Concordia’s School of Business is exploring the possibility of relocating from Old Main to Grant Center, consequently gaining the space needed for additional faculty and administrative staff to aid in implementing a new business curriculum.
Grant Center is currently being examined by an architectural firm based out of Boston. Greg Cant, dean of the Concordia School of Business, said he is hoping to have an idea of whether it’s structurally and technically feasible to renovate Grant Center for the School of Business by the December meeting of the Board of Regents.
Mark Krejci, provost and dean of the college, said the Board of Regents asked Concordia to explore the possibility of Grant Center as a new home for the School of Business.
“Nothing is set, the Board has not approved a building project or anything like that,” Krejci said. “We’re just exploring; we know we need more space for the business program, so then where would be the best place to put them.”
Krejci said Concordia is at capacity in classrooms. He also said that the college could even be considered an overcapacity, because some classrooms are filled beyond the number that they comfortably fit. Krejci said if the School of Business were to add any more faculty to Old Main, their classes would have to be held in the evening because there is no classroom space available during the day.
“It’s just a scheduling nightmare, because how do students fit that in?” he said. “We need space one way or another.”
Junior Colten Kohler agrees that the School of Business needs more room.
“One of the reasons I came to Concordia was because of the student to staff ratio and it feels like that my classes are having more students instead of less as I get in to higher level classes, which isn’t what I expected,” he said.
Cant said Grant Center has ample space for the School of Business. Grant has about 55,000 square feet and the majority of the building is empty. To put that in perspective, the entirety of Old Main has 44,000 square feet. If the School of Business does move out of Old Main, Cant said it would provide opportunities for other departments to move in and use the space.
While Krejci said that the School of Business could fit into the space in Grant Center, it has not yet been determined by the architectural firm if the space can be turned into the appropriate rooms needed.
“It could fit in that square footage available, but will it fit in a way that you can put good classrooms and good offices in?” he said. “Square footage looks like it can work, but now can it really work?”
If the move to Grant Center is approved, Krejci said it would be paid for with new revenue from fundraising efforts through a campaign specifically for the School of Business. The fundraising campaign has not been launched yet.
If a move to Grant Center is declared feasible, Cant would like to move as quickly as possible. He hopes to create modern, dynamic learning environments and integrate the building to be fully wireless, so students have access to laptops and other technology in the classroom at all times.
“It would be pointless to build this and build a replica of something else we got, so we want this to be the most amazingly modern space,” Cant said.
Cant said that besides freeing up one and a half floors of Old Main for use, the new teaching spaces created in Grant Center will be accessible to and used by other departments as well, so it will take some pressure off of everyone’s teaching spaces.
Cant also hopes that Grant Center’s proximity to the Hallett and Erickson residence halls will create a living learning community. Cant would like to create public spaces, such as a coffee shop and a student lounge area, to be open long after classes are done for the day so students can study and work together.
Kohler said he doesn’t like the idea of the School of Business in East Complex because it is out of the way for students who don’t live in that area of campus and he likes Old Main’s central location.
“But we are limited to where it could be,” he said, “and I understand that.”
All of Cant’s visions for Grant Center deal with the interior space. He has no plans for the exterior of the building except creating an entrance from Eighth Street. Currently, the west side of Grant Center is covered by trees. Cant would like to remove some of these trees and create an entrance to the School of Business that will catch the eye of people driving by on Street.
“It’ll be a perfect location, to be on campus but also highly visible,” Cant said. “We want to them to go ‘Wow, is that a new building?’ Of course it’s not a new building, it’s a repurposed building.”
Cant said the move to Grant Center is crucial to the School of Business’s plans to initiate a new curriculum, create more class options, and hire more faculty.
“A facility doesn’t make a school,” Cant said, “but the problem is we literally couldn’t fit what we need to do in this building without emptying out everyone else, and to say the least, that’s counterproductive.”
Currently, Cant and other School of Business faculty are working to develop a new curriculum to present to the Faculty Senate. He hopes to have the new curriculum available as soon as next year for the incoming freshmen, and also give sophomores the chance to switch into the new curriculum.
“What we’re hoping to do, subject to approval, is for this year to approve overall structure of the program. But we actually approve in a technical sense just the classes for freshmen and sophomores, and then next year approve the rest of the classes for juniors and seniors, so in two years time, everything’s in play,” he said.
The new curriculum will be a substantial change from the current curriculum, Cant said. Everything from the numbering systems to the range of offerings will be different. The new curriculum will only have two majors—business and accounting—but under the business major will be a series of concentrations to choose from, such as finance, marketing, and so on. Cant said this differs drastically from the current curriculum, which has “lots of tiny majors.” The new curriculum centers on a comprehensive core of business classes that everyone completes. Cant believes this comprehensive core has a lot more substance than the current curriculum, and will better prepare students for careers in the business world.
“When people will look at what the old curriculum is, and fairly soon we’ll be in a position to show them roughly what their new curriculum is, they’ll say ‘Wow, that’s a big difference.’ We believe that big difference is very important because it prepares people much better than the current curriculum does,” he said.
Junior Casey Johnson is undecided about the new curriculum. He said it makes sense to give everyone a thorough business education, but he wonders how employers will view a business major with an emphasis in finance for example, versus a major in finance.
“It might seem like a person who only has an emphasis in a certain area might be under qualified,” he said.
Cant also hopes to offer a business minor to students who aren’t business majors. Cant said he hopes to have at least four classes designed for non-business students that will create a meaningful minor that he thinks just about everyone should consider doing.
“I honestly can’t imagine what career you are going to want to pursue that it doesn’t help you to have a sense of business,” he said.
Cant said that if the School of Business does a great job with the business minor, they might have much more impact than business majors alone and that most people on campus will have a connection to the business school.
Cant said the School of Business plans to hire at least six or seven more faculty, about a 50 percent increase. Cant foresees about 20 faculty in the school and a range of new administrative support to help implement the new curriculum.
“It’s growing hugely from where we’re at at the moment,” he said.
While the School of Business moves to Grant Center and the new curriculum is only pending changes for the School of Business at this point, Cant is optimistic that both of the changes will happen.
“Within three or four years, we have most of the people in place, the curriculum is kicking along, we’re in a new facility, and we can’t remember what it used to be like to be here,” Cant said
Marisa Paulson is a senior and the news & features editor of The Concordian, although she still writes when she can. She plans to attend the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in fall 2011.