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BGSU will have a significantly livelier look and feel within the next few years, with residence halls more integrated with academic buildings and dining centers more of a destination—resulting in greater “cross-traffic” as students and faculty move about the campus in their daily lives. To accomplish this change, BGSU will soon embark on an ambitious plan to upgrade its residence halls and dining facilities, the board of trustees heard June 26.

The newly created Residence Life and Dining Services Master Plan is aimed at providing a better undergraduate student experience—a major goal of the University’s Strategic Plan. It is also in alignment with the Campus Master Plan for building and renovation, said Steven Krakoff, associate vice president for capital planning and design, and Dr. Joseph Oravecz, associate vice president for student affairs. All three plans must proceed in step to ensure the living/learning environment has a seamless connection, they told the board.

Another important reason for the effort is to make BGSU more competitive with its peer institutions, which have for the most part upgraded and changed the style of their campus accommodations at a much faster pace than has BGSU, Krakoff said. In the recent era of declining enrollments at Bowling Green, quality of life issues such as living and dining have taken on increasing importance in recruitment and retention.

“How a university stacks up to its competition is a huge factor today in students’ decisions about where to attend,” Krakoff said. “They look at housing, classrooms, labs in their majors, recreational centers. The physical facility weighs heavily.”

Though a direct connection cannot be drawn between upgraded and new housing and enrollment, the survey revealed that those institutions that had invested in living and dining facilities with enhanced amenities also showed enrollment growth, Oravecz and Krakoff said. Students rate air conditioning, private baths and kitchens among their priorities.

On the fast track, Phase 1 of the plan calls for two new buildings by 2011, which means work must begin this summer and fall. The final site selections are anticipated in September. However, Krakoff said, there must be a “rigorous and conservative effort to ensure that enrollment projections are in line with plans for construction. Although the plan is aggressive in its time frame, it is conservative in scope.”

The new plan was developed based on extensive surveys conducted this year that looked at numerous aspects of campus housing and dining—at both BGSU and its competitors. “A substantial analysis was done of the condition of our facilities,” Krakoff said, and residence halls were also analyzed for their number and configuration of beds.

Students at each class rank were shown pictures of rooms ranging from the traditional, high-density two-bed rooms with bathroom down the hall, to suites and apartment-style rooms and asked to identify their preferences.

“We wanted to find out how many of each type we need to provide and when,” Krakoff said. For example, the suite model is very popular with students and very common in other institutions. BGSU has these only in Founders. The survey also yielded some surprises, he added. BGSU students show a stronger preference for the traditional model than do students at other universities.

A major thrust of the plan will be to make the traditional living units for freshmen less dense so that space can be provided for programming and other means of building community and boosting learning. “We think this will vastly improve the freshman experience,” he said.

Ultimately, by the end of the second phase of the plan, the campus should feel much more like a series of neighborhoods, with dining centers no more than a five-minute walk from key student areas, housing for upperclassmen and graduate students and landscaping defining the campus boundaries.


 
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June 29, 2009

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