Social Distancing Response & Architecture of Enrollment Management with Erik Kocher

On this episode of Student Housing Matters, Alton Irwin interviews Erik Kocher, a Principal with Hastings & Chivetta.  Hastings & Chivetta is a St. Louis based architectural firm that seems to be redefining what an architectural firm can do in the educational field.  Erik’s firm works with Universities, public k-12 schools and even private schools to analyze and upgrade physical attributes of campuses.  In the time of COVID-19, Hastings & Chivetta have broadened their horizon’s and have been assisting campuses with social distancing mapping as well as something they call Architecture of Enrollment Management or AEM. 

Architecture of Enrollment Management or AEM, is a program developed by Hastings & Chivetta designed to analyze and upgrade specific campus admissions tours in order to directly impact recruitment and application rates.  Erik explained that when Hastings & Chivetta first arrive on a campus they take a secret shopper admissions tour, with permission from the University President but without certain admissions admin knowing.  During this initial tour they put together a list of simple adjustments such as sign replacements, trash can relocations, tree trimming projects and hardscape renovations.  In addition to the small suggestions, Erik’s firm also lists a few more comprehensive renovations that may take a bit more time and planning to execute.  Renovations such as modernizing the lighting in a historic building or a large-scale repainting project.  Based on the graphs and data that Hastings & Chivetta possess, it is clear to see that with just a few minor, calculated adjustments any campus across the nation can significantly boost their applications and number of admissions.  While it is still difficult to tell what the overall economic impact of COVID-19 on the education industry will be, a study that Erik quoted estimates that 200 smaller or private colleges may go out of business in the next year or two.

In addition to their innovative AEM program, Erik was also excited to talk about how their firm was working with campuses to improve social distancing measures in preparation of the upcoming school year.  Hastings & Chivetta have gone as far as to create social distancing diagrams as well as touchpoint analysis’ that are catered to specific dining halls, residence halls, classrooms, lecture halls and more!  While it may seem obvious that the average classroom full of students is going to need to change, Hastings & Chivetta are also considering lounges, student life, athletics and even library workspaces. 

One of the more creative solutions that Erik mentioned was the idea of an A, B & C day on campuses.  In order to reduce the number of students in any classroom at one time, this strategy would allow roughly one-third of students in any given class to attend a class in person, while their classmates would attend virtually once or twice a week.  Like the name suggests, A, B & C day, the students attending the class in person would rotate three times each week.  While not perfect, if campuses are going to attempt to stay as close to CDC guidelines as possible this plan sounds like a step in the right direction.  As explained by Erik, issues with other social distancing solutions include repetitive classroom education for faculty, overlapping passing periods, issues with scheduling and more.  Even with a schedule such as the A, B & C mentioned by Erik, the registrar office and scheduling department are going to have their hands full this fall! 

In addition to classrooms and lecture halls, social distancing will need to take place in residence halls, fitness centers and even in quad style areas throughout campus.  Erik explained that establishing the locations of highest density across campus can help single out the first facilities that need to be addressed.  A learning environment analysis, touchpoint analysis or social distancing diagram like the ones put together by Hastings & Chivetta can give Universities the edge that they need in order to stay ahead of social distancing requirements and could set their campus apart from the rest come Fall.

Main Takeaways

  • A campus tour is often the first time a parent and prospective student see a school, first impressions are important!
  • Asymptomatic virus makes it hard to determine how many people have actually been exposed.
  • It is still difficult to calculate the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on higher education.
  • An estimated 200 smaller or private colleges may go out of business due to COVID-19.
  • As more campuses prepare to re-open in the Fall, some are looking into virtual campus tours and orientations.
  • A touchpoint analysis looks at how many objects that a student must touch in order to reach their next class.  Objects include but are not limited to door handles, buttons, knobs, sliding glass doors and more!
  • CDC regulations are mostly guidelines and suggestions, each campus will need to make their own decisions on how to move forward.
  • Campuses & Universities are working hard to establish social distancing protocol.
  • When it comes to student housing and social distancing, limiting the number of residents sharing a bathroom is key!
  • Social distancing protocols are expected to be a big selling point for students in the future.
  • Limiting classroom sizes, dining hall occupancy and fitness center maximum occupancy is going to be necessary.