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Earlier this month, I attended the annual undergraduate Senior Colloquium, a special tradition at Wake Forest that dates back to the earliest days of the College. Ten members of the Class of 2024 shared their unique, compelling, and poignant reflections on their life experiences during their four years here.

As I listened to their orations, I heard over and over again just how important our physical spaces are to our students — our outdoor spaces, buildings, classrooms, quads, and residences. They told stories about what they learned in their classrooms; about meeting their roommates and new friends in their residence halls; about walking carefully around the Wake Forest seal and motto on Hearn Plaza outside Reynolda Hall; and about watching the magnolias bloom on Manchester Plaza each spring. 

I was so inspired that I also spoke to the constant and true beauty of our campus as part of a theme of hope, growth and change in my Founders Day remarks last week. Our spaces leave lifelong imprints on all who pass through them — and for our students, drawing them back to visit again and again over their lives as alumni. I view the careful stewarding of our resources as an essential responsibility to ensure future generations continue to have fulfilling academic experiences. 

One year ago this month, I named academic space renewal as one of my highest priorities and launched Wake Forest’s first University-wide space strategy development process since 2007. With guidance from the architectural firm Ayers Saint Gross, our primary goal was and is simple: to increase and improve academic and student support space in the core of Reynolda Campus. We want our students, our faculty, and our staff to have high-quality spaces in which to learn, work and collaborate. 

I am pleased to announce that our work has yielded a conceptual plan for a set of near-term, well-sequenced actions to improve and expand space in the Reynolda Campus academic core. This conceptual plan outlines ways to renew and build new – with renovation or replacement of several buildings and addresses significant deferred maintenance in the process. A key early step in this transformation involves developing modern, collaborative administrative space on real estate adjacent to campus, and through this, making strategic relocations that create new space for academic programs in Reynolda Campus buildings. Taken together, this plan will result in 35% more academic space and 50% more student gathering and dining space across the buildings that are part of the Reynolda Campus conceptual plan. 

What comes next? Provost Michele Gillespie and Executive Vice President and CFO Jackie Travisano are partnering to lead the work and are seeking your input to make the conceptual plan a reality for our campus community. This semester, they will coordinate critical dialogues with potentially impacted departments, campus units, and student groups. By sharing the conceptual plan and gathering input and feedback, we will be prepared to launch the projects that lie ahead. I encourage you to learn more at a special How Wake Works session on February 29

In addition to this near-term, conceptual plan, we will also begin a comprehensive campus master planning process in fall 2024. We must articulate a long-term vision for our Reynolda Campus, our crown jewel — while also taking into account the University’s significant real estate portfolio. This will ensure that our campus and surrounding properties are leveraged to best serve our core academic mission, as well as our aspirations for Wake Forest as outlined in the Strategic Framework. 

As this work unfolds, we will also continue addressing high-priority academic space needs as we work toward our long-term vision. Provost Gillespie, EVP Travisano and I remain committed to allocating resources to address such urgent space needs, particularly in the College where space challenges are especially pressing. Last year, we completed more than $1 million of renewal work to improve more than 20 learning spaces in nine academic buildings, including in the Anthropology, Biology, Education, English, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology departments and the arts (Art, Music, Theatre and Dance). Based on this success, I’m excited to share that in summer 2024 we will dedicate at least another $1 million to support renewal work in more than 20 additional learning spaces. The University Space Planning Group, a representative committee comprising faculty and staff, will continue to provide guidance as we identify these needs and realize our campus space goals.

Our near-term space plan and our comprehensive master plan for Reynolda campus will take time – indeed years – to sequence and execute. But I am very confident that with radical collaboration and teamwork, we can complete this work together. I ask you for your support, collaboration and goodwill as we advance these critical projects to renew and build the spaces our campus community needs and deserves as we plan for 2034 and beyond. 

Categories: From Wente's Desk