May 24—MORGANTOWN — Legislators enjoyed a tour of WVU's new shining jewel Monday afternoon: Reynolds Hall. Built on the site of the old Stansbury Hall, it will be the new home of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics when it opens later this year.
Legislators were in town for May interim meetings and gathered in Reynolds' 300-seat auditorium for an introduction to the building by Josh Hall, college dean.
"We know we can't just keep up with the times, " he said. "We have to be drivers of change." The building — an overall $100 million project — reflects that commitment to fueling economic progress and was built without taxpayer dollars.
Visitors can sense they're not in a traditional college building when they walk in the front door. Straight ahead, the Holyman Social Stairwell — dotted with couches — swoops up, and the giant digital ticker tape is visible just outside the Roll Capital Markets Center.
To the left is an airy lobby and, suspended atop a single central pillar, is the angular, futuristic Hayhurst Ideation Hub — a space for the cultivation and sharing of ideas.
WVU President Gordon Gee also offered some remarks before the tour began. He talked about his close work with Brad Smith — a major WVU donor and Marshall University president. "In this state, there can be no competition. We can only have collaboration. We're too small to have any of these kind of regional issues."
Gee talked about the several missions of the state's land grant university. "We need to keep our young people here and the way we're going to do it is exactly what we're doing right here, " he said. "We want to create lots of opportunity, through our business school and through others, to make certain that young people stay here and that we create those kinds of jobs that are sustainable."
Reflecting on Reynolds, he said, "This is not a building. We do not build buildings at West Virginia University. We build ideas. And this is an idea that will take us into the future for about 40 years."
Hall led one of the tour groups, introducing the various experiential learning labs and other spaces in Reynolds' seven floors. Legislators oohed and ahhed and repeatedly said how impressive the space is.
The Roll Capital Markets Center sits inside a glass wall at the top of the social stairwell. Another digital tape runs along the center's front wall. The room is filled with 40 Bluebird terminals with four monitors each.
It'a a learning lab for finance students to prepare for real-world trading floors. The students fill paid positions and work up to 20 hours per week. They're assigned different economic sectors to do their trading and based on the performance of their portfolios they can earn bonuses.
Hall said this center reflects the potential of the building, which is open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m. But Roll Center students can obtain after-hours swipe card access. "If they need to pull an all-nighter and they need access to their Bluebird, they will have the ability to do so."
As an economist, Hall said he hates waste and the planning for the whole structure reflects that: Every space is designed to be used ; even the auditorium will hold classes five days a week. "This is going to be a place our students are going to live and we have the ability to let them do so."
In the Wherle Global Supply Chain Lab, a student wearing a virtual reality headset was turning and bobbing. A computer monitor showed him working on a farm.
Professor John Saldanha said students in the lab will learn how to work in the global supply chain through such things as interactive virtual reality. With the VR headset they can go anyplace in the world — learn every step of operations at a shipping container yard or tour the Toyota factory in Buffalo.
"Essentially, in virtual reality, there is no limit, " he said.
In another spot, a long narrow room with a view of the Monongahela River and Westover, is being turned into the cybersecurity lab. "In this lab, what we are going to be doing is training the next generation of cybersecurity professionals, " said professor Chris Ramezan.
Cybersecurity can't be learned out of a book, he said. "You've gotta have hands-on systems. You've gotta teach students how to break things, you've gotta teach students how to build things." When the lab is fully equipped, the students will learn how to hack into systems, and how to protect them.
Reynolds Hall is more than 186, 000 square feet — twice the size of the current business school building.
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