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Alumni in Action

Learning Commons Opening May 2018

By Alumni Relations

April 3, 2018

Learning Commons rendering

The Wisconsin School of Business is pleased to announce that Grainger Hall’s new collaborative learning space—the Learning Commons—is opening in May 2018.

A series of events leading up to its public opening will give WSB friends and stakeholders the chance to celebrate the completion of this momentous undertaking before students begin using the space to study for final exams on May 5.

Underscoring WSB’s commitment to educational innovation and following a nationwide trend toward active learning, this donor-funded space will soon be a vibrant place for students, faculty, industry leaders, and Wisconsin School of Business community members to collaborate, exchange ideas, and dream big.

Traditional tables and chairs will give way to spaces for students to gather in groups of all sizes. Flexibility will be a driving force for students to be able to create their own environments and study experiences. Students who work in groups will have a place in the three-level Learning Commons, as will those who want to work alone. Better aesthetics, paired with state-of-the-art technology, will help inspire learning.

The seed for the Learning Commons was planted during a student trip to New York City. Through discussions with alumni working on Wall Street, Mark Fedenia (BBA ’77, M.S. ’79, Ph.D. ’87), the Patrick A. Thiele Distinguished Chair in Finance, director of the Wealth Management and Financial Planning Program, and an associate finance professor, saw a need for a finance-focused computer lab within a new space that would broadly serve the entire WSB community. Continued conversations with WSB alumnus Ricky Sandler (BBA ’91), Michael Enyart, director of the Business Library, and Gwen Eudey, director of the Business Learning Center, sparked the initial idea for the Learning Commons as a collaborative learning space.

The team took into account the immediate success of and demand for WSB’s first Collaborative Learning Classroom (CLC), which opened in Fall 2015, and considered other desired innovations: greater opportunities for active learning, streamlined technology offerings, multiple areas for tutoring, a greater sense of community, and unified physical space for the School as a whole.

Research shows the effects of active learning on academic performance are resoundingly positive, and the Learning Commons will help WSB students integrate more of it into their education. Active learning can take the form of authentic real-world team projects, shared reflections, or group problem-solving, and the Learning Commons will provide the perfect setting for all of that to flourish.

Experience has proved the research correct. Students who use the CLC believe the time spent there is more productive, interactive, and practical than in a traditional classroom. The space enables real-time virtual interactions between students and industry professionals and its pod-shaped tables enhance the group work environment. Students look forward to more of the same in the Learning Commons.

“I’m excited to try out the individual spaces for when I need to get work done or turn to the collaborative spaces for group projects,” says WSB student Kate Xia (BBA ’19). “I’m most looking forward to the natural lighting and use of glass in the new study spaces.

“It’s great that the WSB realizes each student has a different learning style,” she says. “The Learning Commons addresses those needs.”

The transformation will happen on three floors of Grainger Hall areas that many alumni would remember as the Huber Undergraduate Computer Lab and the Business Library. The first floor, once home to the computer lab, will be the Finance and Analytics Lab with the upper areas providing a variety of learning spaces for individual and group work in formal and casual settings.

“Collaboration and innovation are core values here at the Wisconsin School of Business,” says Barry Gerhart, Interim Albert O. Nicholas Dean. “The Learning Commons will provide our students with the tools and space they need to explore these values as they grow into the future leaders of the business world.”