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Thought Leaders Series

APPA developed the Thought Leaders Series to conduct 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. All Thought Leaders reports are free, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, and may be downloaded using the form below.

Thought Leaders is a program of APPA's Center for Facilities Research. For more information about the Thought Leaders Series, contact:
Keith Woodward, Quinnipiac University, Thought Leaders Series chair
Jack Colby, North Carolina State University, Thought Leaders Series co-chair and co-founder
Lander Medlin, APPA executive vice president and Thought Leaders Series co-founder

The 2016 Thought Leaders symposium, supported in part by long-time sponsor Jacobs, focused on Remaking the Facilities Organization. The report makes the case for a customer-centric higher education facilities organization. Experts provide their insights on how a focus on the customer provides a framework for driving change. The benefits of a customer-centric focus include empowered employees, better alignment between the mission of the facilities organization and the mission of the institution, and improved stewardship of campus systems and resources. The report examines in detail how a customer-centric focus can be applied to the four major responsibilities of educational facilities organizations: 1) general administration and management; 2) operations and maintenance; 3) energy and utilities; and 4) facilities planning, design, and construction. The report defines goals within each of these areas and suggests strategies for facilities leaders to achieve them.

APPA invites you to write an article or conduct research on topics related to the 2016 TLS report. Review the full list of article and research topics.

The 2015 Thought Leaders symposium, sponsored in part by long-time partner Jacobs, focused on the topic of Facilities & Technology: The Transformation of "Campus." Educational institutions that master new technologies will have an edge in the increasingly competitive higher education landscape.  APPA's 2015 Thought Leaders report discusses the factors related to integrating technology and the campus built environment; using technology to enhance critical campus functions; and integrating facilities management and information technology.

New technology will require new skills and new approaches to day-to-day tasks. The result will be a new campus for a new era, which will need to address the following needs:

  • Restructuring the facilities management organization to effectively integrate new technology
  • Crafting policies that enhance facilities/IT integration
  • Creating successful facilities/IT integration
  • Preparing the facilities professional of the future
  • Imagining the IT/facilities integration of the future: where we are going

APPA invites you to write an article or conduct research on topics related to the 2015 TLS report. Review the full list of article and research topics.

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.  The report examines 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. The report identifies, prioritizes, and recommends 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.

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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

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Download Thought Leaders

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2017: Transforming Facilities to Achieve Student Success
2016: Remaking the Facilities Organization
2015: Facilities & Technology: The Transformation of "Campus"
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