Skidmore College launches campus master planning process
Calling Skidmore’s campus master planning process a “deeply collaborative community partnership,” President Marc Conner provided an overview of his vision for the plan and process, and introduced the firm that will gather input from all members of the Skidmore community, guide the College through the planning process over the next 14 months, and draft the eventual Campus Master Plan by the end of next year.
Nearly 200 Skidmore community members attended the informational kickoff event on Monday, April 5. Conner introduced Kevin Petersen of Ayers Saint Gross, the internationally recognized design firm selected to lead Skidmore’s efforts to craft a new comprehensive Campus Master Plan.
“The product that we arrive at, to me, is less important than the process that we follow to get there and the principles that inform that process: our commitment to sustainability, our commitment to diversity, inclusivity and equity, our commitment to access for all,” said Conner, who called for broad participation by all faculty, staff and students. “This is our opportunity to foreground those principles in the present and future shape of our campus.”
The planning process is a chance to assess the present state of Skidmore’s campus and to plan for the future, Conner said. Skidmore's campus was largely designed and built in the 1960s, and two subsequent campus master plans were prepared in 1989 and in 2007.
The president noted that several buildings constructed in recent decades, including the Center for Integrated Sciences, Sussman Village, Valentine Boathouse, and Zankel Music Center, offer important experiences to members of the Skidmore community and ultimately are “concepts as much as they are buildings.” A similar approach will guide the campus master planning process moving forward.
A task force comprising members of the entire Skidmore community will help Ayers Saint Gross reach out to all stakeholders. The group is co-chaired by Associate Dean of the Faculty Pat Fehling and Director of Facilities Dan Rodecker and includes staff representative Amy Tweedy; faculty representatives Mark Youndt and Erica Wojcik; Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity Joshua Woodfork; Sustainability Coordinator Jen Natyzak; Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Gail Cummings-Danson; and student representative Maria Bideiwy ’24.
Petersen, a principal of Ayers Saint Gross, provided an overview of the process, which he described as collaborative and designed to reach broad consensus. The plan will look 10-20 years ahead.
From now until September, the firm will seek to gather as much information as possible through listening sessions, focus groups, and open forums as part of an observation and assessment stage of the process. During the fall semester, team members will present a concept plan and seek feedback as they refine possible scenarios. Early next year, the firm will draft a final plan intended for Board of Trustees approval in May 2022.
Petersen said the Campus Master Plan aims to align the physical campus with the College’s overall strategic goals.
“We want to create a set of principles that we can get a majority of people to support and buy into,” Petersen said. “If we can generate broad principles that everyone agrees to and supports, that really allows us to focus projects that support those principles,“ he said. “We don’t want to hide from any issue in this observation and assessment phase. If there’s a hot-button issue related to the physical development of campus, we want to hear it. We want to make sure that we’re thinking of it as an issue and how we can address it as part of the Master Plan.”
He noted his firm brought extensive experience to this project: About 80% of the firm’s work comes from higher education, and it has already prepared more than 250 master plan projects. Ayers Saint Gross has conducted planning work for dozens of liberal arts colleges as well as institutions whose campuses date to the 1960s and 1970s like Skidmore’s, Petersen said.