New Marquette Business School building puts focus on collaborative spaces

Kathy Kugi-Tom, a project manager at Marquette University stands in the first-floor atrium of the new business school on Wednesday. The $60 million, 100,000-square-foot structure is slated to open to students and staff later this year. (Cara Spoto/BizTimes)

Last updated on October 7th, 2022 at 11:20 am

Business students attending Marquette University will soon have a building that matches the collaborative nature of their chosen field.

On Wednesday, contractors were still busy completing a host of punch list items – hanging lights and finishing tile accents – but an early look provided a clear picture of the collaborative space envisioned for the new building, which includes an open atrium, classrooms, lab and study spaces, an event space for the business community, a café with a large outdoor patio, and faculty offices.

Sun poured through the windows of the first floor of the building into the Wintrust Gallery, which will serve as both a study space and a peer recreation center. That atrium-like area wraps around an, as yet unnamed, event space, which will double as a classroom space once the building opens to students in December.

The new structure will serve hundreds of students in the university’s business school as well as members of Milwaukee business community participating in school functions and programming.

Last year the business school had 1,452 undergraduate students, 374 graduate students, and 121 faculty members, which includes both part-and-full-time professors.

Versality and collaboration

Lora Strigens, vice president for planning and facilities management at Marquette, and the university’s on-staff architect, said that the main goal when designing new buildings for the campus today is to create spaces that can serve multiple functions.

“When we are building new square footage for the campus, we want to make sure that it is as versatile and flexible as possible,” she said. “Really, what we want is a space like this, that traditionally might just be an event space or just be a classroom, to really be activated as much of the day and night as possible.”

That goal of versality was clear Wednesday, as university staff explained how rooms through the four-story structure could be configured and reconfigured for instruction or peer projects.

In addition to having flexible spaces, the goal is also to ensure that students in the business school have a ‘classroom experience’ that is more in line with the environment they’ll be working in once they land their first job – mainly one that has them working closely with their coworkers on goals and projects.

In addition to the rooms themselves, there are also a number of areas – open lounge spaces and study areas along the hallways and near stairwells – that are designed for student flex and collaboration space.

“The idea here is really just to build a community among student, faculty and staff,” Strigens said.

Donor funded

The business school project itself was entirely donor funded. 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 – Dr. E.J. and Margaret O’Brien Hall – was selected by an anonymous donor who gave the university $24 million for the project, said Tim McMahon, Marquette’s vice president for advancement.

Marquette worked with Kansas City-based BNIM and Milwaukee-based Workshop Architects to design the sun-lit brick building. Findorff has been the lead contractor on the project.

The new business school is the latest of several new building projects on the university’s campus in recent years, including a new $18.5 million Physician’s Assistant Studies Building, a $24 million Athletic and Human Performance Research Center and an $108 million residence hall on the northwest end of campus.

Once the building is ready for students, faculty, and staff this December, campus planners will get to work on a slew of other projects, including a renovation of the outgoing business school building – Straz Hall – to turn it into a new home for the school’s College of Nursing and a new Student Success building that are both expected to be ready sometime in 2024. After that will come the creation of a Wellness and Recreation Center, which is expected to be ready by early 2025

“2024 is going to be a pretty active year on this campus for transformation,” Strigens said.

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Cara covers commercial and residential real estate. She has an extensive background in local government reporting and hopes to use her experience writing about both urban and rural redevelopment to better inform readers. Cara lives in Waukesha with her husband, a teenager, a toddler, a dog named Neutron, a bird named Potter, and a lizard named Peyoye. She loves music, food, and comedy, but not necessarily in that order.

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