Student data key to campus planning

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer

Brown University’s decision to expand its School of Engineering within its College Hill campus was driven in part by analysis of an extensive collection of data involving faculty, staff and students, including an elaborate map that tracked regular travel patterns in order to best determine the location of new buildings. More

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HIGHER EDUCATION

Student data key to campus planning

PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
PLAN AHEAD: Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy at Brown University, says that involving students in the planning process is part of the school’s culture. Student data was critical to a planned engineering-school expansion.

By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 4/29/13

Brown University’s decision to expand its School of Engineering within its College Hill campus was driven in part by analysis of an extensive collection of data involving faculty, staff and students, including an elaborate map that tracked regular travel patterns in order to best determine the location of new buildings.

“I think it’s part of our culture,” said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, of involving students in the university’s strategic-planning process. “In the campus planning process, we gather a tremendous amount of information from students, faculty and staff, and how they work together, make use of curriculum, and [what they] would like to see improved in the physical campus.”

Brown isn’t the only local college to utilize such measures in strategic planning, though its use and analysis of such data regarding its engineering school appears more extensive than other local schools.

Sasaki Associates, the Watertown, Mass.-based planning and design firm that produced a MyCampus survey that Brown used in its analysis, said the mapping process is a relatively new incorporation that they have not used elsewhere in Rhode Island. The survey collected responses on preferred spaces and how and with whom they collaborate in research, teaching and service.

“We started doing [the survey] because we were finding the need to have an inclusive planning process. You can have forums and meetings, but you only get feedback from those who are willing to speak up,” said Tyler Patrick, a partner at the firm. “We thought this is a way we can do more of a visual survey.”

Patrick said the benefit is that the survey gives a “real physicality to the information you’re looking at.”

Sasaki Associates has used the My-Campus survey at about 30 campuses in the last two to three years.

“Brown was the first [campus] where we were able to do it in an html version used on an iPad. We’ve been constantly tweeking and modifying it,” Patrick said. “I still think we’re pretty much leading this area.”

Brown’s engineering school was founded in 2010 and expanding it had been one focal point of a universitywide strategic plan that kicked into high gear after new university President Christina Paxson came onboard in mid-2012.

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