Valparaiso University is currently in the process of planning and organizing potential updates and renovations to campus. Recommended projects range from the creation of new buildings and parking garages to the repurposing of unused spaces such as Scheele Hall. While both Alumni and Lankenau will receive updated lounge areas this summer, the majority of campus planning may not come into effect for 5-10 years.
As Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Julie DeGraw has a large role in facilitating the creation of future campus development. The university’s strategic plan advocates for growing programs and possible academic additions to attract students and increase enrollment. While the current plan has been in place for a few years, it is likely to change or be completely redone with the hiring of a new president.
“Nursing and health sciences we’ve identified as really growing, they need a certain kind of lab that is really hard to do in LaBien and so they rise to the top through that strategic planning process to say there’s probably some needs there,” DeGraw said. “The second area that was identified was the business school. The building itself is pretty dated for the programs and the kind of things they want to do, it would be helpful to have a new space. So that kind of happened through the strategic plan and those are probably the two right now that rise to the top.”
The key points from the strategic plan are next drafted into the campus master plan, which deals with the physical space and construction possibilities of the university. An outside company, SmithGroup will analyze the needs and wants alongside available funding and space to come up with a multitude of possibilities, creating a university master plan.
These recommendations are then presented for feedback from the Valpo community. Most recently, feedback was gathered from the Student Senate, CX Staff and Faculty Senate.
“There’s one other group of people that is in charge, it’s called the Campus Space and Planning Committee. That’s their job, any proposals to do, any major changes on campus, including paint, furniture, signage, all of those go through that committee so they were obviously invited to give their feedback,” DeGraw said.
Potential possibilities for on-campus changes include moving Kretzmann Hall into a house located near the Law School, adding a building in the field next to the Harre Union, converting Scheele Hall into an academic building or split academic/residence space and creating additional parking near the VUCA as well as the ARC. The majority of the recommended alterations are focused on moving academic buildings to a centralized location.
Currently, the only confirmed changes are the updating of the lobbies of Lankenau and Alumni this summer. The Lankenau modernization will result in a space similar to the first floor of Brandt Hall, while Alumni Hall will include designated study spaces and a living room style area inspired by the Christ College Commons. Assistant Dean of Student Residential Life, Ryan Blevins, believes that the updated spaces in the dorms is a strong marker of the university’s dedication to student life.
“I think that it’s encouraging that the university wants to invest into the buildings like they are this summer. The university is still very much invested into the residence halls and trying to do what they can when they have the funding available to update some of the buildings,” Blevins said.
Blevins is responsible for determining the amount and style of rooms available to students. Students wishing to live in Promenade, if eligible, will receive information about apartment selection next week. The move from leasing Uptown East to Promenade West was made this year, sparking controversy amongst some students.
“The difference is in Uptown, every student had their own bedroom and bathroom and the apartment sizes were 2 person, 3 person, and 4 person apartments in Uptown. In Promenade, all the apartments are four person apartments. They’re two bedroom, two baths. You're sharing a bedroom with one other person like in the residence halls, but the difference is it’s about twice the square footage of living space compared to Uptown East,” Blevins said.
Over spring break, Blevins and other staff will view the preferences from the housing application forms to understand what students want and adapt residential spaces to meet those requests. As enrollment has decreased, opportunities for single rooms have increased. Last year, the second and third floor of Alumni Hall were made available as individual rooms for upperclassmen and will be available for the 2020-2021 academic year.
While more changes are possible for the future, the current presidential election will likely play a role on what other changes are to come.