Students returning to campus this fall noticed two big structural changes on campus. First, the completion of Commencement Hall; and second, the construction and renovations beginning made on Wheelock Student Center. These projects are just two components of the Master Plan that President Ronald Thomas was charged with developing when he assumed the office in 2003.
Students may not be familiar with the Master Plan, but it has thus far affected every aspect of student life and, as a 20-year plan, will affect the campus for many years to come.
The Master Plan is responsible for campus features such as Harned Hall, Oppenheimer Café, Weyerhaeuser Hall and Commencement Walk, to name a few.
Commencement Walk, unveiled in 2011, is a prime example of the plan’s goals. Currently a connector between North and South Quad, the walk originally began at Jones Hall and proceeded in a straight line towards the Memorial Fieldhouse. Its path was later redesigned in order to both preserve the grove of trees near what is now Weyerhaeuser Hall, and to reach Collins Memorial Library.
“It is also important to bear in mind that the Master Plan is a vision for the future that is a living document,” Thomas said. “While it anticipates future needs, we are mindful that circumstances and priorities can shift and the plan would be subject to refinement.”
One of the biggest successes of the Master Plan thus far has been the completion of Harned Hall and Weyerhaeuser Hall. These two buildings, in addition to the recent updates to Thompson Hall, make up one of the best science departments in the nation. In fact, the Princeton Review recently recognized Puget Sound for its superior lab facilities.
The Master Plan also brings the principle of sustainability to the very foundations of the University.
“All buildings are met to meet an industry silver standard,” Associate President for Facilities Bob Kieff said. “And three of our buildings, Weyerhaeuser, the Greenhouse and the new facilities building, have even been recognized for meeting gold standard.”
The same level of recognition is expected for Commencement Hall.
Buildings are not the only focus of the Master Plan. The plan also looks at the relationship of the University with both its neighborhood and Tacoma as a whole; it aims to define the borders of campus while integrating with the community.
Even the way visitors approach campus from the freeway has been redesigned: instead of driving down Union, there has been an effort to facilitate approaching campus through downtown Tacoma, allowing visitors to see the body of water for which the University is named.
The University also works hard to maintain good relations with the local neighborhood, sending out newsletters and hosting meetings throughout the year where concerns such as security and construction can be discussed.
The process for each new project requires much time, effort and fundraising on part of the Board of Trustees, the Tapestry of Learning Implementation Committee and donors. New projects are presented to the Board for approval before the architectural component can even begin.
Building on campus also provides a challenge to the workers, as projects during the school year must be completed with a minimal effect on student life. The renovation of the S.U.B. is particularly tricky and can hardly be done while students need the building to be fully operational. Following commencement this spring, work will be done around the clock to strip down the building and open a renovated S.U.B. in the fall.
Funding, of course, is also an important aspect of the Master Plan, and plays an important role in the next big project. The new Aquatics Center, for example, is in the beginning planning stages and fundraising is still underway. This presents students and alumni with the opportunity to help see this building come to fruition.
“The Board of Trustees has offered to match any gifts made to the Aquatics center,” Executive Director of Communications Gayle McIntosh said. “They’ll match any donation dollar to dollar, up to $8 million.”
The Master Plan may just be the best-kept secret on campus. It has touched every student at the University of Puget Sound since 2004, and will shape the future of the campus for many years to come. The plan is slated to finish in 2023 with many exciting changes on the horizon.
To learn more about the Master Plan visit