Making the Case: Spaces that have a Role in Preparing Students for Productive and Meaningful Lives

Many colleges and universities have stories to tell about their programmatic and pedagogical initiatives that have been designed so students can be introduced to, practice, and polish the skills that will serve them well into the future-as 21st century citizens and as participants in the 21st century workplace.

In the October 20th webinar, we present stories from four campuses that illustrate the breadth of approaches to ensure learners become problem-solvers, innovative thinkers, doers and practitioners, comfortable with connecting dots across disciplines and communities- actual and virtual.

  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • James Madison University
  • Skidmore College
  • Texas A&M University

Quite different institutions, quite different stories, quite different spaces. We will be forecasting their stories over the next two weeks to set the stage for our conversation on the 20th. To begin, a snapshot from Texas A&M, where the story is about a general education design course (no prerequisites). The course syllabus begins:

This course provides an exposure to high performance creative teams...and resources that support creativity, innovation, design and entrepreneurship. The intent is to enable students to dream, envision, and create. The course includes exposure and awareness of how the future will possibly affect career choices in a global context....

This story, and those from the other campuses, reflect learning expectations set forth in the January 2015 AAC&U report It Takes More Than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success. This report is based on a two-year research project analyzing employer’s priorities for the kinds of learning today’s college students need to succeed in today’s economy. 

From the AAC&U report:
Innovation is a priority for employers today.

A key finding:
Employers are highly focused on innovation as critical to the success of their companies and they report that the challenges their employees face today are more complex and require a broader skill set than in the past. Notably, employers indicate that they prioritize critical thinking, communication, and complex problem-solving skills…when making hiring decisions.

This webinar continues and expands on discussions addressed in the September webinar, which focused the potential of makerspaces for enabling the iterative process of learning as doing, learning as making, learning as practicing becoming prepared to succeed in the world beyond the campus. One highlight of that webinar was the interest of faculty and staff in the role of maker spaces as serving and thus learning a broad range of complex problem-solving skills—for learners in all disciplines.

Other key findings include those with particular implications for how questions can be framed in the planning process about how space matters to learning. For example:

  • analyzing and solving complex problems..., being able to apply knowledge and skills to real world problems

  • staying current with technologies..., staying current with global developments

  • working with others in teams..., working with people from different backgrounds…

Such employer expectations resonate with a new, NIH-funded report on Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science, which details why working in teams is important and how to make it happen.

Upcoming Events


Council on Undergraduate Research
Denver, CO, Nov. 20-22
Application now available! Deadline: Oct. 1, 2015


Held in conjunction with the 2016 AAC&U Annual Meeting
January 23, 2016 
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. 

Location: 1776
1133 15th St. NW, 12th Floor
Washington DC 20005

To register, fill out the online survey formParticipation is limited.


  • Sarah Goodwin, Kenan Professor of Liberal Arts and Professor of English - Skidmore College
  • Robert Kolvoord,  Dean, College of Integrated Science and Engineering - James Madison University
  • Jorge Vanegas, Dean, College of Architecture - Texas A&M University

AAC&U is a collaborating partner of the LSC. This 2016 LSC workshop, following the AAC&U annual meeting, is an opportunity to explore: 

  • How spaces "signal" how they can be used, what kind of learning they can make happen
  • How all students—no matter the discipline, major, background or career aspiration—are well-served by spaces that can be understood as bridges from the campus to the world beyond
  • How campus communities embrace their responsibility to connect the dots between institutional and societal expectations of what learners are to become and the spaces that make that becoming happen.

Ask questions posed by Wendy Newstetter in her essay posted on the LSC website:

When we walk into a space, we ask and determine what we can do in that space. 
What is acceptable? What is allowable? 
What can happen here and what cannot? What should happen here?

Workshop discussions and activities will be framed around institutional stories that were presented in October LSC Webinar: from James Madison University, Skidmore College, and Texas A&M University.  Workshop participants will collaborate in drafting a working paper about how to design backward and deliver forward  in shaping 21st century learning spaces for 21st century learners.




Spring 2016 (Date TBD)​
3:30 - 5:00 p.m. EST

(National Science Foundation. Solving the Puzzle: Researching the Impacts of Climate Change Around the World. 2009.)