What 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.
Campus does matter for graduation rates and Amir Hajrasouliha has done the math.
Three physical campus dimensions, urbanism, greennessandon-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 →
Bryan Alexander works in the crease between technology and teaching, between traditional higher education and innovation. Through his Future Trends Forum he is interviewing leaders in technology and education.
He is among the best observers of the disruptions roiling higher education. Bryan has a gift for metaphor, labeling some institutional survival tactics to be “queen sacrifices”. He applies it to the growing number of institutions jettisoning programs and departments and redefining mission. Continue reading →
Richard DeMillo began his critique of higher education in Abelard to Apple, starting in 12th century Paris and ending with the rise of MOOCs. In Revolution in Higher Education his critique is more pointed – taking on tenure, governance and accreditation. This is balanced with the stories of innovators who “are making college accessible and affordability.”
A recent conversation about the new book resulted in three videos:
As an academic with Silicon Valley ties and a global perspective, he sees the pros and cons of technology in American colleges and universities as clearly as anyone. DeMillo argues that traditional methods cannot satisfy the need for increased access and affordability. He sees technology as the only means to increase the scale of student opportunity and reduce costs. Continue reading →
Academic libraries have long shown the signs of digital transformation. The card catalogue was the first old friend to leave the building. Online resources have grown exponentially. Millions of unused books are being removed from active holdings. A wave of construction is transforming academic libraries into vibrant hubs of campus activity and community – no longer cul-de-sacs of paper.
Often lost in the glitzy stories of architecture, trendy furniture and high tech gadgetry are the leaders and the ideas that are at the heart of the transformation. Now on the stage are Lee Van Orsel and a generation of academic librarians leading and sometimes pulling their organizations and institutions into a future that is both physical and digital. They share a passion for the reinvention of libraries for people not paper, for access not control.
Lee and I talked at the Re-think It: Libraries for a New Age Conference at Grand Valley State University. Hers is a story of mission before place, changing academic culture before changing architecture and throughout serving to the needs of students and faculty. There are lessons here for all campus planners and designers.
Evolving 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.
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.
If 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.
Personal 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.
When 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 →