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Data-Driven Decisions at UTK’s Campus Student Union

  • The Associate Director of Facilities of Operations at UTK uses Occupancy Analytics to drive Student Union management decisions.
  • Data-driven decisions around the Student Union have impacted staffing, cleaning, and purchasing decisions.
  • The ability to lease underutilized event spaces while also meeting student group requests has been critical to UTK Student Union success.

Alison Ward leads the University of Tennessee, Knoxville Student Union and is responsible for KPIs related to facility utilization and associated costs. That means everything from staffing and furniture budgets to community amenities. It also means meeting the challenge of the suddenly crowded e-sports event and finding ways to optimize underutilized premier meeting spaces (always reserved, not always filled).

Ward recently walked Higher Education peers through some real-world examples of Occupancy Analytics in action on her campus. Here some key takeaways from her recent webinar, co-hosted by Lambent Spaces and Microsoft.

Student Union Management Presents Big Challenges

“We have approximately 25 spaces here in the Union and we’ll have groups say we’re going to have 100 people and five show up, ” explains Ward. “We have over 600 student organizations and they all want to meet in the building – and so trying to figure out and balance the needs and wants of all of our students can be hard. And so we’ve been using Lambent to assist with some of that.”

By the Numbers: UTK’s Student Union is a 394,000 square-foot facility accommodating a range of activities, including dining concepts and numerous events. The Student Union Mission, in part, “advances a sense of community, unifying the institution by embracing the diversity of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and guests. We bolster the educational mission of the institution and the development of students as lifelong learners by delivering an array of cultural, educational, social, and recreational programs, services, and facilities.”

Knowing the Challenge: Ward and her team could see empty, reserved spaces they might have leased on some days, and they also knew when to expect football fans (Go Vols!) on campus – but she needed data to provide reports to critical stakeholders for reassigning student groups or redesigning common spaces.

Enter Occupancy Analytics: The strategic partnership between UTK and Lambent Spaces brought Occupancy Analytics to the forefront of decision-making. Here’s three of the ways Ward explains her Student Union use cases and some of the key questions she answered over the last year.


  1. Accurate Attendance Tracking: With the ability to track both the number of people attending an event and how long they stay, UTK can gauge the true engagement and impact of various activities.
  2. Efficient Space Management: Reports showing space utilization over time means Ward can make a case to stakeholders for changes in space allocations. This includes identifying underutilized spaces and reallocating resources accordingly.
  3. Informed Decision-Making: Ward uses Occupancy Analytics data to substantiate policy changes, resource allocation requests, and plan for additional staffing or custodial services.

Questions Answered by Occupancy Analytics

  •         Which spaces need more custodial attention during peak times?

·   How can furniture replacement be strategically timed based on actual usage?

·   Are certain groups overusing or underusing spaces, leading to better space allocation strategies?

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s collaboration with Lambent Spaces exemplifies the transformative potential of occupancy analytics in higher education. By leveraging technology to capture, analyze, and apply data, UTK has elevated its campus management practices. Through accurate attendance tracking, efficient space management, and informed decision-making, UTK has optimized their Student Union for improved student experience and efficiencies.

To learn more about Lambent Spaces, reach out directly to and speak with one of our HE Experts.

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