Blueprint for change

Making plans for tomorrow

Blueprint for change

by Christopher Stolarski

Campus master plan’s ambitions call university family to step boldly. This is where we’re going.

It’s been more than a half-century since Marquette constructed a residence hall. Today the university is doubling down, constructing a two-tower, $108 million facility for first-year and sophomore students that will bear the name of a beloved former president.

The 890–bed Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., Commons is the first major product of the university’s newly adopted campus master plan. For the plan’s lead architect, the student-centric facility is a fitting start. “I’m personally so proud that our first master plan project is truly for our students,” Vice President for Planning and Strategy Lora Strigens told a crowd of students, faculty and staff at the ground-breaking ceremony.

More bold projects will follow in this construction and renovation plan that will change the physical appearance of campus as well as how the university educates students, conducts research, fosters community, and promotes its mission and values.

One example is called Innovation Alley, a cross-disciplinary facility that will transform the southwest campus corridor by connecting learning labs and more for the entire block between Wisconsin Avenue and Clybourn Street. “Innovation Alley will bring together engineering, business and science into an integrated facility, where students and faculty can look at things all the way from prototype and ideation to taking a product to market,” Strigens says. The facility could also include limited student housing, creating a living-learning community.

Other ideas envisioned in the campus master plan include the widely publicized athletic performance research center; a bio-discovery district that will fuse the hard and health sciences in the south-central portion of campus; a holistic recreation and wellness center on the northeast corner of 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue; a reimagined Central Mall called the Chapel Lawn; a north commons that brings green space to the area between the Dr. E.J. O’Brien Jesuit Residence and Alumni Memorial Union; and a gateway pedestrian mall at 13th Street, from Wells Street to Wisconsin Avenue.

President Michael Lovell says the campus master plan is a road map for capital projects during the next 15 to 20 years. A clear hallmark of the plan is its ambition and link to the university’s strategic plan, Beyond Boundaries. “To achieve our vision of being the most innovative and accomplished Catholic, Jesuit university in the world, we need to think differently and act different to be the difference,” Lovell says.

Both the campus master plan and the university’s strategic plan emphasize cross-campus collaboration. The president stressed the point at a planning workshop with nearly 250 members of the campus community. “We have so many needs on our campus — physical structures and space — to be addressed,” he says. “One of the challenges is that we have to prioritize, and we need the whole campus community to do that.”

Strigens agrees the needs are great and how the university responds is important: “We’re not merely trying to keep up. We’re trying to go beyond and differentiate ourselves, to use our imaginations to get to where we want to be in the future.”

In addition to the most significant and highly visible projects, such as Innovation Alley, there are dozens of smaller-scale efforts that will be just as important to transforming campus during the next two decades. Many of the smaller efforts will lay the groundwork for the big, transformational projects. Strigens calls a critical variable in the plan’s success “the domino effect” of how projects are sequenced.

“Take the new residence hall facility — it allows us to raze McCormick Hall, which is outdated and has escalating maintenance costs. That frees up space for the recreation and wellness center, which then allows us to demolish the Rec Center, making way for Innovation Alley,” Strigens explains. “Many of these projects rely on the success of others. This is a complex, long-range plan and its success relies on careful stewardship every step of the way. But it’s also a truly inspirational vision — the next 20 years for Marquette are going to be very exciting.”


  1. It is very emotional for me to read this article. I understand the need for the future, but I worked in the Rec Center and lived next door to it. For the students who have gone to this university there seems to be no past for us to see. I lived in O’Donnell and Mashuda Halls and currently they are still standing. There seems to be no need for the preservation of the past, such a shame really.

  2. What the College has done to beautify and develop a cohesive urban campus in a tough old town has been nothing short of amazing. Well done.

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