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+VG Architects’ modern addition to Queen’s University’s business school in Kingston, Ont. (Queen’s University)
+VG Architects’ modern addition to Queen’s University’s business school in Kingston, Ont. (Queen’s University)

Business School News

‘If you build it right, they will come:’ Queen’s B-school architect Add to ...

The Globe’s weekly Business School news roundup.

When Queen’s University School of Business students arrived for fall classes this week, they immediately gravitated to amphitheatre-style steps inside the school’s west wing that officially opens today.

“If you build it right, they will come,” says Peter Berton, a partner with +VG Architects and the lead architect on the $40-million project. On a visit to the Kingston, Ont., campus this week, he watched 30-40 students mingle on the wide steps before heading to class, exactly as imagined in the design.

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His aphorism also applies to the school, which has managed a 40-per-cent rise (to 450 students in this year’s incoming class) in undergraduate commerce enrolment over the past five years.

Despite taking in more students, the acceptance ratio of one in 10 applicants for the four-year program is unchanged from a decade ago – a reflection of rising levels of participation in postsecondary education that have offset a lower birth rate.

“The demand side for our programs has gone through the ceiling in the last few years,” says Dean David Saunders. Economic uncertainty, he adds, has fuelled interest in business education and Queen’s, like others, has expanded offerings of MBA and graduate studies.

As beneficiaries of rising demand, business schools have been squeezed on space to accommodate higher enrolment, growth in specialty MBAs and new faculty hires. Across Canada, half a dozen schools are wrapping up multi-million-dollar expansion projects.

At Queen’s, its new 75,000-square-foot, five-level west wing houses wired classrooms, breakout rooms and common areas for students, multipurpose conference rooms and more than 50 additional faculty offices. The glass-front wing links to older parts of the school – a heritage 1892 red brick schoolhouse and an award-winning east wing addition designed by +VG a decade ago.

The school is using the expansion to rethink content and delivery of programs. Under discussion, pending faculty approval, is a possible restructuring of timetables for first-year students to take all classes in the new wing instead of migrating elsewhere on campus for electives.

“With a class of 450 and the space to hold them, we can start to do some very interesting things as a cohesive group,” says Dean Saunders. Students would still take electives, just later in their program.

The notion that good architecture can influence behaviour – as with the students on the amphitheatre steps – resonates with the dean.

For example, the ground-floor amphitheatre steps lead to a flat-floor classroom with moveable tables and chairs (instead of regular stadium-style seating) for flexible groupings of students. When the classroom is not in use, a back wall rises vertically into an atrium, creating an event space that stretches back to the amphitheatre steps.

“Architecture [is] being used as a measure of the calibre of a school,” says +VG’s Mr. Berton, of the wave of B-school expansions.

Accounting projects

In a strategy to support postsecondary education, the professional body for certified general accountants in Ontario has announced almost $2-million over the next three-five years for finance and accounting-related projects at seven universities and two colleges.

“We view these universities and colleges as partners in the education process,” says Doug Brooks, CEO of the Certified General Accountants of Ontario, whose 21,000 members mainly work for small- and medium-sized enterprises. “We see ourselves having a responsibility and commitment to the education process and sustaining that.”

With projects tailored to individual institutions, CGA funds will be used to hire top accounting faculty, expand professional development for faculty, set up a student career centre and invest in research.

“We don’t take a cookie-cutter approach,” says Mr. Brooks, whose organization expects to announce more agreements in future. “We are in an investment mode,” he says. “It is an exciting time.”

The recipient institutions are: Telfer School of Management (University of Ottawa) – $370,000; Brock University – $285,000; University of Western Ontario – $402,500; University of Ontario Institute of Technology – $25,000; Seneca College – $255,000; Ryerson University – $300,000; Conestoga College – $60,000; University of Toronto, Mississauga – $150,000; University of Toronto, Scarborough – $105,000.

Cape Breton B-school’s new home

Once scattered across the campus of Cape Breton University, business students now have a new home at the Shannon School of Business that officially opened earlier this month.

“This building is about vision and potential and I could not be more proud to have my family name associated with it,” Joseph Shannon, chairman of the school’s advisory board, said in a press release.

Private donors put up the $8-million cost of the new building to serve 700 undergraduates and 200 graduate students.

Meanwhile, the school has almost wrapped up a campaign to raise $4-million for the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies, to be housed at the business school.

The first recipient is university vice-president, Keith Brown, known for his work in aboriginal education.

Follow Jennifer Lewington and Business School News by subscribing to an RSS feed here .

Contact Jennifer at jlewington@bell.net .

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