Business Innovation Building main entrance at dusk

Lehigh broke ground on its 74,000-square-foot Business Innovation Building in May 2021 and held a grand opening March 3, 2023. (Jeffrey Totaro)

Open for Business: Lehigh’s Business Innovation Building Features Unique Design, Technology

The 74,000-square-foot building was designed with collaboration in mind.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu and Jeffrey Totaro

Inside the Classroom in the Round on the second floor of Lehigh’s new Business Innovation Building, students sit in rows resembling the layers of an onion surrounding an open area. There’s no podium in the center, encouraging professors utilizing the room to participate in the lesson rather than lead it.

Above, four sections of curved, 12-foot-wide LED screens, hanging from an acoustic wood tile ceiling in the middle of the room, combine to create a full-circle display. The screens can work in concert or display a different image and are controlled by a desktop display or tablet, giving everyone in the room equal views, access and the ability to collaborate. To make the most of its state-of-the-art video and audio capabilities, the walls have an acoustic treatment, designed to improve the audio quality in the room.

On the ground level, the Behavioral Research Lab is centered around an observation room with a two-way mirror where researchers can unobtrusively record reactions of their subjects.

Unique spaces that embrace the use of technology are one of two features that distinguish the 74,000-square-foot Business Innovation Building.

The other is the investment Lehigh made in direct view LED monitors—the same technology used for scoreboards in stadiums and billboards on highways. The monitors provide a bright, high-resolution picture, eliminating the need to dim lights or pull shades—crucial in a building that features floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

We thought about the building requirements, the architectural drawings, but we always were thinking about flexibility and adaptability. Putting the students first drove the building. This building had to be all about learning.

Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business

While the Classroom in the Round’s technology is unique to campus, all the rooms within the building are nearly as intuitive. Many can be customized to fit the needs of the students and professors.

“We thought about the building requirements, the architectural drawings, but we always were thinking about flexibility and adaptability,” Georgette Chapman Phillips, the Kevin L. and Lisa A. Clayton Dean of the College of Business, says. “Putting the students first drove the building. This building had to be all about learning.”

Classroom in the Round

The Business Innovation Building's Classroom in the Round. (Jeffrey Totaro)

Located on East Packer Avenue diagonally across from the Rauch Business Center, the building, which the university actively planned since 2017, provides 16 additional teaching spaces for the College of Business’ undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition to the Behavioral Research Lab, the lower level houses the Philip Rauch Center for Business Communication, which includes mock interview rooms and a coaching space.

Classrooms, labs, conference rooms and meeting spaces fill the building’s first two floors, and the third floor is reserved for the Vistex Institute for Executive Education, which aims to provide high-impact, short-duration programs for working professionals to enhance their skills.

A double-sided stock ticker—35 feet wide and nearly one-and-a-half feet high—can be seen outside the building on Packer Avenue, as well as inside the first floor’s Bosland Financial Services Lab, which includes a teaching wall that features a 6-by 20-foot LED display.

View from professor's lectern

A professor's view in one of the rooms in Lehigh's new Business Innovation Building. (Christa Neu)

In larger classrooms the direct view LED monitors are 20 feet wide; in smaller classrooms the screens measure 16 feet wide. They’re also accompanied by confidence monitors, screens in the back of the room that mimic the main display on a smaller scale so the professor can see without having to turn around or look down at a computer.

In the Bloomberg Lab, students can learn to use Bloomberg terminals to monitor and analyze real-time financial market data and place trades.

The student study areas, open spaces, high-tech meeting rooms and classrooms were all designed to facilitate student learning and faculty innovation, Phillips says. The classrooms, equipped with advanced camera and sound systems, are built to handle students on-site, remotely or a combination of both.

The project, which was largely funded by philanthropic gifts—nearly $25 million was donated by 122 alumni and friends, as well as corporations and foundations—was greenlit in 2020. Lehigh broke ground in May 2021 following a pause due to the pandemic. The structure’s official grand opening was March 3 inside the building’s Tauck Family Lobby.

Within weeks, following spring break, some professors in the College of Business began moving their classes into the new building to finish out the Spring 2023 semester.

Student client presentation in Room 111

Students hold client presentations to HangDog Outdoor Adventures, founded by Mike McCreary ’07, in Room 111—one of the rooms in the Business Innovation Building that feature breakout pods. (Christa Neu)

Among the first to use the new spaces was Patrick Zoro, program manager for the Master of Science in financial engineering and assistant teaching professor. He says the desk setup allows for better interactions.

“It enables me to move around the students, breaking that invisible barrier you have in standard classrooms,” Zoro says.

Zoro did just that in his Security Analysis and Portfolio Management class held in Room 107, where tables ranged in size, seating two to five students. He moved seamlessly from the front of the room, where he addressed the entire class, to working more intimately with individual student groups. First, he grabbed a chair to sit down at a two-student table to answer a question before sliding over to assist a group of four students seated at another table and then returned to address the class as a whole.

About six to eight classes moved into the building after spring break, including one taught by Nevena Koukova, associate professor of marketing.

“My experience in the new building has been very positive,” Koukova says. “I particularly like the design and setup in my classroom that allow student interactions and group discussions. My students, all graduating seniors, were very excited to move to the new building after the spring break.”

The Business Innovation Building held an open house on March 3, 2023.

Deirdre Trabert Malacrea, professor of practice in the marketing department, held her students’ client presentations to Martin Guitar and HangDog Outdoor Adventures, founded by Mike McCreary ’07, in Room 111—one of the rooms that feature breakout pods. There are tables for four different groups, each equipped with a monitor that the students or professor can utilize.

Creating opportunities for collaboration was completely intentional.

“What makes this facility so special is that it was designed with collaboration in mind,” McKay Price, Perella Department of Finance, Goodman Chair for Real Estate Studies and director of the Goodman Center for Real Estate, said when the building opened. “It is a place where faculty and students can come together, exchange ideas and push each other to be more creative and innovative. This type of collaborative learning is essential for preparing students for life after Lehigh, where they will need to work across different fields and disciplines to solve complex problems.”

The design of the building and its focus on collaboration also help Lehigh achieve goals laid out in its strategic plan, which leans into interdisciplinary approaches to education and expanded opportunities for students.

“[The Business Innovation Building] provides space for the College of Business to experiment with the new, to build on that pioneering effort in interdisciplinary collaboration with engineering and expand the reach of the business school at Lehigh and expand the reach of Lehigh itself,” Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82 said at the grand opening. He said the work of the College of Business is core to the effort to “be even more interdisciplinary, to enhance our students’ education and prepare them for the world.”

The building has a number of special features, including a conference room table made from campus trees toppled in 2012’s Hurricane Sandy (in part thanks to Brian Slocum, managing director of Wilbur Powerhouse and design labs). There is also a web-based scheduling system to reserve breakout rooms; the rooms have digital panels outside each room displaying the reservation schedule. A 13-and-a-half-foot-long video wall in the Tauck Family Lobby contains an interactive timeline of Lehigh Business, stories about business students and faculty research, as well as biographies and photo galleries of the Lehigh Business LUminaries.

“When I started this job in July of 2014, one of my most pressing goals was to transform Lehigh’s College of Business into a world-class business school,” Phillips says. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last nine years, and this Lehigh Business Innovation Building is another giant leap in the right direction.”

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu and Jeffrey Totaro

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