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September 16, 2013   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | New task force seeks to reinvent university’s…

New task force seeks to reinvent university’s space management

Sam Fahmy

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By Sam Fahmy | September 16, 2013
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In more than 450 buildings on the 759 acres of its Athens campus, UGA manages nearly 16 million square feet of building space, the equivalent of almost 300 football fields. A task force charged by the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost is reviewing how the university allocates its academic space, seeking input from the campus community and looking for best practices from other institutions.

The ultimate goal is to ensure that campus space is used as efficiently and strategically as possible to further the university's teaching, research and service mission.

"Part of our stewardship of state resources and private support involves making sure that we are making the best use of our classrooms, office spaces, laboratories and studios," said Libby V. Morris, interim senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. "Using our space efficiently gives the university a competitive advantage, as well, by allowing us to strategically focus our resources."

The 10-member task force, headed by Robert Scott, associate vice president for research, aims to submit its recommendations to the provost by the end of the calendar year. The group includes representatives from the offices of the vice presidents for information technology, instruction, finance and administration, public service and outreach, and research, as well as staff from academic planning, university architects and institutional research. Task force members from the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Public Health are acting as liaisons to the deans of the university's schools and colleges, and the task force is seeking the input of the campus community through meetings with stakeholders and via email at rsmtf@uga.edu.

Scott noted that continuing economic challenges, including the sequestration of federal research funds, and increasing calls for accountability at all levels have heightened the need for efficiency in space management. The task force's work builds on a 2012 study commissioned by the provost's office that concluded that a systematic and holistic approach to space management at UGA is necessary to allow the institution to respond more strategically to its changing needs.

Space management has taken on new importance at the system level, as well. The University System of Georgia's strategic plan calls for data-driven decisions about facilities management and construction as part of the system's commitment to accountability and efficiency. In July, the system began using new metrics that allow for apples-to-apples comparisons of how office and instructional space is used within and among institutions, and similar metrics for research space are in development.

Although the task force is still in its information-gathering phase, Scott said one of the group's broader goals is to facilitate a culture change in the way that faculty and staff think about space.

"Schools, colleges and individuals don't ‘own' the space they use," he said. "Space is a resource to be managed in support of the mission of the university the same way we manage our fiscal and human resources."

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