Archive for Sunday, March 11, 2012

KU’s business school dean stresses need for new, updated building

March 11, 2012


When Neeli Bendapudi, dean of Kansas University’s School of Business, gave a presentation recently to the Lawrence Rotary Club on a totally unrelated topic, she still managed to work in a few references to the school’s biggest need.

“We desperately need a new building,” she told the crowd then.

It’s an old need at the school, but an ongoing universitywide fundraising campaign and a new, energetic leader have helped to reinvigorate the project.

Bendapudi said two potential sites for a building have been targeted. One is to build on top of and renovate the existing Carruth-O’Leary Hall at 1246 W. Campus Road. Another is the parking lot across Naismith Drive to the east from Allen Fieldhouse. The school is scheduled to receive drawings of both sites from Chicago-based Perkins & Will, the architecture firm that designed Duke University’s business building, among others, later this spring. Both sites have advantages and disadvantages, she said.

To make the move, the school is going to need money. A lot of it. And university leaders know it’s going to have to come from privately raised funds.

“The number that I was given from previous estimates is that it’s at least a $50 million project,” Bendapudi said.

Some commitments have been made, she said. It’s definitely more than zero, but she admits it’s still a long way from $50 million.

And as for Summerfield Hall, the five-story yellow brick building dedicated back in 1960 that houses the school today?

“It’s dreadful,” Bendapudi said.

She listed some of the school’s main issues with the building:

• It’s not made for the times of today.

Classrooms aren’t wired for technology and often just have a whiteboard and seats. Faculty say the seating arrangements aren’t conducive to group work.

“It’s not fine wine,” she said. “You can’t just build it, leave it and expect it to get better.”

• It can’t accommodate expanded enrollments.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” Bendapudi said. While KU is trying to increase its enrollments, the business school is poised to assist with that but is limited by the space into which it can grow, she said.

• For recruiters and potential students, Summerfield Hall is a turnoff.

“Almost any other campus they go to, the business school is, if not the nicest, one of the nicest buildings on campus,” she said.

Dale Seuferling, president of the KU Endowment Association, said the project is one of the larger building projects associated with KU’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, scheduled for a public launch next month.

“We need, preferably, a single gift that funds a significant amount of the requirement,” Seuferling said.

Once that gift is secured, Seuferling said, they’ll move on to filling out the remainder of the need with other donors.

Parker Lessig, a distinguished professor of business, said he occasionally has to move his classes to space in the union so his students can work in groups.

And the recruiting issue is real, he said. It’s easy to see if students go to Nebraska or Missouri. Or Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas or really any number of places, he said.

“Think of it this way,” Lessig said. “How good would KU be in attracting quality teams and recruits if what they showed them was the Allen Fieldhouse of 50 years ago?”

The need for the building isn’t new, and school leaders have been courting donors for some time, even before Bendapudi arrived on campus last summer.

Lessig said he thought the economy played a role in why previous efforts weren’t successful.

But the school’s new leader isn’t backing down from the challenges ahead.

“We will get this building,” Bendapudi said. “Or I will die trying.”


Bob Forer 6 years, 2 months ago

Okay, lady, we understand your dilemma. Your crib ain't sexy enough for you and your rich buddies. But why whine to us, or the Rotary Club. There ain't no Coupe de Ville lying in the bottom of a Cracker Jack Box. Please spare us the sob story, and go grovel to one of your billionaire buddies in private. Show a little dignity, will ya?

overthemoon 6 years, 2 months ago

Better to send those students to other majors where they learn more about the world in order to be truly innovative and conscientious entrepreneurs instead of fodder for the money machine.

WilburM 6 years, 2 months ago

I'm no huge fan of the Business School, but here's an energetic, imaginative, highly personable KU administrator, who has large-scale goals, getting dismissed at best or attacked (with racial overtones) at worst. Would that the top leadership of this University had to sparkle and ideas that Neeli has.

We celebrate thinking big when it comes to KU athletics, yet are suspicious of it when academics are involved. Maybe our investment is in the wrong place.

question4u 6 years, 2 months ago

"It’s easy to see if students go to Nebraska or Missouri. Or Colorado, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas or really any number of places, he said."

It's also easy to see WHY students go to those Universities.

USNews& World Report Business School Rankings

University of Texas 17 University of Arkansas 51 University of Missouri 54 University of Colorado 69 University of Oklahoma 91 University of Kansas 105

Is anyone really choosing business school at UT over KU because UT has a better building? Would a new building make KU competitive with OU (14 rungs higher on the ladder) or CU (36 rungs higher)? Nebraska is unranked. Is KU's building so bad that students choose NU instead of KU?

USNews rankings are based on peer assessment, recruiter assessment, mean starting salary and bonus, employment rates for full-time MBA graduates, mean GMAT scores, mean undergraduate GPA, and acceptance rate.

Facilities probably affect those criteria to some degree, but faculty reputation is a lot more important. Shouldn't that be the priority? Are the best faculty going to come to or stay at KU if the building is nice but salaries aren't competitive?

The people of Kansas are content to have a business school ranked significantly lower than those in surrounding states (except Nebraska). The business school DOES have to take its future into its own hands. Building a facade over a mediocre foundation isn't likely to fool anyone, but raising private funds for endowed chairs instead of showy buildings might help to fill in some of the holes that are weakening the structure.

justoneperson 6 years, 2 months ago

So the school that misused A LOT of money wants more money....interesting.

How does this building compare to other buildings on campus? I can think of quite a few others where schools and departments that do more with less (and don't have a glaring mismanagement problem) are housed--let's look there first if we're going to look anywhere.

As others have said above, they should not have a hard time finding money within their benefactors/graduates/etc. There many other programs that provide more of a benefit to society that do not have quality facilities.

justoneperson 6 years, 2 months ago

Put another way:

A BUSINESS school mismanaged it's own finances that were generated with student fees.

Then wonders why students would not want to go to school there....laughable.

Phillbert 6 years, 2 months ago

There's no better way to discredit your entire argument than to cite a Dolph column.

plainspeaking 6 years, 2 months ago

The dean is correct: KU's School of Business needs a proper building - and it needed one 20 years ago. Racist, ignorant comments won't negate that.

justoneperson 6 years, 2 months ago

But is their need any more pressing than other programs on campus? There are plenty of other departments and schools that have the same need (larger and technologically updated classrooms, newer buildings and facilities, etc). Some of them are in older buildings than the B school.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 2 months ago

This is what happens when the state legislature and governor perpetually underinvest in education. Nearly all the buildings on campus are in the same condition as Summerfield...even the ones that were renovated 10-25 years ago. KU is a state owned university. The legislature is dumping tens of millions of dollars into the Capitol building which also is needed but ignoring many other Capitol projects. It used to be donors contributed a little and thereby won the naming rights for the building. Now donors are expected to 100%. The go pin this state has some 'splainin to do.

kuguardgrl13 6 years, 2 months ago

Depends on where you look. Engineering is getting a brand spanking new building on top of Eaton, Learned, and Spahr that got built in the 90s. Education got to move into the renovated JRP (If you've never seen the inside, you hardly know it used to be a dorm). Pharmacy has their new building on West Campus. Do we really need yet another new building though? If the parking across from Allen Fieldhouse gets turned into a new B-School, that seriously limits the Yellow parking available for students (and staff too) as well as athletic events (i.e. basketball). Parking is already limited enough without taking away one of the largest lots. Carruth & O'Leary might be an option. To my knowledge it's purely administration space at the moment. And what will happen to Summerfield if the B-School finds a new home? Will Business keep it as overflow space, or will it be turned over to another school or CLAS?

gsxr600 6 years, 2 months ago

Summerfield has needed replacement for decades. Just in the last semester I witnessed:

-Four students fall on their a**es when their chairs broke from underneath them. That is unacceptable for any school, higher education or not. -Two screen projectors have its color/alignment die on them making the ppts impossible to comprehend. The technology in the classroom is lacking and outdated. -The temperature can't be controlled. You never knew if you were going to class to freeze to death or sweat out in a sauna. -The elevator is a ticking time bomb. It will often get stuck between floors. One of these days it's going to fail and kill everyone inside.

yourworstnightmare 6 years, 2 months ago

This is a good list of problems, but the same can be said for many buildings on campus, including Malott, Wescoe, and Haworth.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

I have a broken chair. Will someone build me a new house? :)

kuguardgrl13 6 years, 2 months ago

Temperature is awkward in a lot of buildings on campus this time of year. I sweat in Budig because they still have the heat on.

Mark Kostner 6 years, 2 months ago

This is a doable project although a bit more difficult one in this economy. Have the School of Architecture design the building and it should be in a prominent place on campus. Being the business school, there should be a plethora of well heeled alumni who could contribute to this project. Building a new building and upgrading the school could become a major effort like building the cancer center was. There are several major corporations in the Kansas City area and maybe KU could even hit up the Kochs in Wichita if it's not too politically incorrect! Perhaps the school could sell the naming rights to the place if need be. One person brought up a good point. A new building isn't enough. The school should aspire to keep up with present and former peers like Texas and Colorado in the rankings. Sadly almost the entire campus was built prior to the digital age and the buildings are long in the tooth. But KU's business school should be a prominent part of the campus and the University.

Doug Fowler 6 years, 2 months ago

Maybe if they held classes five days a week (like most of the business world), they could shore up a few weaknesses! Seriously, the business school has many problems and it appears that the new Dean is attempting to address them. It took many years for it to lose respect and it will take time to make the necessary changes.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.