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Space for Creativity

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

7 thoughts on “Space for Creativity

  1. Also missing is a place where faculty from different disciplines can meet informally. I have long advocated establishing a singles table at the faculty club. The deans of the different schools should host weekly or monthly lunches. There should also be regular lunches — say once or twice a semester — for adjuncts.

  2. The unventilated and poorly lit study carols that line the perimeter of Lauinger library are awful in their current configurations yet could be transformed into great potential spaces for TAs, RAs and working teams. Every six could be transformed into single rooms that could serve as meeting spaces for 6-8 people. No high tech is needed. No screens and no computers are needed. Just improve ventilation and lighting, add power outlets, a table and six or eight chairs. Simple. Inexpensive. Extraordinarily useful. Twenty such rooms could be created at little cost as a test. I bet they would be widely used.

  3. When the departments of economics, languages&Linguistics, Philosophy and business school were housed in the Nevils Bldg there was large room on the 3rd floor where colleagues from all departments met daily in the afternoon to take a break and to socialize. That space had chairs, a large table and a coffee machine dispensing free coffee. One professor applying for tenure and promotion surprisingly was turned down by the Rank &Tenure Committee. As its secretary I had to count the secret ballots and announce the result 8:4 against. Into the stunned silence one member in a deep, tragic voice commented: “He never came for Coffee.” We all understood. He had missed meeting his colleagues in the informal setting of such a room that Dr. Groves suggests in his blog, a space where collegiality among researchers and teachers can be cultivated and valuable ideas generated and exchanged.

  4. I have found the programs run by Carole Sargent in the Office of Scholarly Publishing to be a fantastic way to meet colleagues from other departments in a creative setting and one of mutual support and exchange of ideas. She has a cozy but cramped space in the Car Barn for group meetings, but I would love to see more space where people could write alongside each other as well. Something in between a lounge with a coffee machine as Prof. Winkler describes above and the quiet reading room at Lau. As a former adjunct now FTNTL, I would really appreciate more places where faculty of all ranks might meet informally.

  5. Transformations of Library spaces, better to foster creativity and interdisciplinary dialogue, are already under way. The new Maker Hub provides a “collaborative atmosphere to design, solve problems, experiment and innovate” with access to both traditional equipment and cutting-edge technology. The new Inquiry Classroom in Special Collections provides, in effect, a primary-source research lab for the humanities in which faculty and students alike can make new discoveries among the Library’s rare collections and practice the skills of bibliographical analysis and archival research. The newly renovated exhibition galleries present opportunities for faculty and students to curate primary source materials and present their discoveries to the public. Pub Lau offers occasions for faculty from across the University to meet up and mingle and discover what others are up to (next up on May 12, 2017, 4:15-6 pm!)

    With appropriate investment, many further opportunities exist to enhance other Library spaces in similarly transformative ways, from flexible collaboration spaces and improved private study space, to continued development of the Library’s many virtual spaces, all in support of the broader scholarly enterprise the Provost envisions.

  6. While I agree such spaces would be wonderful and are needed, I also think we are in serious need of more classrooms and more offices.

    Some faculty share offices. The Registrar is quite likely to return a Department’s proposed course schedule because classrooms are not available. Nor is this all due to faculty hoping for good time slots. And would GU need to schedule classes throughout the lunch hour if we had more classrooms?

  7. You know that creativity is essential to long-term success, but finding the time can seem impossible.

    Four types of space that support creativity in fast terms:
    Nature
    Activity or movement
    Social settings
    In the bath or shower!

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