October 18, 2012
For my environmental theory and assessment class, I was assigned to assess the environment in a space tied to my assistantship. The assignment had me sit in a space of my choosing and observe and take notes on the activity, as well as the physical environment for 20 minutes. The intention of the assignment was to show us how much we could learn about our spaces if we took the time to really observe them.
I decided to sit in the Market, one of the Indiana Memorial Union’s dining areas after the lunch rush. I have noticed in passing that this space is often used to study before and after the lunch hour, so I wanted to take the time to observe what was actually going on.
While I was watching, I noticed that most of the users of the space were individuals looking for a place to eat a snack while they did their work alone. Looking around the room, I noticed the vast array of diverse people sitting in the Market. While I was happy to discover that this diverse group of people felt comfortable using our space, I noticed there were very little interactions across difference. There was very little interaction at all!
Based on this observation (which I know is in no way thorough), I wonder if we are creating spaces that actually build community or if we are just creating spaces that bring many different people together in one central location to do their own thing? Should we be doing more to engage the students, staff, and faculty that use our spaces every day in building community?
What do you think? Does your student union/center build community between its users? Does the physical environment of our unions create community or do you have to intentionally create it?
is the Graduate Student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program at Indiana University–Bloomington.
As part of higher education and student affairs program, Mara works as the building manager at the Indiana Memorial Union. In that role, she supervises assistant building managers and night security staff as they maintain the operation and safety of the building after hours. Recently, Mara had an internship with the ACUI Central Office and assisted with the various educational programs.