Spatial Ecologies for Interior Design Educators

Presented by: Anjali Bhalodia, Kendra Ordia

Much of the primary research surrounding higher education has focused on topics of active learning, flipped classrooms, and technology as related to student engagement with peers, faculty, tools, and artifacts in the classroom (Doshi, Kumar and Whitmer, 2014). Although office space makes up more than 30 percent of campus real estate and consumes a larger footprint than classrooms, little research exists around faculty work environments and even less around the future of academic workplaces including needs of changing faculty profiles, increasing space constraints, and University-level efforts for increased collaboration (Haggans, 2016). Our industry partner, Herman Miller, has conducted preliminary research on the topic along with the architectural firm Gould Evans and identified some of the important historic and modern aspects of faculty work environments. In a Gould Evan’s blog posting titled “The Secret Lives of Faculty” (2015), Principal David Reid included some important statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics reinforcing the timeliness of this topic: “Sixty-three percent of faculty today are 55 years of age or older. In the next ten years there will be a huge shift in faculty demographics and attitudes.” He went on to state that, “From 1960 to 2009, the ratio of tenure-track to contingent faculty has reversed. Combine the rising number of contingent faculty with the new generation’s desire for better work-life balance and there could soon be a new ideal in academia: contingency is the new tenure, free agency the new status symbol.” While contingent and millennial faculty will certainly change the dynamics of overall academic work environments, academia is not known as a fast-pace, risk tolerant entity. The carefully created boundaries of departments, colleges, and divisions within a university can limit true collaboration and interaction. The majority of academic workspaces are based on outdated workplace typologies built around solitary and paper-based work (“How Innovation Can Thrive on Campus,” 2011). Modern, innovative academic workspaces must support increased connectivity and collaboration; they must cross boundaries, create new categories, and support a sense of spatial ecology. How then, do faculty workplace typologies support this changing paradigm of higher education while providing a thriving environment for emerging faculty to operate in productive and collaborative work modes for relevant classroom and student interactions, research agendas, and collegial service? This panel presentation will discuss the ongoing Herman Miller funded Pilot Study reimagining the faculty workspace in an Interior Design (ID) department at a public university. Through focus groups, digital ethnography, and surveys, the contributing ID faculty have been able to test theories regarding innovative workplace typologies among various faculty groups in differing departments, colleges, and universities. The panel members will also address the increased effectiveness of space and increased collaboration among the full time and adjunct ID faculty members. The presenters will guide open discussion to understand formal and informal modifications to academic workspaces at attendees’ institutions while tapping into the professional and unique perspectives of design educators. During the panel, real-time feedback through social polling will also be captured on the topic and will contribute to ongoing research and practical applications of effective spatial ecologies for the evolving academic environments.


  • Doshi, Ameet, Shilpi Kumar, and Susan Whitmer. (2014, October - December). "Does Space Matter? Assessing the Undergraduate ‘Lived Experience’ to Enhance Learning." Planning for Higher Education Journal 43 (1)
  • Haggans, Michael. (2016). "The 21st-Century Campus." Planning for Higher Education Journal 44 (3)
  • “How Innovation Can Thrive on Campus.” (2011). Retrieved September 18, 2016, from
  • Kuntz, A. M. (2012). “Reconsidering the Workplace: Faculty Perceptions of Their Work and Working Environments. Studies in Higher Education 37(7), 769-782.
  • Reid, David. (2015, June 23). “The Secret Lives of Faculty | Whitespace.” Retrieved September 17, 2015, from