November 26, 2020

SGA holds master plan open forum

Students were given the opportunity to ask questions and give feedback to faculty on Webster’s master plan at an open forum in the Sunnen Lounge on Tuesday, March 20. Steven Strang,
Webster University’s senior project manager, presented the current plans. He then addressed
questions from students and members of Student Government Association (SGA).

“We wanted to have (the forum) because many students were questioning about the master plan
and how you find out information,” SGA president Courtney Turner said. “This was a great
opportunity, especially for the student government who is representing the student body, to put on an event where they can be informed and ask questions, and put their opinions
out there.”

Strang said the master plan is 75 to 80 percent completed, now entering the process of approval. One of the goals Strang addressed was growing Webster’s undergraduate population to 5,000 students — up from the 3,056 undergraduates as of summer 2011.

Some students were concerned that a growth in students would create an increase in class sizes.

“A lot of people are worried about the intimate space (in classrooms),” Alyssa Hegwood, freshman, said. “That’s not something that I trip off of, but just from this meeting I realized that people really do value the intimacy of campus. That’s the reason I came to Webster — for the intimate class size.”

Julian Schuster, provost and senior vice president, assured students that although the campus
is making changes, it will always stay true to its original mission. Though the university plans on
adding 2,000 undergraduate students, Schuster said classes will never exceed 30 students.

However, Webster will not allow classes with three or four students after the master plan’s completion. Schuster said classes that small are not conducive to students’ learning.

“Class size is something we need to address in the terms of the best learning outcomes for the students,” Schuster said. “In the terms of the best classroom efficiency, and in the terms of the available spaces that we have. We are not just building new facilities with bigger classrooms
in order to have bigger classes.

That’s not our objective. Our objective is that new facilities will provide you with a better
educational experience.”

Another concern from students at the forum was maintaining the historical feel of the campus after the construction of new buildings. With the new master plan, while the Priest House will remain standing, the future of the Pearson House is an “emotional” question, said Strang.

New buildings, including additional on-campus housing, athletics and academic buildings, will be constructed.

“What is most exciting about the master plan is not what is going to happen to the Pearson House,” Schuster said. “(There are) a gazillion positive things which are going to emerge. The first and utmost is the new interdisciplinary science facility. Everyone who has taken a class in the dungeon of Webster Hall knows why we need this new interdisciplinary facility.

“We are not going to ask the question, ‘Either interdisciplinary facility or Pearson House?’ We will try to avoid that. We are trying to ask to see if there are overarching reasons of preserving the Pearson House. Let’s work together to see how we can do that.”

Though the process of creating a new master plan has raised questions and concerns from students and faculty, Turner said she feels comfortable with the direction the plan is headed.

“The most important thing is that students should feel confident because these
people are trained to do this sort of thing and create master plans,” Turner said. “They should feel confident in knowing that (Webster is) not going to change. Like Julian Schuster said, they’re sticking to the missions of this university. They’re not going to go turn into a Mizzou or anything
like that. They’re making sure the feel of Webster is going to stay the same, it’s not changing.”

Strang estimated the finalized master plan will be made available some time in May. Before leaving the forum, Schuster left students with a final remark.

“It’s going to be great,” Schuster said. “This is an exciting time… Of course this is
a challenge, but this is a great opportunity for us. We are building, we are improving
everything we’re doing.”

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