Officials break ground for new CSOM building

by Vincent Staupe

The Carlson School of Management broke ground Thursday on a new building that will allow the school’s enrollment to more than double.

“The new building is about people and about the students,” said Bob Ruekert, Carlson School associate dean for undergraduate programs, who leads the building committee.

Scheduled to open in fall 2008, Hanson Hall – named in honor of University alumnus and Carlson School donor Herbert M. Hanson Jr. – will replace a triangular parking lot along Riverside Avenue South, between 19th and 20th avenues south.

The nearly $40 million building will be about half the size of the main building and connected to it via skyway.

In the bonding bill passed by the Legislature this spring, the state of Minnesota pledged to cover about two-thirds of the building’s cost. The University will foot the rest of the bill, mainly through donations.

Hanson Hall will feature expanded office space for academic advisers and nine state-of-the-art classrooms.

“These will be some of the best classrooms on campus,” Ruekert said.

The hall also will become the new home for the economics department offices, which are currently in Heller Hall.

The University doesn’t plan to build a replacement parking lot, but Ruekert said the newly expanded 19th Avenue Ramp will help accommodate the need for additional spaces.

The groundbreaking comes at a time when attendance at the Carlson School is up and the existing building is running out of space.

This fall, the Carlson School admitted 300 more students than last year, school officials said, while applications rose by more than 30 percent. Enrollment will increase every year so the new building can be full when it opens, they said.

The Carlson School currently enrolls about half as many students as the average Big Ten business school.

Carlson School professor Ivy Zhang said the school has had to turn away qualified applicants because of a lack of space. In 2005, 42 percent of denied applicants from Minnesota left the state, according to school statistics.

“I do think the Carlson School is in great need of this new building.

“We can admit only a small fraction of applicants,” Zhang said.

Most students interviewed said they are pleased there will be a new building, but they also expressed concerns about whether the expansion would affect the school’s prestige and class sizes.

The Carlson School was ranked the 13th best business school in the nation by this fall’s U.S. News and World Report.

“Overall, I think it is a good idea,” said Carlson first-year student Tyler Dorosh-Walther. “But I don’t know if Carlson will be able to maintain its prestigious status if they begin to accept more students.”

Accounting junior Kristen Dahl said that if the Carlson School admits more students, it must keep class sizes small.

“None of my classes are crowded now, but the building will be needed if they are planning to admit more students,” she said.

In the neighboring Cedar-Riverside community, businesses are preparing for another large University building.

Alex Betzenheimer, general manager of North Country Co-Op – across the street from where Hanson Hall will be – said it and other businesses were appreciative of the public input forums throughout the planning process.

He said he hopes the building becomes more of a gateway for students than a wall to the neighborhood.

“We are reasonably excited about it,” Betzenheimer said. “The building will be a good fit for us.”