SEKISUI Professional Experience Labs dedicated

By Andrea O'Neill '06

PELs will allow students to interview with employers for internships or employment both in person and virtually, practice or give a presentation, have their resume reviewed or polish their skills in a mock interview. The PELs also share the floor with the Department of Alumni and Professional Engagement, which will allow students to connect with career coaches, workshops, the university Career Closet, and many other resources.

A standing-room only crowd of faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners greeted administrators of SEKISUI Corporation on the third-floor of the Greenly Center to dedicate the SEKISUI Professional Experience Labs.  

The PELs will allow students to interview with employers for internships or employment both in person and virtually, practice or give a presentation,

Sekisui Professional Experience Labs

have their resume reviewed or polish their skills in a mock interview. The PELs also share the floor with the Department of Alumni and Professional Engagement, which will allow students to connect with career coaches, workshops, the university Career Closet, and many other resources. The new home of the BU Alumni Association can also be found on the third floor of the Greenly Center, located at 50 East Main Street in the downtown.

Ian Moran, President of SEKISUI America Corporation, expressed his gratitude at the number of folks gathered to celebrate the new space, including state representative David Millard and Noe Ortega, Deputy Secretary of Education for Pennsylvania. He related that when SEKISUI opened a plant in Hazleton in 1963, it was the first company from Japan to operate in the U.S. as a manufacturer.  Moran stressed that the company’s success since then has been, in large part, due to the investment of both employee and employer.

“Our rich history is a great source of pride,” said Moran. “As is the reputation we have earned as a high-quality corporation committed to our local communities.”

Moran explained that such an investment included the importance of preparing students for an uncertain future.

“One of the best solutions we can offer for uncertainty is to be prepared for whatever comes next,”  said Moran. “We are committed partners and we need centers of education excellence to develop the minds, skills, and habits of our future generations to ensure we meet those challenges.”

Erik Evans, vice president of University Advancement at Bloomsburg University added that not only is it exciting to have a space where students and alumni could visit to take advantage of the latest technology, and professional development, it serves an even bigger purpose – that of a collision space for students, alumni, community members and employer partners of the university, thus creating a hub for professional activity.

“The many parts of Professional U at Bloomsburg University don’t work alone.” explained Evans “This space brings those audiences all in one place.”

The $500,000 gift from Sekisui to furnish the Professional Experience Labs at the Greenly Center has been the company’s largest donation to date.

President and C.O.O. of SEKISUI SPI, Ronn Cort, was instrumental in facilitating the gift that allowed the idea of the PELS to materialize at BU.  As an executive of such a prominent local company, Cort was familiar with the Greenly Center from various business events. He had also noticed the need for a space where SEKISUI employees could be taught some of the more “soft skills” of professionalism.  

Greenly Center in downtown Bloomsburg

“We had 132 passionate people working hard on the manufacturing floor, who embraced struggle humbly and without fanfare,” explained Cort. “The people here go about their business and get it done.  I was so impressed by that, and I had this idea that I needed to develop our people. We could teach hard skills, but the future is soft skills.”

After a conversation with local entrepreneur and BU alumnus, Duane Greenly ‘72, Cort began to visualize a space in the downtown where SEKISUI employees could acquire professional skills, community members and organizations could hold meetings and events, alumni could gather, and students could learn. Duane and Sue Basar Greenly ‘72, donated one million dollars toward construction of the Greenly Center, which opened in 2015.

“Duane wasn’t just talking about the school, but the entire community of Bloomsburg,” recalled Cort. “That’s when the project moved from my head to my heart.”

Having a conviction is one thing. Sharing that conviction with enough ROI to evoke the largest gift in the history of a company is quite another. Cort found that ROI in the students of Bloomsburg University when he was asked to speak to the students from the Zeigler College of Business.

“What I found at Bloomsburg University were students who had that same spirit of grinding it out and not giving up as I saw in my employees.” explained Cort “They had grit, were committed and, as many of them were first-generation college students, were under tremendous pressure to succeed. That is where my love affair with BU began.”

“If this was just us and the university, we would be missing a huge part in the role the community plays,” concluded Cort. “Our goal is to get students to build a successful life in this community and continue this process.”

After the dedication, it became official: what resides on the third floor of the Greenly Center is a unique, multi-level partnership that benefits all who visit.  
“What we have at Bloomsburg is special and employers recognize that,” added Evans. “Bloomsburg students are ready to go on day one because we’ve prepared them for personal and professional success. The result is that our alumni leave prepared to build a life while lifting up those around them, and our community benefits not only from this space, but from the relationships formed within it.”

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