New CBA building making strides towards 2016 completion

Rendering of the NW corner of the new CBA building

Rendering of the NW corner of the new CBA building

By Ryan Mueksch, NewsNetNebraska

July 1, 2011 was a historic date for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Athletics, primarily football, were at the heart of the reason UNL became a member of the Big Ten Conference. For the College of Business and Administration, the move meant UNL was now in the same conference as some of the premier business schools in the country, giving UNL even more incentive to improve its programs.

“Overnight we went from being in the upper middle third in the Big 12 among other business schools to being in the bottom third of the Big Ten,” said Rik Barrera, Assistant Dean in CBA for Business and Fiscal Affiars. “It became a huge priority to increase our stature.”

Barrera said being in the Big Ten has allowed UNL to hire faculty who wouldn’t have even considered coming to Lincoln before joining the Big Ten; and when the new CBA building is mentioned, it’s usually a deal-clincher, he said.

The new $84 million CBA building will be built at the southeast corner of 14th and Vine Streets, expected to be completed by the spring of 2016. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents recently approved Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York and Alley Poynter Macchietto Architecture of Nebraska as the architects for the new building.

Aerial view of what the new building will look like

Aerial view of what the new building will look like

Barrera said some CBA administrators had their first teleconference meeting with the architect firms on Monday and will meet in person next week to go over logistics. The hope is to have a full outline of what the building will look like by June and to break ground about this time next year. Once ground is broken, it will be about a two year process before the doors are ready to be opened for students.

“The key words are engagement, connection, and collaboration,” Barrera said. “We want the building to be welcoming to students, a place where they will want to come here and stay here.”

The current plan for the new building is to have it be five levels, one below ground and four above ground. An atrium is anticipated as well, giving the college a place to hold events in to engage the university more with the local community and  businesses across Nebraska.

CBA currently has the second largest undergraduate enrollment of any college at UNL with 3,514 students. UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman has given Dean Donde Plowman the goal of having 5,000 undergraduate students enrolled in CBA in 2017, a goal that would not be feasible in the current building, Barrera said.

The current faculty to student ratio in CBA is near the bottom of the Big Ten, but when the new building is completed it should move UNL to at least the middle of the conference. Barrera said CBA is targeting a 1:35 faculty to student ratio by 2017, meaning they would need 145 full-time faculty positions for 5,000 students. The college currently has 105 full-time faculty positions, a number that’s maxed out for the current building.

More students and more faculty need more space — 240,000 square feet to be exact, according to Barrera. UNL is currently near the bottom of the Big Ten in gross square feet per student in CBA.

Of course none of this will be possible without raising the full $84 million, a number that Barrera admits seemed daunting at first. The college has raised over a quarter of the funds already, a little ahead of schedule according to their initial plan, he said.

“It’s been remarkable how much momentum we’ve gotten,” said Dr. Colleen Jones, a management professor in CBA. “It’s still a fantasy for some of us. We’ve heard for so long that we need a new building but it was a matter of how, where, and how much money would need to be raised.”

In an effort to help raise money, Plowman has been traveling to some of UNL’s largest alumni bases along with a campaign involving social media, print, and electronic advertisements.

Everything from a single chair to the whole building has a value and is something someone can get their name on if they donate enough, Barerra said. When touring other business colleges in the Big Ten, Barerra found it interesting that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has everything from stairwells to conference tables to classrooms with people’s names on them — donors who gave money to the university.

University officials have said that with the future addition of innovation campus, east stadium expansion in Memorial Stadium, and the Pinnacle Bank Arena — all adding to UNL’s attractiveness — the new CBA building will provide an extra incentive for prospective students to come to UNL.

“I’m definitely jealous of the students who will be able to use the building,” said senior finance and management major Jon Geier. “We have a lot of good faculty and a lot of potential but this is just the next step to go above and beyond.”

“This will be a building that the University and the students can be proud of,” Barrera said. “There’s a reason the Chancellor chose the corner of 14th and Vine. It will be the signature building in the middle of campus.”

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