Universities operate on model of education that has changed very little for centuries even as their role in society and society itself has evolved around them. Formerly institutions of the elite, a university education is now essential for much of the population, but rising costs, shifting economic realities, emerging technologies and unprecedented access to information have fundamentally challenged the purpose of the university. It’s time to redesign the university experience around the needs of 21st century learners and the role of the university in 21st century society — to reinvent the idea of the university itself. Who better to do that than students themselves?

How would you re-envision the university?

Our colloquium is looking at projects that reinvent the Campus of the Future on three different scales including rooms, buildings and the campus as a whole, and we can think of those scales in literal and metaphorical ways.

Rooms Buildings Total Campus
Literal What kinds of classrooms will we learn in? Labs? What other learning spaces are there? What devices, technologies, equipment, and furniture foster learning? What does “accessible” mean? What is the relationship between “academic” and “residential” spaces? What’s a library of the future like? Where do students spend most of their time? Where do faculty and staff? How do we move across campus — or, at Michigan, across the campuses? What is the land of the campus used for? What are all the places outside Ann Arbor that are part of the U-M campus? Who belongs on the campus? Who feel welcome on campus?
Metaphorical How are classes, discussion sections, lab sessions structured? What do we do in class? What is a lecture? Who teaches whom? Where does learning actually happen? What kinds of “classrooms” can we have online? What will be the departments and disciplines of the future? Schools and colleges? How are they administered? What is higher education all about? What should it be all about? How to think about the relationship between residential higher education and new forms of learning?

So: how can we redesign these spaces and what we do in them to facilitate learning and teaching? Let’s elaborate:



Over the last century we have learned how the brain works and learns. We now know how the brain interacts with the environment and how our interactions facilitate learning. We have developed new learning theories that guide professors how to teach well. We have also learned that interactive environments ease, expedite, and promote learning. Our access to resources has changed as well. At one point, students had to go to class to learn new information, however, now a student can just Google it.

Teaching and learning have changed. Technology has changed. But despite all of these advancements, the classroom has not changed. So how can reinvent the classroom to go along with these changes? What kind of classroom setting will allow new ideas and new technology to thrive?


Memory is associated with place and experience. Can we use place to facilitate learning? Is it a good idea to allow students to manipulate a building for different uses? Should the future campus allow us to change our space as we need it? What spaces and buildings do students spend most of their time?

Learning does not only take place in the classroom. Should we be thinking about how residential halls, libraries, or laboratories play a role in learning? Should we focus on redesigning these spaces as well? How can the idea of social and learning hubs bring people together? How can we connect different disciplines?

Total Campus

Now, we are trying to think of the campus as a whole. We are thinking of the land use, open space, transportation, mobility, housing, dining, athletics, academic research and how all of these things come together. And we are thinking about how “campus” means more than the physical campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint. It includes the Biological Station in northern Michigan, Camp Davis in Wyoming, our activities in Detroit, study-abroad programs around the world, the Michigan in Washington program. We want to think about the connection between all these things. Do we need to connect the academic world to the residential world to the athletic world? What about sustainability? How can we promise a sustainable future? In the future will we still have real campuses or will they become virtual? How can we look at the campus as a network between faculty, students, alumni?


The Campus of the Future Colloquium is led by Presidential Bicentennial Professors:

  • Joanna Mirecki Millunchick, Thurnau Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and the Applied Physics Program, and Faculty Director of M-STEM Academies in Engineering
  • Mika LaVaque-Manty, Thurnau Professor of Political Science

If you have any questions, please contact Mika LaVaque-Manty at mmanty@umich.edu or Joanna Mirecki Millunchick at joannamm@umich.edu.

Learn about the contest guidelines.