This content was published: November 8, 2018. Phone numbers, email addresses, and other information may have changed.
It’s a ‘students first’ approach for Jody Giffin at Planning and Capital Construction
Photos and Story by Sarah Rose Evans
Outside the Cascade Library, students are studying, chatting, lounging, and soaking up the final rays of a sunny autumn thanks to outdoor furniture recently added to the plaza that has transformed the ambiance.
The new furniture is in part due to the efforts of Jody Giffin, interiors and space manager at the Planning and Capital Construction Office (P&CC).
When Giffin sees a student curled into a study pod, reviewing the mechanisms of the endocrine system, or a group gathered around a table in a common area to debate the correct interpretation of a p-value, she sees a job well done.
“It is so rewarding to see students stay outside of their class schedule, simply enjoying being on campus,” said Giffin. “We want students to know that it’s their space.”
With a charge of making the environment work for students, faculty, staff, she is responsible for a wide range of projects — from overseeing interior build out and space planning within the college, to selecting and ordering furniture and coordinating moves.
Details, both inside and outside buildings, are designed to create a welcoming, student-centered environment. Giffin understands the importance of providing students a place they feel they belong. Part of her mission is to create areas that allow students to study on their own, encourage them to interact with their peers, work in study groups, and yes — have fun. From group areas to individual study spaces, she works to ensure there is a variety of options to meet a range of needs. The more engaged students are on campus, studies show, the greater their educational success, and so Giffin’s choices are centered around what could best serve students.
“Spaces at PCC should be functional, supportive, inviting, and accessible for all,” she said.
Giffin grew up with a passion for art, and directed that love into creating functional and appealing designed spaces. She is an interior designer by training, with a bachelor’s from the University of Oregon in Interior Architecture. After 15 years in the private sector, working with a range of clients that included corporate, health care, and higher education, she joined the team at P&CC in 2014. Since then, she’s found that she loves working with students in a learning environment. Her work at PCC is especially fulfilling as she feels it is making a positive impact.
“There are multiple factors involved in furnishing a space, and it can be a challenge to juggle varying preferences and stay within budget,” said Giffin. “That said, I try to engage the users of the space, so that we can all weigh in on the ideas and ultimately, the decisions to be made. That kind of process is energizing and rewarding.”
For the outdoor furniture at the library plaza, Giffin worked with campus administration and library staff, as well as surveyed students sitting outside to gauge what they needed. She worked with the Accessible Built Environment Committee to ensure that the space was accessible for a variety of users, and that PCC provided a range of options within the same space. Using these comments as a guideline, she drew up plans and reviewed them with the stakeholders to help filter options toward a final selection. One of the most important factors to consider was the longevity of the furniture. As careful stewards of taxpayer money, the P&CC office strives to purchase long-lasting, durable pieces that are both comfortable and easy to take care of.
And from a time sensitivity standpoint, Giffin worked hard to get the new furniture installed to take advantage of the amazing fall weather.
“The furniture that was purchased for the Library exterior is awesome,” said Heidi Dombek, scheduling coordinator for the Cascade Campus. “Students are loving the new outdoor study space.”