Updated March 24 at 12:29am

Business education gets connected at PC

Providence College's $30 million School of Business building, targeted to open in early 2017, is tailored to the needs of business students, but will serve the larger campus as well. "We're not building a silo for the business school," said …

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Business education gets connected at PC

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Providence College's $30 million School of Business building, targeted to open in early 2017, is tailored to the needs of business students, but will serve the larger campus as well.

"We're not building a silo for the business school," said School of Business Dean Sylvia Maxfield. "It is a center for business studies. Experiential learning and co-curricular activity across disciplines will also occur in classes, the auditorium and the atrium."

That said, the new, two-story building will house business administration and faculty offices, an informatics lab that also serves as a trading floor, and the latest classroom design for "engaged," interactive learning, she said.

"Teaching is no longer standing at a podium with old, dusty notes," said President Rev. Brian J. Shanley. "It's much more technology driven. The focus is no longer on the lectern. [The focus] is on engaged, active, student learning. Faculty are excited. They feel like they're finally going to have the space they need to teach the way they want."

The college was scheduled to break ground Oct. 2 on the 75,573-square-foot Arthur & Patricia Ryan Center for Business Studies, funded in part with a $5 million donation from the Ryans. Arthur Ryan, an alumnus, is the retired chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial, Inc.,

Dimeo Construction Company of Providence is the construction manager.

The state-of-the-art addition with its glass atrium will be linked to Dore Hall, a former dormitory that's been vacated for a couple years, said architect John Scott, project director and principal at Symmes Maini & McKee Associates of Cambridge, Mass.

The Dore Hall brick shell will be repointed and feature new windows, and the gutted interior will become offices for administrators and faculty, with direct access back and forth via bridges for students, he said.

Approximately 50 business faculty are scattered in offices around campus, Maxfield said. Though that number is not expected to grow significantly, she said, "We desperately needed a facility where all faculty could be together and cross paths with students all the time, so it will increase the connective tissue of the community dedicated to business education."

The new building reflects increased demand for business classes and degrees, said Maxfield. The Class of 2019 will have about 1,000 students, and of those, roughly one-third, or about 361, are pursuing business degrees, she said, as opposed to 202 in the Class of 2016.

Besides housing the discipline of business studies for the first time under one roof, the building will feature a trading room, also known as the data science and informatics finance lab, but there will be two smaller labs as well.

The trading room is a glass-enclosed, elliptical shape with sloped walls, Scott said. Around the perimeter are multiple touch-screen monitors and whiteboards. Inside, there will be a Bloomberg terminal for live, real-time connections to the stock market.

"This room has the most robust technology in the whole building," he said. "Students can work on laptops, flip [laptop screens] to a screen on the wall and share it with others in small or large groups."

In addition, classrooms will be designed completely differently from the classic lecture hall, Maxfield and Scott said.

There commonly is no "front" to these new classrooms, they said. Instead, students work in groups, and a faculty member will wander around, looking over students' shoulders, giving advice, and then calling the class back to a central focus, sometimes at a central podium, they said.

"The locus of energy is the students, and the faculty member is a coach," Maxfield said.

Each of the seven classrooms, plus trading room, will have Skype capacity and Apple TV, as well as multimedia capability, Scott added. There is also one lecture hall.

The most critical structural element from a campus-wide perspective, however, is the atrium, Maxfield and Scott said, which is for business students – and everyone else.

The two-story atrium connects the classroom addition to Dore and is a "one-of-a-kind space on campus: a destination," said Scott.

The atrium, which has a 125-seat conference hall, or auditorium, on the first floor, will provide laptop connections and Wi-Fi capability, he added.

Finally, off the atrium, the design includes a cafe on the first floor and breakout rooms on both levels, plus a "professional-engagement suite" in which students, alumni and people from the business world can meet and engage in "real-world experiences," said Maxfield, including meeting for actual job interviews. •

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