What's Coming Next? Shaping the Future on Campus

Influences that become the agents of change and progress — and therefore, the instigators of trends — are as prevalent on college and university campuses as they are in the world at large. If anything, college and university campuses often set trends instead of following them. College Planning & Management asked experts who are involved in various aspects of campus operations — from design and construction to administration, dining services, and more — for their observations on what they see as new and significant changes arriving on today’s higher-ed campus. Their responses are included here.


Larry Bacher, higher education principal for Gilbane, Inc., one of the largest privately held family-owned companies in the construction and real estate industry, sees a significant trend shaping higher education facilities as being collaboration.

Teaching is interdisciplinary and cross-departmental. Laboratories become modular space configured for biology, chemistry, physics — or blends of each. Performing venues encompass disparate requirements for music, theater, dance, and now, electronic arts. Classrooms offer electronic tools encouraging students to interact with instructors — in real time, as lectures progress, and in presentations a thousand miles away.

Libraries once sported shelves of books and scholars in carrels. Now carrels are empty; library scholars work in teams, referencing journals from the Web. The library is not the quiet place we knew.

Rows of double rooms are obsolete. Suites and apartments where students live together, and study together, house the transition of college. Dormitories are coming down to clear land for student villages, blending residence, recreation, and retail into communities of scholars.

Academia has shaken off the monastic tradition of individual, compartmentalized study, seeking new ways to encourage shared learning, shared research, and shared creation of new work. Some collaboration is enabled by technology; much is enabled by the new ways by which we organize space. The architecture of learning is in transition.

The Growth of Outsourcing

Within the past decade, the global business market has seen a significant rise in the practice of outsourcing functional services. Today’s colleges and universities are also experiencing this trend. Since first arriving as President of Keuka College in 1997, Dr. Joseph Burke has seen his campus outsource its bookstore, dining services, facilities management (including custodial services, as well as buildings and grounds maintenance), printing and mailing services, and overseas program management. Dr. Burke sees the reasons behind the growth in outsourcing as primarily economic; however, the consequences of the decision to outsource can dramatically affect the mission, people, and structure of an institution.

In theory, Dr. Burke said, almost all campus education and support activities can be outsourced. Campuses have been reluctant to outsource what they consider core mission activities. However, rising employee benefit costs and competitive market pressures are forcing colleges and universities to look for savings and improvements in all areas, even those previously held sacrosanct.

The most commonly outsourced functions include bookstores, dining services, and facilities and custodial services management. Less frequently outsourced are services such as financial aid, instructional technology services, and overseas programs. Services colleges and universities rarely outsource include marketing, public relations, and the management of student support programs.

When considering outsourcing options, Dr. Burke said that implications demonstrate the need for detailed planning, data-driven analysis, and sound communication with all stakeholders throughout the process. The use of an experienced and objective consultant to facilitate the process might be well worth the investment.

The outsourcing decisions made at Keuka College, Dr. Burke observed, were difficult yet essential for the future well-being of the college. They streamlined operations and allowed the school to concentrate on its core educational missions.

Architectural Design

Designing a building is no longer about drawing lines; it is about modeling the entire building. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is the latest revolution in architectural design, combining all electronic documents into one single component, resulting in a faster, higher-quality design process. This technological breakthrough is changing the world of architecture and construction as we know it.

Dick Thomas, executive director of 2enCompass (www.2encompass.com) — an integrated design and construction firm — has embraced this new concept by integrating it into all of the company’s projects.

“BIM is the expression of integrated design united with technology,” said Thomas.“It is changing the way we design, the way we think about design and the way we deliver that design to the client.”

Revit, the software behind this innovation, transforms the information put into the floor plan into elevations, sections, and many other renderings, allowing complete visualization of the concept in two and three dimensions. Consequently, all drawings are real-time, reflecting changes immediately and throughout all related views. This ability creates huge time savings in documentation, allowing more time to be spent producing creative designs for the client.

As a result, clients will not only receive better design, but will also incur a lower risk of error due to increased coordination. In addition, BIM makes groundbreaking visual representations available, such as live movies, 3D presentation boards, and multiple design perspectives. This comprehensive ability also enables architects and clients to view and display concepts earlier and more often in the design process, increasing excitement among students, parents, and potential donors.

Academic Residential Design

Christopher Hill, AIA, principal at Boston-based CBT Architects, offers the following observations on residential design trends.

In the 21st century, residence halls will be ever more important to a school’s identity and competitive position in the academic community. They are key second-tier amenities, ranked just behind academics. They must respond to future needs and the evolving trends of campus and social life, as well as the mounting expectations of students and parents — all while keeping costs in check.

Forward-thinking design can offer a practical solution to the dilemma. Students, parents, and administrators expect their residences to create community, to allow privacy without isolation, to provide maximum flexibility, and to accommodate the personalization of space. Room configuration, the treatment of public space, modular furniture, the integration of technology, and lighting are four tools to realize these goals.

Room configuration and public space — The“non-traditional” suites found in today’s undergraduate residence halls are a point-of-departure for a new idea — open-suite residential “neighborhoods.” Instead of arranging rooms along double-loaded corridors with common spaces grouped at the ends of hallways, this approach places 20 to 21 students, housed in doubles and singles, together in pods within the larger residence hall. Each “neighborhood” is clustered around common areas that include lounge space, study rooms, laundry facilities, and kitchenettes that create a place for student interaction and socialization.

Flexible, modular furniture — A residential environment in which each student can customize the level of personal and shared space is increasingly critical to a diverse student population. Flexibility in furniture design can help create both privacy and a personal signature. Storage modules comprising a wardrobe, shelving system, and swinging screens, as well as loft bed and desk systems, can be configured to define a diversity of live/work/sleep areas. The goal is comfort without an overabundance of creature and high-tech amenities that can isolate students in their own cocoons.

Integration of technology — Personal technology and electronic devices will play an ever-increasing role. Design should incorporate a full range of power ports along with surfaces and spaces to use and store this equipment. In student rooms, the bedside of a wardrobe unit can serve as an information panel, incorporating space for a student’s flat-screen television monitor and other controls and as a tack board to hang pictures, calendars, posters, and other “hard” information. Workstations with retractable panels can be configured to support a personal computer or to store a laptop along with papers and books when not in use.

Lighting — Lighting can play a major role in the customization of space, allowing each student the flexibility to control task and indirect fixtures. Lighting atop the main storage modules can be fully adjustable, controlled through a hand-held device to cast indirect light, or vary intensity and color to create a personalized ambiance. The incorporation of task lighting on both sides of each wardrobe unit can create separate adjustable lighting zones so that one roommate can be working at his or her desk at night while the other roommate sleeps with virtually no light disturbance.

Understanding Public Service Through Interactive Library Facilities

The creation of interpretive study centers, planned around the life work of famous politicians, is a resurgent trend in higher education facilities planning seen by Alan J. Cuteri, AIA, LEED 2.0 AP, founding principal of Pittsburgh-base Strada (www.stradallc.com), an architecture, interiors, landscape, and urban design firm.

Recently inaugurated facilities that serve as place for contemplative research and study activities include the recently completed Dick Thornburgh Room at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library (designed by Strada) and The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, located within the University of Georgia Special Collections Library. These projects provide a venue for the interpretive display of archival papers, photographs, and memorabilia of accomplished individuals. In the past such materials have often languished in archival storage, far from the purview of students and faculty.

Dick Thornburgh was a two-term governor of the State of Pennsylvania, United States Attorney General to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and also served as Under Secretary General of the United Nations. Dick Thornburgh is also credited with the passage of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 1,700-sq.-ft. museum-quality space was designed to provide a fully accessible, interactive learning environment that allows students to explore public service through the life and work of Dick Thornburgh. Mr. Thornburgh is a vibrant presence in the space, which will serve as a venue for formal and informal meetings between him and scholars as well as an interpretive center.

Gallagher & Associates, with Collins Cooper Carusi, accomplished the interpretive exhibit master plan, and conceptual design of the University of Georgia Special Collections Library, which includes the 5,000-sq.-ft. Richard B. Russell Library. The Russell library is designed to display documents, artifacts, film programs, and interactive multi-media experiences about the late Richard B. Russell who served as a United States Senator from 1933 to 1971.

Dining Trends

According to My College Guide (www.mycollegeguide.org), trends that are finding their way into campus dining halls across the country include the following.

Flexitarians and vegetarians —There is a growing movement of vegetarians who consume small amounts of poultry and meat. According to research from Baltimore, MD-based The Vegetarian Resource Group, one in four college students is a vegetarian, making the demand for meatless meals greater than ever. But apparently many who can’t find tofu on campus believe 'When in Rome'

Cereal buffets — Cereal is back. National chain Cereality has opened cereal buffets at Arizona State University; in Philadelphia near the University of Pennsylvania; and in Chicago, across the street from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Customers choose from fresh-baked original recipe cereal bars, snack mixes, smoothies, parfaits, or a mix of (hot or cold) cereals. Toppings include everything from fruits and nuts to malted milk balls, as well as multiple kinds of milk, including soy and lactose-free.

Buying locally — Colleges and universities are showing an interest in supporting local economies by shifting to buying things like produce, meat, dairy, and eggs from local farmers. At some schools, such as Maine’s Colby College, the change to local growers came from three factors: students’ insistence; the administration’s emphasis on being “environmentally kind;” and because the administration believes that local produce is “healthier, fresher, and of higher quality.” The movement to buy locally has become so great that the Maine Sustainable Agriculture Society created The Fresh Farm Connection, a program to connect Maine farmers and educational institutions in hopes of “sustaining Maine farms, boosting local economies, and nurturing community.”

Off-campus dining — The Off-Campus Dining Network (OCDN, www.ocdn.com) is now available at more than 33 colleges and universities in the United States. The program allows parents to purchase pre-paid dining cards good at local restaurants (and for delivery or take-out). Unlike traditional college meal plans in which students pay for a semester’s meal plan up front — even if they miss meals — the OCDN allows a remaining balance to be transferred to the next semester.

Unique Housing Solution: The Towers at University Town Center

The Towers at UTC, a part of University Town Center which opened in the fall of 2006, is a unique solution for a regional higher educational community facing a severe housing shortage. The new 910-bed facility in Hyattsville, MD, has drawn students from more than ten different colleges and universities, including University of Maryland, Catholic University, Howard University, Trinity College, American University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University.

“There are no other student housing projects in the country that have this level of co-tenancy and diversity,” said Chris Hanessian, chief operating officer of University Town Center. The age range of students leasing units ranges from 18 to 40. The mix of students from a variety of schools will create a dynamic community and will establish The Towers at UTC as a new cutting-edge model for student living.

Extensive research determined what elements were fundamental to meet the future student population’s needs. The results of that research dictated a design and list of amenities that exceeds their needs and expectations, and is effective today and in the near future. Among other things learned is that over 50 percent of students entering college have never shared a bedroom or a bathroom, resulting in each student having a private bedroom and bath. The building is fully wired for cable and wireless Internet. Other amenities include 24-hour access control, parking, a full gym with two tanning beds, a rooftop pool and sundeck, and a game room with two 92-in. projection screen TVs as well as thirteen 32-in. flat screen TVs.

The Towers at UTC is being managed by JPI Student Living, based in Dallas, TX. According to JoAnn Blaylock, executive vice president, JPI Student Living, “The amenities and the design are above market deliberately to meet the demands of this generation and those to come.”