$8 million gift fuels PSU business school growth

An anonymous $8 million donation from a Portland State alum is keeping PSU on track to begin a $60 million renovation and expansion of the School of Business Administration, slated to begin in January 2015 and be completed by the fall of 2016.

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An anonymous $8 million donation from a Portland State alum is keeping PSU on track to begin a $60 million renovation and expansion of the School of Business Administration, slated to begin in January 2015 and be completed by the fall of 2016.

The gift, announced earlier this month, comes from a SBA master’s program alumnus and his wife. Added to other donations from local business leaders, PSU has raised $13.2 million in total since they began fundraising two years ago. With $40 million expected in state government funds, PSU hopes to raise the remaining $7 million by the end of 2013.

The business school will remain centrally located in downtown at the corner of Southwest Fifth Avenue and Harrison Street. The construction plan includes absorbing space currently used by the School of Education, renovating the entire building and connecting the renovated building to a new expansion on the north side of the block.

PSU’s SBA is Oregon’s largest business school, with more than 2,000 students admitted each year. The existing building lacks the space necessary to properly house the students, faculty and community.

“Fifty percent of classes aren’t in this building,” said Kristin Mihalko, the campaign manager for the SBA. “We are out of space, we need better space and we lack a sense of community.”

The renovation and addition will add 400 classroom seats, bringing the total number of seats to 940. Rooms devoted to student projects would increase from zero to 22.

Other major donations have come from Tektronix, Nike and Pacific Power. The most recent public gift came from The Standard, a national insurance company headquartered in Portland, which gave $250,000.

Bob Speltz, the director of public affairs at The Standard, said in a statement that the company has a special relationship with PSU.

“Many employees received degrees there and others are currently pursuing degrees. The school has also partnered with The Standard to provide customized learning opportunities for our business leadership program,” Speltz said.

According to Mihalko, the SBA administration prides itself on connecting students to the local business community. The renovation and expansion will add new event spaces and meeting rooms to better accommodate local business leaders, Mihalko said.

In a prepared statement, SBA Dean Scott Dawson said that the project will bring the school together in a new way.

“The new building will, for the first time, allow us to create a true business community with the benefits that come from all being under one roof,” Dawson said.

PSU’s School of Business Administration was ranked 14th in the world by Beyond Grey Pinstripes, an independent, biennial business school survey and ranking managed by the Aspen Institute Center for Business Education.

“Our building should match with our curriculum,” Mihalko said.

PSU President Wim Wiewel agreed, and believes that the SBA is a key part of PSU.

“Having its students get access to a functional, attractive space is a huge win for all of PSU. We are not yet widely recognized for the quality of our programs; having quality space to match the excellence of our academic programs makes a big difference symbolically, as well as in day-to-day reality,” Wiewel said in an email. “I’m so grateful to the donors who are making this possible!”

The SBA’s need for space is reflected in the fact that its varied “centers,” which offer concentrated study in particular aspects of business, don’t have their own facilities. The centers at SBA focus on topics including real estate, retail leadership, entrepreneurship and sustainability.

The goal of the centers is to unite students and faculty with the community, Mihalko said.

“School and community come together in centers,” she said. “Right now they don’t have a facility. There needs to be a place and a face to the centers.”

In addition to space, the renovation and expansion will add state-of-the-art classrooms, auditoriums, offices, study rooms and common areas, Mihalko said.

The existing business school space is 52,000 square feet. The construction will add 42,000 square feet, and 53,000 square feet now used by the Graduate School of Education will be renovated for use by the SBA. The result will see the business school nearly triple in size.

The new facility will also meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards and incorporate sustainable design. The goal is to meet Platinum standards, Mihalko said.

Whether PSU will receive funding from the government will be announced this summer. While it is not set in stone, Mihalko says that the SBA feels confident it will receive the funding because the project is ranked number one in priority on the Oregon University System Capital Project Priority List, a list of projects to be state funded. According to Mihalko, the high priority is thanks to a recommendation by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Planning for the expansion of the SBA began back in 2008, but stalled during the recession. In the past two years, however, the project has again gained momentum, Mihalko said.

During construction, Mihalko said that students will most likely be able to take classes in parts of the building and move into the newer classrooms as they are built.

She also noted that the Graduate School of Education will most likely be relocated to Neuberger Hall.