Building Business

By Nia Rincon

A sleek, modern building stands proudly on the corner of Central Avenue and Patterson Avenue.

Its huge windows let sunlight stream inside and illuminate a large, multi-level common area. Professors and students mingle around the bright, open space. Groups of professionals wearing slick business attire are ushered through the impressive space to private executive conference centers. Clusters of students utilize the large study pods to collaborate on projects. The delicious smells from the international café fill the space with warmth and invite the occupants to stay and eat.

This isn’t the Google or Apple headquarters, it’s the brand-new Robert and Avron Fogelman Business Complex. This vision for the newly renovated Fogelman College of Business & Economics (FCBE) will soon be a reality.

Dr. Bobby Garrett

The renovation of the FCBE buildings is not just about updating the bricks and mortar; it acts as a bold promise to continue shaping the future of business education, and the Memphis community, for the better.

FCBE Dean Dr. Bobby Garrett arrived at the University of Memphis in early 2023 and has dedicated himself to enhancing the future of the college. Together with a strategic planning task force that includes faculty, staff, students and community partners, Garrett honed a strategic vision for the FCBE.

“The University of Memphis is a first-generation student forward campus,” Garrett said. “We're a majority-minority campus and our students are coming here because they're looking for opportunities. We're positioning ourselves as the college of opportunity to serve the unique population of Memphis and this region, to make sure that our students get the support they need.

“That does not mean that we reduce any of our academic rigor. We are an academically rigorous college full of integrity, and we expect our students to be able to meet and beat the challenges that we put in front of them. What it does mean is that we build a scaffolding of support around our curriculum because we care for our students.”

Garrett describes opportunity as a holistic concept. The support also extends to the faculty, staff, alumni and corporate and community partners to help build this foundation for success and opportunity. This project will be a huge factor in maintaining and expanding this legacy into the future.

Improvements to student and faculty life are the paramount objectives for the new construction. According to a study by TeenLife, students who visit a college before they apply are 40% more likely to apply and be admitted. If these students don’t connect with the facade of the FCBE buildings, the UofM could be losing prospective students.

“One of the primary pieces of this building project is that we want to make sure we have a space that is impressive, welcoming and represents our values as a college,” Garrett said. “We want the students to feel that and feel like this could be a home for them.”

The renovation would see the dated brick exterior of the current FCBE replaced by large windows and a sleek new design. The formerly separated FCBE Administration Building and Classroom Building will be connected to promote collaboration between students and faculty while also serving as a modern common space for studying or working.

“It's going to put all the student services front and center in an indoor open area that represents our values,” Garrett said. “We'll be reconfiguring walls and classrooms, taking some of the tiers out of the classrooms and making them flat spaces so there's better opportunities for collaborative pedagogies and for students to meet with each other.

fcbe business building rendering

“There’s going to be a greater focus on student study spaces and small team rooms where students can go to work with technology-enabled spaces. Right now, our students come in for classes, and because we don't have the space for them to study, they leave. What we need to do is create spaces that give them the opportunity to stay.”

The new building will provide much-needed enhancements for FCBE faculty and staff as well. With the cramped quarters, some employees are currently doubling up office space and battling with outdated climate controls.

“Spaces have an effect on workforce engagement and productivity,” Garrett said. “Having the right spaces for our faculty and staff will improve morale and productivity, and make it much easier for us to get all of our personnel to be committed and engaged to the mission of the college.”

As Fogelman thrives, so too does the entire University of Memphis community.

“The more University of Memphis students have employment opportunities in general, the more attractive this place becomes to prospective students,” Garrett said. “That doesn't mean every student needs to be a Fogelman student. It means that we're willing to serve all the students at the University of Memphis by giving them micro-credential programs or minors in our college so that if they're an art student or music student, they can come out with some understanding of business that will help them find success in their chosen career.”

This commitment to serving UofM students across many disciplines highlights the pressing need for expansion. The current buildings have capacity for about 3,000 students. This is already too small for Fogelman’s roughly 3,600 current students, which illustrates why this renovation is critical for both the FCBE and the University.

Many UofM supporters have awaited this pivotal project, recognizing its potential to uplift not only the academic experiences of students, but also to empower the next generation of business leaders rooted in Memphis.

Garrett is emphasizing to the Memphis community that this project is moving forward full steam ahead. Ongoing support is not only beneficial but vital to the project's success and ensuring the goals set will be fully attained. It is a critical strategic investment for the entire UofM and its community.

“My job is to steward over this organization and its assets in such a way that in five or 10 years, our graduates become even more proud to declare that they have a degree from the University of Memphis, and it becomes all the more valuable for them to say that,” Garrett said.

A project of this scale creates a ripple effect of innovation, collaboration and educational impact that reaches across disciplines and elevates the UofM and the Memphis community to new heights of distinction.

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