TCC South Dean of Humanities Vicki Ansorge was unsure about collaborative spaces. Open plan offices bring visions of unattractive, cramped cubicles that offer no privacy and are unwelcoming to visitors. Ansorge’s thoughts changed after she attended a 2019 tour of the Steelcase Learning + Innovation Center with members of the College’s Three Goals and Eight Principles (3G8P) advisory panels. 3G8P is the strategic roadmap TCC uses to guide decision-making, ensuring a universal focus on student experience and success.
“What we saw when we toured Steelcase was a dynamic, amazing workplace that had both private and shared spaces so you could work collaboratively or on your own,” said Ansorge. Inspired by that trip, Ansorge and the TCC South deans worked with TCC Real Estate and Facilities to renovate their offices. The deans regularly worked together but wanted to be centrally located to foster further collaboration. The renovation resulted in an innovative and collaborative workspace that redefines how faculty and staff work at TCC.
Workspace Environments, one of TCC’s eight principles, developed standards based on industry best practices that shaped the design and decision-making processes for the renovation. Each design decision supports wellbeing, inspires creativity and increases productivity—from mimicking natural light for a peaceful environment to a new façade that welcomes visitors. “I think that kind of deliberate and very careful consideration about how a space will function has made for a better work environment,” said Ansorge.
A Welcoming Environment for All
Thomas Sosa, Dean of Mathematics & Natural Sciences at TCC South, notes the importance of employee equity in the design. “It was especially important that we talked with the administrative support staff, because they had perspectives that we didn’t,” said Sosa. Creating equity in the physical workspaces builds on a culture where all employees are seen as valuable members of the team.
These changes not only create a better workplace for employees but also a welcoming environment where faculty and staff can better serve students and the community. Glass walls and doors offer literal transparency, reducing the intimidation factor for students meeting with a dean. “There is a lot of safety and comfort not being in an enclosed office one on one,” said Sosa. “Yet there’s enough privacy to allow those private conversations as needed.” Typically, a trip to the dean’s office might not bode well for a student, but the TCC South deans are hoping the new area will be a more comfortable space that invites students to interact with campus leaders.
Being in such proximity also empowers the deans to quickly provide visitors with the help they need. If a student comes in to ask a process question, they can be helped by anyone in the office. Dean Sosa was recently able to help a student in Dean Ansorge’s area; Sosa supplied an overview of the grade review and appeal processes to a student who wanted to challenge a grade. “Even though Dean Ansorge’s and my areas are vastly different, I was still able to assist since the same process is followed for all students,” said Sosa.
“Collaborative workspaces have changed the dynamics at TCC by encouraging the removal of barriers and the elimination of silos. Our faculty and staff will be modeling to our students the future of the office space in higher education and beyond,” said Workspace Environments Champion and TCC Connect President Carlos Morales.
Through sharing a collaborative space, the TCC South deans have developed consistent processes and communication across different academic departments. For example, end of semester expectations are communicated consistently to each faculty member at TCC South, regardless of which dean they report to. Creating common practices across departments and campuses is critical to ensuring equity for students and staff—no matter what department they belong in, TCC ensures that every student, staff and faculty member have a successful and similar experience.
Design-conscious collaborative spaces are replacing the traditional office floor plan. From enhancing productivity to cultivating employee wellness, this new vision for workspaces fuels creativity while supporting TCC’s One College goal.
To learn how TCC’s 3G8P framework is guiding design in new campus projects, visit TCC’s Bond Program Updates.