Keck/PKAL Consultations

Outline of Recommendations

Facilities that Work


With support from the W.M. Keck Foundation, since 1994 PKAL has provided consulting teams of senior faculty and administrators to institutions requesting assistance in continuing reforms begun at a PKAL-sponsored workshop. For reforms in undergraduate science and mathematics to take root and become institutionalized, external advice and counsel is needed at critical stages. Based on a review of consultant reports, it is clear that colleges and universities committed to excellent undergraduate STEM education tend to face common challenges despite a diversity of missions, strengths, and weaknesses. Following is a short outline of issues typical on campuses working to improve undergraduate science education along with representative recommendations from Keck/PKAL consultants.

Develop a Shared Vision about STEM Learning (Research & Teaching)

  • Engage in the difficult discussions required to plan for the future:
    • recognize that these spaces cast in concrete your educational vision
    • link planning and pizzas early and often.
  • Construct a vision before upgrading spaces:
    • mentor new faculty across departmental lines
    • challenge faculty to dream big.
  • Coordinate curricular and facilities planning:
    • link departmental and institutional views
    • take field trips to explore new spaces for sciences.
  • Use the planning process creatively:
    • determine if and how spaces can be shared
    • plan for future changes in faculty and program.

Involve the Entire Community

  • Design and implement a comprehensive planning process:
    • identify a faculty shepherd
    • develop a fund-raising strategy.
  • Engage faculty at different career stages, across departmental lines.
  • Consider roles and responsibility of the president:
    • keep the focus on solutions rather than on problems
    • keep the focus on students
    • signal strong administrative support.
  • Focus on the future:
    • provide adequate funds for continuing development of programs
    • make spaces flexible and adaptable.
  • Use the planning process creatively:
    • determine if and how spaces can be shared
    • plan for future changes in faculty and program.

Be Realistic

  • Work to enhance institutional distinction:
    • be realistic about budgets
    • recognize faculty are not design professionals.
  • Make better use, right now, of existing spaces:
    • bring current spaces up-to-code immediately
    • carve out student lounge spaces on all floors.
  • Implement a phase project:
    • make use of other campus resources
    • think about economics of scale.
  • Understand the processes of planning
    • start with program
    • work closely with architects and other professionals.
  • Think about all stakeholders
    • link to area business and academic leaders
    • recognize the importance of informal spaces to serve student learning.