Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

Vision in the Context of Facilities Planning

From the experiences of colleges and universities involved with Project Kaleidoscope’s current NSF-funded Leadership Initiative (LI), we see that a clear vision is a non-negotiable commodity if efforts to transform the undergraduate STEM learning environment are to take root and flourish over the long-term.


Several reasons. One we grasp from Lewis Carroll, who has his Cheshire Cat respond to Alice’s question, Would you please tell me which way I ought to go from here?, saying, That depends on where you want to get to. Today’s experienced academic adventurers might suggest Alice do some ‘back-ward mapping’ or ‘scenario playing’ as she determines which way to go— exercises that can be helpful in framing and clarifying a vision.

The ‘aha’ moment of recognizing the value of a vision– one arrived at and agreed to by the community— surfaces most strikingly in the process of planning new science facilities. Indeed, the motivation for many campuses to be involved with PKAL’s Leadership Initiative is their immediate need and opportunity to shape their STEM learning, teaching, and research spaces so to serve better 21st century students and science. But even when where they ...want to get to... is a new facility, it soon becomes clear that working toward and arriving at a vision that captures the community’s sense of its future is really where their energies, time, and expertise must be focused. Leaders soon see that new spaces are only means to an end, strategies that will enable them to translate their goals into action, in the pursuit of their vision of who they will be in the future.

We present here four different vision statements emerging from the process of planning new spaces for science. The first, from Saint Olaf College, articulates their vision from the perspective of the students engagements and interactions in the new spaces (yet to be realized on their campus). The second, from Hamilton College, suggests how a statement of vision grows out of the institutional vision and capitalizes on current strengths of faculty and program. The third, a statement from Brooklyn College, also builds off of a strong institutional mission to envision new science facilities. The fourth is an essay from Thomas Greene about building intentional science communities.