Tippie College of Business Quad Cities facility
December 28, 2015
Jennifer DeWitt

The University of Iowa will gain a larger presence in the Quad-Cities with the opening of a learning facility that provides the first local, permanent home for its Professional MBA Program.

In a unique shared-use arrangement, the university will occupy the ground floor of a new two-story Birchwood Fields Learning Center in the evenings for its Professional MBA Program. The building's developer and owner, Russell Construction, will lease it out to other users in the daytime. Located at the corner of Lakeview Parkway and East 56th Street in Davenport, the $4.5 million building is part of the company's 21-acre Birchwood Fields Office Park.

"We looked at a dozen existing spaces in the whole region and nothing was either large enough or properly configured so we could adapt it," said David Frasier, associate dean of the Tippie College of Business's MBA programs.

"There's never been a question about our commitment to the market, but having our own facility is just going to make a statement that Tippie College and the university are that much more committed to the market."

Angela Bagby, a Russell Construction employee, will manage the new space in her role as the center's executive director. In the daytime, the classroom spaces will be available for rent to anyone needing space for a learning event or a meeting, including the park's other tenants and Russell itself, she said.

"It is going to be Uber-like — easy to use," she said, referring to the app-based, ride-sharing system. "You can go online, see what's available and book online."

Caitlin Russell, the company's real estate development project manager and a graduate of the MBA program, and her father Jim Russell, the company's owner, are credited with having the idea for the public-private partnership.

"The general trend is office-space sharing," Bagby said. "People don't need a lot of square footage anymore to get business done."

In fact, the second floor will be rented out to Regus, an executive office space rental company that, in turn, will rent out the space to temporary users in an office hoteling concept.

The university's space will open by Jan. 11, in time for the MBA program's spring semester to begin Jan. 19. Regus' space will open in April, she said.

This is the first time the university has had its own dedicated space in the Quad-Cities, where it established its first remote location in 1966. The Professional MBA Program also operates at remote sites in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. Over the years, the Quad-City program has met at Augustana College in Rock Island, the Kahl Building in downtown Davenport and, of late, at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport.

"We've been meeting at Palmer, and they have been great partners to us, but from a technology standpoint, we were not able to do what we'd like to do," Frasier said. 

He added that the new technology, which is being installed by university staff, will include drop-down screens and projectors, video conferencing capabilities and whiteboards.

"One of the features is video capture technology," he said. "We will be able to record all our courses for students who are not able to attend on a given night — for whatever reason — to be able to go online to review the course."

Bagby said the learning center has two large classrooms — a lecture-style room and a 120-seat classroom that can be separated into two 40-seat classrooms by movable walls. It also includes four small breakout rooms, two conference rooms, a reception area and student lounge. 

According to Frasier, the new facility's real-time video conferencing will give Quad-City students access to more classes and class-sharing.

"Because of Quad-Cities' size, we couldn't offer as many electives," he said. "But with video conferencing, we can link multiple sites and move faculty around."

Frasier added that the new facility also will expand the university's offerings in the Quad-Cities, including the addition of leadership development courses, custom programming and a new Business Analytics Certificate.

"If there are needs companies have and we have the faculty expertise, we will work with the company to craft programming to their needs," he said.

"There's never been a question about our commitment to the market," Frasier said. "But having our own facility is just going to make a statement that Tippie College and the university are that much more committed to the market."