Piedmont Virginia Community College Site Design; Preparing Peer Leaders Through Collegiate Club Sports

Turney, Barton, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Neeley, Kathryn, EN-Engineering and Society PV-Summer & Spec Acad Progs, University of Virginia
Smith, Brian, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia

Exploring how Physical Buildings and Non-Physical Programs can help College Students Feel a Deeper Sense of Belonging

Per the Pew Research Center, more than 10.2 million college applications were submitted in 2017. This statistic emphasizes the number of students looking to attend college and emphasizes the importance of creating a culture of belonging at colleges across the United States. Both my STS research paper and my technical project focused on colleges in Virginia and how they fostered cultures of collective belonging. For my technical project, my team and I produced a seventeen-page plan set for a new administration building on the campus of Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) in Charlottesville, VA. My STS research focused on club and intramural sports programs and the effect that these programs have on students’ sense of belonging and community within their school.
Due to an expanding student body and a competitive atmosphere within college admissions nationally, PVCC commissioned a project to add an administrative and lab building to their campus as a gateway into their school. Our corporate advisors, Draper Aden Associates (DAA), were given this project roughly two years ago and have been working on designing the building and the site in conjunction with VMDO Architects. My group and I then designed our own version of the site that included, stormwater management, traffic control plans, erosion and sediment control, and grading of the site.
My technical project group met weekly with DAA and our staff advisor (Professor Brian Smith), and these brought light to problems or facets of the site that our student group would have never thought of. A major theme of the site connectivity with the rest of the PVCC campus, as you do not want the building to be inaccessible to students trying to use the building. In one of our meetings, Campbell Bolton (a senior engineer at DAA) asked the question: “do you know where the doorways are and if they are in line with the doorways of the building across the street?” This question left our group speechless as none of us had even thought about this seemingly inconsequential portion of our design. We had been designing a technically sound site, with a technically sound entrance and a technically sound look. We had never stopped to consider that there is so much more to site design such as connectivity, spacing, and overall feel of a site for the building’s occupants.
On the theme of connectivity, my STS research focused on how colleges and universities invest resources in physical buildings and spaces compared to non-physical programs such as peer leader or peer coaching workshops. My research was conducted through the lens of club and intramural sports programs. This matter is important to me since I am currently the captain of the men’s club ultimate frisbee team at the University of Virginia (UVA). I examined my findings with Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind, at the forefront of my thoughts. Haidt’s book gave insights on how to activate group-think and the so-called “hive switch” that Haidt asserts is responsible for humans acting outside of their own benefit and for the benefit of the group. My findings found that leaders, such as captains and coaches of a club sports team, are able to better flip the “hive switch” for their teams when they are given access to trainings and programs that teach them how to become more complete leaders.
My technical project and my sociotechnical research converged on an unexpected principle: connectivity drives human interactions and human creations. When I started working on my technical project, I had no idea that my project would be altered by the locations of sidewalks, entrances, and doorways. I was planning on designing a nice, cookie-cutter building that my professor and the corporate advisors could not poke any holes in. This mindset shifted throughout the project, just as my research shifted throughout the semester. I learned what my professors in STS had been trying to teach me for the entire school year: that people drive the world around us, not cookie-cutter designs. No cookie-cutter design will be able to solve the world’s problems such as climate change, overpopulation, and over-use of natural resources. The only way to solve problems at hand is with novel designs that put people, connectivity, and belongingness at the forefront.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Sports Leadership, Jonathan Haidt, Civil Site Design

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering
Technical Advisor: Brian Smith
STS Advisor: Kathryn Neeley
Technical Team Members: Abby Herrod, Barton Turney, Ryan Latham, Zoe Weatherford

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