Today: Feb 26, 2024

Expanding the School of Business

Mackenzie Hurlbert – General Assignment Reporter

The first step for the School of Business was moving from Seabury to their new building. The next step is to expand in order to fit classes and more faculty office space. How to do this? Dean Ellen Durnin looks to the business community.

“Every time I talk about the building, I say ‘We’re so grateful for what we have, but we need more.’ You don’t want to just be like I want, I want, I want. You have to express that this is wonderful, this is so much better, but this is a first step, and what’s great is that everybody here at the university seems to understand that and is supportive of that,” said Durnin.

“We are in challenging times right now with the state budget, It’s not like we can go to the state and say ‘Um  we need and we need four and a half million dollars,’ but our plan is that if we could raise some money privately in the business community… we know that the Governor and the legislators are very supportive of students that are very supportive of programs that prepare students to enter the workforce. So we’re hoping that we could demonstrate to them and say, ‘We would be a good investment for you. We’ve raised some and we’re asking you to help us out.’”

While the new School of Business has been a giant upgrade from Seabury Hall, it’s previous home, the space has already been filled. It houses administration, faculty offices, adjunct offices, conference rooms, and a Business Success center that helps students find internships, but there is very little classroom space and no room for additional faculty.

“We’re talking with the President and the Vice President for institutional advancement to really engage in a fundraising campaign, so hopefully we can raise some funds to renovate that,” said the Dean, referring to the annex space on the other side of the breezeway from the new School of Business. “What we want to do with that space is to expand the Business Success center out in the back, and do much more than just the internships, I mean really do kind of soup-to-nuts: orientation, development programs, the internship piece… and we also would have more classroom space back there and we really could offer workshops that the business community needs.”

For now, classes are taught in the TE8 Portables, which have no bathroom facilities. “It’s pretty bad,” said Dean Durnin. “The faculty, if they have any technology, have to bring it back and forth. It just doesn’t work. So when we moved here, my plan was first we have to start with the upper level courses [to offer in the new building]. I want the business classes to be in the Business School building. We were able to schedule the MBA classes, all senior classes, and most of the junior classes in this building.”

Associate Professor of marketing and Assessment Coordinator Robert Forbus also saw the need to teach all business classes under one roof. “All our business courses should be offered in the School of Business – not scattered across temporary buildings and other spaces,” he said. “Our adjunct ratio is too high, and based upon the collective bargaining agreement, we need to reduce the adjunct ratio. Furthermore, we need to hire additional faculty in order to reduce the adjunct ratio.” The collective bargaining agreement, the AAUP “code” so to speak, says the percentage of adjunct professors should not exceed 20 percent, but since Spring 2011 the percentage has been around 40 percent. Part of decreasing this ratio could be solved by hiring more faculty. This is not an option however because the School of Business has no more room left to house more faculty offices.

“We have run out of faculty office space, and new faculty must be housed somewhere, when we are able to hire them,” said Forbus. “You really need to not just plan for the spaces you need to today, you need to project well how large are we likely to grow and build enough space and have enough offices and enough classrooms to accommodate future growth.”

“I think it’s a challenge when you’re a student or a faculty member to look and see their tuition increases and the cost of doing business as a university continues to increase and yet we’re not seeing an increase in faculty hiring, so the question then becomes: are we really allocating our resources appropriately? Or are we making decisions that are in need of review?”

When planning to fundraise for an expansion project, the School of Business has an advantage. “The business school is probably better situated,” said Forbus in regards to independent fundraising. “We teach entrepreneurism, and we’re of a more entrepreneurial mindset. Colleges and universities have to start getting smart about being entrepreneurial and raising funds for facilities, scholarships and in doubt, teaching positions, because the state funding is drying up and it’s not just in Connecticut. Public support for higher education is dwindling, and this state has a huge budget deficit. We can not realistically assume that the state will be able to afford to provide us what we need.”

While they recognize time, funding, and patience is needed, students and faculty alike look forward to eventual expansion. “It won’t happen tomorrow, but it’s something to work toward,” said Forbus.

“We are fully using the space here,” said Dean Durnin. “We’re definitely moving in the right direction and we certainly have a plan and a vision for the next steps.”

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