University conducts survey to guide campus renovation

Noah Slaughter | Contributing Reporter

The Office of Student Affairs put up surveys on boards around campus just before Thanksgiving break, asking students for their thoughts about campus spaces. Each of the 12 boards is in a different geographic “zone,” such as the Danforth University Center or the South 40, and the survey questions correspond with that space.

This is just one part of the University’s year-long planning process for its next 25-year period of renovation. Along with the surveys, the University has been holding focus groups to gather input about campus spaces.

The surveys have come out of a collaboration with the architecture firm Studio Ma, which the University hired to lead its renovation plans.

“We feel very fortunate that we have a great student experience at Washington University. In fact, it’s probably among the best places in the country to go to get an undergraduate education,” Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild said. “But we also want to be thoughtful because things change over time.”

Students can take the surveys on their phones, and they take one to two minutes to finish. Graduate students, staff and faculty members can also respond.

“It really is a way for students to say how they feel in a variation of emotions and experiences, which is really a good thing for us,” Chief of Staff to the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs James Parker said. “We’ve been really surprised at some of what we’ve seen from the focus groups about how strongly students feel about certain areas on campus.”

According to Wild, the decision to start the surveys and focus groups came after reading Student Life’s reporting last spring about the University’s decision to cancel renovation plans for Lee and Beaumont Residential College over summer 2018.

“The University realized that, instead of planning for the new buildings that we were thinking about on the South 40, that we should probably do what we did in the 1990s, which was have a more thoughtful plan for all of the student-facing spaces on campus,” Wild said.

According to Christiana Moss, principal at Studio Ma, the boards with the surveys will likely stay up through the end of the semester. They hope to get at least 1,000 responses.

“If we did our job right, we would love to have students say ‘this is our plan,’” Moss said. “We hope to get to that point.”

Once they have the initial data collected, Studio Ma plans to ask students in the spring about more specific ideas and themes brought up from the surveys and focus groups.

According to Moss, this plan will more be more holistic than the previous plan, which focused only on the freshman and sophomore experience. Four key areas the firm is looking at are living-learning communities; health and wellness; equity, diversity and inclusion; and sustainability.

The firm will have these specific plans by the end of May, and they can then be put in place over the next 20-25 years.

“I’m excited about having a vision for this next generation,” Wild said. “We’re about to have a new chancellor who is going to bring his own vision to what the future of the University should be, and I think this plan will hopefully relate in a very positive way to what Chancellor Martin is thinking about for the future of the University.”

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