Harvard Business School Drives Yale and MIT's Edifice Complex
Yale University’s School of Management, which aspires to be among the world’s best business schools, crams its students and faculty into 19th-century homes and former astronomy buildings linked by a rabbit-warren of basements. That’s a far cry from Harvard Business School’s 33- building riverfront campus, which boasts a chapel, health club and its own art collection.
To help catch up, Yale is planning a glittering $180 million structure designed by Lord Norman Foster, who built London’s “Gherkin” tower. The new building, scheduled to open in 2013, will help the school keep pace with its rivals, said Dean Sharon Oster.
“You can’t be in a dump if everyone else is in a spectacular building,” Oster said.
Elite business schools are locked in an “arms race” of building bigger and more elaborate business campuses to recruit the best students and faculty and climb magazine rankings, said Yale finance professor Matthew Spiegel. New buildings mean more office space for faculty and more classrooms for profitable executive education programs. Larger schools can also enroll more students, who pay as much as $80,000 per year in tuition, room and board and other expenses.
Business schools are now splurging on high-profile architects to create imposing glass-and-steel structures, with everything from meeting rooms for student teams to cafeterias with organic cuisine and health clubs.
“The better the experience people have, the better they feel about the place, the more likely it will be that they would support it at some point,” said Robert Dolan, dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, in Ann Arbor, which opened a 270,000-square feet (25,084 square meter), $145 million building in 2009.
Since the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania opened its 324,000-square foot, $140 million Jon M. Huntsman Hall in 2002, rival business schools have scrambled to keep up.
The University of Chicago opened its $125 million Harper Center in 2004, while Michigan’s building debuted last year. Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Business, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will open new facilities this year, and Stanford Graduate School of Business, near Palo Alto, California, will follow in 2011.
Along with Yale, Columbia Business School in New York and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, in Evanston, Illinois, are also planning new buildings.
Harvard’s buildings, the first of which were built in 1927, sit on a 40-acre (16-hectare) bend in the Charles River across from the rest of the university. More recent additions include a glass-and-concrete chapel with a koi pond, housing for 400 visiting executives, a health club with three basketball courts and a student union designed by Robert A.M. Stern.
The University of Chicago’s new business school building, designed by Rafael Vinoly who was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1910 Robie House across the street, is oriented around a six-story, glass-and-steel atrium that acts as the school’s “living room.”
The social space has helped change the view that the business school is a haven for math geeks and social misfits, said Stacey Kole, a deputy dean.
“We’re working hard to break that perception,” Kole said. “When you come to campus, you see more activity. It’s a much more positive place to be.”
Applications jumped 30 percent the first year Chicago used the new building in its marketing, although improved rankings helped drive the increase as well, she said.
While a business school’s physical condition isn’t the most important consideration, “you do consider the facility, you do consider what school will allow you to access the latest technology,” said Ashil Ann, 26, a prospective applicant from Los Angeles to Columbia, New York University’s Stern School of Business and McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University in Washington.
The high cost of attendance contributes to students’ rising expectations -- and the growing size and complexity of the new facilities, said Jonathan Levav, an associate professor at Columbia. Two years at Columbia Business School costs an estimated $168,307 for tuition, room and board and other expenses.
While universities across the U.S. have cut back on construction because of falling endowments, business schools are immune from the reductions because of their ability to raise money, said Ronald Ehrenberg, an economics professor at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, who studies higher education.
“Graduates of business and law schools are often the wealthiest alumni,” Ehrenberg said. “It is easy to raise the funds to build buildings from donors to those schools.”
For its new complex of buildings, Stanford’s business school secured $105 million, the largest gift in its history, from Phil Knight, the alumnus who founded Nike Inc., in Beaverton, Oregon. The business campus, which will cost about $350 million, will be named the Knight Management Center in his honor.
At Columbia, faculty offices are in Uris Hall, a 12-story gray slab considered so ugly it was picketed by architecture students when it was dedicated, according to a New York Times article from 1962. Classes are split between Uris and Warren Hall, which opened in 1999 and is shared with the Columbia Law School. The school’s Ph.D. students work in windowless cubicles, the cafeteria overflows with students at lunch time and a former basement storage area serves as a laboratory.
“Our students get an excellent education here, and it’s despite the facilities,” Levav said.
New buildings can also provide more room for executive education, the profitable, non-degree programs for business employees paid for by their corporations.
MIT Sloan’s new building has a wing dedicated to executive education, with more elaborate lighting and furniture than the rest of the school, and its own dining room. Currently, many Sloan executive education classes are held off campus.
“It is on campus, it is clearly part of the Sloan school complex and it makes it easier to say ‘yes,’” said Rochelle Weichman, the associate dean for executive education.
MIT’s building consolidates offices for 107 professors who were spread across five structures, and the four floors of offices are designed to encourage interaction between professors of different departments to help spur innovative thinking, said Lucinda Hill, director of capital projects at Sloan.
Yale has raised about half of the $180 million needed for its building, and will seek another $25 million from donors and borrow the remainder, Oster said in an interview conducted in a full-scale mockup of Yale’s future classrooms, erected in a warehouse off-campus. Naming rights for the building will cost a benefactor $100 million, she said.
Founded in 1974, the Yale School of Management is the youngest business school in the Ivy League, a group of eight U.S. colleges in the Northeast.
“We want to build a great business school,” Yale President Richard Levin said in interview. Levin said he wants the business school to be on par with Yale’s law and medical schools and “be thought of among the best” in the world.
Yale business faculty now work in buildings that date back to 1836, in offices designed as bedrooms and dining rooms with fireplaces and plaster moldings. Many classrooms and staff offices are in a sunken building constructed in 1961, which first housed Yale’s computer and later its astronomy department.
“The current facility doesn’t look and feel like a business school,” Levin said. “I think it does hurt us in attracting students.”
Having more students will allow Yale to assure its programs are fully enrolled and to justify the size of its faculty, Oster said.
“You don’t want to be in a position where you have three students in each category because you’ll never get enough recruiters and you won’t get classroom excitement if the electives have too few people in them,” Oster said. “We don’t have enough students to go around.”
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