New SOM campus on track

The new SOM campus on Whitney Avenue will feature 16 classrooms with advanced video equipment.
The new SOM campus on Whitney Avenue will feature 16 classrooms with advanced video equipment. Photo by Henry Ehrenberg.

During their classes in the School of Management’s new building on Whitney Avenue next year, SOM students will interact with business leaders from overseas — on screen.

Though the new building’s glass exterior and infrastructure are complete, SOM administrators and Yale Facilities representatives interviewed said construction is still underway on the classrooms inside. The 16 classrooms, which are specifically designed to maximize interactive learning, will contain advanced video equipment allowing faculty and students to communicate with business experts at different locations in real time. The 242,000-square-foot campus — named Edward P. Evans Hall to honor the Yale alumnus whose $50 million gift is partially financing SOM’s move to Whitney Avenue — will open in January 2014 as scheduled, administrators said.

Each classroom in Evans Hall will contain at least three projection screens, video teleconferencing equipment, built-in cameras and microphones — equipment that SOM Chief Information Officer Alan Usas said complements the school’s efforts to globalize its curriculum, as it will allow speakers from overseas to participate in classes “almost as if they are present in the classroom.”

“On SOM’s current campus, having a video conference often means transporting various equipment on a cart and calling a technician to set it up,” Usas said. “[This is] time and effort that everyone will put to much better use on the new campus, with all classrooms having with the latest equipment.”

Usas and SOM professor and deputy dean Stanley Garstka, who is overseeing the entire construction project, said special care has been taken to ensure the new campus meets the needs of the SOM community. Administrators and professors interviewed cited the new technology as well as the classrooms’ elliptical shape, which will allow the professor to stand in the middle of the room and students to face both the professor and each other, as factors that will make instruction more interactive on the new campus than at the current facilities.

Other spaces in the new building — such as collaboration rooms specifically designed for student projects — are also conducive to interactive learning, Usas said, adding that the process of installing the equipment will extend into the fall. He said faculty will be given limited access to the building in the fall to allow them to get acquainted with the new equipment, though he said his team has tried to set up even the most complex equipment in an “intuitive” way, ensuring that everyone will be able to use it easily.

“The new building will allow for uniformity of experience among students, staff and faculty, because all classrooms and project rooms will be identically equipped from the start,” Usas said. “That is not the case with the school’s current campus because there has been incremental development over the years, but now, we are building everything at once while taking into account the perspective of every SOM community member.”

Garstka said the project planners tried to bring together as many SOM community members as possible in the “collaborative” process of designing the classrooms. In 2010, SOM set up a mock classroom on Yale’s West Campus, offering SOM professors the chance to offer feedback about the space.

Jon Olsen, the senior project manager in charge of construction, said SOM faculty and staff visit the new campus each week to confirm that construction of Evans Hall unfolds according to the architects’ plan.

Evans Hall was designed by Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62.

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