At its foundation, a campus master plan set a vision for the physical development of the campus. However, a plan can build upon the basic site plan ideas and general goals and capitalize on detailed analysis, inform specific strategies, and create a solid implementation plan that considers all aspects of campus development and operations.

As an education institution explores creating or updating a master plan, it is important to think carefully about what elements should be incorporated so that the plan truly functions as a roadmap for making decisions–- physical, functional and financial. Some master plans incorporate a broad range of analyses, while others are focused on specific elements. It is important to select the right partner to develop the master plan, and to understand which tools will serve a campus best when decisions are made about the future.

What to Expect from a Master Campus Planner

How does a school select the right partner for itscampus plans? While experience and quality of work are indicators, the strength of the commitment to the institution to work in collaboration to develop a process tailored to thecampus culture is every bit as important. The investment that the master planning team is willing to make to get to know the campus, not just the physical aspect, but the faculty, staff, students and community, is a quality not to be underestimated. The most content-rich master plans are developed by teams that have ingrained themselves in the institution’s culture and taken the time to understand the uniqueness that is theirs.

One of the most important conversations that should occur at the beginning of the process is to identify and/or verify the master planning tools that will be most valuable to the campus. Whether a physical development plan for campus, parking and transportation-focused initiatives, academic and enrollment models, financial strategies or something else, the final toolkit that is the master plan should be defined from the beginning.

The Master Plan: Evolving with A Campus’ Growth

As an institution embarks on the journey of master planning, it often is looking to solve specific issues or opportunities. The impact of factors such as enrollment fluctuation, technology and online learning opportunities, funding challenges and competition from other institutions are common influences. However, the individual campus response to these factors is not. Identifying the attitude that the institution takes toward each of these factors impacts the strategy used to address it.

Master planning is an opportunity for an institution to look inward at campus and operations, and to turn the focus outward and examine the potential to grow relationships with the community and partners.

When the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) embarked on its first master plan since 1972, it was ambitious in addressing a multitude of issues through a robust 20-month master planning process. Although the existing campus was analyzed and given a thorough examination, the university spent an equal amount of time and energy focusing on prospects beyond the traditional campus boundaries. The master plan team facilitated a series of workshops with key stakeholders from the university and the community aimed at identifying “opportunity sites” for growth to other locations within the urban context. The identification of these sites was often times fueled by partnership opportunities that provided new potential for growth for both the university and private industry.