Board of Regents Approves Plan For McCombs Grad School

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Students looking to pursue a graduate business education at UT may have to look beyond the iconic Red McCombs School of Business on 21st Street and Speedway. To be specific, they may only have to walk a few extra blocks to get to the glossy new building dedicated to graduate students.

In its August meeting, the UT System Board of Regents approved plans for an estimated $155 million to spend on a new building, parking garage and an expansion of the AT&T Conference Center to be completed by February 2017. The new building falls under the System’s Capital Improvement Program, an initiative to enhance and renovate UT System facilities. It will specifically house the Master in Business Administration program.

According to the board’s Facilities Planning and Construction Committee proposal, they hope the new building helps attract professionals returning to school to get their degrees. In addition, the proposal also emphasized a separation between business undergraduate and graduate students.

“The mixture of professional graduate students with undergraduate students impairs the School’s ability to meet all of the unique needs of either group,” it stated.

“Our plan is to have a large number of small learning spaces to allow for negotiation and teamwork projects to take place, which is essential in the business world,” Eric Hirst, associated dean for graduate programs in the McCombs School, said.

With graduate and undergraduate business students currently in the same building, professors must market their curriculum to larger crowds. However, professors will have more flexibility in the new facility.

“These classrooms will permit our faculty to teach more hands-on custom courses focusing on a variety of interesting topics,” Hirst said. “This will expose our students to a plethora of new learning experiences, and improve the quality of their education by a long shot.”

In order to put the McCombs School ahead of its competition, Hirst said the new graduate school will draw upon the experiences of other business masters programs.

“We want to learn from both the successes and the failures of others,” Hirst said. “We’re planning on going ahead. We’re Texas after all.”

Although the current graduate business students probably will not attend classes in the new building, Hirst said its potential to improve McCombs’ reputation will benefit all its graduates.

“This is part of a long-term plan,” he said. “This facility will help draw top tier business grads and put us solidly among the top business schools in the country. The quality of the degree will only go up, which is a huge benefit for everyone.”

Brian Williams, president of the Black Graduate Business Association, said he thinks having a separate building for business graduate students will be a great improvement and help recruit quality students.

“This is a huge step in the right direction, considering the rigors and challenges of being a McCombs graduate student,” he said. “This will give McCombs a graduate building on par with other top-tier institutions and dedicate to us the resources we need for our programs.”

Williams said a new graduate building would only add to the McCombs School’s already strong reputation.

“So many people wish to come to McCombs because they know it’s a special place,” he said. “This really takes it up a notch, though.”

Williams said this project is representative of UT’s increasing campus size and effort to accommodate a growing student population.

“I will definitely be jealous about not being able to take classes there,” Williams said.