University to draft campus improvement, green space plan

By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — The university is drafting a facilities master plan for campus building improvements and better use of the land space on campus.

Advancing the facilities master plan is one of President Lisa Freeman’s fiscal year 2020 goals, according to the NIU website.

Chief Financial Officer Sarah McGill said the first step in the process is talking to different departments on campus and seeing what the university can change.

She said when creating the master plan, one thing to keep in mind is to imagine what the campus may look like in 10 years.

“The master plan is for the students,” McGill said. “It’s thinking about how we can use classroom technology better, improve learning styles and how classrooms are set up.”

McGill said the university wants to look at how it can use the green space on campus better, along with other buildings on campus.

John Heckmann, associate vice president for Facilities Management and Campus Services, said his role in the facilities master plan is to see how the university can execute the plan once it’s completed.

With a growing population of online and commuter students, Heckman said he wants to see how the university can adapt to those students’ needs.

“[The university] tries to conduct master plans on a periodic basis to refresh the vision of campus and look to see how we can change the environment of the campus throughout the years,” Heckmann said. “In the past, we had more students and different technology. We want the campus to adapt to the new environment we have now.”

In 2014, former NIU President Doug Baker created a Master Plan Thesis that included the demolition of parts of Douglas Hall, according to a March 2014 Northern Star article. The thesis was a portion of the university’s plan to modernize the campus by adding activity and life over two years.

Former Acting Provost Chris McCord is creating a review of facilities on campus to help create the master plan.

McGill said McCord is on professional development leave to see how other campuses pursued the same initiatives. She said McCord will be completing case studies to see how NIU can learn from other universities and how NIU can create a facilities master plan.

McGill said other universities have facility master plans as well.

In 2017, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign finalized an 18-month master plan process to update its campus, according to the UIUC website.

The purpose of its plan was to provide an updated planning framework to guide anticipated future enrollment growth and campus development, according to the UIUC Master Planning website.

UIUC’s campus master plan was about keeping the campus accessible to students and building connections and partnerships across campus and the community, according to UIUC’s website.

McGill said NIU’s master plan wasn’t created to fix lost ambitions; it’s to see what the university is in need of. One way to do that is to have engaged participation from around the campus.

Beth Ingram, executive vice president and provost, said the areas of emphasis in the plan will be developed through a collaborative and shared governance process.

“We want to make sure that we have 21st-century learning spaces for our students,” Ingram said. “Our priority is to align our spaces with our mission, vision and values and to support our diverse learners and excellent faculty.”