Space exploration: A look at our campus

Aerial view of the SIU Campus

Space. We looked toward it in August as the center of a total eclipse. Now, it is time to look earthward at a different kind of space – our own facilities at SIU.

How can we use our classrooms and laboratories strategically to provide the best academic experience for students and faculty members alike? How can wise use of space maximize synergy, enhance communication and promote cross-disciplinary learning and research?

If we are to answer these significant questions, we need to undertake a long-overdue review of space utilization on campus.

Enhancing the student experience

In addition to looking at our academic spaces, we must also consider our student housing space. SIU has had great success with living-learning communities that bring together students who share similar majors or interests. What can we do to even further integrate our on-campus life with initiatives that promote academic success?

The housing staff is looking at ways we can enhance spaces such as study rooms to reflect each LLC community. Examples already in place are a drafting table are in the architecture LLC and an engine room for automotive technology students. They are also exploring a faculty-in-residence program to better integrate the inside- and outside-the-classroom experiences.

What more can we do optimize housing and other student-focused spaces, such as the Student Center, to enhance the student experience? One example currently under discussion: I have asked Jim Garvey and Lori Stettler, vice chancellor for student affairs, to look at creating a highly visible makerspace with funds made possible by an SIU donor. A makerspace allows students to get together to create and explore, providing the tools and room to do so. It will help attract students to the Student Center and add excitement to campus life. I’m looking forward to the outcome.

Efficient use of space

While our primary focus needs to be on using our space strategically to achieve our goals, we cannot ignore the importance of using all of our space efficiently. Currently, we use only 10 percent of our classroom space after 5 p.m., for example. Over last summer, we saved $60,000 in utility and maintenance costs by closing Lawson Hall, a classroom building. Our current infrastructure once supported nearly 25,000 students, and even when we reach our goal of 18,300 by 2025, we will still have plenty of room. This raises an additional question: How should we prioritize our investments in maintaining spaces across campus?

Finding the answers

I have asked Lizette Chevalier, associate provost for academic program; Jim Garvey, interim vice chancellor for research; and Judy Marshall, executive director of finance and administration, to engage the campus in a review of how we use our space and what we might do to make sure we are making optimal use of our classrooms, laboratories, studios and other facilities that support our academic mission. They will engage individuals from the colleges, administrative offices and housing, under the leadership of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Stettler, to help assess how we’re using space currently and offer recommendations for improvement. I look forward to their recommendations.

Author: Carlo Montemagno

Carlo Montemagno is chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Learn more about him at