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Tufts Uses Mapping Tool to Gather Student Input on Social, Physical Campus Needs

A recent initiative at Tufts University reached out to students to gather ideas for campus improvements. The Tufts Community Union Senate's "Brown & Blueprint" program asked undergraduates for comments and feedback on the physical aspects of the campus as well as how students build community (or not) within those spaces.

The project used coUrbanize Interactive, a mapping tool that allows students to write comments on a virtual 3D map of the campus, correlating their experiences with specific places to the physical location itself. CoUrbanize offers an online community outreach platform typically used by city planners and developers. A sampling of the responses received:

  • "201 room is always smelly and suffocating."
  • "Would be great to have compost bins next to recycling and trash bins around campus, especially Tisch."
  • "There is no crosswalk in front of the Memorial Stairs, even though most people cross the street here."

Additional response at Tufts has been solicited through text-messaging in specific locations, with messages being automatically added to the online map in the appropriate spots; townhall sessions; bulletin board post-it note commenting; and an anonymous feedback channel.

"We are especially listening to students who feel like they are not seen on this campus, who feel under-invested in and under-prioritized," a senate website explained. "We must organize in solidarity across all areas of this campus to identify how students are interacting with and forming communities within their physical spaces. We need to document these experiences, discover best practices, assess areas for growth, and advocate for stronger spatial investment by the university."

At the same time, the senate has been reaching out to its student community for feedback on a planned development of on-campus housing for juniors and seniors. That part of the project is specifically asking for input on what type of "social community" students would like to form; how they feel about "themed social housing"; and how it should operate.

Senate members plan to draft a report, consolidating trends and findings, to share with campus administrators.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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