Seidman center offers technology and teamwork

Ryan Jarvi

Located on Front Street at the southern edge of Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus and the west bank of the Grand River is the new L. William Seidman Center. The new building, set to open May 6, is four stories high and over 127,000 square feet. The center, which will house GVSU’s Seidman College of Business and other affiliate organizations, cost over $40 million, with about 62.5 percent of that from private donors and the rest from bonds and tax credits.
Walking through the front doors of the center, the financial ambiance of Wall Street is felt, as recent stock market changes scroll across a stock ticker mounted high on the wall.
Robert Stern, who designed the building, is a New York architect, which may be a reason for that financial feel, said John Reifel, interim dean of GVSU’s Seidman College of Business.
A mural painted by alumnus Hubert Massey hangs in the entrance, and another wall will display the names of the many donors who contributed to the funding for the center.
“We had incredible financial support from the Grand Rapids community and all kinds of former graduates and local businesses,” Reifel said. “We couldn’t have done this without them, so we’re really indebted to them.”
At the other end of the entrance is a lounge area called the Exchange, where students can congregate and work on assignments. The Exchange looks over the outdoor patio that will provide seating during the warmer seasons.
Around the corner is a food service area dressed up in blue tiles, shiny silver and smudge-free glass. Just down the hall is the Charles W. Loosemore Forum, which will allow the center to host guest speakers and banquet dinners.
Classrooms, break-out team rooms, two computer labs and the Gary L. Tilkin Financial Market Center are located on the second floor. The financial market center, or trading center, offers business students hands-on experience working with nine Bloomberg terminals.
“Those are the kind of terminals that are actually used by trading firms to do trades on the exchanges,” Reifel said. “So it’s a great learning tool for our students to be exposed to that kind of equipment.”
Four 42-inch plasma-screen LED televisions that display current stock information hang on the wall of the center, and an interactive touch-screen TV outside in the hallway shows similar information.
Reifel said much of the new technology offered at the Seidman Center creates student interest and provides students with perspective of the real world.
“I think it drives home the reality of how fast-paced things are happening,” he said. “Teaching today is an interactive process. You can’t just stand up there and deliver a lecture, you’ve got to get the student engaged in a dialogue.”
One feature the center hopes to set up soon is a classroom capture, which requires the professor to wear a device that allows a camera to follow their movements around the room. Information that is written under document cameras would also be “captured,” and this information can then be uploaded to the web for students who miss class, Reifel said.
The center has 15 break-out team rooms, which allow students to have a private place to study and complete group work. Bob Brown, project manager, said students will be able to reserve a time for a room by scheduling it in an electronic panel.
“Students can also be sitting down in the Exchange area on their laptop and if they decide they need to meet, go online, find one of the team rooms that is open and do the same thing,” Brown said. “So they can schedule either directly here at the room or they can do it online off their computer or iPhone.”
The cluster classroom, which has a slightly different arrangement than standard classrooms, is another feature intended to provide a team-oriented atmosphere for courses requiring a lot of teamwork.
“Teamwork is a big deal now,” Reifel said. “Employers want employees who are able to work with teams. That’s a real big deal in the workplace, so it’s important for our students to have exposure to that, to practice doing it and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The third floor will hold faculty offices, a dean suite and a faculty and staff lounge with flexible furniture and an open feel.
The fourth floor hosts the Richard and Helen DeVos Board room, which has two walls of glass, a desk to seat 30 people and a bird’s-eye view of downtown and the Pew Campus.
The center, with a silver rating, will be GVSU’s 16th LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building.
“Right now we’re projecting about a 30 percent reduction in average consumption for a building of this size and use,” Brown said.
Reifel said the main concept behind developing the center was, “What would enhance curriculum delivery?”
“It was in the planning stages for several years, (and) Grand Valley did an outstanding job of soliciting feedback and asking the occupants of the building, ‘what kind of features would you like, what needs to go in here,’” he said.
With the new break-out team rooms, cluster classrooms and technology, Reifel believes it will only help the Seidman College of Business in the long run.
“This college’s mission hasn’t really changed, but I think this building will help us to deliver it and meet it in a better improved way,” he said.
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