Association News

Report offers new look at campus community building
May 23, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, IND. — The newly released Physical Space on Campus report highlights findings from the Summit on Building Community. During the Summit, students, architects, planners, consultants, campus administrators, and higher education association leaders gathered to discuss physical space and campus community. 

“It was exhilarating to convene such a knowledgeable group on this particular topic,” said Loren Rullman, associate vice president for student affairs at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. “The ideas generated were provocative and completely possible if we are willing to implement them in higher education.” 

Rullman and Jan van den Kieboom, principal and owner of Workshop Architects, organized the Summit. Information gathered through small-group discussions, large-group sessions, and keynote presentations led to the production of the report. 

“This report distills what was learned into three concepts that can create a new era of design for campus spaces charged with building community,” van den Kieboom said. 

Those three overarching concepts are:

  1. When campus community exists in its strongest form, it is associated with learning, civic purpose, and a sense of belonging. However, higher education lacks a common definition or vocabulary to democratize participation in facility planning and design, and transparent alignment between research, educational goals, project implementation, and facility management.
  2. Students, in particular, often seek and develop places of community where it is needed, rather than where it is administratively intended; many times these places are surprisingly low tech and low cost but highly customizable and fully satisfying to their users.
  3. Although legitimate barriers to achieving physical community exist, more sophisticated and willful campus leadership can overcome barriers such as discipline-based, institutional, or association boundaries; navigation of campus politics; or inarticulate justification for physical place and community. The largest barrier, then, may be leadership. Overcoming barriers may simply require a more courageous decision to lead through them rather than the unlikely elimination of them.

“The conclusions in this report are the result of architects, designers, housing and college union professionals, students, and campus planners working through questions about campus community together,” Rullman said. “This synergy is uncommon and certainly validates the report in exciting ways.”

In addition to detailed findings, the report offers an in-depth look at the operation of the Summit, previous literature regarding the topic of physical space, and an explanation of methodology. 

“It has been exciting to watch so many of the partnering associations take action as a result of the Summit,” van den Kieboom said. “Many have presented the Summit findings internally at their association meetings. Others have started intra-association dialogues about the intersection of community building and physical space, reporting on these conversations through various means. 

“We hope the report has the same effect. Summit participants and nonparticipants will promulgate these findings and use them to continue reframing physical place on campus in their spheres of influence.”

The Association of College Unions International coordinated the Summit. Other participating organizations were: College Student Educators International, Association of College and Research Libraries, Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, Committee on Architecture for Education of the American Institute of Architects, Leadership in Educational Facilities, International Interior Design Association, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, and the Society for College and University Planning.

Click here to download the full report.

A PDF of this press release is available for download.


Zack Wahlquist
Director of Education

About ACUI

Founded in 1914, ACUI serves those working in college unions and student activities on campuses worldwide. Its members include administrators, professional staff, student employees, student organization leaders, graduate students, and companies. 



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