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What's going up? Business addition aims to keep St. Ambrose, students competitive

What's going up? Business addition aims to keep St. Ambrose, students competitive

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The steel is up, and an expansion of St. Ambrose University's McMullen Hall is under way that will give a central home to the Ambrose College of Business and help it — and its students — keep their competitive edge.

Work at the corner of West Locust and Gaines streets began in early spring and, despite a month-long rain delay, is on pace to finish during May of 2020, opening for the fall semester, Rick Engler, project superintendent for Bush Construction, Davenport, said.

Once the 15,600 square-foot addition is finished, the existing McMullen will be extensively renovated for offices for faculty and staff; overall, the project will cost $8.3 million, Mike Poster, vice-president of finance, said.

In addition to gathering the school's eight undergraduate and four graduate business degree programs under one roof, the expansion is intended to reflect a contemporary corporate business setting, housing non-traditional classrooms accommodating new methods of teaching and learning, Martiza Espina, dean of the college of business, said.

"In today's competitive environment, we must be sure that the College of Business stays relevant, not only with the curriculum we offer, but the way we teach," Espina, said in a news release. The new space "will strengthen our brand, our programs and the learning experience."

This is important as St. Ambrose competes with other institutions for students. "For more than 40 years, St. Ambrose has been the Quad-Cities' leading provider of graduate business programs, and we intend to maintain that position," she said in the release.

The College of Business accounts for 23 percent of the university's current total enrollment of 2,973, Craig DeVrieze, director of communications, said.

The addition will house six classrooms, two computer labs, a finance lab, sales lab, co-curricular lab, large, tiered lecture hall and multi-functional classroom space.

While there will still be classes in which an instructor stands at the front of the room and lectures, in other cases students will sit at round tables working on projects with the teacher in the center as a facilitator, Espina said.

A finance lab will be equipped with computer software allowing students to work with data to do forecasting and modeling and understand how markets work by running analyses.

"How many colleges have finance labs?" she said. "Not all have. This is something that makes us different."

Another example is the sales lab in which students can practice and develop negotiation skills with breakout rooms in which teams will role-play their sales pitch, record it, then send it to the main classroom for critiquing, she said.

At present, the existing McMullen is being used; in December those uses will move to other buildings and "Bush will have free reign" to begin its light renovations, such as lighting upgrades and new paint, and heavy renovations, such as turning a large classroom into offices, vice-president Poster said.

While Bush Construction is the general contractor, Greg Gowey of Studio 483 Architects, Davenport, is the lead architect. 

A ceremonial ground-breaking was held Oct. 3 with the chairs of a capital campaign that will raise money to support the addition. Chairs are Joe O'Rourke, Steve Roell and Caroline Ruhl; honorary chairs are Jill McLaughlin and the Rev. George McDaniel.

As for upcoming construction projects, St. Ambrose Hall, which has had extensive interior work done, will be redone on the inside, including the installation of a modern heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, Poster said.

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