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Florida Southern opens state-of-the-art business building

Florida Southern opens state-of-the-art business building

Conference News
Workers put the finishing touches on the new Becker Business Building, set to welcome students for the fall semester at Florida Southern College. Photos by Susan Green.

LAKELAND – When Florida Southern College (FSC) students return to classes on Aug. 26, they will see several changes on campus, most notably the new Bill and Mary Ann Becker Business Building.

Nestled among massive oak trees and overlooking Lake Hollingsworth, the newest FSC building — which houses the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise — now occupies the site where the Florida Conference UMC bishop’s home was located for many years.

Workers on cherry picker at the top of the new Becker building
The new Becker Business Building has striking architectural features and houses state-of-the-art technology, including a simulated trading room.

When it opens for the fall semester, the Becker building will have the most technologically advanced classrooms on the 114-acre campus. Architecturally, the three-story, 40,000-square-foot structure boasts a futuristic look while also giving a nod to FSC’s heritage as home to the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

“The building is a parallelogram to complement the college’s Frank Lloyd Wright buildings,” says Kathleen Whitaker, FSC’s director of marketing and communications. “It has two acute and two obtuse angles that result in a dynamic profile, especially from the front that soars up at you. The design allows for beautiful views from multiple spots in the building.”

Robert A.M. Stern, renowned New York architect and dean of the Yale School of Architecture, designed the building, a gift from FSC alumnus Bill Becker and his wife, Mary Ann, of Vero Beach. Becker is the owner of Peace River Citrus Products and a former chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission. Stern previously designed the Nicholas and Wesley Barnett residence halls and the humanities building at Florida Southern.

The innovative exterior is a precursor to the state-of-the-art technology inside the business school that will give students a heads-up in the real world of business. Each classroom has color touch panels to control audio-visual equipment, and five rooms have lecture-recording abilities so that lectures can be viewed later or online. Several small meeting rooms will give students a place to develop team projects. A market research observation room with remote viewing and recording capabilities will allow students to practice with focus groups.

“The observation room has a real ‘Mad Men’ feel to it with a two-way mirror,” Whitaker says.

The pièce de résistance, however, is the simulated trading room complete with a 114-foot-long LED ticker of real-time NASDAC stock market prices, a 153-square-foot video display and 12 Bloomberg terminals where students will get hands-on experience managing mock portfolios. Dr. Chuck DuVal, FSC’s director of the Master of Business Administration program, is looking forward to the business school’s move to the new building, but the trading room has excited him the most.

“The trading room is something that has intrigued me since I came to campus,” says DuVal, who also serves as an assistant professor of finance. “I toured several business schools with trading rooms and was exposed to Bloomberg terminals. They are considered a state-of-the-art product for trading rooms and mock simulations.”

A worker does maintenance at the Rogers Building
The Rogers Building, former home to the Florida Southern College business school, will be renovated to become a multi-service student center.

The other classrooms have LED screens so that students can flash their homework up without leaving their seats, and professors will use iPads to share information on the screens as well. DuVal says the technology will provide more engaged learning.

“This new generation of students is used to better technology, and we need to deliver it,” he says. “We are moving light years in this new direction.”

FSC is expecting about 450 to 470 business majors for the new academic year. In addition, there are approximately 100 graduate students in the MBA and Master of Accountancy programs. In June 2013, the Barnett School of Business received the top accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

“Only 5 percent of the business schools worldwide have this accreditation,” DuVal says. “We believe this puts us in the top league.”

During the 2013 groundbreaking ceremony for the Becker building, FSC President Anne Kerr said the building would be “a model facility for other business schools” and would help the college attain its goal of becoming one of the top 25 business schools in the country.

Other campus changes

Students who head to the Rogers Building that previously housed the business school will find it being transformed into the Rogers Student Center. Inside will be a student career center, the Office of Student Accountability, the Center for Student Involvement, a student lounge and a game room.

“Those offices were scattered around campus and now will be in a central location,” Whitaker says. “That will be the biggest change for all the students, not just business majors.”  

Whitaker also says Florida Southern has started clearing land for a new admissions building and a new education building, which will be next door to the Becker Business Building.

Students also will be traversing a slightly larger campus that has expanded by 4 acres as a result of land acquisitions for the new facilities.

Other changes are visible in the course catalog with new majors in biotechnology, healthcare administration, business and free enterprise, business and political economy and sports-business management.

Founded in Orlando in 1883, FSC serves more than 2,300 undergraduate and graduate students. While the school has had several name and location changes over the years, it has always maintained a strong affiliation with the Methodist Church. 

– Mary Ann DeSantis is a freelance writer based in Lady Lake.

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