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The new home of Marquette University’s business and innovation leadership programs, the Dr. E. J. and Margaret O’Brien Hall opened its doors to students in January. The new building features up to 17 classroom spaces across four levels, 12 meeting rooms, a soundproof recording studio and a corporate boardroom.
The completion of the $60 million, 109,000 square-foot facility marks the largest fully donor-funded construction project in university history. More than 250 donors, including 60 who gave more than $100,000 and 14 who gave $1 million or more, contributed to the two-year fundraising campaign.
The building’s name was selected by an anonymous donor who gave the university $24 million for the project. BizTimes Milwaukee recently sat down with Tim Hanley, acting Keyes Dean of the College of Business Administration at Marquette University, to talk about the new building and what it means for students and the business community.
BizTimes Milwaukee: Can you discuss the components of the new building and what excites you about its amenities and features?[caption id="attachment_566834" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Tim Hanley[/caption]
Hanley: There are many aspects of the building design that focus on simulating real business environments. Our corporate boardroom is modeled after a real one. Our Pitch Pit/Innovation Lab simulates a venture capital presentation setting. Students will find it easier than ever to transition from their Marquette education to professional settings with this new building.
In addition, so many aspects of O’Brien Hall were designed to create collisions between students, faculty and the business community, including our event space, coffee shop and open floor plan, among others.
We recently hosted a recruiter from my former company, Deloitte, in our lobby; she was able to have a full table setup with free bagels and muffins for students. We never had the space to do that in our old lobby.
We also invested in state-of-the-art classrooms to allow for a range of learning options: in-person, virtual and hybrid – the technology allows our faculty and students to move seamlessly among all three formats. O’Brien Hall was designed with the future of education in mind, and the future of education is to be adaptable to change.[gallery columns="1" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="566843,566835,566837"]
BizTimes: Can you talk about donors you had to be able to create this space for the business school?
Hanley: O’Brien Hall is a 100 percent donor-funded enterprise, the first of its kind in Marquette history. We received more than $60 million in support from our alumni and benefactors.
It was gratifying to know that more than 250 total donors contributed to the project, and more than 60 of them gave at a level over $100,000. Fourteen donors invested $1 million or more. Many of them were first-time givers.
We’re blessed to have loyal alumni who feel a strong connection to our college. They received a world-class education here at Marquette and felt strongly enough about the value of it to want to pass it on to the next generation. When we asked them for help, they stepped up.
Throughout Marquette’s “Time to Rise” campaign, we have also been able to raise over $30 million in support of efforts beyond the building, ensuring our college is positioned to serve the greater Milwaukee business community.
Every great city needs a great business school, and we’re poised to be that for Milwaukee thanks to our donors.[gallery columns="1" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="566838,566836,566840"]
BizTimes: How do you see the building acting as a catalyst for interacting or collaborating with the business community and other Marquette University colleges?
Hanley: It’s been our vision for quite some time to have our College of Business Administration and Opus College of Engineering adjacent to each other. The close collaboration we have between our colleges helped us develop programs like Innovation Alley. Now we have the physical proximity to complement the academic linkages that already exist.
We have also hosted high-impact events in the new building that we never could have hosted in Straz Hall, our former home. From a commercial real estate conference in January to a “fireside chat” with key alumni in February, our new event space offers both the capacity and the versatility to welcome the business community onto campus.
I have already had dozens of meetings with business leaders and high-level donors in the new building; at least one every day since we opened. I love showing them the student experience. We wanted to create an environment where “the lights are always on.” Our building welcomes our students for coffee in the morning, for classes during the day and for study groups in the evening.
Visitors are even more motivated to engage with the college after seeing that environment.
BizTimes: What does the completion of this building mean to Marquette University?
Hanley: I like to describe this building as a “game changer” — something that elevates the already outstanding work done around this university to another level.
O’Brien Hall is already changing the ways our current and prospective students think about our college. I can say the same thing about the many companies that are here to hire our students for internships and full-time positions.
I also see it greatly boosting our academics. For years, we have had nationally ranked programs within our walls — programs like Applied Investment Management, Supply Chain Management and Executive MBA, to name a few. Now we have a facility that allows these programs to be delivered in the most cutting-edge ways possible.
We are also incredibly proud that this year’s first-year business class is almost 40 percent larger than a year ago. Prospective students are potential customers, and O’Brien Hall clearly has the things they value.
We also love the fact that this building anchors the west gateway to campus, an area that Near West Side Partners has put a lot of time and resources into developing. This building will hopefully encourage more traffic and private enterprise in the surrounding area.[gallery columns="1" size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="566841,566839"]
BizTimes: What new features of the building do you like best?
Hanley: I love the way the building accommodates students from sunrise until well past sunset. Walk through our hallways and you’ll see education in action from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a way that you couldn’t in our old space. We wanted to make O’Brien Hall a place where students would want to be – not just from business, but from all over campus. That has come to fruition in just a few short months.
BizTimes: What has been your biggest surprise since the opening of the building?
Hanley: I’ve been blown away by just how much interest there is from business leaders. We just had our College Leadership Council meeting, which includes leaders from prominent companies in Milwaukee such as BMO and Deloitte, among others. Their response is even more positive than we were expecting.
We are amazed at how many alumni have come back to campus to see this incredible facility. It has already served as an effective gateway for donations, time investments and overall alumni engagement.
BizTimes: What are the biggest differences between this new building and the prior home of the business school?
Hanley: Our students just didn’t have enough space to gather and collaborate in the old building. We incorporated their feedback into the new design; now I see students utilizing the space well beyond their class time.
The technology enablement in our new facility is truly amazing — it now fits the way we teach and allows us to access outside speakers, whether they are speaking to us from Wall Street or Silicon Valley.
There is no doubt that O’Brien Hall is much more agile and versatile than Straz Hall. The last renovation to Straz was decades ago. While it had adequate classroom space, it was not equipped to handle how we teach today. O’Brien has flexible layouts, modern camera technology and connectivity across the building to enable all different kinds of learning.
For example, in our Graduate School of Management, there is more demand for remote access, as graduate students would like to be able learn in their homes or places of employment. We installed a “studio” with a high-resolution camera and soundproof room to deliver their preferred method of learning without compromising educational quality. This is just one of many examples of how we have responded to both our undergraduate and graduate students.
BizTimes: What challenges did you encounter while getting the project over the finish line and open?
Hanley: The pandemic and related supply chain challenges certainly created some obstacles for our construction effort, but thanks to our great facilities team at Marquette and a great set of external partners like Findorff, we were able to deliver a project on time and relatively on budget.
We were also raising money for this important project in the heart of the pandemic—a time of huge uncertainty. Despite the obstacles, we were able to fully fund every nickel of the $60 million cost with alumni and benefactor support. It is the largest donor-funded project in Marquette’s 140-plus year history.
As most of the business community knows, my predecessor, former Keyes Dean Dr. Joe Daniels, tragically passed away in February 2020 at the very outset of this project. It was a huge loss for us here in the college and for the entire university. This building started as his vision, and we feel privileged to have helped make it a reality.
BizTimes: Can you talk about your relationship with your construction partners?
Hanley: Findorff has been a fantastic partner not just to us, but to the university on several critical construction projects over the past several years. The team they provided us was first class in all respects and unsurprisingly included several leaders who graduated from Marquette’s Opus College of Engineering.
They teamed seamlessly with our facilities planning and management department, as well as many talented subcontractors. We also went through multiple iterations of what this building would look like. Our architectural partner, BNIM, and Findorff were incredibly flexible in all the changes that were made in every step of the process.
Under the leadership of this combined team, we built O’Brien Hall in an ecologically sustainable way. Over 90 percent of the materials from McCormick Hall, the residence hall that used to occupy our location on campus, were recycled. Our building overall exceeds Wisconsin’s “Focus on Energy” program goals. We needed flawless execution to achieve all this, and that’s what Findorff gave us.
BizTimes: What’s your vision for the future of this building?
Hanley: I see this as a convening place for business in southeastern Wisconsin. We are encouraging our many stakeholders — both companies that hire our students and other prominent business groups like the MMAC — to think about how they might bring their leaders into our space. I want our students learning in a business hub that offers opportunities to interact with these organizations, and I want the organizations to see the talent we’re developing.
O’Brien Hall will become one of the premier places where business is done in Milwaukee.