Led by outgoing Dean Stephanie Bryant, Missouri State University’s College of Business spent $30.4 million renovating and expanding its building. The change marks not only an overhaul of the 30-year-old Glass Hall, but also a reimagining of the department Bryant worked to grow. Following the completion of the project this month, she will leave MSU at the end of the year to take an executive role at the COB’s accreditation body, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.
MSU’s Glass Hall, constructed largely with funds donated by former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. president and CEO David Glass, never really resembled its name. The concrete building had fewer windows, less lighting and lower ceilings than most buildings on campus.
“It was like a cave,” said David Meinert, the COB’s associate dean who will step in as interim dean Jan. 1.
The appearance wasn’t the only complaint about the building. In the late 1980s, Meinert said, the goal in school design was to maximize classroom lecture space. As a result, there were no common areas for students studying between classes – and more importantly, to work with their peers on group projects.
“We spent a lot of time with students talking with them about what they wanted to see; what kind of space they wanted,” Bryant said of the five-year redevelopment process when accounting for approval and funding steps.
Students and instructors worked in a construction zone for two years, Meinert said, while the existing building was retrofitted with higher ceilings, new flooring and furnishings, and LED lights.
Reimagining business school
Although appearance is a key factor in making a good first impression on prospective students and their parents, the deans say the upside in the new Glass Hall is the way it will better prepare graduates for real-world workplaces.
“We expect them to be able to hit the ground running,” Bryant said.
With 37,000 square feet of new space, Glass Hall now looks and feels more like a modern corporate office complex than a school. It has seven collaboration rooms, five learning laboratories and an executive-style auditorium. On the top floor, a corner board room is outfitted with a massive oval table and floor-to-ceiling windows offering a grand view of the long grass mall that connects Carrington Hall’s administration offices to the public affairs statue in front of Strong Hall. There is also a four-story atrium with skylights that runs the width of the building.
Bryant, along with Meinert and Associate Dean Elizabeth Rozell, toured at least 10 newly renovated business schools across the country – including Louisiana State University and University of Missouri-Kansas City – looking for best practices.
Based on their research, the main focus of the redesign was collaboration, Bryant said, with gathering areas in nearly every hallway and intersection – complete with soft seating, tables and power outlets – where students can work together, building communication and teamwork skills.
“Those are skills that employers want,” she said.
A new think tank lab is designed for students to work on consulting projects.
Last year, Bryant said MBA students from the college completed a consulting project for Hotel Nikko in San Francisco; the property is managed by alumnae Anna Marie Presutti.
“They didn’t really have any space to work, so they had to kind of find space around the building,” she said. “The think tank is designed for that. There is wall collaboration space there’s technology collaboration space, and there’s a board table.”
Business clubs such as Enactus can use the new entrepreneurial lab, and MSU’s nationally ranked sales team has a new sales lab.
Previously, students held sales pitch competitions in a classroom, Bryant said, but the audience of students and judges negatively affected performance.
“In the real world, the student would be in the manager’s office – we want to simulate that environment,” she said.
Several mock offices and one conference room are equipped with one-way mirrors and cameras, so that instructors and competition judges can observe sales pitches and focus groups. Digital footage can be reviewed at any time in the cloud by faculty who give detailed feedback through GoReact software, using keyboard shortcuts to mark the moments students make such mistakes as breaking eye contact or using audible pauses.
“It’s so much more powerful when you can see what you’re doing versus having someone tell you what you’re doing,” Meinert said.
Future stockbrokers already are being trained in the new trading lab, which simulates stock trades through the same Bloomberg software used at the New York Stock Exchange.
“Our students will actually be Bloomberg certified before they graduate, which gives them an advantage in terms of recruiting,” Meinert said.
Job placement is clearly a focus. The additional space has its own career center, with guidance counselors and six interview rooms where hiring representatives from businesses will talk to students about job opportunities immediately after graduation.
Meinert said 170 companies that recruited on campus last year for corporate employees is proof the COB’s students can compete with those from other universities nationwide. The COB currently has 5,511 students, including 770 graduate-level students. During the 2015-16 school year, MSU’s COB ranked 34th on AACSB’s list of the 521 largest business schools, with 4,532 undergrads, below University of Arkansas with 5,432 students and University of Missouri with 5,026.
“That’s our product,” he said. “If those companies are coming here, they are saying that our product is comparable.”
Of course, the feeding frenzy of job recruiters is good for students, but it may hint at the fact many graduates do not stay in the local area. Only 50 of the companies that recruited at the business school last year have a Springfield presence, with most traveling from Kansas City and St. Louis. Local banks, such as Central Bank of the Ozarks, Great Southern Bank and Guaranty Bank, went head-to-head with national companies, including U.S. Bank and Mass Mutual. Other major Springfield employers, such as O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and Prime Inc., attempt to lure grads away from big brands like Hallmark Cards Inc., Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and Walgreens.
At Springfield accounting firm KPM CPAs PC, Human Resources Director Sara Choate said nearly all of its 100 employees were recruited from local colleges. She doesn’t worry about competition from outside accounting firms, since it seems a large number of students want to stay in the Springfield area.
“Whether that’s because they grew up here and they’ve always been here or because through their experience with Missouri State they have really decided Springfield is a place they’d like to establish themselves,” she said.
Attracting career recruiters is a top priority for the COB, Bryant said, and the employment of graduates is a measuring stick. Six months after graduation, 82 percent of COB students have jobs within their field, with an average salary of $46,462. About 79 percent stay in the state and 52 percent stay in Springfield.
“What we shoot for is, a job in hand when they graduate,” Bryant said.
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