How Kansas University will deal with the changing ways students will learn in coming years, how much KU’s West Campus will or won’t expand, how KU and Lawrence can work together for sustainability — these were among the questions on the minds of visitors at two forums Wednesday concerning KU’s new master plan.
Others, meanwhile, focused on topics somewhat less broad: a request for more hills for sledding on campus, or a complaint that room 412 in Lindley Hall is a “bad lecture hall.”
Creating a KU master plan — a map for how the physical campus will serve the university and Lawrence over the coming years — includes a great many factors: classrooms, services for students, parking, traffic, water runoff and more. Visitors trickled in at forums on and off campus to share their thoughts Wednesday with officials from KU and contractors helping to form a master plan for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, the first since 1997 and fifth since 1904.
Wednesday’s events were the first of several open forums planned at different points of the year-long planning process, which is scheduled to conclude in November. KU has a $1.17 million contract with the Norfolk, Va.-based planning firm Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas and Co., which specializes in higher-education work, to help develop the plan.
Steve Gift, an architect for HEWV overseeing the KU master plan process, said he and his staff were still in the process of gathering information and ideas before forging ahead with planning. They’ll be making use of campus and community focus groups as well as open forums like Wednesday’s.
“In the early going, we have a lot to learn,” Gift said.
Gift said two major themes in the planning process had become clear — the promise of further expansion on KU’s West Campus, and the need for KU to prepare for shifting winds in education when it comes to technology.
“It’s an excellent time to kind of reconstruct the next 10 years,” Gift said.
Lawrence architect Mike Myers came to the evening forum, at the Lawrence Visitor Information Center in North Lawrence, because he’s concerned about the West Campus territory, which stretches to Kasold Drive and contains a good deal of untouched land.
“It’s pristine habitat,” Myers said. “I want to know that somebody’s paying attention and cares about it.”
A slow stream of residents trickled into the evening forum, designed to invite input from people around Lawrence.
Earlier in the day, students, faculty and others shared their ideas with planners for things to fix or improve during a forum at the Kansas Union. Among their suggestions, each of them added to lists displayed on poster-sized sheets of paper: more work space for graduate students, special paint for classroom walls that allows them to be used like dry-erase boards, more electrical outlets for classrooms and more hills for sledding on campus. And, of course, many wished for more parking.
KU senior Sam Silverglade stopped by the campus forum to share his suggestions that KU provide more space for weightlifting in its student recreation center and add more bus stops between where he lives, just north of Memorial Stadium, and the heart of the campus.
“I love the KU campus, and I am a senior this year, and I want it to be the best it can be for students,” Silverglade said.
Space for learning
Yvonne Thibodeau, a Denver-based planner specializing in college campuses who’s serving as a subcontractor, collected input on how KU’s campus can help students learn in the future.
She asked students who came by whether they preferred learning in big lecture halls or smaller discussion groups. (Some freshmen said they preferred the anonymity of a lecture hall, but when Thibodeau pressed them, they admitted they learned well in discussions.)
As higher-education trends toward “flipped” classes that use online lectures and small-group discussions in person, KU will need to plan for how to use its classrooms to provide for that, she said.
"You don't want the physical space to tell you how you want to teach and how you want to learn," Thibodeau said.
For instance, she noted, KU chose to fill Budig Hall, formerly Hoch Auditorium, with three large lecture halls while rebuilding after a fire in the 1990s. Now it must make use of those halls for years to come.
Jane Huesemann, a Lawrence architect consulting on the master plan, displayed some statistics on how KU's many classrooms are used. About 99 percent of KU's classrooms (which account for about 5 percent of the space on the Lawrence campus) are used during the middle of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But on Fridays during some of the same times, only about two-thirds are used.
"It sort of tells us that we could use the campus capacity differently," Huesemann said.
Anyone who couldn't make it to Wednesday's forums but wants to offer input on KU's master planning process can email the university's Office of Design and Construction Management at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on the master plan is available online from KU, at dcm.ku.edu/campus-master-plan.
Tracy Horstman, KU’s assistant vice provost for capital planning and space management, said any and all ideas are welcome at this early point in the process.
"As they say, now's the time to dream big," Horstman said.