M.U.M. develops pedestrian-friendly master plan
Former Maharishi University of Management student Ceyrena Kay returned to Fairfield with a fresh eye in 2006 to find a campus in need of an artistic and practical plan.
“I came back and saw a campus in limbo,” she said. “They’d torn down old buildings and had built new buildings, but it didn’t feel like there was much of a plan of how the outdoor spaces should come together as a coherent campus identity.”
Kay had just completed her master’s degree in landscape architecture in Rhode Island and was returning as fulltime faculty in the art department. She loved the atmosphere of the newly constructed Dreier Building, and said she believed the whole campus could feel that way.
“I had experienced going in there and feeling the difference,” she said. “There was a lot of construction going on, which seemed like it could benefit from planning and looking at the bigger picture.”
According to Kay, a master plan could smooth circulation issues and “increase the enjoyment of everyday activities on campus.”
While Kay relocated in recent months, she and the university’s chief operating officer David Streid have been responsible for advocating the development of a master plan.
Their wishes have been answered in the recent hiring of Midwest-based landscape architecture firm, Confluence, which has helped other universities develop sustainable campus designs such as University of Iowa, Drake University and University of Northern Iowa.
Streid said M.U.M. has spent roughly $5 million during the past three years on renovating and improving buildings on campus, but said little has gone toward the broader infrastructure of roads, paths and landscaping.
“This will be a blueprint of how we can evolve that aspect of the campus,” he said.
Creating a pedestrian mall in the center of campus is at the heart of the master plan.
“We want to make the campus more pedestrian and bicycle friendly,” he said.
To do so, Confluence will be studying ways to reroute circulation of traffic if the portions of Keith Wallace Drive and Highway 1 surrounding the Argiro Center were to become a pedestrian plaza.
Already, Confluence representatives have visited Fairfield twice, said Streid, and are in the midst of carrying out a campuswide survey to assess the priorities and desires of students and faculty. The week-long survey began Nov. 27 and is closing today. As of Monday, 130 people had filled out and returned surveys.
“The survey asks people what campus they want to see, what kinds of needs we need to address,” he said.
The survey asked students and faculty to select new facilities they’d like to see such as green dorms, biking and walking paths, a new performing arts center, athletic fields, an aquatic center, agricultural land and gardens.
Confluence will analyze the data and present several options of campus plans in late December to a group of the university’s stakeholders. From there, Streid said the firm will narrow in on the most desirable proposal.
The campus design coincides with a five-year strategic plan for the university, in which Streid said the administration projects Fairfield enrollment will double.
“We have good reason to believe that’s attainable,” he said.
Currently, about 600 students are attending classes on the Fairfield campus, with a total enrollment of 1,300 students altogether. Those off campus are enrolled through the distance education program, with a concentration in computer programming. Streid said on-campus enrollment is growing, and the administration has approved opening a master’s programs in media and communications and several other fields.
“We’re seeing growth in our stronger programs like sustainable living, media and communications and our management program,” he said.
Streid said the master plan will help any new building fit into a larger vision for the campus, and also will help him in managing roads and paths in a more efficient way.
“The good thing about having the plan is even when we do small things, like fixing a sidewalk or installing new lighting, we’ll be able to do it in the context of the holistic plan,” he said. “We can either say, ‘Yes, let’s invest in that,’ or ‘Will it get torn out in five years?’”
Streid said the university does not yet have funding to implement the new buildings or pedestrian mall. However, he believed creating a plan could attract donors who support the campus vision.
“What we hope is that the document created through this process will be the basis for people to support those plans,” he said. “What we all want to see is the campus grow and develop into a beautiful, sustainable campus that reflects the knowledge we have here.”