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  September 10, 2001

New Building Supports Business
School's Strengths in E-Learning

Jack Veiga, a management professor at UConn for nearly 30 years, says undergraduates have trouble criticizing classmates' behavior during discussions about a role-playing exercise. That should change once they get their hands on the high-tech equipment that fills the building soon to be home to the School of Business.

"They've always been reluctant to say the 'manager' screwed up," says Veiga, a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Management. "And that really hurts instructionally."

No more. Veiga, who is chair of the school's building committee, says the anonymity of critiquing classmates using laptop computers in the new building will spur hours of discussion.

The students also will play their roles as managers in the corporate community, or as workers trying to offer constructive criticism to their supervisor, in breakout rooms equipped with cameras, televisions and VCRs.

Ultimately, Veiga says, using the technology will improve all the students' skills.

Students attending classes in the new $27 million building on Hillside Road will have no trouble finding places to plug in their laptops, which have been required in the school's MBA program for several years, and this year are required for management information systems majors.

Overall, there are nearly 1,800 computer plug-ins available in the new building, including one at every seat in every classroom and one adjacent to every seat in the 120-seat café. It is, says Dean Thomas G. Gutteridge, one of the most technologically advanced buildings for a business school in the nation, and will enhance the school's goal of becoming a national leader in educating students for the world of e-commerce.

"Connecticut is now challenging the leading states in high technology. Currently, we're only behind a few," says Gutteridge. "How do you move up? From an educational standpoint, there are two ways: you keep your technologically educated students in state by giving them an education that prepares them to fulfill our state's technological goals, and you provide the opportunities for continuous learning, which we do through our programs in Stamford, Hartford, Waterbury, and on-line."

The new building comes with 16 breakout rooms equipped with video cameras, recorders and data jacks, several high-tech laboratories , and a distance learning classroom that can beam courses or speakers to or from anywhere in the world. There is also a lab where staff can assemble, disassemble or repair computers, as well as offices, conference rooms, and a board room that would be the envy of any corporate executive.

"This building will transform the perception of our school," says Gutteridge. "Right or wrong, in the business world perception is reality. You want people to walk out of your offices saying 'This is an excellent school.' Try telling that to people visiting the old building. It's serviceable, but bring a top business executive here or a student and a parent, and it's just not very impressive, especially technologically.

"Now, they're going to see a building that is among the best, if not the best business school building in the nation, and it plays to our strengths in information technology and e-learning," Gutteridge adds.

The dean says the new building will also bring faculty, staff and students together. "I have never had the pleasure of having all my faculty and staff under one roof," he says. Many of the faculty have been housed in Hall Dorm for nearly a decade. Other staff work at the Depot Campus.

"It can be invaluable being able to sit down in the cafŽ, out in the courtyard, or in one of the study areas and just chat with one of your professors or classmates about a team project, a report or an assignment," he says.

"The building will truly change the way our teachers teach and our students learn."

The difference the new building will make was clear also to Gov. John G. Rowland, who toured the building Tuesday. "The UConn 2000 program is clearly changing the face of this University, in the way it educates our children and in the ways it can help the state's economy," he said.

"This beautiful new building for the School of Business changes the way UConn will interact with the state's corporate interests in a very positive manner," he added. "Students graduating from UConn with a business degree will be very well placed to step into Connecticut's high tech future."

Students majoring in management and information sciences started classes in the building when the semester began Aug. 29. Other classes, and faculty, will move into the building in phases. The building is expected to be fully operational by late September or early October.

Richard Veilleux

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