Universities operate on a model of education that has changed very little for centuries. Formerly institutions of the elite, they now provide an education that is essential for much of the population. But that mission is complicated by rising costs, shifting economic realities, emerging technologies and unprecedented access to information. It’s time to redesign the university experience around the needs of 21st-century learners and to redefine the role of the university in 21st-century society — in short, to reinvent the institution. And who better to do that than students?

The Campus of the Future colloquium encouraged students to develop project ideas that would reinvent teaching and learning on one or more of three scales: rooms, buildings and the campus as a whole. Those scales can be viewed 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?



Over the last century, researchers have discovered how the brain interacts with the environment and how these interactions facilitate learning. We have developed new learning theories that help professors teach better. We have also learned that interactive environments ease, expedite and promote learning. Our access to resources has changed as well. At one point, students came to class to gather new information. Today’s students can just “Google it.”

Teaching and learning have changed. Technology has changed. But despite all of these advancements, the classroom has not changed. How can we reinvent the classroom to take advantage of these changes? And what kind of classroom settings will best enable new ideas and new technologies 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

“Campus” means more than a physical footprint in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint. It also includes U-M’s Biological Station in northern Michigan, Camp Davis in Wyoming, the Detroit Center, study-abroad programs around the world and the Michigan in Washington program. And there are other factors to consider, including transportation, mobility, housing, dining, athletics and academic research. We want to think about the connections between all of 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 and 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.