Spotlighting National Reports

For all with a stake in the quality of the undergraduate physical environment for learning, national reports are an invaluable resource. Collectively they represent a shared vision about the future of learning and research in our nation’s colleges and universities. They provide critical analyses of higher education and of the world beyond the campus. Based on these analyses they outline strategies for action and recommendations for the future.

Academics and colleagues beyond academe responsible for bringing these reports to the larger community of stakeholders are “boundary crossing agents,” coming from diverse backgrounds to shape and propose new language and mental images about “what next.”

Branches from the Same Tree, one of the newest reports from the National Academics of Science, presents the case for The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in Higher Education. The very title signals the impact that it will have on those responsible for spaces now being designed and constructed that are intended to serve the institution with distinction into the future.

From the prepublication copy:

This study examined an important trend in higher education: efforts to return to—or in some cases to preserve—a more integrative model of higher education that proponents argue will better prepare students for work, life, and citizenship. This integrative model intentionally seeks to bridge the knowledge, modes of inquiry, and pedagogies from multiple disciplines—the humanities, arts, sciences, engineering, technology mathematics and medicine—within the context of a single course or program of study. In such a model, professors help students to make the connections between these disciplines in an effort to enrich and improve learning. (pp. 1-2, prepublication copy)


Support for Integrative Approaches:

  • Individual campus departments and schools, campus-wide teams, and campus-employer collaborations should consider developing and implementing new models and programs that integrate the STEMM fields, the arts, and the humanities.
  • Institutions should work to sustain ongoing integrative efforts that have shown promise, including but not limited to, new integrative models of general education.


  • Institutions should perform a cultural audit of courses, programs, and spaces on campus where integration is already taking place, partnering with student affairs professionals to evaluate programs and initiatives intended to integrate learning between the class and nonclassroom environment, and working with teaching and learning centers to develop curricula for faculty charged with teaching for or within an integrative experience.

 Other reports in recent years complement this 2018 report.  One, again from the NAS, Enhancing the Effectiveness of Team Science, gives attention how teams works in the science research community that can be easily translated into a guide for teams responsible for the physical environment for learning on a campus, whether it be focusing on new or repurposed spaces or as part of an ongoing institutional focus on learning spaces.  For example: they define team as: two or more individuals with different roles and responsibilities, who interact socially and interdependently within an organizational system to perform tasks and accomplish common goals.  Then they illustrate the complexity of collaboration.