Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass names new director for campus planning

Courtesy of Harvard

Dennis Swinford, previously the principal project planner for Harvard University Allston Development Group, was recently named director for campus planning at the University of Massachusetts.

Swinford began work Sept. 20 and will be responsible for the oversight, development, and implementation of the University’s project plans. He will be a new addition to an already existing master plan and will use his expertise to contribute in consolidating the visions of the stakeholders and campus community.

Having just recently started his work in Amherst, Swinford said he is just getting a grasp of the campus’ dynamics, and that he is only now becoming nuanced about preexisting plans for major developments. So far, he has taken note of the spaces which allow for “opportunity to create a good future for campus”.

Swinford said a large part of a successful plan is the process and people involved with development.

Swinford said that while he is not fully acclimated to his role here at the Commonwealth’s flagship university campus, he is excited to get down to brass tacks.

“I look forward to working with [the University community] to create a physical plan for their future,” he said.

Part of Swinford’s contribution is providing a framework for an already developing project. One goal is to make sure that the steps the campus is taking today with the resources available gets the campus to where it wants to be.

When referring to accommodating students’ needs, Swinford said a goal is to “create an environment in which they can do their best.”

Swinford said he believes the campus has already seen a great deal of improvement, listing the completion of the new Integrated Sciences Building as one of the school’s premier accomplishments.

He is enthusiastic about “adding to an environment that supports research and learning.”

Prior to working for UMass, Swinford has experience helping to create master plans for large institutions on a national, local, and global level.

Most recently, he worked for the Harvard University Allston Development Group. Prior to his work in Cambridge, Swinford worked at other local schools, including Holyoke Community College and Westfield State University.

On a national scale, he has helped in campus planning for the University of Illinois, the University of Memphis, and Ohio State University. Swinford also has global experience working with the American University of Beirut, and the American University in Cairo.

Juanita Holler, associate vice chancellor for facilities and campus services, said that creating cohesive plans for campus development can be a challenge, given varying parties’ conflicting wishes for new projects. However, she said she hopes working with Swinford will help centralize the campus’ planning and coordination needs.

“He likes what he does,” she said. “His enthusiasm and knowledge will make it a smooth process.”

Swinford will work with a small staff, which is beneficial from a financial standpoint. Due to his almost 30-year background in landscape architecture and urban planning, Swinford will also help determine how much development projects will require in funding dollars.

The main purpose of the master plan for the University is to meet the needs of the facilities to accommodate a growing staff and student population.

Another goal that the stakeholders in the plan for campus development would like to see, is for the campus to be admired not only for academics, but also for aesthetics.

“I love the master plan process; theUuniversity can focus on what it wants to be not only academically but visually,” said Holler.      

Bonnie Woods, a senior majoring in political science, thinks that staying within budget is crucial for the plans.

As far as renovations and new buildings go, Woods said she feels “overall space utilization is really important.”

Woods also thinks more housing is a top priority.

“Students living in lounges is not okay. All students that want to live on campus, especially underclassmen, should have that ability.”

Woods also believes that the aesthetic aspects of the school should not be a top priority in the plans right now. “Yes, UMass should look better, but if it comes at the expense of students not being able to attend the University, then it shouldn’t.”

 As far as time goes, the plans stretch across a time period of 20 years into the future. While these plans have end results, the steps along the way needed to get the most value in making campus a better place are vital as well.

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected].

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