Business-Engineer Center plans develop

A $120 million business-engineering convergence center is in the works, and Vice President for Business Affairs Gary Anna said it’s no longer a matter of if, but when, the project will begin.

“The building, by way of cost, would be as much as the Markin Center, Renaissance Coliseum, Westlake [Hall] and the [Hayden-Clark] Alumni Center combined,” Anna said. “As far as size, it will probably be larger than the sum of all of those combined.”

The convergence center will house individual spaces for both the Foster College of Business and the Caterpillar School of Engineering, but with shared areas for interaction.

“We’re not trying to blend the two, but instead we’re trying to flavor each education to work better together,” he said. “And if programming is inhibited by what the facility should be, then why not marry the two?”

The combined building is part of an effort to help graduates become “T” people, Foster College of Business Dean Robert Scott said.

“A ‘T’ person is someone who has a depth of expertise in business or engineering, but with integrated knowledge of the other,” he said. “In today’s world of expertise, people need another dimension.”

Even though Bradley wants to add another dimension to students’ education, that doesn’t mean turning an accountant into an engineer, he said.

“The people in the technical world will be dealing with people in the business world, and vise versa,” he said. “The “T” person experience is having engineers and business students work together on a real-world project.”

The convergence center will be unlike anything else in place at other universities, Scott said.

“At some schools, engineers take business courses, but that didn’t do the trick,” he said. “Some tried mixing faculty, but that didn’t work either. This is unique. Bits and pieces of it can be found at other universities, but not this whole package.”

Within the program, senior engineering and business students would work together on a project.

“There would be two engineers, two business students, and they would have to work together to solve something for an actual company,” he said. “Those students will go off into the world and be at the front of the line. And if they deliver, they’ll be moving up faster.”

The center will be held to the same sustainability standard as other recently constructed buildings on campus, Anna said.

“It’s kind of the rule now that we want our buildings to be at a high level of sustainability,” he said. “It’s very likely it will have some green roofs and natural components of sustainability.”

Anna said plans are still in the fine-tuning stage, and at this point, resource identification is critical.

“We’d rather wait and do it right,” he said. “In this case, it’s pretty important to those units that we do it sooner rather than later, but we have to be careful not to bite off more than we can chew.”

Timing is also high on the construction priority list.

“It’s a big project, so the notion is this could take a long time,” he said. “A typical construction shift is about eight hours, so we might have two shifts working on it to accelerate the structure. We don’t want a student to be here four years and never have an ‘academic home’ for their major.”