USD’s mysterious Master Plan


Master Plan

Universities across the country design master plans that aim to improve the academic setting of their campuses. Using these plans, many universities have improved classrooms and adopted new technologies to diversify their teaching environments.

University of San Diego also has a Master Plan, but neither students nor faculty know what it is yet. According to Kimberly Carnot, the director for facility services and planning, the Master Plan is an attachment to the university’s Conditional Use Permit, which establishes what USD can do with it’s property. The Master Plan committee has conducted interviews and workshops to establish a base for any changes the plan will bring. However, what those changes will be, or when they will happen, is still unknown.

The Master Plan initiative is so new that the current status of the plan is finding something to talk about. In essence, the Master Plan is going to be a few projects to help improve academic environments for students and faculty. Students will decide what to fix, and their input will shape the Master Plan.

Mark Norita, assistant vice president of facilities management, is in charge of the efforts surrounding the plan. Norita believes the plan will eventually encourage positive growth for academic learning in the USD community.
“[The Master Plan] will help guide our planning and space use decisions for future generations of Toreros,” Norita said. “[It] will help us make good decisions and we can incorporate elements into the plan that will position USD to continue to attract top students and faculty.”

However, Norita and his committee are still waiting to get the plan moving forward. There is no real goal yet, because the organizers need a project that will give the plan weight.

In order to give the Master Plan some concrete goals, the organizers need input from students. Peter Marlow, assistant of University Communications, believes this input is a crucial component of the plan.

“The plan will only be as good as those providing input for the plan,” Marlow said. “The better engagement and perspectives from faculty, administration, students and staff, the better development [we] will have in the plan.”
But the plan seems to be lacking student input, as many students, including freshman Alaina Castrence, do not know that the plan exists.

“I do not know what the Master Plan is,” Castrence said. “I have never even heard of it.”

In an effort to get students involved with the Master Plan, on Oct. 27 there was a pop-up event on campus, where students were encouraged to write down their favorite and least favorite parts of USD. An email was sent a week prior to this event, encouraging students to come and participate.

Castrence believes those emails likely went unread, which led to low student attendance at the event.

Senior Caitlin Emig believes that a gap between students and faculty explains the lack of attendance at the Master Plan event.

“There is a barrier between students and faculty,” Emig said. “Students think that even if they give input, their voices may not really be heard.”

This perceived barrier may prevent students from participating in the Master Plan.

If students do decide to participate in the plan, Emig believes certain improvements should take priority. She hopes the master planners will consider those first.

“I hope that the plan will update undergraduate buildings in particular, updating the interior of Camino, Founders and Maher,” Emig said. “The residential living and classrooms are important [to improve], as they do not have air conditioning.”

However, Emig is among the minority of student participants. The Master Plan committee is trying to increase student participation by connecting the students to the master planners.

Dom Pera, president of Associated Students, serves as this connection.

“I serve as a point of contact for the student body,” Pera said. “[Associated Students] will serve as a liaison between the master planners and the rest of the students.”

Ideally, students will give input and this plan will progress. The Master Plan has three phases: input seeking, drafting the plan and getting approval from the City of San Diego. USD is in phase one, and is currently in cooperation with various organizations and companies, including Helix Environmental and MW Steele Group. The documentation for the plan is scheduled to be put in front of the City of San Diego by Summer 2016.

Because the plan is still unclear, many students, like Castrence, are unsure if the plan is necessary.

“I cannot really think of any improvements that USD really needs right now,” Castrence said.

Other students, like Emig, believe there are some improvements need to be made at USD. However she hopes that any additions will maintain the campus’ overall aesthetics.

Noelle Norton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, explained that USD’s architectural look will remain intact.

“The plan will make sure to stay true to the architecture of campus: there will be no major change in the way we look,” Norton said.

The master planners simply hope to develop initiatives that will improve the university. The Master Plan will take a more concrete shape over the next two years, which will give it tangible initiatives to fulfill.

However, Pera explained that these initiatives will not bring immediate change.

“The master planning is a long process, but it will make our campus look and feel better,” Pera said. “In the long term it will give USD a more meaningful impact.”

Because the plan is still undecided, the impact on USD will remain a question, until the committee chooses which aspects of the university the plan will focus on.

According to Norita, the next Master Plan event is a survey. Norita encouraged community input to progress the master planning process.

“There are many opportunities to get involved,” Norita said. “Right now, we are looking for students, faculty and staff to participate in the survey on the Master Plan update website. We will continue our campus engagement in the spring with more workshops and pop up events, and [we] want feedback.”

As of now, the Master Plan is still a vague concept. Over the next two years, the plan will develop a concrete goal, and the university will move forward with implementing new changes.