More than 200 college and university professionals, architects, planners and designers flocked to St. Louis October 16-18, 2023, for the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) North Central 2023 Regional Conference. They participated in thought-provoking keynote sessions, shared best practices and lessons learned with planning peers, and got a first-hand look at the campuses of the future.
“We had been planning this conference for over a year, and I was really proud of how it turned out,” said Ashley Hoolihan, AIA, LEED Green Associate, SCUP North Central 2023 Regional Conference chair and Trivers project manager and associate. “I remember being in my car on the way to the first day and being in awe that after over a year of planning, the conference was finally happening!”
Keynote and concurrent sessions that took place at the Royal Sonesta Chase Park Plaza St. Louis focused on a range of relevant topics, including campus planning issues of small, independent institutions; strengthening town-gown relations; and designing for the future of medical education. Presenters came from large, public universities as well as small, private colleges across the SCUP North Central region.
“The conference exceeded my expectations, and I walked out of the sessions with high energy,” said Benjamin Perlman, assistant vice president of student engagement for Saint Louis University (SLU). “After one specific session, I downloaded the presentation and immediately sent it to my vice president. It was so useful to see what other colleges and universities have done successfully.”
Although the conference did not have an official theme, there was a common thread among the keynote panels. The committee deliberately worked to make sure all the panels were focused on the St. Louis region and its issues, but also highlighted St. Louis’ strengths and opportunities related to higher education and the surrounding community.
“Monday night’s Cortex Panel really embodied this concept by explaining current major issues that the city of St. Louis faces,” Ashley said. “But because local higher education institutions provided funding and patience for Cortex developments, other successful establishments in the city such as Armory STL, City Foundry STL, and IKEA were also able to be developed.”
The development of these establishments has brought millions of additional tourists to St. Louis who were not previously coming. Ashley believes the Cortex Founding Higher Education Partners (SLU, University of Missouri—St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis (Washington University), and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis) are key to the successful redevelopment of the area.
“It was incredibly interesting to hear from the higher education institutions about how the St. Louis community interacts with and affects their school and vice versa,” Ashley said. “We have had great discussions and feedback on the sessions with attendees from outside of the St. Louis region.”
The 2023 North Central Regional Conference also included optional tours of:
- The Cortex Innovation Community’s physical footprint and approach to sustainability through green infrastructure.
- The historic Danforth Campus at Washington University, including the recently completed East End Transformation.
- The 609,000-square-foot Washington University School of Medicine Neuroscience Research Building, where neuroscientists are seeking cures for Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder and addiction.
Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a charrette on SLU’s campus that focused on strategies for optimizing spaces to serve the needs of its growing and diversifying graduate and international student population.
“I had a lot of proud moments,” Ashley said. “There were so many people on the conference committee who worked hard to make this event successful. It was truly wonderful to see everything come together in the end. I was proud that we were able to showcase our region’s top-ranked higher education institutions for others in the North Central region to experience.”