In eight months, the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is set to begin construction of a privately funded $84 million facility to house its growing number of students. According to CBA Dean Donde Plowman, the college has collected more than $28 million in donations and commitments of its desired revenue since fundraising began in September 2012.
To meet its fundraising goal before construction is slated to begin in December, CBA will have to triple what it has raised since the project began in 2012.
“We are on track with our fundraising for the building,” Plowman said. She declined to comment further.
Though the new building – which will be 240,000-square-feet and nearly twice the square footage of the college’s current space – won’t be cheap, Plowman said it’ll allow the college to serve students in ways never before possible. And it’s all coming at a time when Chancellor Harvey Perlman hopes to reach an enrollment of 30,000 students by 2020.
In fall 2013, CBA had 3,718 students, or 15.2 percent of UNL’s total enrollment – making it the third-largest college behind Arts & Sciences and Education & Human Sciences. CBA’s undergraduate enrollment has increased 18 percent in the last four years, while the university’s total enrollment has been mostly flat, according to Institutional Research and Planning data.
“We’re an important means for the university to reach its goal,” Plowman said. “This is going to be a building that will be just as good or better than some of the best business programs in the Big Ten. I think it will be the best in the Big Ten.”
The new CBA building will be located at the corner of 14th and Vine streets. Plowman said she hopes the new building will showcase the school’s greatest graduates who helped make the building possible.
“The really special thing is that it’s going to be built by our alumni,” Plowman said. “Some people making donations are doing it as a way to honor family members … I want the building to tell the story of successful businesses and successful business leaders, many of whom are in Nebraska, many of whom are from elsewhere. We’re imagining, visually, a big display inside the building that will lift up business leaders from CBA.”
For the students, it’s about what will be inside the building, said Kathleen Farrell, senior associate dean of CBA.
The new building, which is expected to have about 20 more classrooms, will provide more space within CBA while freeing up other classrooms around campus that were previously being used for CBA classes, such as Richards Hall and the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center. It will also include more office space, informal study areas and lounges. Project developers also allotted $87,000 toward the purchase of artwork for the new building.
“The new building is going to substantially increase our classroom capacity on the campus as a whole,” Farrell said. “Because if you think about it, opening up this new building, that’s going to free up classrooms everywhere else on campus. So then all of a sudden all of these classrooms become available to other departments on campus to perhaps shift how they’re scheduling or offer more classes or services to (students). It just creates more flexibility and more capacity to service and increase the number of students.
“Part of (the 30,000 enrollment goal) is being able to physically add 5,000 additional students, and to do that, you have to have classroom capacity to service 5,000 additional students.”
Stewart Montgomery, a sophomore business major, said the biggest cramp for space he’s noticed has been the bathrooms.
“There’s like three bathrooms here, and each of them only have like maybe two urinals and like one stall,” he said. “It’s just not enough space. Also, like tests, there’s one test I had to take on East Campus. They just don’t have big enough rooms here.”
The 20 additional rooms is an advantage for Montgomery and also for Kylee Gwinn, a freshman actuarial science and finance major who said the extra rooms would free up the traffic jam of students trying to walk through the hallways between classes.
“I actually think it’s going to be a really awesome addition because we are a growing college,” she said.
Gordon Karels, CBA’s associate dean, said the improvements CBA coupled with the university’s status as a Big Ten Conference school should help increase enrollment overall.
“Generally, a rising tide lifts all boats,” Karels said. “So as we build our reputation and can increase visits to the business college, hopefully there are spillover effects and students in general want to come to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and get a Big Ten degree.”
CBA picked its tagline, “start something,” because the staff feels the new building and all it represents is the start of something big.
“I think it really captures who we are and what we’re doing,” Plowman said. “People want to be a part of something big – by big, I mean important – and this is big.”