students on campus

What makes a campus

Did you hear the one about Emory's mascot? Instead of an eagle, it should be a crane.

That's the joke circulating the past few years among Emory students.

Yes, we've all seen the Jurassic Park-sized orange towers looming over Fishburne, Dowman, and Dickey drives, and currently they are nesting on Clifton Road. Their perch at Emory is temporary, but their effect will have far-reaching implications for learning and discovery for the students, faculty, and staff on the university's campuses.

To see what's lasting and the goal of all this digging and lifting, take a stroll on Tuesday at lunchtime outside Cox Hall. There at the weekly farmer's market is a cross section of the university -- sophomores on skateboards, doctors in scrubs, faculty in khaki, administrators in suits, graduate students deep in discussion (nursing and public health students say, "it's what lures us over the bridge"). The market has become a campus magnet, serving needs that go beyond getting nutrition to nurturing community. Common wisdom these days is that the market is the place to go if you want to run into someone "accidentally."

The site, however, isn't an accident. A decade ago, the location was a busy roadway that bisected the campus. In the years since, the Campus Master Plan has transformed Emory into a pedestrian-friendly, sustainable campus, with indoor and outdoor spaces that draw people together to facilitate communal and intellectual life.

President James Wagner, in his introduction to the master plan in 2005, identified three guiding principles: superb stewardship of the natural environment, advancement of the community's intellectual life, and enhancement of the quality of life for students, faculty, staff, and Emory's neighbors.

An integral complement to the strategic plan, Where Courageous Inquiry Leads, the Campus Master Plan has created the physical space for Emory to realize its vision to become a destination university. "Developed through extensive conversations with faculty, students, and staff," says Emory trustee and alumnus Laura Hardman, "the master plan has respected the past while looking to the future. The beautiful pedestrian campus knits together the university, supporting multidisciplinary learning amidst green spaces fostering reflection and well-being."

A Top 10 green university

Trees, not cranes, form the natural canopy of Emory. The university's policy of "no net loss of forest canopy" maintains that any time a tree is removed, a sufficient number of new trees must be planted to replace or exceed the original forest canopy. This policy, one of the most rigorous of any university in the United States, requires not just a one-to-one replacement but often an increase in the number of trees planted. For example, of the 49 trees lost as a result of construction of a new hospital tower on Clifton Road, Emory landscapers are planting approximately 133 new trees nearby.

Thanks to these and other policies, recently ranked Emory in the top 10 of its "greenest universities." In the past decade, says Director of Sustainability Initiatives Ciannat Howett, Emory has transformed itself into a destination for demonstrating environmental stewardship. In 2014, the university hit its goal of 25 percent per square foot energy use reduction one year ahead of its original timeline, with the campus now boasting almost three million square feet of LEED-certified spaces.

The sustainability office regularly receives calls from other universities as well as enterprises around metro Atlanta and elsewhere that are eager to learn how Emory has grown while enhancing its natural environment. With these inquirers, Howett shares information about Emory's robust shuttle system that runs on a biofuel blend made from the used cooking oil from campus cafeterias. This transit system took more than a million car rides off the roadways in 2014. She also shares how Emory has made the transition from sending tons of food waste and animal bedding to landfills a decade ago to now composting that organic material and reusing it to beautify the campus.

What's in a building?

"The building always wins," says Ellen Purdum, assistant dean of student life and spiritual formation at Candler School of Theology. The saying, common among ministers, means that the physical configuration of a church profoundly affects liturgy and worship. That insight applies as well to academic buildings. By that measure, the new Rita Anne Rollins Building at Candler offers a win-win for students, faculty, and the greater campus.

Characteristic of new construction throughout Emory, the new Candler space, which opened in 2014, is designed for transparency, fluidity, flexibility, and community. Flexibility is key, for instance, in the new Wesley Teaching Chapel, where students learn to preach and officiate in their different denominations and traditions -- all 42 of them. In the best United Methodist, latitudinarian tradition, Candler welcomes an extraordinarily diverse cadre of students and scholars to its newest building, which also houses the Pitts Theology Library.

Maybe no campus sites are more traditionally mysterious than laboratories and archives. A staple of horror movies, these spaces often conjure up Gothic images of mystery and esoteric learning. Yet Emory has eschewed such cramped collegiate stereotypes for more inviting venues that offer flexible, transparent, and welcoming spaces. All of these features will be on display in the fall of 2015 with the public opening of the Sanford S. Atwood Chemistry Center addition and the major renovation of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) in the Robert W. Woodruff Library.

"Open space," says chemist Simon Blakey, "pulls people into the research experience." From the spacious atrium of Atwood, the center of a new Science Commons, one can see into the laboratories where teams will work in free-flowing spaces that encourage collaboration. In a similar approach, the openness and transparency in the research and teaching spaces in MARBL will foster collaborative humanistic study and lively literary events, according to MARBL Director Rosemary Magee.

Atwood and MARBL are but two of the latest additions to the transformation of the campus during the past decade. Other examples include the Oxford Road Building, opened in 2010, with its lecture hall, bookstore, and Starbucks, which has become a major congregating space for students, faculty, and staff. Also in 2010, the Rollins School of Public Health celebrated the opening of the Claudia Nance Rollins Building, which includes 20,000 square feet of laboratory space, and renovation of the Grace Crum Rollins Building. At the time of their opening, Environmental Health Chair Paige Tolbert noted that "the labs help integrate interests across departments because they are based on who can share ideas and equipment to generate more collaboration."

The School of Medicine opened the James B. Williams Medical Education Building in 2008, designed to maximize students' medical education experience and encourage interaction with faculty, other students in the health sciences, and each other. The building made possible an immediate 15 percent increase in class size to help alleviate projected physician shortages, and it came with a brand new curriculum that integrates clinical and basic science and encourages interactive learning.

Collectively these buildings along with others for business and psychology support innovations in pedagogy and research. Open, flexible, learning, and congregating spaces, from the Science Commons to the Woodruff Library's Learning Commons, invite people to gather together and explore new ideas. The beautiful success of the master plan is helping recruit new students and faculty to join the community.

Living and learning together

The adage of modernist architecture may be that form follows function, but at Emory you might say instruction follows function. Not only new research and teaching spaces but also new living spaces have been designed to encourage the free flow of learning.

Stroll through the campus at night now, and you'll see something new: the bright interior of buildings, with soaring glass windows opening up the communal spaces of the dorms. Inside you'll see students and faculty attending symposia, sharing meals, practicing theater or dance choreography, and discussing all manner of historical and current topics.

These new, transparent spaces represent the considered integration of the intellectual, cultural, and social lives of students, says University Architect Jen Fabrick. Moreover, featuring recurring architectural motifs in the buildings enhances community. "When you're 18 years old and have just left home," Fabrick says, "the more identifiable the campus culture, the more you feel you belong."

New dimensions of belonging are also emerging at Emory. The physical transformation of housing has supported a cultural transformation. For one, housing is increasingly organized around themes. Drawing on annual student surveys, themed housing, explains Scott Rausch, assistant dean and director of Residence Life, is designed to engage students at every level of their Emory experience.

The newest first-year building is Raoul Hall, which is named for Eleonore Raoul Greene, the first female graduate of Emory's law school. She helped organize the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia and the Atlanta League of Women Voters and was a lifelong supporter of equal rights for women. Fittingly, the theme for the residence hall named in her honor is social entrepreneurship. The Longstreet-Means dormitory focuses on global cultures, and Alabama Hall celebrates creativity and the arts.

Integral to all housing is the experience of sustainability, including recycling, composting, and other practices that help to inculcate lifelong habits of responsible environmental stewardship. As Howett wrote recently in an editorial in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the greatest impact of Emory's sustainability aspirations are "thousands of Emory graduates who have been immersed in a culture of sustainability practices and mindful living who then leave our campus to become civic leaders, parents, homeowners, and professionals in hundreds of fields. It is this legacy of educating leaders for a sustainable future that will fulfill Emory's mission of seeking positive transformation in the world."