Bridging Academia and the Modern Workplace

Schmidthorst College of Business, Maurer Center, Bowling Green, Ohio
Creating a start-up environment on campus

Designing a major building on a university campus can be part juggling act, part jigsaw puzzle. That was certainly the case for Bowling Green State University’s college of business, which is particularly well-known for partnering with professionals to create student mentoring and internship opportunities. To further integrate real-world experiences with the learning environment, a new home for the business school was envisioned to unite one of the oldest buildings on campus with a new, vibrant facility inspired by entrepreneurial workplaces like Google and Apple.

We were engaged to gain an understanding of stakeholders’ needs, balance priorities, share best practices, and ultimately design a building that would foster teaching and learning into the future. We also needed to blend the new building with a historic one, connect both buildings with the rest of campus, and create spaces that would engage partner businesses as part of a rigorous curriculum. As the design architects for the project, we coordinated planning and design work with the architect of record, Toledo, Ohio-based The Collaborative, Inc.

Designing from the inside out

Our team approached the design from the inside out. Focusing first on the interior layout, we used quantitative and qualitative methods to invite stakeholders to share insights and input. Through interviews, focus groups, and surveys, we gained an understanding of their needs and preferences. We also took faculty and other design committee members on tours of exemplary peer institutions, workplaces, business incubators, and innovation labs to encourage them to experience these dynamic environments firsthand.

These exercises resulted in a shared vision of a building that would be open and transparent to encourage interaction. But some faculty and staff wanted to maintain a degree of privacy in their offices and departmental settings, so we sought ways to bridge the gap. To show how the spaces would perform over the long term, we designed and constructed mock-ups of faculty offices with new layouts and modalities.

We encouraged faculty to use the spaces over the course of nine months and report their findings in real time. Based on their feedback, the design team ultimately created a modular, flexible interior that can adapt to future needs.

Workplace tours helped university decision-makers gain an understanding of best practices in workplace design, express their preferences, and establish a visual and experiential “common ground” that could give rise to a shared vocabulary.
The light-filled atrium reflects students' desire for an open and transparent environment.

We suggested co-locating faculty and staff by their skill set rather than by departmental affiliation to encourage creative interdisciplinary connections, and we specified glass fronts on faculty offices to increase visibility and take advantage of natural daylight. We also designed an incubator space and other areas for faculty, staff, and corporate partners to meet, mentor, and guide students.

To tie it all together, we used historical displays, creative branding and wayfinding aids, and a soaring LED display. These elements help connect the new building to its surroundings.

A light-filled atrium connects historic Hanna Hall to a new building that mimics the modern workplace, with spaces that encourage interaction and collaboration.
A bright, buzzing home for business education

By bridging academia and modern workplaces, the building has ushered in a new era of business education.

“It’s a wonderful mix of BGSU’s rich history, sleek modern design, and technology that will enable faculty and staff to successfully aid students through their career at BGSU,” said instructor Michael Good soon after the building opened.

The start-up-like environment for study and collaboration prepares students for real-world careers and creates an exceptional workplace for faculty, staff, and partners in the business world.