MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

June 26, 2013

Northeastern State University master plan advances

By Rob W. Anderson
CNHI

— Making sure students feel at home, augmenting the academic presence on campus while preserving the university’s Cherokee heritage is at the core of the Northeastern State University master plan.

Stakeholders, planners, designers, and members of the Tahlequah Advisory Group came together on Tuesday to hear about and discuss the refinement stage of the campus redesign plan.

The afternoon meeting held in the University Center Ballroom Lounge served as an opportunity to consider all the work and idea developing that has taken place over the discovery, analysis and idea generation phases of the five-step plan, said Lead Campus Planner Neal Kessler. The refinement stage marks the fourth step while the fifth will be documentation, which is scheduled to be discussed and presented in December.

“We’re moving along through the process, but we still have a lot of work to do. We will be back in September, and have a final deliverable [plan] hopefully before the end of the year,” he said. “This is a critical point in the process. We’ve tried to make this process as inclusive and transparent as possible. We’ve had all sorts of fantastic interaction while we’ve been here. I think it’s a great testament to how much people on this campus and in the community care about the campus. We’ve had great attendance at every one of our events. It’s somewhat unusual that we have this much involvement. It’s great. So you ought to feel good about that.”

Members of the project team reviewed details of the three suggested campus plans and helped to introduce new angles, one of which included using space in the library for active and collaborative learning areas. Project Team Leader Bruce Henley said the team is currently collaborating with Southern Methodist University and the University of North Texas on studies on library remodeling for 21st Century learning.

“The whole idea is to create multi-function spaces where either just a few students can get together with technology or can get together almost in passing in a corridor type of situation,” he said.

“Passing through a lobby. Having the technology. Having food and amenities like that in a space to make it multi-functional that fits one student, three students or 15 students. The books don’t completely disappear, but they have a lesser driving function within the library than they do today.”

Kessler said this library model is becoming more prominent on university campuses across the country.

“They really are becoming a gathering place for students, and having some food service really livens those a lot, as well. Being able to keep people together in a learning environment is an advantage that we can capitalize on here. We also want to want to think about different kinds of active learning spaces,” he said. “We currently have an overabundance of classrooms. So maybe there’s an opportunity to take some of those classrooms and convert them to more flexible kinds of learning spaces.”

Rob W. Anderson writes for the Tahlequah Daily Press.