MOUNT CARMEL — The three-year relationship between Bucknell University and the anthracite coal region was celebrated at a community appreciation dinner Friday evening sponsored by the Bucknell Coal Region Field Station.
The Coal Region Field Station has connected Bucknell faculty, students and staff with members of the Shamokin and Mount Carmel communities since 2015, to assist in revitalization and preservation of history throughout the area. With 29 classes in the three-year span committing to projects in the region, the program only continues to grow according to Shaunna Barnhart, director of the Place Studies Program.
This year, nine classes have been working on 12 projects located throughout the area, including SCI-Coal Township, the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, Mother Cabrini Church and Mount Carmel Area School District.
Barnhart spoke to the 30 guests who attended Friday’s dinner in Divine Redeemer Parish’s Divine Mercy Hall and thanked them for the time they contributed toward helping in the range of products students have undertaken.
She believes a reason the field station has experienced great success is because Bucknell listened to the visions, needs and ideas from the residents instead of coming in as an outside entity telling the area what needed to be done.
The Rev. Martin Moran III stated the partnership may create a national model between local communities and universities, and praised the work Bucknell has done throughout the community.
The idea for the dinner came about due to how much the field station has grown, Barnhart said.
“There’s been so much work happening that we wanted to take the time to stop and reflect and thank everyone for their involvement and their time and support,” she added.
The Mother Maria Kaupas Center serves as the base of operations for the field station, and director Jake Betz was thrilled to have so many key players gathered together.
Betz said, “It’s important that the community partners recognize how much help Bucknell has and see them in a formal setting to thank them directly. We’re so grateful to Bucknell and what they do on so many fronts.”
Betz and Barnhart rattled off a list of projects that took place this year, which included an ongoing look at combating blight in the borough through a comparative study showing what other towns in the U.S. have done to deal with blight.
An art history class has been studying the architecture of four Mount Carmel churches and will create a website providing a digital tour of the architecture, while an environmental studies class worked with the Mount Carmel Area School District to revitalize a greenhouse in an interior courtyard located in the high school.
Megan Cannella, a senior at Bucknell, has been working with Mount Carmel Downtown Inc. (MCDI) on a re-branding project for the city. She said they began developing a logo in the fall and followed guidelines on how to brand and strategically use that brand to get visitors into the area. That included the implementation of a website, which will be ready to launch in the near future at www.gomountcarmel.com.