As the new semester kicks off at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, business students and professors are getting their first look at the newly completed, state-of-the-art building housing the College of Business – Howard L. Hawks Hall.
The hall’s ceremonial ribbon was officially clipped on Friday, Aug.18 after a nearly five-year planning and construction process, allowing the $84 million, 240,000-square-foot building to be open on schedule as students return from summer break.
Devin Rezac, a junior supply chain management major with classes in the new building, said he noticed a big change in how the college was perceived after his first week of classes.
“The design is modern and professional-looking, and I think it affects the overall image of the College of Business by giving it the look of a legitimate business setting,” Rezac said.
Rik Barrera, associate dean of student services and chief operating officer of the College of Business, said students have reported nothing but positive first impressions.
“They love the wider hallways, lots of natural light and lots of spaces for them to sit, plug-in and gather,” Barrera said.
Hawks Hall offers double the amount of space than the former College of Business Administration building. Barrera said the new building has no classroom smaller than 50 seats, with classrooms ranging from 50-seat to 80-seat spaces, along with two larger auditoriums.
According to Barrera, the number of students had outgrown the classrooms in the College of Business Administration building.
“We’ve grown quite a bit within our departments over the last five or six years, and we’ve grown in student population as well, so the new space is very welcome,” Barrera said.
The extra space is also accompanied by extra amenities, which include a Huskers apparel store, Yes Chef cafe for snacks and drinks, trading room with Bloomberg terminals for simulating stock market trading and an atrium for studying or hosting events.
Kathy Farrell, interim dean for the College of Business, said she sees Hawks Hall as a signature building on campus, something most within the UNL planning committee wanted to achieve from the beginning. To do this, Farrell said it would have to look different than any other building on campus.
“We didn’t want it to necessarily be red brick with rectangle windows,” Farrell said.
The initial architectural design of the building, Farrell said, was red brick and more consistent with the architecture of many UNL halls. The committee that worked with the architects specified a building with more of a “wow” factor that stood apart from other campus buildings, particularly the former CBA building.
The building has large panes of glass situated around the structure, providing plenty of natural light and aesthetic appeal that immediately sets it apart from other campus buildings.
“The natural light was something that was very important to us,” Farrell said.
Upon walking into the naturally lit front entrance, students are greeted with a large banner of the three HUDL co-founders — David Graff, Brian Kaiser and John Wirtz — who are UNL alumni and base their company in Lincoln’s Haymarket.
“Our motto is, ‘Start something,’” Farrell said. “Not only did they start a business, they started an extremely successful business. The reason we feature them is because that space is designed to feature successful alumni.”
Farrell said the university’s entrance into the Big Ten in 2011 required the College of Business to step up their game. Public schools such as the University of Michigan, the Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota have some of the best business programs in the country, Farrell said, many of which already updated their facilities in recent years.
The need for a new, state-of-the-art facility at UNL was driven by these competitive factors, Farrell said, along with the realization that the smaller, older building was limiting growth within the college due to class sizes.
“The [new] facility is allowing us to execute at a different level,” Farrell said.
Barrera said Hawks Hall is more than just a symbol of playing catch-up to other Big Ten counterparts.
“The one thing we were lacking was a Big Ten business school building,” Barrera said. “Now we have that–the most modern business school building in the Big Ten.”