Who's Got Next?

Where are U.S colleges and universities going in 2008 and beyond? Surely some trends will become firmly entrenched into our zeitgeist and while others will fall by the wayside. College Planning & Management asked the experts to look forward and divine where institutions are moving. Do you know which way the wind is blowing?

Hit the Bookstore

All schools want to attract the best and the brightest students and turn them into successful, loyal alumni, but did you know your bookstore is a great tool to make that happen? “The campus bookstore is the resource of the future,” insisted Charles Schmidt, director of public relations, National Association of College Stores (NACS). The reason why may surprise.

“More and more booksellers are offering alternative delivery like digital learning,” explained Schmidt. “Book revenues, a traditionally small margin to start with, are down and continue to drop. So that leaves bookstores to branch into other merchandise if they want to stay solvent.”

Sure, items festooned with the school logo remain popular, but bookstores now want to be a variety store — just like the kind found in any city center. Clothing, giftware, and food items are just a few new offerings. “Smart bookstores, like the one at the University of California, San Diego, are actually expanding square footage and offering unique services like laptop repairs and farmer’s markets,” continued Schmidt. “Some provide meeting space to campus clubs, ticket sales, and shipping and banking services.”

Furthermore, Schmidt advises bookstores not to forget their purchasing power. “Some hire themselves out as freelance purchasers to various school departments,” he said. “The stores are already buying a volume of school supplies, so why not supply pens and such to different groups?”

Smoke Screen

As of October 1, 2007, 97 college campuses around the country proclaimed themselves 100-percent smoke-free environments. “Some schools still offer some outdoor smoking areas on the periphery of parking lots, but for the most part it is universal non-smoking coverage,” according to Frieda Glantz, Americans for Nonsmoker’s Rights in California. Even more schools have gone smoke-free in the residence halls.

This is no small feat considering that young people ages 18 to 24 still make up the bulk of the smoking population. Forty percent of this age group light up compared to a national average of half that. Yet what Glantz finds heartening is the fact that these smoke-free campus initiatives are, for the most part, peer-to-peer driven. “It’s the students who are approaching administrators and faculty with this issue,” she reported. “Administrators usually go along because they see smoking as an important student safety issue that needs to be addressed.”

Activist students are not content to stop at non-smoking campuses, however. They also demand that their school sign a resolution stating that they will not accept gifts, monies, research dollars, or event sponsorship from tobacco companies. “This is how big tobacco hooks young smokers,” explained Glantz. “Free trips, bar nights, and gifts are all designed to appeal to young people. It’s a commanding display of power to see students rejecting all the swag and instead become engaged in the political process.”

Where There’s Smoke…

…there is hopefully no fire. According to Mike Halligan, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety at the University of Utah, “fire prevention staff will be involved with NIMS (National Incident Management System) training on campus. The local fire departments that respond to campuses are already operating under these guidelines and campus agencies are finally starting to embrace this approach. “

Emergency Preparedness will also be an issue. “In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, safe egress will have to find a balance with highly secure facilities,” he continued. “Campus fire prevention staff will need to carefully participate in these discussions on their campuses. Using fire alarm systems for mass notification of non-fire emergencies has been discussed at many meetings around the country, and this next year should see a response from fire alarm manufacturers to determine what is permitted by standards that govern fire alarm system performance and what new technologies will start to emerge if those systems are not capable of providing levels of notification that users want.”

Finding creative ways to deliver fire safety messages to staff, faculty and students will also be a challenge, according to Halligan. “Clearly, more training and education dollars should be spent on fire safety and awareness training,” he insisted. “However, budgets don't appear to be increasing this year.”

Analyzing the Laboratory

Michael Haggans, AIA, principal/director, academic group, for architects Flad & Associates, offers these observations about the labs of the future.

Creating research laboratories that promote collaboration and accelerate research is the most important trend in academic science architecture. It has long been known that investigators who have daily contact with colleagues are more productive, but the physical features have not been quantified. Flad & Associates is studying how scientists interact to find specific ways that the physical environment supports collaboration, discovery, and research productivity.

After three years, this multi-year study of 60 buildings and more than 5M sq. ft. of laboratories has identified the features that lead to interaction: transparency, proximity, and public space. Public space must comprise more than 15 percent of floor area to provide sufficient space for building community. Public spaces include routine and formal areas, such as hallways and conference/seminar rooms, and informal areas intended for food and drink — elements that almost always accompany conversations, leading to breakthroughs.

Centrally locating non-laboratory spaces is essential. When colleagues are located more than 150 ft. apart, or occupy different floors, they are less likely to bump into one another, which is crucial — particularly for graduate students who highly value interactions with mentors and project leaders.

Buildings that properly balance these characteristics not only allow collaboration, but also strengthen retention and recruitment. Financial savings through retention alone offset any incremental costs of providing “non-laboratory” space. The next phases of the study focus on characteristics that accelerate research productivity as measured in increases in funding and publication.

Clean and Green

Michael G. Steger, director, physical plant services, National Management Resources Corporation, Palm Beach Atlantic University, proposes the following ideas about the greening of the physical plant.

Green and sustainable issues continue to be the hot button for much of what we are doing in physical plant. Each of our departments — maintenance, grounds, housekeeping, and construction project management — is looking for ways to lessen their impact on the environment.

The use of green or less harsh chemicals is one of the things we continue to stress to all of our departments.

In addition, we are contacting our suppliers, such as Grainger, Home Depot Supply, and even smaller vendors, and telling them we will no longer accept small parts shipments packed in giant boxes with several cubic feet of Styrofoam peanuts around it. They have all responded well, and we continue to look for opportunities to reduce our impact in various ways.

We are asking our contractors to recycle their construction debris to the best of their ability. Many local waste haulers are picking up this torch and making it easy for the contractor to meet this demand.

Technology Rules

Dr. Scott D. Miller has served as President of Wesley College, Dover, DE, from 1997 through 2007. On January 1, 2008 he becomes President of Bethany College, Bethany, WV. He offers some insight about the technological expectations of today’s student.

The divide between “digital immigrants” — those of us born roughly before Star Wars — and our students, born thereafter, will continue to widen unless we accommodate their learning and communications preferences.

Our “millennials” insist upon 24/7 interaction, valuing authenticity above all else. As a group, they spend three to four hours a day on social networking sites, blogging, while simultaneously text-messaging and talking with friends on their cell phones during virtually every waking hour. As a result, they are a highly literate generation skilled at multi-tasking but impatient with routine and traditional teaching styles. They are heavily “into” pop culture, steeped in celebrity blogs and online gaming. They use new technologies selectively, however, visiting virtual sites for entertainment while keeping a firm grasp on the line between virtual life and real life.

To attract them, we must incorporate the interactive digital features that they have been weaned on into both our teaching and our recruiting. Our Websites need to offer them real-time virtual interaction with current students, faculty, and admissions officers and a way to “chat” with each other. Our classrooms need to offer them sophisticated, state-of-the-art, wired facilities to incorporate the interactive multimedia features they’ve come to expect.

Colleges and faculty who accommodate these styles and preferences will thrive. Those who don’t will wither and, eventually, perish.

Looking for Mr. or Ms. GoodWorker

Many different departments are concerned with the size and quality of the labor pool and recruiting and retaining new workers. Steger voices his concerns. “Personnel shortages will have a more profound effect on our departments in 2008. In our area specifically, the economy is driving many away, leaving us with a gap in the medium to lower wage labor pool,” he said.

But Steger is not without solutions. “We have developed a bonus system for existing employees who bring us new employees. In addition, we are trying to develop relationships with local trade schools that may be able to bring us skilled and semi-skilled trades employees,” he explained. “However, there are fewer and fewer young people going into the trades and we believe at some point (if not already) the market is feeling the cost of this labor pinch.”

Pete van der Have, College Planning & Management’s Facilities columnist, continues the discussion. “Succession planning (and what it means) will become more critical as expectations increase and the number of interested potential candidates decreases,” he predicted. “The labor pool from which we will be attracting our future employees is changing radically, and the way we lead them has to change as well.”

 “Secession planning will affect every organization,” insisted Dr. Bob Hassmiller, CAE, CEO of NACAS, an international auxiliary services association. “Boomers are moving through the system and don’t want to work much past age 60. This could cause a huge brain drain. Where are we going to get the next large group of workers?”

Dr. Hassmiller proposes another interesting dilemma. “Some top people don’t want to fully retire but maybe want to scale back,” he said. “What are the implications of moving from a high-level position like director to a lower position? What’s the protocol?”

Upgrade You

“’Dorm’ is a dirty word,” insisted Frank Hayes, vice president, Shawmut Design and Construction. “It carries a stigma of an institutional setting, and that is no longer the case.” A quick survey of today’s schools shows that residence halls have been upgraded in look, feel, and purpose.

“Concrete block has been replaced with groundface concrete block,” explained BK Boley, principal of architecture firm ADD Inc. “You don’t paint it and it has the look and feel of limestone. Corridors and public spaces appear as nice as a high-end multi-family dwelling or a luxury hotel lobby.”

While admitting that students and parents expect more from the design of their spaces, Boley remains a firm realist. “These materials are all relatively inexpensive and very robust,” he insisted. “Students could wrestle and crash into the walls and not hurt them.”

 Boley admits that upgraded materials can be a tough sell to the facilities department at first, but once they see how well the interiors hold up and how low-maintenance they are, these workers jump on board. “They actually end up being very proud of the interiors,” he said. And that pride extends to the students as well. “If you put VCT on the floors students will bounce a basketball on it. If you use a nice carpet, they don’t think about it,” he continued. “In fact, when you upgrade furniture in the dorm rooms, the lounge furniture doesn’t get stolen.”

Crowding the Backburner

Budget cuts are once again a reality. Many different departments are recognizing this and preparing to do more with less. Halligan, our fire safety expert, sees additional challenges when competing for the few dollars available to improve life safety issues on campus. “The growing list of deferred maintenance means that life safety upgrades will take longer and those requesting funds will have to better justify, from a cost benefit analysis, why they should be awarded the scarce dollars needed to reduce risk,” he said.

 “Constricting budgets will be a major issue for both public and private institutions in 2008 and likely beyond,” continued Steger. “With the economy in the condition it is in, and with some localized areas seeing their economy harder hit than others, we will face having to do more with less.” However, Steger realizes this does not constitute a slowdown. “The rising levels of expectation will not stop within our administrations even though they will all recognize we are tightening our budgetary belts. Over the past few years we have been in a growth mode. It is difficult to recognize that as the budgets plateau or recede; administrators will continue to want everything they had before.”

Steger, once again has a solution. “We are trying to counter this by seeking equipment, chemicals, and more that will allow us to increase our productivity output without adding personnel,” he observed. “We are also reviewing our maintenance and cleaning schedules to ensure we have eliminated overlap and that we are providing exactly the proper amount of maintenance time in any given area.”

 

 

 

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