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Thought Leaders Series

APPA developed the Thought Leaders Series to conduct dedicated discussions on the future of higher education and the impact of that future on educational facilities. The annual Thought Leaders symposium convenes representatives of colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada alongside association leaders, industry consultants, and education experts. All Thought Leaders reports are free, thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, and may be downloaded using the form below.

Thought Leaders is a program of APPA's Center for Facilities Research. For more information about the Thought Leaders Series, contact:
Keith Woodward, Quinnipiac University, Thought Leaders Series chair
Jack Colby, APPA Past President and APPA Fellow, Thought Leaders Series co-chair and co-founder
Lander Medlin, APPA Executive Vice President and Thought Leaders Series co-founder

The 2018 Thought Leaders report, The Landscape, Framework, and Strategies for Managing & Mitigating Risk, looks at enterprise risk management (ERM) from both a campus-wide perspective as well as how risks affect the facilities organization in its support of the institution. In assessing all types of risks to the institution--strategic, financial, operational, compliance, and reputational--the Thought Leaders symposium participants identified six major risk areas that must be considered for their campuses:

* Revenue and investments
* Brand and reputation
* Health and safety
* Innovation
* Facilities
* Changing political/cultural environment

Many thanks to sponsors Jacobs and Johnson Controls for their generous support.

The 2017 Thought Leaders report focuses on Transforming Facilities to Achieve Student Success. Student success starts with retention and graduation, but it can expand to include factors from personal career goals to social responsibility. A key message from the report is that through strategic investment in their facilities, colleges and universities can support student success, position the campus for the future, and serve as good stewards of campus assets. The report also stresses that the process must reflect the mission and vision of the campus, thus making the greatest impact possible on the college or university’s goals.

All Thought Leaders reports are free, thanks to the generosity of sponsors Jacobs, and Johnson Controls, and may be downloaded from the APPA Bookstore.

The 2016 Thought Leaders symposium, supported in part by long-time sponsor Jacobs, discusses Remaking the Facilities Organization. The report makes the case for a customer-centric higher education facilities organization. Experts provide their insights on how a focus on the customer provides a framework for driving change. The benefits of a customer-centric focus include empowered employees, better alignment between the mission of the facilities organization and the mission of the institution, and improved stewardship of campus systems and resources.

The 2015 Thought Leaders symposium, sponsored in part by Jacobs, focuses on the topic of Facilities & Technology: The Transformation of "Campus." Educational institutions that master new technologies will have an edge in the increasingly competitive higher education landscape.  The report discusses the factors related to integrating technology and the campus built environment; using technology to enhance critical campus functions; and integrating facilities management and information technology.


The 2014 Thought Leaders symposium, sponsored in part by DTZ, a UGL company, and Jacobs, highlights the issues and challenges related to leveraging campus facility assets to achieve desired institutional outcomes.  The report examines the gap between where higher education wants to be and where it actually finds itself. Participants sought to identify the key characteristics of successful campuses, then looked at what institutions are actually achieving – the disagreeable reality of unsustainable funding models, unsuccessful students, and poorly utilized resources.  The report includes an executive summary, strategies for improving institutional outcomes, a lengthy resource section, and the top facilities strategies to support the college or university.

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APPA's Sustainability Guide

APPA has also published a special report in our Thought Leaders Series – The Educational Professional's Practical Guide to Reducing the Campus Carbon Footprint. Sponsored by Affiliated Engineers Inc., this implementation guide gives educational facilities professionals a practical companion framework for moving forward in their unique role within the process of achieving environmental sustainability. The report helps facilities managers and sustainability coordinators maximize their specific contributions and work in tandem with other campus stakeholders to meet their institutions’ goals of carbon neutrality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.


Also Available

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Download Thought Leaders

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2018: The Landscape, Framework, and Strategies for Managing & Mitigating Risk
2017: Transforming Facilities to Achieve Student Success
2016: Remaking the Facilities Organization
2015: Facilities & Technology: The Transformation of "Campus"
2014: Leveraging Facilities for Institutional Success
2013: The Rising Cost of Higher Education
2012: Campus Space...An Asset and a Burden
2011: Workplace Demographics and Technology: Challenges and Opportunities to the Campus Mission
2010: Assessing and Forecasting Facilities in Higher Education
2009: The Economy's Influence on Environmental Sustainability and Energy
2008: The Challenges of Demographic Changes and Accountability to Campus Facilities
2007: Educational Facilities and the Impact of Technology, Expectations, and Competition
2006: University Facilities Respond to the Changing Landscape of Higher Education
Practical Guide to Reducing the Campus Carbon Footprint