Neuroscience and Campus – Memory and Place

tower-stair-2Memory has been tethered to place by human evolution. Campuses have been among these places for more than a thousand years.

The Question  As students and teachers swim further into the digital stream of online education and simulated reality, will place continue to matter?

This question has taken me far beyond the disciplines of brick and mortar. Higher education, sociology, cultural anthropology, student life, academic business, learning analytics, neuroscience and artificial intelligence have all been on my reading list.

My research is not complete, but my tentative conclusion:

For centuries, campus has been part of the standard paradigm. It has always been there – a setting, not a participant. The future of the campus in the learning enterprise depends on being re-designed to be an agent, a necessary supportive ingredient, not just being there.

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University Architect – Builder / Steward / Shaper

The roles and responsibilities of a university architect ebb and flow with changes in administration and each particular project. When fast and cheap are valued, the role is to build short-term solutions. If investment in the future is intended a balance of stewardship and creativity is required.

Fluid Environments – Expectations vary for each campus and project. They swing through a wide range, project to project and campus to campus. This dynamic can make a university architect feel the need to be a like a chameleon, shifting from one context to another. In one setting the responsibilities are direct implementation according to established rules. In another, extensive consultation and consideration of long-term consequences are expected. Continue reading

Why Campus Matters: Knowledge, Innovation, Efficacy and Synchronicity

Why Campus MattersThe enduring value of a campus lies in the creation of new knowledge, effective education, fostering creativity and sharing place and time.

This argument was presented at a recent conference. Here is the link to an edited version, in four voices: Thomas Gieryn, Thomas Fisher, Amir Hajrasouliha, and Michael Haggans. The Society of College and University Planning conference was held at Arizona State University. Gieryn, Fisher and Hajrasouliha participated via WebEx while Haggans was on campus.

Gieryn – Knowledge Creation – Thomas Gieryn is Emeritus Professor of Sociology and former Vice Provost at Indiana University. His research centers on the cultural authority of science and on the significance of place for human behavior and social change. His prize-winning book Cultural Boundaries of Science: Credibility on the Line was published by the University of Chicago Press. He is currently completing a book on “truth-spots,” places that lend legitimacy to beliefs and claims.

Fisher – Innovation – Thomas Fisher is Professor in the School of Architecture and Director of the Metropolitan Design Center at the University of Minnesota. He has written extensively about architectural design, practice, and ethics. His current research involves looking at the implications of the “Third Industrial Revolution” on architecture and cities in the 21st century. His newest book is, Some Possible Futures, Design Thinking our Way to a More Resilient World.

Hajrasouliha – Efficacy – Amir Hajrasouliha is Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning at Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo. An architect and urban planner, Amir earned his Masters from the University of Michigan and doctorate from the University of Utah. His dissertation, The Morphology of the Well Designed Campus is the first research to quantify the relationship between the physical characteristics of a campus and student success. He is winner of the 2016 SCUP Perry Chapman Prize.

Haggans – Synchronicity – Michael Haggans is a Visiting Scholar in the School of Architecture at the University of Minnesota and Visiting Professor in the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech. His research concerns the facilities implications of the digital transformation of higher education. He is writing a book on the value of campus in a digital world.

University of Uber / Airbnb

GT.chaos.1.baseWhat are the Uber or Airbnb equivalents of the university? These are the questions Tom Fisher thinks campus planners should be asking.

We are at the trailing edge of six decades of campus facilities expansion. The resulting mix of assets can be a rich foundation on which to rebuild and right-size sustainable institutions, or part of an unsustainable burden that helps to sink the rest.

In a recent interview, Fisher argued for rethinking many of the assumptions of the physical campus.

The campuses we have inherited are way too big. I know that seems odd, because when you are on a campus everyone is crying for more space, but we have a lot of highly specialized space that goes under-utilized…the faculty office being one of the more notable ones. Increasingly faculty are carrying their office in their laptop and cell phone. So this idea of having a room set aside for yourself is really antiquated. Classrooms are changing. They will still be used, but the whole campus is a teaching environment. The whole city and region is a learning environment.

The Challenge for SCUP and Campus Planners

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Graduation Rates – Campus Does Matter

Hajrasouliha.1Campus does matter for graduation rates and Amir Hajrasouliha has done the math.

Three physical campus dimensions, urbanism, greenness and on-campus living, are significantly correlated with student retention and graduation rates. His work controlled for the influences of student selectivity, class size, total enrollment, university types and education expenditures. However, he found no significant correlation between student success and land use organization or spatial configuration.

Amir’s dissertation, The Morphology of the Well Designed Campus is the first research to use rigorous statistical methods to quantify the relationship between the physical characteristics of a campus and student success. This is not a series of case studies or perceptual surveys. This work connects the theory and practice of campus planning to student success by carefully controlling for relevant variables. Continue reading

Campus Shaping Forces – Dan Kenney

Dan Kenney Headshot.2Evolving cultural forces shape campuses generation by generation. In a recent conversation Dan Kenney, co-author of Mission and Place and I discussed these forces.

Founding campus visions may have defined an initial ideal core, but these institutions are not static. Demographic surges of post WWII, baby boomers, and their echoes have changed the functional scale of institutions. Suburbanization and the need for ubiquitous parking have pushed campus boundaries. Big science, big sport and their massive buildings have morphed the character and experience of campuses.

Dan has worked in this swirl of forces on more than sixty campuses. He believes in the continuing value of campuses and sees new opportunities in increasing environmental resilience and recognizing technological adaptation.

This conversation and those with other thought leaders can be found at the campusmatter.net YouTube channel.

Caring, Planning and Creating

Pamela Delphenich and Steven Gift have been involved in planning campuses for decades. Both are now in private practice, but each invested formative years in caring for, planning and creating major campuses.

Pam was at Yale and MIT, Steve at Virginia Tech and the University of South Florida. Their subsequent private practices are as different as the geography and history of Yale and South Florida. Even so, care and regard, even a passion for campuses are clear as each talks about physical places and the community of students and faculty served and enabled.

In separate conversations Delphenich and Gift speak from the experience of hundreds, if not thousands, of discussions with students, faculty members and administrators about the choices that guide the evolution of a campus and its plan.

While immediate concerns may be about parking, building sites and project funding, the campus planner keeps sight of a longer time horizon. The unspoken assumption in each academic mission statement is that the institution continues forever. Caring for, planning and creating the future of campuses is work Pamela and Steven hold dear. It is no wonder so many have found them to be trusted advisors.

The linked videos are on the campusmatters.net YouTube channel.

Academic Libraries: Making Place for Goog-azon-bucks

Pew InteriorIf the student is at the center of the higher education business model, the library is where she is sitting. The library is changing around her and her colleagues. Library leaders are transforming academic libraries into 21st century agoras – open meeting and working places – rather than gated cul-de-sacs for storing paper.

This transformation was explored at the Re-think It: Libraries for a New Age Conference at Grand Valley State University. Hundreds of public and academic librarians from across the country met to share ideas on the reinvention of libraries about people not paper, about access not control. Speakers included Elliot Felix, Lee Van Orsdel and Lennie Scott-Webber.   Continue reading

University as Truth Spot – Thomas Gieryn

GierynPersonal experience, regional economic developer and graduate earning power are common justifications for the survival and value of colleges and universities. Thomas Gieryn views more at stake.

Gieryn sees universities as truth spots, those places that lend credibility to claims of truth and legitimacy to beliefs. He sees campuses as places saturated with the people, information, mission and opportunity to pursue truth. [Video]

“The university is a saturated place. Around the corner is inevitably something or someone you will learn from. Pasteur observed that ‘chance favors the prepared mind.’ Chance [also] favors the prepared place and the university is such a place. The people, the data, the machines, everything you need for the ‘chance’ discovery – a place saturated with all the ingredients of truth making.”

Gieryn is emeritus Rudy Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. His work is among the most widely cited on the cultural authority of science and on the significance of place for human behavior and social change. His work covers human experience from religion to science – from Delphi to the laboratory.  This conversation was recorded March 12, 2015, in his office, then as Associate Provost of Indiana University.

 

 

 

Ethics of Campus Planning

Campus PlanningWhen the emperor is naked do you have an ethical responsibility to recommend clothing? The ethical choices of the campus planner are rarely this stark, but the stakes are rising in higher education campus planning.

As a consultant or an employee, the campus planner balances aspirations and limitations, hopes and realities. Not long ago the only question about a department’s long-hoped-for project was when it would be funded.  In that time, when the future was rosy, it was easy to say, “Yes. We will put it in the plan.” Including the fictional project in the master plan carried no risk and was without cost. In this time of fiscal limitations, demographic shifts and technological dislocations, saying “no” may be the only ethical option. Continue reading