Carlson School plans to open new undergraduate facility

Bryce Haugen

This year, the Carlson School of Management admitted one student for every eight applicants.

That will change by fall 2008 – if everything goes as planned and the Carlson School opens a new undergraduate facility across the street from the current building.

Officials hope to break ground by next fall on the nearly $40 million building, which would be about half the size of the current building with approximately 77,500 square feet of usable space.

The building’s new state-of-the-art classrooms, as well as additional computer labs and study areas, would allow for a dramatic increase in enrollment, said Bob Ruekert, the undergraduate program associate dean.

The business school’s co-interim Dean Jim Campbell said Big Ten business schools average 3,000 students, but CSOM enrolls only 1,400.

“Many of the best and brightest Minnesotans that would like to come here end up leaving the state to go to college,” he said, adding that 42 percent of denied applicants leave the state.

Working with a deep and highly qualified pool of applicants, the Carlson School will admit increasingly more first-year students each year until the facility’s scheduled opening, said Mary Maus Kosir, assistant dean and director of the undergraduate program. She said the business school should eventually grow by 50 percent to 75 percent.

“By increasing the size of our program, we’ll definitely be better serving our local community,” she said.

Jarka Tkacova, a sophomore at Carlson, said the proposed expansion will allow qualified students, like her friend who settled on attending the University of St. Thomas.

Many students said the Carlson School’s intense competitiveness maintains quality. But most said they trust the business school’s officials to maintain the school’s favorable national reputation.

“They know what they’re doing,” said finance junior Kelsey Steuber, who was studying Tuesday next to the digital stock ticker in the Carlson School atrium. “They wouldn’t jeopardize (our prestige).”

The Carlson School ranks 12th among thousands of American business schools and seventh among public university programs.

Besides the enrollment increase, the proposed expansion to the parking lot along Riverside Avenue South – the two buildings would be connected via skyway – would create some much-needed West Bank office space.

Before the current Carlson School building opened in 1998, the school was based in Heller Hall, also home to the economics department. In 2008, that department’s offices are scheduled to relocate to the new Carlson School building, a move University administration requested.

With the new space, the department can hire new faculty members, said economics department chairman Ed Foster. Currently, “the only way we can do that is by kicking out the graduate students,” he said.

The Carlson School will also proportionately hire new faculty and advisers based on the number of undergraduate students, Kosir said.

“We’re paying really close attention to quality as we expand,” she said.

Jan O’Brien, the business school’s director of student services, said her office will continue to offer quality advising services to students.

“But obviously, if we have 50 percent more students, it changes the dynamic of the relationship,” she said.

Reukert, who leads the building committee, said officials have just finished deciding what they want in the building. By January, he said, the initial designs will be complete. And by fall, blueprints will be printed and construction can commence, he said.

Campbell said the Carlson School has raised $15 million from “private benefactors” for construction and for scholarships to accommodate new students. The goal for the school is to raise $25 million in scholarship money over the next few years, Campbell said.

University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the University will fund one-third of the project and will ask the state to fund the rest in next year’s bonding bill, which funds University construction projects.

The project is second on the University’s list of bonding bill priorities, behind an $80 million request for renovation to existing facilities.

“Our request to the state won’t go any higher,” he said.

The Board of Regents reviewed the business school’s proposal at its October meeting and will take action on it next month, Pfutzenreuter said. Then it’s up to the governor and the state Legislature, he said.

David Metzen, Board of Regents facilities committee chairman, said the Carlson School’s expansion is long overdue.

“I’m very confident that the demand is such that it will get a good reception,” he said.

Legislators will visit campus in January or February to review the University’s bonding bill requests, said State Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, who is the Capital Investment Committee chairman.

Two sessions ago, the Legislature adjourned without passing a bonding bill. That’s unlikely this year, Langseth said, because legislators would like to avoid the wrath of voters, who, in 2004, ousted many incumbents.

“We’d like to get (the bill) done by the first of April so the projects can get going,” he said.