Public Purpose Magazine, Winter 2014
Public Purpose Magazine Winter 2014 Issue Cover

Designs on the FutureIn the next 10 years, how should the physical campus change?By Gayle Bennett

For many institutions, the early 2000s saw campus design and architecture informed by an arms race to attract the millennial student. Climbing walls, plush dorms and sleek rec facilities predominated—and did a good job of attracting those students. 

But in this post-recession era, with state governments generally not backfilling the funding they ciphered away and parents questioning rising tuition levels, campus planning for the next 10 years at many institutions is shifting to other strategic goals—namely, those centered on instructing students. 

“Institutions are now recognizing that the instructional spaces have languished,” says Persis Rickes, president of Rickes Associates, Inc., a higher education planning firm in Boston. “Now there’s a rising recognition that campuses need to focus some effort and dollars on their core business, which is teaching students.” 

In addition, institutions are focusing on being more outward-facing members of the communities in which they reside. By constructing institutional buildings in commercial areas off campus or using campus buildings to engage local businesses or community members, college and university leaders are helping students, community members and local businesses succeed in many different ways. 

From Combat to the ClassroomServing Military StudentsBy Karen Doss Bowman

After 22 years of military service, Todd Kennedy was ready to face a new challenge: earning a college degree. The retired U.S. Marine Corps First Sergeant was 40 years old when he took his first college course in the fall of 2011. 

Though Kennedy admits being a little apprehensive at first, the veteran of military operations in Iraq (two tours), Somalia and Afghanistan quickly realized that he had valuable insights gleaned from a lifetime of rich experiences to share with his much-younger classmates at California’s San Diego State University.

“After a few weeks, any anxiety I had went away,” says Kennedy, who is pursuing his degree in history while working full time at SDSU as veterans coordinator in the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center. “I realized that I am here to learn. As a veteran, I have a different set of life experiences than most traditional college students. So I had that confidence coming in—if the professor asked a question, I wasn’t afraid to raise my hand to answer. And if I got the answer wrong, it just didn’t bother me. It was a good transition for me.” 

Kennedy is like thousands of other veterans, active-duty soldiers and reservists who currently are enrolled in college. Their numbers have significantly increased over the past few years, thanks in large part to the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2009. The benefit offers eligible students generous coverage of tuition and fees, a stipend for books and supplies, and a monthly housing allowance. Additionally, these benefits may be transferred to spouses or dependents.

“Institutions have not faced such a significant influx of veteran students on campus since World War II,” according to the report, From Soldier to Student II: Assessing Campus Programs for Veterans and Service Members, published in 2012 by the American Council on Education (ACE) in partnership with AASCU, NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and National Association of Veteran’s Program Administrators (NAVPA). 

As more than 2 million troops return home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the numbers are expected to continue to rise. Are American colleges and universities equipped to serve these students?

Operationalizing StewardshipBy Stephen G. Pelletier

The principles of stewardship are well known among AASCU universities. They hinge on the premise that public universities should, can and do add significant value to their communities—through contributions, for example, to regional culture, schools, economic and workforce development, and diversity. Stewardship activities tangibly demonstrate the intrinsic value that public universities provide as anchors of their communities. Stewardship provides the context through which universities help enrich and sustain the vibrancy of their communities. 

As universities deliver value through stewardship activities, they also gain value. For many institutions, stewardship constitutes a defining component of institutional success. Indeed, a strong case can be made that good practice in stewardship can help an institution distinguish itself in a competitive marketplace. 

George L. Mehaffy, AASCU’s vice president for academic leadership and change, goes even a step further. He believes that being an effective steward of place is “both a survival strategy and thriving strategy” for public universities. 

Mehaffy suggests that, in tough times, the practice of stewardship can help a university frame a path to success. Stewardship can infuse faculty, students and other stakeholders with energy and enthusiasm that can help an institution thrive. Through collaborations in the community, universities can better understand and help address community needs. Lessons gained through stewardship enrich classroom learning and, often, the university curriculum. Students engaged in stewardship learn to think creatively in real-life situations. 

Mehaffy argues that effective practice of stewardship helps define and distinguish strong universities. More broadly, he also suggests that stewardship done well can help improve the public’s currently clouded perceptions about higher education. 

Similar themes resonate throughout AASCU’s latest book on stewardship, Becoming a Steward of Place: A Guide for Institutional Leaders. The monograph, a follow-up to AASCU’s 2002 effort, Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place, explores four key areas of stewardship: civic engagement, P-12, economic and workforce development, and internationalization. 

As framed by one of the book’s contributors, Wim Wiewel, president of Portland State University (Ore.), institutions that position themselves as stewards of place can draw on stewardship to help them succeed. Wiewel writes that the road to success for institutions that are effective stewards of place is through “a strengthening of their role as deeply engaged local partners.” But how can such strengthening take place?