In June 2012, the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) launched the Plan Big: UNL Campus and Landscape Master Plan, which provides the physical framework for UNL to grow and strengthen its place among national peers in academics, athletics, and research. The name reflects the significance of this plan for the university, which is occurring at a time of ambitious growth aspirations, a new position within the Big Ten conference, and new visions for UNL's campus and landscape identity. As Nebraska's only land-grant, comprehensive, research university, UNL has laid out goals to increase enrollment, tenure-track faculty, research expenditures, and graduation rates to heighten academic achievement and fiscal sustainability. While growth will be transformative in a positive way for the university, it must be thoughtfully planned and balanced with existing needs. Rather than conceiving of singular, circumscribed projects, the plan suggests ways that the university can create collaborative places that contribute to and reinforce the overall campus identity and experience.
In keeping with the university's aspirations, the framework consists of three big ideas: Big and Green; Big, But Well Connected; and Thinking Big. Each of these ideas identifies physical improvements to the campus that reinforces UNL's learning environments. There are several components to the Big and Green feature of the plan, including a new vision for Memorial Mall, a historic open lawn which occupies a symbolically important site adjacent to the football stadium. Renovation to the ground level of the university's Love Library building and the adjacent gardens will create a new place for people to study or gather. Big and Green also includes an overarching sustainability strategy for both campuses, with a focus on stormwater management that reduces and treats runoff at the source. In order to make UNL a Big, But Well-Connected campus, the plan improves mobility options, such as biking, walking, transit, and driving—both to and within each campus. Additionally, identifying the Zipper Zone—the region on City Campus between R and Q Streets—provides opportunities to strengthen programmatic connections between the campus and the adjacent downtown. Finally, Thinking Big embodies the university's enthusiasm to create world-class, collaborative learning environments on both of UNL's main campuses. To achieve this, the plan identifies future academic sites that can accommodate entrepreneurial growth and reinforce interdisciplinary collaboration.
In his State of the University address, the chancellor, encouraged UNL students "to think big—to think beyond the restraints of their current imagination, beyond their current city limits, and beyond the boundaries of their current circumstances." And the UNL plan does just that for the university itself.