From a corner conference room on the third floor of USC’s new Darla Moore School of Business, visitors can see a wide swath of downtown Columbia – from the State House to the buildings that house the banks, law and commercial real estate firms where much of the Capital City’s business gets done.
Moore School officials hope the business community will be looking back – with fresh eyes – at the new state-of-the-art building at the corner of Greene and Assembly streets, a showcase for the latest in technology and green-energy construction.
“There isn’t a business school that is better than what we’ve got here,” said Peter Brews, appointed dean of the school in December.
The $106.5 million building sits in the heart of the University of South Carolina campus in what was once a small parking lot, sandwiched between the Carolina Coliseum and the Koger Center. Despite issues created by the site’s sloping land, there was no better place for the school, officials said.
“The ability to create a gateway for the University of South Carolina leading into the Innovista district was so attractive to everyone,” said Andrea Lamberti, a partner with Rafael Vinoly Architects, the New York firm that designed the building. Lamberti, along with various school officials and students, led a media tour of the building Wednesday.
In many ways, the business community already is entrenched in the business school. For years, companies have plucked students from the Moore School for internships and jobs. Businesses also send in guest lecturers.
The new school – USC’s biggest with 4,800 undergraduates and 800 graduate students – will make that interaction easier and more widespread, school officials said.
The school’s previous building was built in the 1970s, before desktop computers were commonplace, said Tim Carroll, a professor and director of the school’s professional master’s of business administration program. The former business school building, a highrise on College Street, had little room for interaction among students and faculty from different programs.
The new building is designed for interaction and offers ample space for technology and to bring in business leaders.
For example, in the old building, students “were blown away” when they were able to present a project via video-conference last year to NBC officials in New York, Carroll said. No more than two or three such conferences could be conducted at the same time, though. In the new building, there are at least 10 spaces where such activities can take place simultaneously, he said.
“That was a challenge in the old place,” Carroll said.
The new building has rooms that can accommodate five people working on a project or 500 people in an auditorium. Many of the classrooms have moveable walls and multiple video screens so learning can take whatever shape is needed.
Already, it’s a place where the business community wants to be. Spaces in the building are sponsored by major S.C. employers, such as Sonoco and SCANA. Others are asking if they can sponsor events, including USC’s annual economic outlook conference. One business group is planning on bringing in members to its cafe for breakfast and a tour, Brews said.
On Wednesday, technology company Bosch was the first business to set up an intern-recruiting station in the new school. In the old building, recruiters would have had a small space in the lobby to try to catch students as they scurried to class.
In the new building, recruiters had a prime spot on the level where all students have classes, and their presence is advertised on electronic message boards around the school. With plenty of space to set up gadgets – including a foosball machine that used Bosch drills for the handles, a virtual-reality machine and an “e-bike” – the recruiters were hard to miss. Students also could could sign up at iPad stations for emails on opportunities with the company.
Nathan Feldman, a 2012 graduate of the Moore School who recently was employed by Bosch at the company’s Charleston plant, remembers being pitched internships in the school’s former location by a video.
He was on hand Wednesday to help the company recruit more Moore students. “Now, we bring all of the cool stuff with us,” he said.