Update: University space utilization study
To the Metropolitan State University community:
In my message to you on Sept. 20, I outlined the initial stages of review for our consultants’ (BWBR) assessment of our current space usage and preliminary plan for optimizing our usage of our owned and leased space. Since then the campus consultation plan has been shared with bargaining units through the meet and confer or labor-management meetings and with the executive committee of the Student Senate. Today I am sharing this information with all members of the campus community and inviting you to participate in the upcoming consultative work.
Rationale For Undertaking This Space Study:
Over the last few years, a number of factors have affected our allocation and usage of space. These include the opening of two new buildings (the Student Center and Science Education Center), growth of academic programs and student services, increases in the number of resident faculty and advisors, a leveling out of enrollment growth, changing patterns of course taking, reorganization of academic and support units, and strengthening partnerships with two year colleges, among other factors. As various changes affected different parts of the university, requests for location changes and differing space usage were received, resulting in a reactive approach to space assignment, which has led to a less than optimal use of our limited space.
In the months and years ahead, we will be working to position ourselves for growth in enrollment and graduates and in program development and impact. To support this work, it is time to assess our total space resources at one time and to apply mission-aligned values and best practices in space use as we configure the physical foundation of the university’s future development.
We therefore retained BWBR—a firm that has worked with us on multiple projects and knows our university well—to give us an objective space-use assessment and to propose a plan for our future use of that space. I want to emphasize that a space-use study does not address our needs for new building projects or space expansion. This space study is focused on how we use our current space. The need for any newly built or leased space will be determined through the Facilities Master Plan, a separate process which will begin soon.
In charging BWBR, I asked them to organize their analysis around the following themes, which I also described on the 20th:
- Our use of space must be student-centered, focused on enhancing the student experience and on naturally clustering student-facing services;
- Our future choices need to be functionally organized; this includes how we situate connections with employees and the public, as well as with students; space placement should enhance interaction with related departments, students and our community as necessary to our functions;
- All of our planning, including space planning, is premised on growing enrollment: we will work toward enrolling and serving a head count of 15,000 students by 2025;
- We will keep the future trends of our online instructional capacity and our regional partnerships in focus as we assess the use of our space.
Consultation with other administrators and directors reinforced these themes and added specific college and departmental considerations, as noted in the report.
As you review the materials and formulate your feedback, please keep these goals in mind and frame your thoughts around whether the proposed plan satisfies these goals and recommend changes if you think they will enhance achievement of the goals.
Please alert us to any adverse consequences that you think may not have been considered in formulating the draft plan.
The Consultation Process:
Between now and mid-November, colleagues and students will have several opportunities to become familiar with the findings in BWBR’s report on our space resources and utilization, as well as to contribute comments and pose questions in person, via e-mail, in structured conversations with supervisors and in campus forums.
From early October to mid-November, members of the President’s Cabinet will arrange for discussions with faculty and staff in their area to include opportunities to review the space study documents, make comments, and ask questions (We are arranging for additional display materials, to support these discussions). As you become familiar with the study materials, I encourage you to evaluate how well they satisfy or support the themes above. The task before us is to discern how to optimally use our existing space; the study does not assume any new space.
A dedicated email account has been created in the Office of the President. I invite you to use it, as you review the study materials over the next six weeks and have comments and questions to contribute. The account is firstname.lastname@example.org.
A series of “gallery walks” is being scheduled on our four main sites to provide colleagues and students with space and time to view the study documents and diagrams thoroughly, to pose questions or comments, and to place notes with comments on the display boards.
All employees and students are invited to review and discuss the entire plan, not only the components addressing the sites where they work or attend class.
There will be at least six gallery walks (times and locations will be announced in a separate message today).
In mid-November, the President’s Executive Council will review all of the feedback received and will then determine the next steps in our process of discussion and refinement. If the nature of the feedback indicates a need for significant changes to the plan, we will request those changes and conduct another round of campus discussions early in the new year. If the comments point to minor adjustments in the plan, we will have those changes made and will share the revisions with the campus. In either case, I expect to have a final plan by March of 2018, together with an implementation plan appropriate to the approved space changes. The implementation plan could conceivably extend from one to five years, depending on the number of phases needed, the number of budget cycles needed to accommodate the costs and how many changes would depend on other changes’ being completed first.
Please keep the current process and the future impacts as the focus of your review, evaluation, and comments. I understand that some of you have had negative past experiences around space planning and allocation, but the most useful and constructive feedback will separate the past from the present and future.
Maintaining the status quo, or no change at all, is not an option. Based on the number of requests for space changes currently being held in abeyance, we know adjustment in allocation is necessary. We want the best-informed plan we can develop.
Persuasive feedback will provide a rationale that is tied to the goals specified for the consultants and to strategic goals of the university.
Please note that BWBR’s report and diagrams showing their proposed recommendations can be accessed on the University Space Planning page of this site.
Thank you in advance for your contributions to the upcoming discussions. I appreciate your investment of time and attention to this work which is so important for the future of Metropolitan State.
Virginia "Ginny" Arthur, JD