I’ll never forget the day that my journalism professor humiliated me in front of the class. I was 19 years old, worry free, and attending my local community college. My friend Julia had bought me a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee that morning, so my body had a particular buzz to it. I felt so privileged sitting there sipping on my coffee waiting for class to start; it felt like a step into adulthood. Leaning against the cinder block walls of the classroom, I wondered if it was the intention of the designer to make us feel like we were in a prison. It was an adult prison though, with coffee, so I couldn’t complain much. My teacher began talking about the complexities of words and how important clarity with “no fluff” was in journalism. She said she had selected quotes from our last paper that contained useless information, aka, fluff. She mentioned that the writers of the quotes would remain anonymous. I remember thinking that there was no way anything from my paper would be up there, I was a genius writer after all. I’m pretty sure that was just the coffee talking.
“I read this and realized I needed a glass of wine. I drank the wine, I read it again, and it still made absolutely no sense to me,” my professor chuckled. “This is the exact kind of thing you don’t want to do.” Her judgement was palpable.
There on the projector was a quote from my paper. I can’t remember what it said, but I know it was poetic and flowery and apparently it was fluffy too. My face turned beat red and I remember feeling like I had absolutely no talent. My next break could not come soon enough.
After class I burst into the cold fall air scanning the crowd of smokers for my friend Julia. All of the buildings in the college were old and they had a way of making you feel like you were in a basement. The courtyard was no different. The cold benches of the outdoor lounge were blocked in by all of the brick buildings. The concrete seemed to swallow the sun. I remember sitting there and shivering in the sea of gray, day after day, staring into the small rectangular prison-like windows.
Delaware County Community College (DCCC) is not the campus it once was. I was there a few years ago to pick up transcripts and I was shocked by the changes of the campus. The newest building on the main campus is called the STEM center. It is a building that was so obviously built by social design. Social design is when a building, or school in this case, is created with the people who will use it in mind (Gruman, Schneider & Coutts, 2017). Social design has six main goals: matching the needs of the user, satisfying the user, changing the behavior of the user, enhancing the user’s personal control, facilitating social support for the user, and employing easy use and navigation for all users (Gruman et. al., 2017). Essentially, social designers take into account a building’s use first, rather than its architectural beauty (Gruman et. al., 2017).
The STEM center was built in 2010, with the goal to provide an engaging learning environment that encourages interactions between students and teachers (Delaware County Community College [DCCC], 2020). There are amenities including: fitness centers, lecture halls, learning pods and a first floor café, with coffee might I add, in order to satisfy its occupants (DCCC, 2020). The building’s design of smaller classrooms and over sized lounges call for a change in independent behavior by increasing collaboration among teachers and students. The STEM center also takes the environment into account, with its use of energy efficient systems and recycled materials (DCCC, 2020). This allows the college’s students to have a sense of respect and control over their physical environment as a part of the social design. The buildings large interior signs and multiple access points (including stairwells and elevators at every corner), allow for easy navigation. Basically, the STEM center is a stimulating and comfortable glass prism of social education. I wish it had been there when I was a student.
Now, I’m not saying that this gorgeous building based on social design would have eased the blow of my very first reality check in college, but, a little comfort never hurt anyone.
Delaware County Community College. (2020) Our Facilities and Technology. Retrieved from https://www.dccc.edu/academics/academic-divisions/stem/stem-complex#:~:text=The%20new%20STEM%20Center%20opened,pursuit%20of%20science%20and%20enlightenment.
Gruman, J.A.,Schneider, F.W., & Coutts, L.A. (2017). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.