Three years ago, new Arizona State University President Michael Crow arrived with a grand vision to transform the 120-year-old institution with a party school reputation into one of the world’s premier research institutions.
Next month, Crow will finally ask the Arizona Board of Regents to approve the blueprint for his ambitious agenda.
The comprehensive master plan is what ASU officials are calling the "framework for growth" over the next 15 years at four ASU campuses throughout the Valley.
"This is the laying of the foundation of what will be one of the great schools in this country," Crow said last week.
Crow began pitching the ASU transformation on his first day in office and hasn’t let up. "A New American University" and "One University in Many Places" are phrases Crow frequently uses to describe the future ASU.
The master plan, which ASU is hurrying to finish before the June regents’ meeting, is a detailed description of physical changes ahead for the four campuses. The document includes studies and maps showing how land is being used now and how ASU wants it used in the future.
Under the plan, the Tempe campus would evolve into a modern research center focused on scientific investigation and advanced study for scholars. ASU East in southeast Mesa would become a polytechnic institution geared toward applied learning in engineering and other professional careers. ASU West in north Phoenix would focus on liberal arts education. The proposed downtown Phoenix campus would offer a mix of colleges — nursing, communications, health management and others.
The student population at the Tempe campus, now at about 47,000, would be capped at 50,000. Growth would be channeled toward ASU East, where the student population of about 3,600 would swell to 15,000; ASU West, which would grow from its current 7,000 enrollment to about 12,000; and the proposed downtown Phoenix campus, which eventually would have a student population of 15,000.
At the Tempe campus, dozens of old buildings could be torn down and replaced with sleek, specially designed facilities, including labs where scientists could work on, among other things, human DNA and individual molecules. The new campus would look and feel much more urban, featuring tall glass and steel buildings separated by less space arranged in a grid.
During the process of creating the plan, ASU asked its Academic Senate which buildings at the Tempe campus should remain and which should be razed. The Senate identified 57 buildings for demolition and 39 for preservation. The language and literature building, the social science building and the Dixie Gammage building top the Senate’s suggested demolition list. Old Main and Gammage Auditorium, both on the historic register anyway, were favorites to remain.
The plan, which Crow calls a "guidebook" rather than a definitive proposal, calls for available space at the Tempe campus to grow to 13.2 million square feet from about 8 million square feet, and the number of dorm beds to increase to about 15,000 from 6,400. By shifting the emphasis to graduate studies and research, the Tempe campus would see a decrease in the number of undergraduate students — to 33,800 from 36,150 — and an increase in graduate students, to 13,200 from 9,300, according to projections. The amount spent each year on research at the Tempe campus is projected to grow to $300 million from $45 million.
ASU paid Baltimore-based Ayers/Saint/Gross nearly $2 million to create the master plan. The firm compiled thick reports that, unlike other aspects of the master plan, have not been made public. ASU officials said they will be in the master plan that goes to the regents next month.
The Board of Regents last approved an ASU master plan in 1992. The university had a new master plan drawn up in 2001 under former President Lattie Coor, but it was not approved because the focus was at odds with the new president’s vision, said Steve Nielsen, an ASU planner in charge of the master plan process.
ASU held more than 480 meetings to determine what the public thought of the master plan, Nielsen said.
Any changes at the four campuses will proceed on a building-by-building basis depending on student growth and how much money is available, Neilsen said, noting that the plan is such a broad overview it allows officials to respond to growth in a number of ways.
In the near term, Crow said his priorities are to begin work on the downtown Phoenix campus, finish building more than 1 million square feet of research space at the Tempe campus, and build more student housing.