One of the continuous struggles of universities throughout the world is providing the right amount and types of spaces faculty and students need to conduct their work.
The spaces needed for the formation of students have traditionally been both the classroom and faculty meeting spaces, the latter of which are equally essential in aiding the effective mentoring process for students. In the sciences, much of the learning takes place in laboratories — either “wet” labs or computational labs.
The service mission of the university is often fulfilled off-campus, where the population served is located.
The different spaces needed for research activities are heavily dependent on the field in which the inquiry takes place. Some scholars work largely by themselves. Sometimes they conduct their work off-campus, where they are better able to access the materials needed for their scholarship. Sometimes they work in their office. Some scholars work in teams, with their workstations located in either the same or adjacent spaces.
Even in those fields in which scholarship is a solitary task, many faculty find it useful to exchange their work-in-progress with their colleagues to seek their reactions and to retain the focus to complete their work. Some universities use writing groups that act as motivators for progress and sounding boards for ideas. Conferences and talks given at other universities are also helpful in refining scholarship.
Many fields are exploring the use of teams in doing scholarship; universities have found that shared space for teams is important. This was the idea behind creating the shared space for the Georgetown Environment Initiative (in Regents’ Hall). It is a key feature of the idea of a Georgetown Humanities Center. It is inherent in the Massive Data Institute activities.
Given that Georgetown has packed a research university into a little more than 100 acres means that space is always a topic of discussion. A further criticism of space at Georgetown is that most of the existing space consists of classrooms and faculty offices. There are too few gathering spaces for faculty working in the same fields of inquiry.
This seems especially limiting for faculty whose offices are in different locations but whose work could benefit from frequent interactions with their colleagues working in the same field. A cross-school or cross-department group can meet in a seminar room, but after a meeting, all the members of the group return to their offices spread throughout campus. Further, their student collaborators have even more difficulty with ongoing interaction. Such groups lack a home to call their own.
As we receive faculty input on the Master Plan for the campus, many have noted the need for gathering places, homes for faculty to interact on their scholarship, and space for research teams to do their work.
Some of these spaces (those devoted to quasi-permanent Institutes and Centers within the Institutes) could be devoted to a specific focus over time. Other spaces would probably be best used not as permanently devoted to one use, but as space that could be used during the life of a research endeavor and then given over to another use.
As we continue to develop ideas about the future of space at Georgetown, we all need to identify what are the best spatial configurations to foster faculty and faculty-student interactions around their schol