Michigan State University is embarking on a comprehensive university facilities and land use plan, which will provide a flexible framework for the future of the East Lansing campus and statewide facilities.
The hope is that this effort will allow students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to shape future physical investments in support of the university's teaching, research and outreach mission. Guided by the strategic plan, this planning process provides an opportunity to advance equity, bolster community health and enhance support systems for students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors through the physical environment of MSU's land and facilities.
The resulting framework plan will provide the university with a roadmap to guide MSU's future campus composition for the next generation. Barbara Kranz is assistant provost for Institutional Space Planning and Management, and Stephen Troost is a campus planner in Infrastructure Planning and Facilities. They're leading this project.
“The plan is rooted in the university's strategic plan,” Troost says. “That is where we get guidance from. The second tenet is it's a decision-making tool, and it's really guided by overarching timeless planning principles that help us look at every project moving through the system and how it supports the vision for the campus.
“Third, it's a flexible framework, and that's an important concept to remember. It guides the highest and best use of our land and our facilities. It doesn't dictate growth. It doesn't say things will happen, but it stays flexible because one thing we know for certain in higher education is we will always have changing dynamics to deal with.
“The fourth tenet is it enhances safety, and it does that through the optimal organization of campus systems and operations. The final tenet deals with process. I really think that sometimes the process is more important than the product. Campus plans allow the entire Spartan Nation to give voice to what they think the campus of the future should be. Everyone's passionate about campus.”
“If we think about our DEI plan and the strategic plan and the values within them, how do we think about and incorporate those principles from those plans and think about community engagement, social engagement, transportation mobility, social mobility, health and wellness, and a whole range of things?” asks Kranz. “How do we leverage our campus? We have a beautiful campus. We hope to retain the arboretum around teaching and learning, but it also contributes to health and wellness, both mental and physical.
“MSU is very interested in weaving the role of the arts in and across both, not only our curriculum, but research and everyday activity of our students, faculty, staff and students. There's a whole component around sustainability in the plan, too. That's not just buildings, but financial sustainability and evolving cultural changes for all of us coming to campus.”
Input and feedback from Spartan Nation are being sought. Details on how to share views are at campusplan.msu.edu.
“Where's your special place? Where are places you think need to be fixed? What's your route through campus? Are there areas of concern that you want to make sure get addressed in the plan? And we're looking to get quite a bit of input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni, as well as community members who come here as visitors,” says Troost. “We want to understand how we can enhance the physical campus of composition through that map on the My Campus website. There will be opportunities throughout the planning process to go to that website, campusplan.msu.edu, and offer your input or ideas on things that you're hearing or seeing. “We'll also have some extensive town hall meetings coming up in the fall when folks are back on campus and have a chance to settle down and get into the new semester. And then we'll be able to look at some of those scenarios and alternatives and get input on what people think about those.”
“The plan is a 10 to 20-plus-year look ahead,” Kranz says. “Whatever we build and develop will be here for many generations. If staff and faculty are here three days a week, for example, what kinds of engagements are important to have to both build community and relationships within the work environment to accomplish our work and to be efficient and supportive? How do we be thoughtful about that to make sure our students experience our topnotch university, and our faculty staff are supported as well so that we have a vibrant and sustainable community.”
“Through the listening sessions we've conducted to date, Barb and I are hearing that the value-added proposition of why you'd come back to campuses is that people want to collaborate,” says Troost. “Now, you can do your work from home. And there are aspects of that that are fine. But when people do come to campus, they want to have small seminar rooms and open atrium spaces for a cup of coffee, just areas where they can get together and collaborate.
“There are a lot of ways you can learn, and you can continually learn throughout your life, but you come to campus to be with people. And that's why we have campuses. And that's the most important aspect to me. The elephant in the room is how we blend that hybrid work, teaching, learning, research environment with the very high touch environment we need when we're on campus.
“The key to the plan is its flexibility. The plan will not tell us where we're going because the beauty of higher education is that top research institutions are continually evolving and changing, and we're a land grant or a world grant if you will. And so, we're constantly evolving and looking at what it is we can be doing as the state's institution. And that's going to continually give us challenges in the future for how we grow and how we develop the campus.
“That flexible framework gives us the guiding principles of what we want it to be. And then as every project folds into it, we continually assess how it can expand upon and allow for successful completion of those planning principles.”
“We have MSU Extension and AgBioResearch,” says Kranz. “We have over 20,000 acres across the state, and we're in every county in the state. While a big piece of the plan focuses on the physical assets in East Lansing, we are all over Michigan. We're national and international, too. How do we plan going forward to acknowledge all of that?”
“I would add, too, that one of the things to remember is we often go back to maybe the 2020 plan 20 years ago, or we go back to the founding of the institution in 1855,” says Troost. “But our legacy goes farther back than that. We occupy ancestral ends of the Anishinaabeg and the three tribes. We need to remember those decisions when we make land-use decisions.”
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