Beyond Business As Usual
Plans are proceeding for a dynamic new home of the College of Business Administration that will help promote its innovative programs and provide more space to teach students, house faculty and host visiting professionals.
By April McClellan-Copeland
Kent State University’s College of Business Administration—one of Ohio’s largest and fastest-growing business schools—offers unique, innovative programs that have heightened its national and international reputation.
U.S. News and World Report ranks it among the top 100 public business schools in the nation for its undergraduate business programs, and The Princeton Review rates it as one of the nation’s best business schools.
In addition, it is among the less than 1 percent of business schools worldwide to obtain dual accreditation in both business and accounting from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).
Soon, the College of Business Administration (COBA) will have a modern facility on the Kent Campus that is as distinguished as its reputation.
Plans are in the works to erect a new College of Business Administration building that will accommodate the contemporary, collaborative team-based approach to problem solving practiced in the world’s foremost businesses. The building will cost an estimated $72 million and will replace the college’s existing building on Terrace Drive, which is more than 40 years old.
According to a recent needs assessment, the current building has a shortage of at least 37,000 square feet. It lacks space for students to collaborate on team projects, for faculty to have needed laboratory spaces and for prospective employers to interview candidates. Classrooms are overcrowded and out-of-date—and there aren’t enough of them. One-third of the classes are taught in eight other buildings.
The proposed 147,000-square-foot College of Business Administration building will be located on the southwest corner of Main Street and Midway Drive. It will anchor the extension of Front Campus along Main Street as part of the first phase of the university’s $1 billion facilities master plan that will transform the Kent Campus and improve its facilities over the next 10 years. (See "Transforming Kent State.")
Five years ago, a new building for COBA was only a dream. But today, thanks to continued support by the university and generous donors, the dream is close to becoming a reality, says Deborah Spake, PhD, dean of the College of Business Administration.
“A new building will provide an appropriate ‘home’ that reflects the success and pride of the college and its alumni,” she says. “It will showcase modern technology and collaborative spaces to help students prepare for the business world. It will be a sought-after venue for hosting speaker services, pitch competitions and special events that bring business executives and students together.”
Four teams of developers and architects with national and international expertise are finalists in a building design competition for this transformational project.
In April, students, faculty, business leaders and community members gathered at the Kent State Student Center Ballroom for the first public presentation of the proposed designs.
“Each development team brings an innovative approach and unique vision to what they see as the new home for one of the university’s cornerstone programs,” Dr. Spake says. “The entire Kent State community has been part of the master plan process from the beginning, so it makes sense that we would offer everyone a chance to see the ideas being considered.”
Architectural design is not the only consideration that will go into selecting the winning team. Details for financing the project, including innovative ways to provide the lowest overall project cost through philanthropy, will carry significant weight.
“We want philanthropy to bring down the cost so it’s manageable and affordable over time,” says Mark Polatajko, PhD, Kent State’s senior vice president of finance and administration. The funding model, called a P4 arrangement, would be a philanthropy-driven, public/private partnership. This innovative approach to financing an academic building would speed construction and lower the cost.
The new College of Business Administration building will include design features conducive to collaborative, team-based learning. A glass atrium will serve as the heart of the building, providing open, light-filled space for students to congregate, converse and exchange ideas—and for the college to hold receptions and special events.
Modern laboratory spaces will equip students for real-world challenges. Video labs will allow sales students to hone their skills, video-conferencing studios will allow entrepreneurship students to pitch to venture capitalists, analytics labs will allow students to visualize data and behavioral labs will help doctoral students and faculty study the neuroscience of consumer behavior.
Professional conference rooms will accommodate visiting speakers, employers and corporate executives. Offices and research spaces will accommodate adjunct and visiting faculty, and meeting rooms will support student organizations.
A high-tech trading floor will train finance students about investing and be a showcase for the profession.
The college’s numerous innovative programs will benefit from these new features, including those highlighted in the following profiles.
Student Managed Investment Fund
The high-tech trading floor in the proposed COBA building will be the perfect training ground for members of Student Managed Investment Fund—and help them prepare for regional and national competitions.
As a member of the Student Managed Investment Fund, José Calderon, a senior finance major, had the opportunity to manage $1 million in investments for Kent State University and the Kent State Foundation—a valuable, practical learning experience for him and the whole team.
“Making financial investment decisions, preserving the wealth that the university has provided and growing the fund has been educational and exciting,” says Mr. Calderon, who was the fund’s vice president this year.
“Making financial investment decisions, preserving the wealth that the university has provided and growing the fund has been educational and exciting.”
—José Calderon, BBA ’18, vice president of Kent State’s Student Managed Investment Fund
The purpose of the Student Managed Investment Fund, the first of its kind at Kent State, is to give students real-world experience and advance their career opportunities. The team of students manage four separate $250,000 accounts.
“Professional money management is an experience game—the more you are acquainted with the markets, the better you will perform,” says Steven Dennis, PhD, Firestone Chair of Corporate Finance and chair of Kent State’s Department of Finance.
Finance majors spent the fall semester learning about investing and putting structure in place around the Student Managed Investment Fund, says Dr. Dennis. The students opened accounts and transferred funds into those accounts. In addition, expert money managers met with the students to provide counsel on processes and procedures.
The team documented the fund performance during weekly meetings and provided quarterly reports to the university and the foundation.
During spring semester, the students presented an oral annual performance report and attended the Global Asset Management Education Conference in New York City.
“I like what I see in these finance students,” Dr. Dennis says. “They are eager to learn.”
Career Services Office
The atrium and meeting spaces in the new building will allow Career Services to engage more effectively with students and employers and make its services and events more visible.
Junior year was a stressful time for KSU student Megan Wandel, BBA ’18. After changing her major twice, she still could not decide on a career—until she met with Natalie Harrington in the Career Services Office at the College of Business Administration.
“Natalie helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” Ms. Wandel says. “She helped me explore options and find the best fit for me.” That led her to consider the field of human resources. With help from Mrs. Harrington, last May she found an internship at Fastenal’s distribution center in Akron. There she had the opportunity to look at several aspects of human resources: recruiting, onboarding, training and employee management.
“Natalie [at the Career Services Office] helped me figure out what I wanted to do. She helped me explore options and find the best fit for me.”
—Megan Wandel, BBA ’18, heading for a career in human resources
The company asked her to stay on in a part-time capacity after the internship, while continuing to take her classes at Kent State, according to Molly Phelps, a Fastenal recruiter. “Megan was able to bring what she was learning in the classroom to Fastenal,” Ms. Phelps says. “She was able to jump right in as a part of the team bringing new creative ideas to make positive changes.”
Like Megan Wandel, students in the College of Business Administration can explore careers and find internships and jobs through the college’s Career Services Office, with staff dedicated solely to serving business majors, minors and alumni.
The office provides career advising and preparation through one-on-one appointments, drop-ins, workshops and class/student organization presentations. It also works with employers seeking business majors and hosts multiple recruiting and networking events each semester to connect employers to students.
By mid-April, more than 1,600 students had checked in for individualized coaching with career advisors. Career Services also holds multiple events each semester that attract anywhere from 50 to 225 students per event.
“This new space will allow Career Services to host more employers on campus and provide additional services and opportunities for our students,” says Erin Nunn, director of the Career Services Office.
“We can also utilize more space to bring employers and alumni volunteers to campus for programs and one-on-one coaching,” she says. “Programs like our donor-funded Career Closet Scholarship, which provides a free, tailored business suit to students who demonstrate academic success and financial need, will benefit as they continue to receive more recognition and awareness.”
Center for Entrepreneurship & Business Innovation
Video conferencing studios will enable entrepreneurship students to make pitches to venture capitalists.
On an evening in April, six finalists from Kent State’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Business Innovation (CEBI) made the live pitch of a lifetime before a panel of seven judges that included founders, presidents and CEOs of corporations.
CEBI hosts the annual live pitch competition, CEBIpitch, to help nurture startup companies within the College of Business Administration’s entrepreneurship program. It is an opportunity for students to sharpen their game and vie for a total of $30,000 in cash prizes.
The student entrepreneurs competed after participating in a three-month mentorship program to prepare for the live pitch event.
“The annual pitch contest provides finalists and student attendees with a great experience of being in front of renowned business leaders who judge and provide feedback on their business ideas,” says Shawn Rohlin, PhD, director of CEBI and associate professor of economics.
First place winner Anne Skoch is a senior fashion merchandising major and Cleveland native whose online accessories business, Anne Cate (her full name is Anne Catherine), got its start when she was thirteen and sold handmade items on Etsy. She took it to the next level in 2016 after she made Cleveland skyline pillows for her dorm room, and friends asked her for ones with different city skylines. Her current product line—skyline silhouette pillows, zippered purses and other accessories—showcases her hand-drawn designs of more than 60 skylines, many developed from customer requests.
“Having the opportunity to share my greatest passion as I wrap up my four years at Kent State was the most wonderful thing.”
—Anne Skoch, BS ’18, first-place winner of the annual CEBI pitch contest
After she reached out to LaunchNET Kent State, they helped her receive national media attention that led to increased sales and her first wholesale client, American Greetings.
Her goal this business year is to sell over 5,000 units wholesale into 10 states and to solidify a made-to-order manufacturer to lower expenses and account for the growing demand.
“Having the opportunity to share my greatest passion as I wrap up my four years at Kent State was the most wonderful thing,” Ms. Skoch says.
With her prize money, she plans to acquire a fabric printer that will help her scale her made-to-order, made-in-America business model.
Additional event spaces in the new building will enable business students to network and practice etiquette.
Tyler Wise, MBA ’18, wasn’t expecting a job offer when he attended an etiquette dinner at the College of Business Administration this spring—he just wanted to network and practice dining with business professionals.
A recruiter from Diebold Nixdorf, one of the corporate sponsors of the event, wasn’t expecting to pitch a position—she was there representing the company. Over a relaxed conversation at the dinner table, however, she realized that Mr. Wise would be a good fit for a new opening at the company based in North Canton.
“Because of that meeting, I received a job interview and was offered the new position of project analyst,” says Mr. Wise. “This is a rare opportunity to take a high responsibility role right away and be an integral part of the Global Business Services Department—and it all stemmed from the etiquette dinner.”
About 70 students participated in each of the two etiquette dinners offered this academic year, according to Amy Thomason, career advisor in the Career Services Office, who says the dinners have two main goals.
“The first is to help our students get comfortable with dining etiquette, since many business meetings take place during a formal meal,” she says. “We want students to feel confident and able to focus on the discussion itself, while not being distracted or overwhelmed by the dinner setting.
“The second goal is to give students and our employer partners who sponsor the event the opportunity to network in a learning environment.”