Construction for the merger of the Graduate School of Education building and Stiteler Hall, which aims to provide more space for the growing GSE programs and to centralize the school, is expected to be completed in fall 2022.
Penn announced in fall 2018 that Ann Beha Architects will construct a building that connects GSE's central building at 3700 Walnut St. with the neighboring Stiteler Hall, located by Locust Walk on 37th Street. The connection will include a new entrance to the GSE building, a four-story student pavilion of student lounges and group study rooms, and a two-story addition to Stiteler Hall with more student and classroom spaces and an innovation lab.
Kat Stein, GSE's executive director of communications, said that GSE has struggled to accommodate the increasing numbers of GSE students. GSE's masters programs have approximately 1,000 full and part-time students, representing a 50% growth over the last decade, she added.
“This expansion will connect buildings and give students a more cohesive experience at Penn GSE and create a more cohesive Penn GSE community for everyone," Stein said.
Some GSE students voiced concerns over the lack of space in the central GSE building.
First-year International Educational Development master's student Ellen Miller said the few on-campus spaces GSE students tend to congregate around include the small student lounge on the first floor of the GSE building and study spaces in Van Pelt Library.
“The GSE student lounge is often packed out and noisy, and the Graduate Student Center on campus is also pretty limited in terms of space and outlet availability," Miller said.
Miller said students often have a difficult time finding electrical outlets or even a space to take a private phone call.
Sixth-year Educational Linguistics Ph.D. student Aldo Anzures Tapia said Stiteler Hall and the GSE building are surrounded by social spaces like coffee shops, but currently lack internal spaces for graduate students to collaborate and interact with each other.
"I think people live in very isolated ways, so any effort for the School of Education to create new space for people to hang out and create intellectual communities is great," Tapia said.
Miller said she hopes the expansion will introduce more collaborative classroom environments for GSE classes, most of which are currently held in lecture-style classrooms.
The merger of Stiteler Hall and the GSE building is part of the Extraordinary Campaign within Penn GSE, a $75 million fundraising effort that aims to bring the majority of GSE's degree programs into a central location and to tackle the growing demand for space with the growing student body.
"As we expanded over the past decade, we have had programs scattered in rented spaces in West Philadelphia," Stein said. "[This expansion project] brings student and faculty back to campus."