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UNH's Peter T. Paul College brings 'business education' to life

Union Leader Correspondent

April 11. 2013 11:50PM
Students study in the Great Hall of the University of New Hampshire's new Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics on Wednesday. The university will officially celebrate the opening of the college during a ceremony Friday afternoon. (GRETYL MACALSTER/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM - The University of New Hampshire will officially unveil the new Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics on Friday, but students have been taking full advantage of the amenities offered since the spring semester began in March.

Breakout rooms equipped with video screens and recording equipment were full of students working on group projects and presentations as Dean Dan Innis recently walked through the building.

In the Great Hall looking out onto a developing courtyard between the Health Services building, students sat in comfy chairs and along the giant windows studying, reading and taking advantage of the gathering space.

Until the Paul school opened, business students took classes in McConnell Hall, one of the so-called "waffle" buildings in the back end of campus and said there was little reason to stay in the building after class.

Graduate student Omar Zeroual, 29, said with a café downstairs and abundant study and collaborative space in the Paul school, sometimes he does not leave the building at all until it closes at 11 p.m.

He said the advanced technology is also helping him and other business majors to be better prepared when they enter the business world.

This is exactly what Innis wants to hear. "It brought business education to life," he said.

This includes enhancing the way students interact with each other, with faculty and with members of the surrounding business community.

Innis said all of his dreams and aspirations for the building have already been exceeded.

"I think the students are ecstatic. The seniors are a little disappointed they won't be here longer, which was hard to hear, and good to hear," Innis said.

The $50 million building came in $5 million under the budget approved by the University System board of trustees and will also soon be LEED "Gold" certified, a standard of environmentally friendly design and construction. The project was largely funded through private gifts, including a record-setting $25 million gift from alumnus and philanthropist Peter T. Paul, for whom the building is named.

Paul will be in attendance at today's ribbon cutting and celebration, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at the main entrance of the building on Garrison Avenue.

The building has 900 classroom seats with thousands of business and non-business students coming in and out each day.

This past year, 2,100 undergraduates were enrolled at the business school, and that number is expected to go up for 2013. The building has capacity for up to 2,500 undergraduates in addition to graduate students.

In addition to the technology in the breakout rooms, technology in the "flipped" classrooms is also top notch and provides unique opportunities for teaching and learning, Innis said.

Small groups of work stations are outfitted with technology that allows the creation of Powerpoint and video presentations while a station at the front allows faculty to interact with and highlight the work being done at any of the stations.

He said the idea is for classrooms to serve as workrooms with lectures and reading taking place outside the classroom and online.

He said the purpose of Friday's event is not just to showcase the building, but the quality product it is turning out - the students.

He said in national standardized testing given to graduating seniors, UNH business students rank in the 85th to 90th percentile.

And more than half of those graduates will stay in New Hampshire, he said, which has a major impact on the regional economy.

"It's a new face for business education at the University of New Hampshire," Innis said.

By May 1, all of the rooms should be complete, and the remaining two classes at McConnell Hall can move into the new building.

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