These days, new business school buildings have become a dime a dozen. In the last few years alone, Yale, Northwestern Kellogg, Texas’ McCombs, Cornell and UC-Berkeley Haas have put up sleek modern structures filled with the latest gee-whiz technology to beam classroom discussions all over the globe.
But today’s grand opening of Carnegie Mellon University’s new Tepper School of Business is something entirely different. The new $201 million Tepper Quad symbolizes a dramatic shift in the way business education is changing.
For one thing, it stands at the center of the Carnegie Mellon campus, not in some faraway corner on the periphery of the university’s grounds. Its location and its size—the 315,000-square-foot structure is now the largest building on campus, with each of its five floors more than an acre in area—makes it a magnet for non-business students and faculty to come and collaborate with the Tepper School. The building signals the deathknell of the old model of a standalone business school, uninvolved and disinterested in other disciplines of study.
‘IT’S REALLY A NEW MODEL FOR BUSINESS EDUCATION’
For another, the new Tepper Quad is more than just a new home for the business school. The school’s new home now houses the university’s Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship, a 15,000 square foot space where students from across campus will collide to explore new ideas and create new startups. It also is home to the university’s new Welcome Center, where all visitors will come to begin their campus tours. As much as 40% of the space in the building, in fact, is expected to be used by non-business students and faculty.
Those two facts alone signal what Tepper Dean Robert Dammon sees as the latest attempt of a business school to convene meaningful collaborations with the rest of the university. Dammon envisions his MBAs and business undergraduates working together with students from computer science, engineering, design, public policy, and the humanities to solve the big challenges of the future.
“It’s really a new model for business education in general,” believes Dammon. “We wanted to build a facility that would be a vibrant hub for collaboration and cross campus interaction. It really does put the Tepper School, not just at the center of the campus geographically, but gives us an opportunity to be at the center of the intellectual environment here. We want to be a school that is much more deeply connected with the other disciplines on Carnegie Mellon’s campus. We have a very strong belief that our students can be better prepared to deal with the challenges of the 21st century by engaging with students and faculty from all across campus.”
TWO DOZEN NEW CLASSROOMS, THE UNIVERSITY’S LARGEST AUDITORIUM & TEN STARTUP GARAGES
Those are bold ambitions for a building that vastly improves the living and learning environment for Tepper students who will fill the 24 classrooms, the 600-seat auditorium, the 18 breakout spaces, the ten startup ‘garages’ in the new entrepreneurship center, the new dining and cafe options, and the 7,500-square-foot fitness center. It is a stunning structure, fronted by a spacious academic grove and right next to the WQED television studios where episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood were flimed. Inside the Tepper Quad, the large curving terraces on each level provide for informal gatherings, places for people to collide and collaborate. But as Sevin Yeltekin, senior associate dean of education at Tepper, notes, “This is a beautiful building, but what goes on in the building is far more important than the actual structure itself.”
Dammon strongly believes that placing the Tepper Quad at the university’s center acknowledges a major change in direction for business education overall. “In the early days of business schools, I think there was in fact a lack of intellectual rigor involved in the education,” he says. “As a result, many other parts of the university felt as though business folks should be on the periphery. And that’s in fact where they ended up. Over the years it developed to the point where both the business school was happy to be on the periphery, and the rest of campus was happy to have them on the periphery. We want to be just the opposite of that. At the Tepper School we want to be at the center of the intellectual activity on Carnegie Mellon’s campus, and this building really does put us there.”
Carnegie Mellon’s business school was not immune from the trend. In common with many rival schools, Tepper’s old haunt was at the edge of the university’s campus, facing Schenley Park. “It was certainly peripheral,” agrees Yeltekin, a professor of economics at Tepper since 2005. The older building, she adds, also lacked enough room for undergraduate business and economics students. “They didn’t really have a physical home in our old building. We just didn’t have the space to run their classes there. Now they have a common space where they can come, they can interact with classmates, do homework together, share ideas, study, and live a little bit in the space as well. And we’re in a more central space on campus and we have quicker access to some of the schools that we tend to have a lot of collaboration with.”