Reflecting on SCUP North Atlantic Conference 2022

Following her time at the conference, Senior Associate Clair Colburn discusses her takeaways on the future of higher education planning

April 18, 2022
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Last month, the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) held their North Atlantic 2022 Regional Conference in Amherst, MA. Two Finegold Alexander Architects team members, Principal Rebecca Berry, AIA, LEED AP and Senior Associate Clair Colburn, AIA, AIA, LEED AP BD+C attended the conference. We sat down with Clair to discuss the impact it had on her, and how it shifted her perspective on higher education planning for the future.

Q: What themes seemed to be in place for the conference?

C: Throughout the conference there was strong emphasis on higher education planning that is mindful of student belonging and access. Conference sessions delved into concerns about diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainability, and provided novel ways of looking at the issues. It felt refreshing to share the common goal of designing for resiliency, both environmentally and socially, with attendees regardless of whether they were architects, engineers, or faculty and administrators.

Q: Did you have a speaker that stuck with you the most?

C: There were many powerful sessions that left me feeling inspired, but Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College took that to another level. Pam left me with a better understanding of how many of us, and society as a whole, view the path of a college student through a privileged lens: the four-year degree college student living on a residential campus. Pam is resourceful and able to pivot to provide the best possible opportunities for this important student demographic which consists of a very high percentage of first-generation college students and a student population that is 14% home insecure.

There are countless paths for students and we have an obligation to be “respectful of the potential of students” because assumptions that the same model fits all does not serve all students.

Q: What are some takeaways you have from the conference?

C: There were some exciting approaches and solutions discussed in a number of different sessions and I’ll share two that have really stuck with me. The first is a university app developed to locate all gender bathrooms, lactation, prayer and meditation rooms. Such a simple resource to help students easily identify these facilities goes a long way to promoting a culture of belonging.

Another lesson that stuck with me centers around programming for different affinity groups on campus. Usually groups want space, and they need space to feel safe to explore and feel whole. But dedicated space can highlight who is ‘in’ and who is not. Having space available and actively programming it can relieve this ‘clubhouse effect’ while supporting students.

Q: What are three words you would use to describe the conference?

C: Inspiring, invigorating, rejuvenating.