On Sept. 27, SRU President William Behre and the Council of Trustees officially reopened the Strain Safety Building in a special ribbon-cutting ceremony. The ceremony was held in the new MSA Construction Lab as a celebratory “closing” to the $7.5 million renovations.
The updates and renovations to the Strain Safety Building include faculty offices, student study spaces, ROTC student lounge, student art gallery, construction and general industry safety labs, improved industrial hygiene and emergency preparedness labs, fire safety labs and updated classrooms.
This grand reopening ceremony came after construction and renovation delays due to issues with contractors, according to Dr. Joseph Cali, Safety Management Chair and Professor.
The renovations were originally set to be complete in July 2018, but the building didn’t reopen to students and faculty until February of this year. Because of the construction projects, classes in the safety management program were relocated to Patterson Hall and Eisenberg Classroom building.
Students and faculty are excited to finally be back in the building, and they are grateful for the new technology and equipment.
“They use the equipment here, and they go out in the field and have the same equipment out there,” Cali said. “They will then know how to use it. It is based on hands-on learning, and that’s what’s key.”
In August 1978, Professor Emeritus of Safety Management George Mihalik was hired at SRU as a faculty member with a desire to develop a bachelor of science program with safety. With numerous revisions and curriculum updates, the state system of higher education approved the program. The first graduating class was May 1982, which consisted of only three students.
Mihalik said the dream of that time was someday to have their own building, and that dream has indeed come true.
“From those first three brave pioneering students to today’s nearly 500 majors in this program, the foundation of this program has always been the quality and excellence of our students,” Mihalik said.
President Damon Morris and Vice President Nick Ravotti of SRU’s chapter for the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), both senior safety management majors, are grateful to be gaining valuable, hands-on experience before they graduate and enter the workforce.
“I know a lot of alumni who graduated recently who would have loved to use this equipment and gain the hands-on experience and technical knowledge,” Morris said. “Now this next wave of safety students will be able to go into their first jobs having this technical and hands-on experience.”
Ravotti said his father graduated from SRU’s safety management program back in 1994, and he worked tirelessly after graduating to gain the hands-on technical experience that current and future safety students will earn with the new equipment. Ravotti added that he and other safety management students will be “starting on the right foot” at their first jobs after graduation.
“What we’re getting is so much more than just safety equipment and technology; it’s a lifetime of education and experience for future safety professionals,” Ravotti said. “We prefer to learn in a hands-on environment, so all of this new equipment is going to teach us better than any textbook ever could.”
Many local safety companies like MSA Safety, 70E Solutions, West Penn Power and FirstEnergy donated and contributed to the renovations and addition of the many new safety labs.
“It is through investments and partnerships with organizations like Slippery Rock University that allow us to grow,” Ken Krause, Chief Financial Officer at MSA Safety and SRU alumnus, said. “We’re excited to be here, to continue to partner with one of the premier safety management programs in the country.”
Manager of External Affairs at FirstEnergy and SRU alumnus Robi Lombardo said the growth and changes that have been made since he graduated in 1995 are for the better, and that he’s excited to see what else SRU will do in the future.
“This is not the Rock that I went to 25 years ago,” Lombardo said. “Everyone here should be very excited to be a part of Slippery Rock University’s evolution. The future is looking bright.”