Workshops for Planning New Spaces for Learning, Teaching and Research in STEM at George Mason University

How to Register for the Workshops

To register for one or all of the GMU Facilities workshops please click here.
Please note that the deadline for registration is Friday, October 24.

About the Workshops

The opportunity for an academic community to plan new spaces for learning, teaching, and research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is an opportunity for the community to shape its future. In the process of dreaming about, imagining, planning, programming and constructing these new spaces, the community will engage collectively in exploring three basic questions:

  • who will be using these spaces in the immediate and long-term future: what do we know and need to know about the students at George Mason University who will be learning in these spaces; what do we know and need to know about the STEM practitioners— George Mason scholars— who will be learning, teaching and researching in these spaces?
  • what will those users be doing in the immediate and long-term future: what do we know and need to know about how 21st century STEM practitioners do science— increasingly interdisciplinary, interconnected, and about the 21st century tools they need in their practice?
  • what kind of spaces will enhance the distinction of George Mason University into the future; provide the agility and flexibility to serve the users over the long-term; what kind of spaces nurture the kind of learning, teaching and research communities that will be using them; what kind of spaces will open up the world of the STEM practitioner to all Mason students; what kind of spaces will enable STEM faculty at Mason to contribute to the cutting edge of contemporary science/engineering— as it is learned and as it is practiced: interdisciplinary, investigative and integrated.

Dealing with such questions is what planning new spaces for science is all about, and one step in productive planning is to explore how others have proceeded through similar planning efforts--listening to their stories and examining illustrations and photos that present both the process and the product of their planning.

Jeanne L. Narum, Director of Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL), will orchestrate a series of workshops for George Mason University faculty and administrators with responsibility for planning new spaces for research and learning science at Mason. Narum's experience since 1992 in orchestrating PKAL 'how-to-plan' science facilities workshops that have served leadership teams from nearly 800 colleges and universities across the country at early stage in their planning process. Individually and collectively, these workshops will address the three basic planning questions, working with a core group of Mason leaders people, representing all appropriate spheres of responsibility throughout the university, to arrive at:

  • a broad understanding of the process of planning, from the point of gauging and capturing dreams of the users to signing off on construction documents (who is responsible for what and when). For these seminars, the essential leadership role of the faculty is to be emphasized—what do they expect their students to know and be able to do following their experiences in these classrooms, labs and community spaces; what are the directions for faculty and undergraduate research that need to be supported in these classrooms, labs, and community spaces?
  • a common understanding (benchmarking) of best practices evident on campuses that have recently planned, designed and built similar spaces for similar programs/users that serves as a foundation for asking the question about what will work for Mason, how to adapt, steal, build on the best ideas from the field.
  • a collective commitment to a formal planning agenda that would continue beyond the workshops, an agenda that outlines strategies and actions, timelines and assignments.

The workshops will all be interactive, with opportunities to explore and examine benchmarking presentations and to engage in group discussions about what will work for Mason. Workshop participants will be invited to review resources that serve as background for the series of workshops.

October 30— Session I: Introduction. This will be an introduction to the series, giving attention to the process of planning and to the people who must be involved. Participants will take a snapshot tour of photos of recent spaces and facilities, considering if/how facilities on other campuses can inform the planning at Mason, considering the wide range of characteristics of contemporary STEM facilities: flexible, adaptable, sustainable, interdisciplinary, student-centered, visible, etc. A case study from Georgia Institute of Technology on planning spaces for learning within the biomedical engineering program will be discussed. (Narum and Wendy Newstetter will facilitate.)

November 3— Session II: Sand-boxing. Issues to be addressed extend the initial discussion about the process of planning, moving into discussions about planning to accommodate the pedagogies, technologies and other tools required by 21st century STEM practitioners and learners. This includes considering the power of technologies to connect communities, within and beyond a single campus, to extend the metaphor of making the doing of science visible. A central theme of this workshop will be how to experiment during the planning process with a variety of spatial configurations that serve specific research and learning needs. The concept of 'sand-boxing' will be presented, as a key to successful planning. (Narum, Phillip Long and Richard Bussell will facilitate.)

November 5— Session III: Community. Issues to be address include how to plan for and arrive at spaces that serve the community over the long-term, that meet the several dreams and precise goals of the planning team, including the value of community spaces, informal gathering spaces. The themes from #1 and #2 will be woven into this workshop. (Narum and Crit Stuart will facilitate.)

November 10— Session IV: Summary Session. This will be a summary session--what have we learned and where do we go from here? It will be an opportunity to assemble and critique the diverse ideas emerging from the earlier workshops and to construct an agenda for planning that seems feasible to present as a potential guideline for the next-step planning for the Mason community. Participants will have arrived at preliminary answers to the three basic questions (see above) given their vision of what will work for George Mason University. (Narum and Douglas Weldon will facilitate.)

The PKAL Facilities Resource

Before the workshops we suggest you visit the PKAL Facilities Resource, which presents a PKAL Facilities Portfolio that incorporates materials and information about 21st Century Facilities for Undergraduate STEM Learning- about the people and the process, about how to determine the project scope, the project vision and context. Issues relating to a focus on the future and illustrations and discussions of specific spaces for undergraduate STEM learning communities are also included.