Not Just Business As Usual

Rendering of USD's new Knauss Center for Business Education


The University of San Diego has experienced a true Renaissance.

In 2019, the university launched one of the most ambitious capital improvement plans in its history. Known as the Renaissance Plan, it called for a new beginning, a rebirth for four of the original and most cherished spaces on campus, as well as the construction of two entirely new buildings to enhance learning.

As part of the plan, USD opened the Learning Commons — a two-story, 36,000-square-foot building on the west end of campus that’s home to 13 flexible smart classrooms, a dynamic Town Square and an outdoor plaza. USD also renovated Copley Library, which features new study and instruction spaces, seminar and reading rooms, event and outdoor settings and individual seating for 1,000 users.

Next came the restoration of Camino Hall, Founders Hall and Sacred Heart Hall, where resident halls and lounges were renovated and the buildings were brought back to their original glory.

In April of 2021, USD broke ground on the final component of the Renaissance Plan — a new, 120,000 square-foot complexcalled the Knauss Center for Business Education, named for Don Knauss, chair of USD’s Board of Trustees and former CEO of Clorox, and his wife, Ellie.

Located just off the Paseo de Colachis, in the heart of Alcalá Park’s academic corridor, the Knauss Center for Business Education is one of the first buildings visitors will see as they crest the hill at the west entrance of campus.

“It is an incredible honor and blessing to play a key role in making this new, world-class business center and complex a reality,” Don Knauss says.

The new complex nearly triples the business school’s space.

Rendering of the interior of new USD Knauss Center for Business EducationThe Free Enterprise Institute Suite houses the new Catalyzer Incubator, a maker space with state-of-the-art technology to help seed student startups, as well as The Brink Small Business Development Center, where faculty and industry thought leaders mentor hundreds of San Diego small businesses.

The Student Success Center serves as a hub for all student-support programs — including advising, career services, mentoring and internships. There’s also the Torero One Button production suite, a state-of-the-art production studio for creating mock interviews, videos, podcasts and other tools to help students develop their personal brands — all with the touch of one button.

The Nexus Theatre can be used as a classroom or, using moveable walls, can be transformed into the perfect space for large meetings or events.

The Data Analytics Lab is designed to develop advanced business analytics skills by giving students the opportunity to train on tools used by big data thought leaders.

The complex features many flexible spaces, including new, active-learning classrooms with cutting-edge technology and furniture that can be completely reconfigured to better serve group dynamics.

Finally, there’s a business advisory suite to gather industry partners, advisory boards and supporters to brainstorm innovative ideas that will help the School of Business become a leading business school in the country.

“Traditional business schools have the feel of a monolith — they’re staid, traditional with a lot of private spaces that are not to be broached, if you will,” says Tim Keane, PhD, dean of the School of Business, and the visionary behind the new facility. “This new complex is more like business of today where we’re encouraging collaboration. We thrive on it. That’s where
innovation comes from.”

During his senior year, Carl Dumesle ’21 (MBA) hosted a virtual tour so people could picture the new space, with the help of architectural renderings and digital fly-throughs. What excites him most is the new Free Enterprise Institute Suite, where USD’s Catalyzer Incubator will help get businesses off the ground.

In 2019, Dumesle and his classmate, Bria d’Amours, won a $45,000 prize during the inaugural Fowler Business Concept Challenge, which was hosted by the then equally new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Catalyzer.

Their winning business concept, called Housing for Undergraduates and Graduate Students (or HUGS), would make it easier for international students or students from out of state to find housing locally.

“I can see this space being a go-to for students to ignite their innovative spirit,” says Dumesle. “For the first time, there will be a dedicated space where like-minded students can meet potential co-founders who will help create or pivot their startups. This is something I always wished I had during my time at USD and am thrilled to see the outcome!”

Although Dumesle wishes the Knauss Center for Business Education had been completed before he graduated, he promises he’ll be back to visit once it opens during the fall of 2022.

“I expected to feel like I’d be missing out, but the fact the complex is being built makes me proud as an alumnus,” Dumesle says. “I’m eager to walk through the doors of the Knauss Center and witness innovation in the making — from students collaborating in the common areas to teams drawing plans on whiteboards and practicing their pitches for one of our competitions. The Nexus Theatre will be home to the start of the next generation of high-profile tech innovations in San Diego, guaranteed.”

The School of Business complex has been part of the university’s master plan for years, but it took time to secure the initial funding needed to move forward. Trustee Kim Busch and her family helped create that momentum.

“When I joined the Board of Trustees, I discovered that the initiative to build a new business school had been stalled for some years, but believed that a little nudge was needed to get that initiative started and build momentum,” Busch says. “Our family thought it would be a great legacy and we made that initial gift to get the momentum going for the Knauss Center for Business Education.”

Adding to the momentum most recently was Board of Trustees Treasurer Robert R. Dean ’94 (BBA) and his wife, Trina. They funded what will be known as the Daniel Rivetti and Dennis Zocco Finance Lab, named in honor of Dean’s favorite professors.

“I believe that the new Finance Lab will allow students to experience the tools  — such as information, technology, data sets and software — that are currently used every day in corporations, in investment companies and on Wall Street,” Dean says. “Although the classroom environment can be a wonderful place to learn theories and work in group settings, there is nothing that can replace what will be a state-of-the-art workspace that gives real-life experiences and what will feel like on-the-job training.”

David Light, PhD, an associate dean and professor of marketing in the School of Business, who served on several building planning committees over the years, is thrilled to watch from the window of his office on the third floor of Olin Hall as construction progresses.

Rendering of the courtyard of new USD Knauss Center for Business Education“The excitement of seeing it being built — and knowing it will be completed next summer — exceeds all other feelings,” Light says. “The building is designed to be open and inviting. The desire is to ensure students and employees feel a part of something bigger. The building opens to a courtyard between the new building and Olin Hall to take advantage of the wonderful San Diego weather and provide more casual collaboration opportunities. Classrooms and offices have glass walls facing the courtyard, which is intended to encourage a feeling of openness for engagement with students, faculty and administrative staff.”

In addition to all the new spaces, Olin Hall will also undergo renovation.

The renovated Olin Hall will feature the San Diego Café, which will offer locally grown specialties and a 24-hour grab-and-go market. It will also be home to the school’s Centers of Distinction — including the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate, ranked as the No. 1 real estate program in the country.

“Olin Hall has served the business school and university well for 37 years. To see it modernized and made more accessible will be especially rewarding,” Light says.

“The renovated Olin Hall will have more open space for students, faculty and administrative personnel. The centers — with their open floorplans and the café, which opens to the courtyard — will be attractive locations for students, faculty and employees to congregate and engage in casual discussions. The chance to easily mingle and interact with others has been a missing element in the business school. It’s exciting to envision how this will play out.”

Reflecting a nationwide tide of interest in the corporate world, the School of Business Administration was established in 1972 and became the fastest growing academic unit at the University of San Diego.

James M. Burns, DBA, a Harvard Business School graduate, joined USD’s faculty as a professor of management in 1974. In 1975, when the school’s founding dean, Clement I. Nouri, stepped down, Dr. Burns took the helm and served as dean for more than two decades. His initial focus was to grow and strengthen the faculty and to prepare the school for accreditation. In his early years, the number of faculty more than doubled from seven to 17, and graduate enrollment went from zero to 100 within his first four years.

Undergraduate enrollment grew from 230 to 460 within five years. In 1980, the undergraduate program was accredited, followed by the graduate program in 1981.

In 1984, Olin Hall opened its doors. The school has since outgrown Olin Hall, and its faculty, staff and programs reside in six different buildings across campus.

“The opportunity to bring together all employees of the School of Business is incredibly exciting. This will be the first time in 15 years that all business faculty and administrative personnel will be housed in the same complex,” Light says. “The ability for all academic departments’
faculty and student support personnel to personally interact will allow a heightened level of service to our students. The Knauss
Center for Business Education will greatly enhance the ability to deliver the value proposition we promise to our students.”

Rich Yousko ’87 (BBA) started as a student at USD in the fall of 1983, before Olin Hall opened. He remembers taking his microeconomics class with Professor Charlie Holt in a trailer near the east entrance of campus, where the Degheri Alumni Center is now located. He was impressed with Olin Hall when it opened.

“Olin was brand new. The tiered seating was new to me and so cool,” Yousko says, as memories came flooding back. “The place was clean and even smelled new. I remember the computers in the lab downstairs in the basement — with their floppy disks, the green flashing prompt and the fear you felt at the end of writing your paper that the document didn’t save.

“I remember professors of impact,” he recalls, “including Dan Rivetti, who taught finance and was probably the first real social networker, before social networking was a thing, and Johanna Hunsaker, who taught organizational communication.”

Yousko has many fond memories of his time in Olin Hall, the classes he took, the friends he met, the networking and connections he made.

“One of my memories is camping out behind Olin to get our business classes,” he says. “In order to secure our business classes, we had to literally camp out the night before — no Internet yet!”

The renovation of Olin Hall began in late summer of 2021. Construction on the Knauss Center for Business Education, located just west of Olin Hall, commenced in December 2020.

By mid-September, the interior framing will be in place and some of the drywall will be hung. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing will be in place, along with audio visual equipment, insulation and fire stops. Roofing also will be completed.

Throughout the fall semester, construction will continue with the completion of drywall, plastering and ceilings. Light fixtures and elevators will be installed and interior finishes, such as carpeting, terrazzo, tiles and final painting, will begin. The installation of casework and doors will begin in December, along with the installation of stone on the exterior.

“The Knauss Center for Business Education and Olin Hall are the final projects in the Renaissance Plan,” says USD’s Vice President of Operations Ky Snyder. “The Renaissance Plan goal is multifaceted. Its goals were to address our top three space needs on campus: new classrooms, increased flexible study space and faculty offices, and the growing deferred maintenance issues in our academic spaces. These goals will be met in time for the 2022-23 academic year.”

So, what’s next on the horizon? Only time will tell. — Krystn Shrieve



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