Designing Sarah Lawrence
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As we plan for our next major fundraising campaign, another mixed-use building is needed. The growth of the student body has led to overcrowding in our residential facilities and the “tripling” of almost 40 rooms which were originally meant for two people. Growth has also prevented us from maximizing communal spaces for our students, including informal spaces for serendipitous gatherings. The Board of Trustees, advised by its Facilities Committee, has approved this new building project as part of our next campaign, and a small, ad hoc committee of staff, students, and faculty is beginning to discuss the functions and scope of the building. The design planning comes later, after we have secured the necessary funding and have formed a committee to select an architectural firm.
As crucial as the design of the physical plant is to a college like ours, the concept of intelligent design extends well beyond it. I recently read an article by the president of Clemson University, James Barker, entitled “The Architect as University President.” President Barker actually happens to be an architect, so his title is literal. He believes that his training as a designer of spaces for human interaction prepared him well to design a university community. As a teacher of literature, I cannot make the same claim, although, when given a chance, I will argue that studying the architecture of a novel can teach us something important about the “design of life.” The point is that designing a college community includes its human as well as its physical dimensions. Each year one of our most important architectural feats is to design a first-year class both exciting and diverse.
As we begin the new academic year, the entire campus community, including our extended community of alumnae/i, is invited to participate in designing the future of our College. Most of the goals outlined in the 1997 strategic plan have been accomplished, and we are embarking on another plan to address our strengths, challenges, and opportunities. You will be hearing more about this process over the next academic year, as we extend our Deweyan past into the future. Rest assured that Sarah Lawrence College will always be a place that encourages the anomalous and the adventurous. Our planning process will strongly support our historical mission and spirit as we address our future needs. I look forward to further conversations with all constituents of the Sarah Lawrence community on just how we will accomplish these goals.