Algoma U Gives Community a Chance to Contribute to Campus Master Plan

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Community members were invited to Algoma University on Thursday evening for a town hall session to share their thoughts and visions on the Master Plan study for the Sault Ste. Marie campus.

This study, which is a collaborative endeavor, will focus on the physical growth and development of the post-secondary institution and campus over the next 10 years.

“This is an exciting plan that takes a look at the entire campus and kind of looks forward 10 years on where the potential is, where the possibilities are,” Algoma U Director of Strategic Advancement Colin Wilson told SaultOnline.

“And it gets information from different groups, such as staff, on what their needs are and where we’re lacking and provides a vision on how we’re going to get there. Our staff are excited for this.”

Wilson explained that the University has done Campus Master Plans before, but this one is the first of this size.

He said he thinks plan is “a critical step” in the decision-making process for the future of the campus and it’s growth.

“A Campus Master Plan is the map for moving forward as far as development goes,” he said. “We’re looking to grow to 3,000 over the next five years, and we know that that growth requires some infrastructure projects.”

Jorge Garcia, an architect with IBI Group, based out of Toronto, will be working with architect David Ellis, from Sault-based David Ellis Architect Inc., to make this plan come to fruition in the next 10 years.

Garcia told SaultOnline that the idea of this Master Plan is to define the main objectives or principals the University wants to pursue, from infrastructure to physical growth to the well-being and student experience.

“(We’re also looking at) improving the conditions of the workers and staff, and coming to grasp with the significant history that the university has –  being the site of a former residential school – and what conversions of different cultures means for the university and how that can be translated into the future,” he explained.

Visual Arts Professor Tom O’Flanagan was one of the faculty members at the town hall. He told SaultOnline he thinks it’s a great thing that Algoma U is taking on this project. He said he’d like to see the addition of an exhibition space on-campus.

Up until now, the thesis students in the Bachelor of Fine Arts Honors program, have been using space given to them at 180 Projects on Gore St. for their end-of-year exhibitions (a solo show and a group show), as there is no adequate space on campus to support these events. The program has also partnered with the Art Gallery of Algoma in the past as well.

“We aren’t interested in the idea of the modernist white box, where people walk in, look at the works and walk out the door,” he said. “What we’ve suggested to the president and others on campus is that we would like to be a part of an integrated, multi-use facility that would be capable of being a gallery, a spontaneous music performance space, a meditative space, social space, etc. Rather than being a singular, dedicated-to-the-program building or room, it would be an integrated part of the social life and the cultural life and whatever other life the university has to offer.”

At the moment, most arts and music events are held in the Speakeasy, which O’Flanagan says is an awkward space for them.

O’Flanagan said, after having a chance to speak to the architects about his proposal, he feels confident. He said he thinks that giving faculty the opportunity to voice their input is significant in ensuring that the architects understand the needs of the facility and its staff.

“That involves organic consultation and execution of the plan,” he said. “It instills confidence when you hear someone talking about that level of organic development.”

Next steps for the Master Plan include gathering information from groups – both internal and external – and taking it to start mapping out what the plan looks like on the landscape and on the current infrastructure.

Garcia said another town hall is in the works for September, where they’ll present the Master Plan proposal.

“It’s important to say that we won’t provide specific solutions; this is not the goal here,” he said. “We’re going to provide a path forward. We have to make it flexible enough so it can be adjusted as years go by.”

Wilson said he’s hoping the plan comes together and is approved by the board by fall of 2019.

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