Goal #7: Carleton will celebrate the unique qualities of its location and encourage meaningful connections between students and local communities

Carleton is recognized as a globally engaged campus, with strong cohorts of international students, a deep tradition in international relations, and a wide range of faculty-led off-campus study programs in countries around the world. Our own Midwestern location, however, has often been seen as something to overcome rather than something to celebrate.

The market research study recently completed as part of our planning process confirmed that Carleton’s geographic location is the biggest question mark in the minds of many prospective students, particularly those from historically underrepresented groups. And yet our location has many characteristics that are appealing to those same students. Research shows that they value areas they feel are safe, are strongly interested in community engagement, and are very concerned about sustainability, with 45 percent of students in a recent nationwide survey indicating that they considered sustainability in their college enrollment decision.

At this moment in time, Carleton should lean into the strengths of its location. Along with our beautiful campus and vibrant Northfield community, we have in the Cowling Arboretum a distinct asset that offers on-site opportunities for recreation, research, and teaching. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, our Midwestern location differentiates Carleton from our East Coast peers, and is a marker for the down-to-earth, “elite but not elitist” culture that makes Carleton so attractive to students who get to know us.

Action 19

We will expand local partnerships and develop new programs for academic and civic engagement.

Carleton has always played an active role in the Northfield community. Conversations with community partners during the strategic planning process, however, illuminated opportunities to more fully engage with a number of community constituencies in and around Northfield.

Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE) is a proven model for connecting students and the broader community via coursework, community outreach, and volunteerism with the goal of developing inclusive, sustainable, and reciprocal relationships that foster student learning and faculty development, fulfill community identified needs, and nurture students’ commitment to lifelong civic engagement.

By expanding our work in academic and civic engagement and building stronger relationships with Northfield and surrounding communities, the College has an opportunity to reinforce the connection between theory and practice, increase collaborations with area businesses and nonprofits, and to further the breadth and value of a Carleton education. 

Action 20

We will enhance Twin Cities access, program development, and connectivity by exploring improved transportation options.

Carleton’s location just 40 miles from the diverse and vibrant Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul is appealing to many prospective and current students, faculty, and staff. However, logistical challenges can prevent us from taking advantage of that proximity. We seek to make the Twin Cities more accessible to all members of the community and explore ways to provide support for academic programming, civic engagement, alumni networking, career readiness, industry partnerships, and urban studies programs.

Exploring additional transportation options would be a first step in improving access. At the same time, we will work to develop reciprocal relationships with potential partners that might bring new opportunities to campus.

Action 21

We will implement a new initiative, Indigenous Engagement in Place, that will deepen our partnerships with Indigenous communities and provide a base for developing a minor in Indigenous Studies.

Carleton’s efforts to acknowledge and seek deeper engagement with its Indigenous neighbors are now galvanizing into a college-wide commitment. Carleton is in the process of applying for a Mellon Foundation grant to further enliven learning, teaching, and public scholarship in the humanities and across the liberal arts through curricular and engaged scholarly collaborations with Indigenous partners. Examples might include projects such as piloting a joint teaching institute with tribal college partners and offering incentives for curricular innovation, course development, and research partnerships.

Our goal is to move toward centering Indigenous engagement in the College’s work, expanding collaborations with Native Nations and organizations, and building new partnerships with tribal colleges for joint curricular initiatives and research partnerships.

Action 22

We will begin the process of developing a Campus Facilities Plan in fall 2023.

As we think about the role that physical spaces play in building and fostering community, we recognize that a space analysis and new Campus Facilities Plan are needed to update and steward our campus infrastructure in support of the current needs of students, faculty, and staff.

The College completed its last campus facilities plan in 2014 to enact infrastructure priorities identified in the 2012 Strategic Plan. The completion of Evelyn M. Anderson Hall in 2019 and the renovation of the former Music Hall into Hasenstab Hall in 2022 are among the most visible legacies of that plan. Many elements of the 2014 plan are currently being realized through the Student Life and Housing Plan, including the creation of a new Student Health and Counseling Center.

With important progress having been made on academic facilities, and work underway on student life and housing, a number of projects related to general community needs remain. While progress has been made in improving campus accessibility since the 2014 plan, there is additional work to be done in this area.

Physical Education, Athletics, and Recreation facilities

At a time when students, faculty and staff are increasingly prioritizing their physical and mental health, many of our recreational facilities are outdated or inadequate. In addition to upgrades to existing buildings and field spaces, possible solutions include a proposal to relocate programs and competitive events currently held in the West Gym through the construction of a new natatorium and gymnasium.

Sayles-Hill Renovation

A cornerstone of campus life, Sayles-Hill is a visible and central gathering place on campus and fulfills many student functions. Current renovations to Sayles Cafe will help to address changing dining needs and preferences. However, further analysis of current space use will demonstrate whether the current layout and space allocation adequately reflects the changing nature of student organizations and campus life.

Faculty and Staff Housing

The March 2023 Faculty and Staff Housing Report prepared by the Faculty Affairs Committee reflects the increasing challenge experienced by employees, particularly new hires, in locating suitable housing in a very tight local housing market. The Campus Facilities Plan should consider the College’s role in helping to address this problem, which has the potential to impact hiring and retention of both faculty and staff.

Office Space

Some college administrative offices are currently housed in less than optimal space. For example, the Division of External Relations occupies offices at 200 Division Street that are not as accessible, proximate, and welcoming as is necessary for effective collaboration with campus partners. At the same time, some offices have seen reduced five-day occupancy as individuals take advantage of the College’s remote work option. A space analysis of current needs and opportunities will determine how to reallocate or create space to serve our current needs.

Goal 7 Metrics:

  • Campus Facilities Plan (to be completed by Spring 2025)
  • Percentage of graduating class taking an Academic Civic Engagement course (increase)