Higher Education in the Context of Current Events

A Coffee Chat with Principals Bruce McKee and Jeff Jones

Jeff Jones and Bruce McKee – This generation has never been faced with such prolonged upheaval and uncertainty as has been experienced over the past several months, and this dynamic is likely to be ongoing for the foreseeable future.  The COVID-19 pandemic and our country’s racial unrest have each proven to be a challenge to our collective character, but also important and needed catalysts for change.   The pandemic has caused many sleepless nights, while also prompting an economic and social pause, allowing us, however briefly, to refocus on and reengage with our families and other aspects of life worthy of our attention even when work resumes at something resembling a normal pace.  The inexplicable and inhumane murder of George Floyd, and the pain that event caused, sparked our country — in part led by college-aged students — into action, imploring all of us to address the racial inequality that has too long been pervasive in our society.

We hope one day soon to be able to look back on this period in a positive light.  Not only as a painful and challenging time, but one that prompted us to examine both our collective values and behaviors and to become a society not just free of racial prejudice, but also one willing to acknowledge, learn from and openly discuss the mistakes we as a country and culture have made in the past in order to keep them from being repeated in the future.   At Capstone Development Partners we are evaluating all aspects of our business, core principles, hiring practices, and our relationships with staff, their families, and our clients and partners.  We are re-committing our company and our people to ensure we are modeling the positive changes that we believe are appropriate and necessary for our country to earn the global respect we both desire and continue to strive to be worthy of.

Amidst all of the current upheaval and uncertainty, state budgets are shrinking, enrollment is unclear, university budgets are strained and rating agencies are looking with greater scrutiny at institutions of higher education.  This is all in the context of a continuing/ resurging pandemic that has universities and their development partners, like Capstone, focused on the safety of students, staff and campus communities, while searching for new and better ways to accomplish the comprehensive and transformational mission of an on-campus/ residential-based education.

Capstone has long been a leader in the campus housing development sector, and in public-private partnerships (P3’s) with roughly seventy colleges and universities over the past three decades.   We have navigated many economic ups and downs, including the not-so-long-ago recession of 2008 that dramatically altered our industry almost overnight. As principals at Capstone, we bring over 50 years of combined experience and lessons learned (positive and painful).  We consider our company driven every bit as much by mission and values, as by profitability.

In the context of the changes we hope to see in our country, Higher Education is more important than ever before.  College campuses and their vital residential / living-learning communities, where the free exchange of ideas and perspectives among students and faculty is encouraged and safe, are critical as social laboratories for the development of a new, more positive social ‘chemistry’ among today’s young adults.  These students, who are served by our institutions and businesses, will be tomorrow’s national and global leaders. The lessons and life experiences only obtainable on college campuses across the country will help ensure this generation emerges with a focus on, and passion for social and racial justice, equality and economic security for all.

The path toward recrafting campus community and restarting campus facility development currently feels uncertain.  While the right steps and solutions may not yet be crystal clear, we at Capstone are confident that a time in the not-too-distant future will come when we can get back to focusing on creating campus housing environments that keep our students safe and foster their education and personal growth.  All of us at Capstone are here to help if we can.  We have programs and resources that can allow you to move forward with campus housing, academic and mixed-use developments even in the face of declining public or institutional funding — whenever you are ready.

We appreciate and value all of our existing university partnerships and relationships, and those we hope to build in the future.  We will continue to meet and overcome the challenges that confront you, and us with a spirit of partnership and collaboration.  For those considering your future campus development plans, we would welcome the chance to visit with you to learn more about your school’s goals and aspirations associated with a post pandemic, equality-focused and socially just campus.  We would also be happy to share with you our thoughts about the options available for developing housing and related institutional facilities– even in the challenging world in which we are living.  We hope you all stay safe and remain focused on the positive changes that we believe can be accomplished when people of good will work together.