For years, forward-looking corners of corporate America have bucked conventional office norms, replacing traditional cubicles and conference rooms with thoughtful spaces fostering human connection and quality of workplace life for employees.
Colleges and universities should do the same for students, notes Suzanne Musho, AIA, NCARB, vice president and chief architect for real estate development and sustainable capital planning, in a Fortune op-ed.
Historically, colleges and universities have lagged behind corporate America in designing spaces for their constituents. Rather than focusing on the needs of their students, they have created spaces with donors and administrators in mind, pursuing designs that exude status and prestige instead of comfort, function, and inclusivity.
Now, Musho posits that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented institutions with an opportunity to create campus environments that foster student success and well-being.
“Before COVID-19, students had no choice but to make do with their campus environments. But the pandemic changed that—permanently altering the meaning of harmonious physical space for schools, businesses, hospitals, and virtually every other nook of our society,” she writes.
Many corporate employers, including Google, Nike, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and others, have already put workers at the center of their office design plans. Musho notes that they were smart to do so. If employees feel comfortable and content in their workplace, they enjoy their work and put in quality effort—the same can be expected of college students.
Evidence also suggests that students' surroundings shape their well-being and academic performance. In fact, a University of Illinois study found that high schoolers with green views from their classrooms scored higher on tests that measured their attention spans.
New York Tech is creating campus spaces that put students first. Among other enhancements, Musho cites the addition of outdoor parklets with remote wireless capabilities on the Long Island campus and sustainably designed student lounges and cafés in New York City.
Most importantly, she notes that student feedback has been an integral part of the design process, as institutions have a fiscal responsibility to ensure that improvements provide strong returns. In other words, asking students what they want from their experience should be commonplace.
“The power of design is real. Corporate America knows that,” writes Musho. “It's time colleges and universities discover the same to foster student success.”
The op-ed follows on the heels of the Woodlands Art Collection's first public gallery evening, which took place on November 19 in the new Nada Marie Anid, Ph.D. Art Gallery and Student Lounge, a reimagined space at the New York City campus.
Read the entire op-ed.
This op-ed is part of a campaign designed to help generate awareness and build reputation for the university on topics of national relevance. Read more op-eds by New York Tech thought leaders.