People-centered design for learning
Portland State University is ready to debut the Karl Miller Center, the new home of the School of Business.
Last Wednesday, as workers finished planters and peeled plastic from new surfaces, stakeholders and media toured the new space. On Sept. 21, the school will officially grow from 55,000 square feet to 143,000 square feet.
Cliff Allen, Dean of the School of Business, pointed out that this is the biggest business school in the state, and that many other business schools around the U.S. are adding new buildings. "It's the price of entry," he said, explaining that schools are competing for students. He also stressed that no student tuition money went into paying for the building.
The new space has 21 classrooms. Most have huge white boards, also known as marker boards, as requested by the professors. Three are designated as global classrooms, with large monitors that allow students to attend from a distance using Google Hangouts, the free video conferencing application.
Some classrooms, called case study rooms, have a step built into them so people can see from the back. The built-in desks curve around to face the professor's podium. In most, the chairs are not fixed and the podium is on wheels.
Faculty spaces in the remodeled older building are joined to the new building by casual workspaces and catwalks. There are also small group study rooms, with lockable doors but plenty of glass, which can be reserved by students.
Designer Louise Foster of local architect SRG Partnership, said students wanted stand-up desks as well as lounge chairs.
Like a busy Starbucks, there are electrical outlets everywhere: in the skinny desks that line the atrium walkways and populate the classrooms, in the risers and on the floor.
Kyle Huck, a PSU MBA student, said a lot of what he does is huddling before a lesson or presentation to coordinate his team's response. The new building has ample room for that.
According to Allen, the old building was a box designed to get students in, then expel them out. "Some of them used to sit in their cars in the parking structure between classes. That's not conducive to learning." The new space will give them more access to faculty, which he says the faculty want. They will also be able to do research — such as conducting focus groups — without having to rent a space.
Allen said the Business School will be "strategically open," to the public. He suggested a PTA or real estate group who don't have facilities can reserve, for free, a room with audio visual facilities, after being vetted. The three retail outlets which face the street and have rears which face inward, will be open to the public during retail hours, but anyone with a pass can use the building 24/7. Wireless Internet access will be open to the public too.
Foster says the roof terraces will be opened up for events.