, though the spaces the Mechanical Engineering program occupies on campus have largely remained the same.

With the increase in multi-disciplinary research taking place in the College of Engineering, current lab spaces that favor small research teams are outdated and lacking, Robinson told The Tartan. New lab spaces will encourage collaboration among students and faculty alike, and will be able to accommodate new research on “novel technologies such as DNA-origami, biohybrid robotics, and biomechanics,” Robinson says, continuing, “these types of research require different types of infrastructure that don’t exist in Scaife.”

Ultimately, Robinson says that a new Scaife Hall “will dramatically enhance our graduate and undergraduate education programs. It will also accelerate our research activities by promoting highly collaborative research in critical emerging areas.”

President Jahanian aired similar sentiments in his inaugural address, saying that due to this expansion, Carnegie Mellon University “will be better able to compete for the best students and faculty, driving Pittsburgh’s reputation as a hub for innovation.”

With this new Scaife Hall, as well as the new Tepper Quadrangle, the forthcoming ANSYS Hall, and the recently purchased Shadyside apartment building, Carnegie Mellon University is furthering its infrastructure expansion plans in Pittsburgh.

Construction is yet to begin, but the new building is expected to be double the size of the current Scaife Hall in the same location. There is no scheduled completion date as of now, but construction will probably push students out of Scaife sometime soon.