Guest Column - September 2007
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Recruitment Gold

A Look at Student-Focused Facilities

By Curt Moody

olleges can face a hard sell when it comes to recruiting the best and brightest. A college-bound student writes a long list of considerations when choosing a school to attend—from student population and tuition cost to campus location and weather, not to mention academic programs, athletic team opportunities, rankings and name recognition. All things considered, it's crucial for college administrators to display the best and most attractive attributes of their institution at all times, and particularly during the decision process.

As an essential component of this process, the infamous college tour gives prospective students the opportunity to absorb the atmosphere, services and culture of the institution simply from the architecture of buildings, attention to landscape and green space, modern amenities, technological capabilities, color schemes, design and art. And more than ever, modern, cutting-edge facilities such as state-of-the-art recreation centers are proving to be "recruitment gold."

Designing for student development

Current trends evident in campus cultures indicate that in addition to requiring modern technology and up-to-date resources for their academic work, students also need food choices, friends, fun things to do and fun places to do them in to create a favorable social and educational experience. A recreation center can incorporate all the valued elements—lounges, game rooms, food venues, facilities for passive and active recreation and fitness, meeting spaces, pools, etc.—into a single, accessible facility, making it an ideal "see and be seen" solution for incoming students.

Furthermore, providing spacious areas that boast modern and chic amenities and equipment create a campus beacon and social hub for co- and extra-curricular activities. Easily accessible space for group and organizational meetings, study sessions and interaction with fellow students generates a sense of community—enhancing the holistic development of students while combining first-rate learning with positive social networks.

Proactive planning and profitability

Understanding the individuals who will utilize the facility is key to creating a recreation center that can serve as a strong recruitment tool. To save time and resources, as well as make certain that the facility will best meet the needs of the campus community, special considerations need to be factored into the design process. Essential factors include funding sources, facility staffing, size and location, specifically with regard to space, ease of access and how central the facility is located on the campus.

A feasibility study addresses all of these planning aspects and should be conducted to determine whether an existing, renovated, expanded or new facility is required to meet programmatic and other needs of the institution and its students. This insight can be obtained from surveys with students, faculty and administration, and collaborative meetings with designers and end users. Combining the results of these tactics with the insight of industry-savvy experts into a cohesive document should provide a solid understanding of where to start—helping to ensure the successful design, completion and usage of a high-quality and service-oriented student facility that aligns with the institution's long-term goals and capabilities.

Despite the initial funding expenditure of building a recreation center, the return on investment from this new or renovated student facility proves to be profitable. Attracting and retaining quality students to a campus is a competitive business, and by providing a fresh and innovative environment that stands out from the rest, a college or university can get a jump start on the competition.