Two-and-a-half years into the contract Barnes & Noble made with the University to manage the Penn State Bookstores, the students of Penn State are the No. 1 beneficiaries of the partnership.
"Without this scholarship money, it would have been much more difficult for me to afford to attend Penn State," said freshman David Rudda, when reflecting on the Academic Excellence Award he received this year. "I guess I might not be here at all."
The award was made possible by the partnership between the Penn State Bookstores and Barnes & Noble.
David is a freshman computer science major at the Penn State Wilkes-Barre Campus. As valedictorian of his high school class in Wilkes-Barre, he had several universities from which to choose.
Through July 1995, the partnership between Penn State and Barnes & Noble has yielded more than $3 million for Academic Excellence Awards at the University Park Campus; the Commonwealth Educational System campuses; Penn State Erie, The Behrend College; and Penn State Harrisburg. In addition, the contract has provided for $1.5 million in support for the Pattee Library and HUB/Robeson building funds ($700,000 each) and University Park Campus bike paths ($100,000). Over the 10-year contract period, the relationship with the nation's largest bookseller will have provided $18.5 million to be used for various University initiatives.
"When Barnes & Noble entered into negotiations with the University, one of the primary goals of both parties was identifying dollars to support student initiatives," Steve Falke, regional manager of the Penn State Bookstore, said. "We feel that we are not only operating a great bookstore for the University community, but also making significant resources available that will help students fund their education and provide them with a better educational experience."
According to Falke, over the course of the contract, Penn State Bookstores will provide $6.87 million for scholarships for students at the University Park Campus and $5.87 million for scholarships for students at other campuses. These scholarships have already helped to recruit dozens of academically talented, service-minded students.
One such student is Michael Kowalewski. As president of his high school senior class in Sweet Valley and of his national honor society chapter, Michael was considering several colleges. Since he's planning to attend veterinarian school, he was concerned about incurring too much debt as an undergraduate. The Academic Excellence Award that the Wilkes-Barre Campus was able to offer Michael played a large part in his decision to attend Penn State.
"I didn't get any federal or state financial aid," he explained. "Since I received the scholarship, I haven't had to get any student loans. It's great not to have to worry about the financial stuff during my first year."
Barnes & Noble also committed $1.05 million for renovating bookstores at University Park and other Penn State campuses. In addition, the contract results in an annual contribution of $320,000 to CES, Penn State-Behrend and Penn State Harrisburg Campus Student Related Capital Improvement Fund. This fund aims to improve student facilities at Penn State locations other than University Park. Some of the projects completed with the proceeds from the fund include the Slep Union Building renovation on the Altoona Campus, the addition of theatre lighting at the Beaver Campus, athletic fields at Penn State-Behrend, a sand volleyball court at the McKeesport Campus and picnic area equipment for the Schuylkill Campus.
Falke said Barnes & Noble is looking for still more ways to meet the needs of students. The company is channeling an additional $50,000 into student initiatives and is working with student groups to identify areas where the funds can best be used. To date, they have sponsored athletic advertising, underwritten the costs of producing The Councilor (a CES newsletter) and supported voter registration drives.
Barnes & Noble is part of a larger network of collegiate booksellers that is often able to pass special promotional offers along to their patrons.
"For example, we recognized the amount of time resident assistants spent with the students they oversee during the first few weeks of the semester, so we created an 'RA Night' for them," Falke said. "They were able to come into the store on a night when the store was normally closed and shop without the crowds. We also were able to give them a discount."
Students also may take advantage of employment and internship opportunities at the Penn State Bookstores. The bookstores employ 75 students at all locations, about 45 percent of their total work force. Falke added that Barnes & Noble is working on creating a student internship in which a junior works at the bookstore, learning all aspects of the bookstore business -- shipping, receiving, ordering and merchandising. After graduation, that student will have job opportunities at one of Barnes & Noble's stores.
"Almost from day one -- from the way they handled the transition, to their willingness to work with us -- we've been pleased with our relationship with Barnes & Noble," Gary Schultz, senior vice president for finance and business and University treasurer, said. "They've very capably handled our bookstore system, which is the largest collegiate bookselling system in the nation."
Falke, too, is pleased.
"Since assuming management duties of the bookstores, we have increased total gross revenue from just under $25 million in fiscal year 1993 to $29 million in fiscal year 1995," he said. "This growth occurred despite a first year of business slowed by the renovation of the University Park bookstore and the construction of a parking deck adjacent to the entrance."
This success has not gone unnoticed in the higher education community. Since signing with Penn State, Barnes & Noble has added Boston University and the Harvard Coop to the list of bookstores they manage, joining Big Ten universities Michigan and Northwestern.
" 'We are Penn State' says it all," Falke said. "This is Penn State's Bookstore, and we are committed to managing it and its resources the way Penn State wants."
In this case, it's a "win/win" situation in which students are the biggest winners.
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