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Clarke University Master Plan: Securing the Future

In Set the Course. Secure the Future. Clarke University articulated a collective vision for its future and committed itself to the disciplined pursuit of five strategic priorities to bring that vision to life. To achieve our vision as a distinguished student-oriented Catholic liberal arts and sciences university, Clarke University must pursue with determination strategic initiatives that ensure excellence in its academic and student life programs, optimize new student enrollment and retention, and strengthen university resources and facilities.

The strategic planning process identified campus facilities as a critical factor for recruitment, retention and programmatic quality. As lovely as our campus is, many of our academic and recreational facilities lag behind the competition. Outdated or inadequate facilities increasingly interfere with our ability to attract and retain students and to offer quality programs.  

The Campus Master Planning Committee and our architectural partners at Straka-Johnson and Sasaki have focused on being pragmatic and realistic. The campus master plan describes what Clarke University needs, already prioritized to eliminate nonessential wants and wishes. Each project aims to add value to the Clarke experience and is respectful of Clarke’s financial realities.  

This document lays out the context to frame the discussion as how the projects meet our strategic priorities and allow Clarke to secure its future in the next five years.

A Campus for Lifelong Learning

Perhaps the single feature that distinguishes Clarke University from the other institutions of higher education in the Dubuque region is its mission to address the educational needs of learners across the adult age spectrum. While all area colleges and universities endeavor to develop lifelong learners, Clarke delivers the educational programming learners need throughout their adult lifetimes. Clarke offers the traditional collegiate experience, innovative undergraduate and master’s programs for working adults, a full-time doctoral program, and continuing education for personal or professional enrichment. Learning at Clarke happens synchronously and asynchronously, in the classroom, on the field of play, at remote sites and over the internet. This broad academic mission challenges facilities and infrastructures designed for a traditional campus experience and a more homogeneous student body. It begs new questions about the boundaries of our campus and the campus we need for the future.

 
Who We Serve 

As we begin to think about the campus we need, it is useful to review our assumptions about who we will serve, what their needs will be and where growth will occur. 

The traditional student body will continue to be central to Clarke’s mission and critical to its long-term financial viability.  Enrollment will be stable over the next two years and grow modestly after that. Competition will increase as the college-age population shrinks through 2016. Growth in this competitive market is possible but will require selective new majors and athletic teams, an enhanced campus life experience, and updated academic and athletic facilities. Community college transfers and athletics will play an important role in recruiting.  

Nontraditional undergraduate and master’s degree programs offer significant opportunity for growth over the next five years.  Escalating educational requirements for employment and the strong link between advanced degrees and professional advancement drive this market. Responding to the market’s demand for convenience and access, Clarke is currently working to expand its use of distance learning modalities and hybrid formats. 

The doctor of physical therapy will reach its maximum capacity of 90 students in the 2009-2010 academic year. Recent facility enhancements have created adequate space but the competition is raising student expectations.


Quality:  Supporting Academic Excellence

Clarke’s last building program, which included the Kehl Center, the Student Activities Center and the Catherine Dunn Apartments, focused on student life and athletics. With the exception of the library and the music and art classrooms in the administration building, Clarke has not engaged in a significant update of its academic facilities since the early sixties. The new vision statement places priority on enhancing the excellence of our academic programs and facilities. Life and health sciences laboratories, the general condition of Catherine Byrne Hall, and the fine and performing arts stand out as particular priorities.  

Life and Health Sciences. The health science degree programs are among the strongest enrollment engines on campus.  Nursing draws students into the traditional, TimeSaver and graduate programs. It vies with the business program as the largest undergraduate program. The current nursing shortage in the Midwest and the nation is expected to keep interest robust. Further, the current movement in the nursing profession to raise the entry credential for the field to a doctorate by 2015 creates the potential for the addition of a nursing doctoral program similar to the doctor of physical therapy program. 

Each year, the physical therapy (PT) doctoral program gains strength in its ability to attract inquiries, applications and enrollment. Applications now outnumber spaces in the class and admissions are highly competitive. Our graduates have a 100% pass rate on the PT boards and are readily employed upon completion. In addition to the students enrolled in the doctoral program, the PT program generates a large undergraduate enrollment; up to 20% of the entering class identifies itself as interested in physical therapy.  As noted above, recent facility enhancements provide adequate space for current enrollment levels but do not provide a strategic advantage for attracting and retaining students. 

At Clarke, the life sciences are of initial import because of the role they play in supporting nursing and PT. Clarke’s biology program has doubled in the past three years to over 50 majors due in large part to PT’s success. In addition, the life sciences play a central role in the general education program and as such touch every student enrolled.  However, national demand for science graduates, Iowa’s growing biotechnology industry, and the federal government’s initiatives to prepare more science and mathematics teachers bode well for increased growth in the life sciences in their own right. Inquiries about the biology program are on the rise as are inquiries for pre professional programs (pre-med, pre-vet, etc.) Clarke’s excellence in core science programs is evident in the success of recent graduates who have been admitted to Ph.D. programs at the nation’s most prestigious research universities. This graduate school success and our strength in human biology are the building blocks for strong pre-professional program.

Capturing the growth potential in these fields is seriously threatened by the quality of their laboratory and teaching facilities. With the exception of the 10-table cadaver lab in Catherine Byrne Hall, our science laboratories have not been updated since 1963. Modest upgrades to the nursing and PT teaching spaces have kept us from falling hopelessly behind but do not advance us forward. Our competition, on the other hand, has made great strides. Facilities at other institutions are attracting students away from Clarke despite Clarke’s clinical affiliations with prestigious institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, regularly earning Iowa’s top honors for student nurse and nurse educator, and a 95 to 100% pass rate on nursing boards.

Inadequate health and life science teaching and research facilities are the most serious academic barriers to recruitment and retention at Clarke University.  Students going into these fields are among the brightest and most discerning students.  They are very serious about their college education and have high expectations for university faculty and facilities. 

Impacting the Whole.  Faculty and students in all fields endeavor each day to teach and learn in classrooms and laboratories that have not been seriously updated in almost a half a century. Catherine Byrne Hall (CBH), our primary classroom building, was a modern gem in 1963 when teaching was lecturing and desks came in rows facing one direction.  Chalk on blackboards was the preferred presentation medium and high technology involved film strips and mimeograph machines. Today, teaching incorporates multiple pedagogies for different learning styles. PowerPoint has replaced chalk and syllabi are distributed on the web through course management systems such as Moodle. Physics and chemistry are taught in a collaboratory and classrooms are wired to the internet. A thorough redesign and upgrade of the classrooms, dry labs and specialized classrooms are needed to promote excellence in the academic program and to keep pace with our peer and aspirant institutions.
 
The faculty outgrew its confines in CBH years ago and its members are disbursed to offices across campus. Faculty in greater proximity to peers and adjacent to their teaching spaces will increase interaction and collaboration among faculty and students. TimeSaver and graduate students attend class until 10 p.m. four nights a week and sometimes on weekends. Often on the run from work or family commitments, they rely on vending machines for dinner and have no comfortable place to gather with classmates and faculty. Contemporary, technology-rich classrooms and modest dining and gathering venues adjacent to the learning spaces are increasingly commonplace on today’s campus and will promote learning and satisfaction for the entire student body.

A project integral to the CBH renovation is the completion of the unfinished ground floor of the Schrup Library. Much smaller in scope than the CBH project, the library space would house several technology-enabled classrooms that would provide convenient and centralized teaching spaces for TimeSaver and graduate programs and later would accommodate students during the CBH renovation. In addition, the new library space would be useful and attractive rental space for outside groups to hold meetings and conferences. 

The University for the Arts. Excellence in the visual and performing arts has long been a distinguishing feature of Clarke University locally and regionally. In the visual arts Clarke offers the region’s only bachelor of fine arts in studio art including graphic design.  Interest in the program is strong as measured by inquiries and applications. The number of majors has consistently made it among the most popular programs. Other institutions offering graphic arts or graphic media degrees provides increasing competition. Space is not as much an issue in art as is the condition of the spaces they occupy.  With the exception of the two 2-D studios in the administration building, all art studios are located in or adjacent to Eliza Kelly Hall.  The oldest building on campus is in need of new windows and HVAC, lighting and electrical upgrades. Private studio space lost when the fourth floor of Mary Frances Hall was closed is a recruitment and retention issue for BFA students.

The music and drama programs both saw modest recruiting success this fall, perhaps due in part to the revival of a musical theatre major now offered jointly by the music and drama departments. Inquiries for musical theatre suggested a growing interest in the major. In addition, the music and theatre performance groups are well subscribed by majors and non-majors and serve a vital role in campus life and are a valuable asset in the tri-state area. Facilities needs for these programs focus entirely on Terence Donaghoe Hall and include classrooms, storage and workshop spaces and adequate restroom facilities.


Quality:  Athletics Strategies for Recruitment and Retention

Since the early nineties, athletics have played an increasingly central role in recruiting students for the traditional program.  The Kehl Center and the Wahlert Complex were built to support this strategy. In the past twenty years, we have gone from 8 teams to 14 teams. Staffing has grown significantly and the athletics budget has more than doubled since 1997. The impact is obvious: athletes comprised 46% and 42% of the entering freshman classes for 2008 and 2007 respectively.  

Athletics also contributes to retention by enhancing the campus life experience for all students. Attendance at athletic contests gives students something to do, fosters school spirit and provides a positive outlet for energy and competitive impulses. The more athletic events are held on campus, the greater the impact athletics can have on campus life.  Improving the quality of campus life is critical for improved retention among traditional students. 

Men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s volleyball have practice and competition venues in the Kehl Center.  Men’s and women’s soccer practice and compete on the Wahlert Complex field. However, the field does not have lights which limit practice and competition options. The remaining 8 teams (baseball, softball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s cross country) all practice and compete at off campus venues. The lack of a campus venue is a hardship for the teams and dramatically reduces spectator participation and the team’s impact on the quality of student life. 

Space for outdoor athletic venue expansion is limited on campus. After careful study, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s track have been identified as the sports to be supported by a new venue. Both sports have the potential for large rosters.  Soccer has a current combined roster of 50. Track and cross country are expected to see continued growth. Soccer is an early fall sport and would provide Clarke fans an athletic option at the start of the school year. The two venues can easily be integrated into a single facility. The soccer field could be used by baseball and softball for practicing skills and could accommodate the addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse in the future.

Students don’t pick a college to attend because of its fitness facility but they may choose not to attend a school because of the absence or inadequacies of such facilities. Recent enhancements to the fitness facilities in Kehl and availability of the Physical Activities Center for recreation are improvements. Nevertheless, our fitness options remain a barrier for students in general. 


Sense of Place:  Enhancing Long-term Relationships

The preceding two sections have addressed the need for academic and athletic facility improvements that bolster recruitment and retention and enhance the quality of the programs Clarke University offers. A more subtle but equally important means of supporting recruitment and retention is to enhance the feeling of the campus for students, faculty, staff and visitors.  Because of our space constraints, we must do this without actually expanding the footprint of the campus. 

Our campus boasts many noteworthy buildings – the historic Eliza Kelly Hall, the iconic Atrium, the stately Mary Frances Clarke and the contemporary Kehl Center – yet we struggle to communicate a clear sense of the place that is Clarke University.  Clarke Drive divides the campus in two, and only the knowledgeable driver is aware entering and leaving campus. The closest thing we have to a front door is the Atrium but parking is in the rear. In fact, many who visit campus enter through the back doors of Catherine Byrne, Eliza Kelly and the Administration building, rather than through their grand entrances. Some of our most beautiful green spaces are rarely, if ever used and play little role in campus life.

As we move to a hybrid format, adult undergraduate and graduate students will spend less time on campus and reduce further their connection with Clarke University itself. The increased use of electronic delivery methods will reduce demand on classroom space and will heighten the importance of technology resources and infrastructure for student learning and satisfaction. The decreased time on campus will create new expectations for the on-campus experience and makes it all the more important to provide students with optimal experiences when they are on campus.  Fewer but longer, more concentrated campus sessions will create the need for more comfortable and technology-rich classrooms, dining and gathering venues adjacent to the learning venues, and more convenient location of services and resources. 

Finally, a sense of place goes beyond the buildings themselves to the way those buildings impact our environment.  Going green is a growing trend on college campuses. While this trend has had modest impact on curriculum and student activities at most campuses, it has had significant impact on how colleges and universities in general operate – adopting policies, procedures, equipment and designs that help reduce the institution’s environmental impact. Projects this past summer reduced our greenhouse gas emissions on an annual basis by 288 tons and will save approximately 450,000 kilowatt hours of energy consumption. New washers in the residence halls save 18.5 gallons of water per load. As we look to the future, we believe our mission and our fiduciary responsibility call us to adopt policies, practices, equipment and facilities that take us closer to carbon neutrality.

Critical Impact Outcomes

Five primary outcomes reflect the most critical challenges facing Clarke University now and in the future. These outcomes will serve as the guide in prioritizing and implementing the master plan projects. As a tuition-driven institution recruitment and retention are critical to achieve the vision we have set for ourselves. Each project will be viewed for its ability to attract and retain traditional, adult and graduate students or to remove barriers to recruitment and retention. Two major contributors to robust enrollment and a strong reputation are the quality of our programs, services and campus experience and a sense of place that expresses and enhances institutional pride and campus identity. While not as strongly associated with enrollment strength, environmental sustainability has emerged as an increasingly influential factor in our social responsibility efforts, development, and cost savings. 

We will also consider how the proposed projects may contribute to four secondary outcomes, namely, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, safety improvements, alternative revenue generation, and the needs of Dubuque community.

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