By tying the physical needs of the Purdue Fort Wayne campus to the university's strategic plan, officials hope to have a concrete set of guidelines to help the institution thrive for the next 20 years or more.
Representatives from Ayers Saint Gross, a master plan-consulting firm for higher education, were on campus Wednesday to present their findings during the first phase of the university's comprehensive master plan process. About 30 people attended an open house Wednesday concerning development of the plan.
Work on the plan started this year, said Greg Justice, associate vice chancellor of facilities management. Throughout that process, Ayers Saint Gross spent time on campus, exploring the buildings and recreational space and talking to faculty and staff about their needs now and in the future.
“They've collated all of that information into a phase 1 report, which is more or less existing conditions,” Justice said. “Once we finalize that, and we're pretty much 99% there, they have already started moving into the design or the recommendation phase, which will look at all of that information and look at where the university is going or where we want to go.”
This plan will mainly focus on the physical needs of Purdue Fort Wayne, including recommendations for new buildings, enhanced gathering spaces and connectivity from the campus to the surrounding community.
The complete report is expected to be presented to the university's board of trustees in April.
PFW is developing a website detailing the process and identifying committee members, Justice said.
The master plan will also be closely tied to the university's strategic plan to guide future projects, as well as how the university approaches education into the future. Those plans will evolve and change over time, Justice said.
“We plan to revisit it every year or two and look at how things and conditions have changed and how we need to adapt the plan to meet or match those needs,” Justice said.
Much of the phase 1 report covered various needs identified by Ayers Saint Gross, including student housing and dining, recreational spaces, connectivity and the campus entryways.
The goal of the guiding principles set forward as part of the report presented Wednesday is to tie the vision, mission and values of the university to the physical plan for growth, Jessica Leonard, who works for Ayers Saint Gross, told the assembled crowd. The university's strategic plan, she said, helped inform the observations in phase 1 and will help inform the firm as it develops recommendations for future projects at PFW.
“A lot of our recommendations and our thoughts are how to make sure the physical campus is putting students first,” Leonard said. “How are we improving excellence and providing facilities on the physical campus that support that.”
Other values identified include improving innovation, diversity and inclusion, and engagement.
“We take the strategic plan and the physical opportunities and challenges and what we came up with were a series of guiding principle themes,” Leonard said.
Those themes were student life, placemaking, mobility, synergy and engagement.
“For each one we have a statement that is the principle and then a series of strategies,” Leonard said. “These strategies in sum are sort of specific, but they're meant to be open-ended enough that if a decision changes on campus that the strategies are still valid.”
All of those strategies tie back to the strategic objectives contained in the master plan, Leonard added.
Joe Ohlinger, assistant professor of education at PFW, said Wednesday's presentation contained great ideas and concepts. He said he is particularly interested in what can be done to promote more diversity.
Ohlinger said he has a background in landscape architecture and urban planning, so the design of the campus is of particular interest.
“What stuck out to me is we're creating human spaces for people,” Ohlinger said, adding that his concern is how PFW will promote diversity among the student population.
“Fort Wayne is diverse, and I wanted to ask the designers how do you create spaces that include and welcome,” Ohlinger said.
As the process moves forward, Ohlinger said he hopes more student input will be included.
“If you really want to service students, get their voice in what the place should be,” Ohlinger said.