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Thought Leaders Series

APPA developed the Thought Leaders Series to promote dedicated discussions on the future of higher education and the impact of that future on educational facilities. The annual Thought Leaders Symposium convenes representatives of colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada alongside association leaders, industry consultants, and education experts.

Thought Leaders is a program of APPA's Center for Facilities Research. For more information about the Thought Leaders Series, contact:
Jack Colby, Thought Leaders Series chairperson
Lander Medlin, APPA executive vice president

The 2014 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored in part by DTZ, a UGL company, and Jacobs, focused on the issues and challenges related to leveraging campus facility assets to achieve desired institutional outcomes.  More than three dozen higher education leaders--including presidents, provosts, business officers, consultants, association executives, and facilities professionals--participated in a facilitated discussion and work session to examine the gap between where higher education wants to be and where it actually finds itself. Participants sought to identify the key characteristics of successful campuses, then looked at what institutions are actually achieving – the disagreeable reality of unsustainable funding models, unsuccessful students, and poorly utilized resources.  The report includes an executive summary, strategies for improving institutional outcomes,a lengthy resource section, and the top facilities strategies to support the college or university:

  1. Understand how facilities affect student success and employ best practices for student recruitment and retention
  2. Use total cost of ownership as a guiding principle for all facilities decisions
  3. Make better use of campus space
  4. Expand data collection and analysis to cut costs and increase efficiency
  5. Use the campus as a classroom to expand awareness of sustainability and facilities best practices

The 2013 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored in part by DTZ, a UGL company, and Jacobs, focused on the topic of the rising cost of higher education. More than three dozen higher education leaders—including presidents, provosts, business officers, consultants, association executives, and facilities professionals—participated in a facilitated discussion and work session to identify, prioritize, and recommend solutions on the issues related to the cost of higher education. Contents include an executive summary, a discussion of the challenge of rising costs, a summation on colleges in crisis, comprehensive references, and the following top facilities issues:

  1. Align the programs and priorities of the institution with its mission and vision
  2. Build campus-wide understanding of the "arms race" between institutions on campus spending
  3. Better utilize and manage space
  4. Involve faculty in decisions about facilities and space
  5. Identify programs and facilities that need investment
  6. Manage rising labor costs
  7. Understand the challenges posed by increasingly complex buildings
  8. Limit rising costs associated with complying with codes and regulations
  9. Reduce the cost of unfunded mandates on the institution

The 2012 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored in part by DTZ, a UGL company, and Jacobs, identified major issues, trends, and recommendations related to the focused topic of space management and utilization in higher education. Included are the top critical facilities issues:

1. Align space management to the mission of the institution.
2. Make space one of the top assets of the institution.
3. Change the culture of space.
4. Develop effective policies, processes, and organizational structure to manage space.
5. Implement a space inventory system to understand resources and identify needs.
6. Address space utilization by assembling credible data and adopting best practices.

The 2011 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored in part by UGL Services and Jacobs, focuses on the specific topic of technology. Included are resources and discussions on the identified top ten critical facilities issues:

1. Establish a culture of innovation and collaboration.
2. Improve productivity with level or decreasing resources.
3. Leverage technology to improve decision making.
4. Align IT and facilities.
5. Create a new budget model for IT and facilities.
6. Confront shifting workforce demographics.
7. Increase flexibility in the workplace.
8. Make smart decisions about outsourcing.
9. Improve emergency preparedness.
10. Manage the existing built environment.

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APPA's Sustainability Guide

APPA has also published a special report in our Thought Leaders Series – The Educational Professional's Practical Guide to Reducing the Campus Carbon Footprint. Sponsored by Affiliated Engineers Inc., this implementation guide gives educational facilities professionals a practical companion framework for moving forward in their unique role within the process of achieving environmental sustainability. The report helps facilities managers and sustainability coordinators maximize their specific contributions and work in tandem with other campus stakeholders to meet their institutions’ goals of carbon neutrality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

The Educational Facilities Professional's
Practical Guide to Reducing the Campus Carbon Footprint

Also available

The 2010 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored in part by UGL Services, identified major issues confronting higher education (both current and projected), and further identified the top critical facilities issues. The results are wide-ranging and reflect the multiplicity of challenges facing higher education and the built environment.

The 2009 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored in part by Haley & Aldrich, Inc., and with sponsorship assistance from Delta Controls, focused on the specific topics of environmental sustainability and energy, as seen through the prism of the economy. Included are resources and discussions on the identified top ten critical facilities issues.

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The 2008 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored by Jacobs, focused on changing demographics and accountability, within higher education. Includes the top critical facilities issues.

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The 2007 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored by Carter & Burgess, Inc., with sponsorship assistance from IBM, focused on evolving technology, changing stakeholder expectations, and the impact of competition on both those drivers of change. The report includes the top ten critical facilities issues.

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The 2006 Thought Leaders Symposium, sponsored by Carter & Burgess, Inc., discussed the changing landscape of higher education and how the college or university’s built environment needs to respond to the changing demands on the educational institutionby identifying the drivers or trends affecting higher education’s future. Includes the top ten critical facilities issues.

Download Thought Leaders

Name: Email:
2014: Leveraging Facilities for Institutional Success
2013: The Rising Cost of Higher Education
2012: Campus Space...An Asset and a Burden
2011: Workplace Demographics and Technology: Challenges and Opportunities to the Campus Mission
2010: Assessing and Forecasting Facilities in Higher Education
2009: The Economy's Influence on Environmental Sustainability and Energy
2008: The Challenges of Demographic Changes and Accountability to Campus Facilities
2007: Educational Facilities and the Impact of Technology, Expectations, and Competition
2006: University Facilities Respond to the Changing Landscape of Higher Education
Practical Guide to Reducing the Campus Carbon Footprint