Center symbolizes modern workforce

by Dottie Barnes

photos by Amanda Pitts

The vision for the L. William Seidman Center was to construct a building second to none.

The four-story, 127,643-square-foot building opened for classes May 6 after years of research, planning and construction.

The L. William Seidman Center opened in May.

“The success of this project is a reflection of the generosity of our community and the attractiveness of Bill Seidman’s original vision for Grand Valley and for the business school,” said President Thomas J. Haas.

It was the dream of Bill Seidman, founding chair of Grand Valley’s Board of Trustees, to house the Seidman College of Business — classes, offices and outreach centers — in its own building.

“Bill said it best,” said H. James Williams, former dean of the Seidman College of Business. “He and I were talking when I first came to Grand Valley in 2004. Bill said every great business school in the country has its own building, has it own identity in a
concrete fashion.”

Williams, now president of Fisk University, said while it was Seidman’s idea for the building, it was Rich DeVos, co-founder of Amway and general chair of the Grand Valley University Foundation, who moved plans forward for the Seidman Center.

“When Bill passed away in 2009, Rich decided there was no better way to honor Bill, the founder of Grand Valley and a real hero of economics, West Michigan, and the nation in what he was able to do from a business perspective, than to build the center and have it named after Bill,” Williams said.

During a memorial service for Seidman, DeVos and his wife, Helen, announced a lead gift for the construction of the center. The fundraising campaign drew national attention with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joining more than 600 donors across the nation.

In October 2010, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the $40 million L. William Seidman Center at 50 Front St., along the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids.

“The Seidman College of Business and the L. William Seidman Center will not only influence this city’s skyline, but the economic vitality of the entire state,” DeVos said at the ceremony.

Also speaking at the ceremony was Bill’s son, Tom Seidman. “My dad had a lot of passions in his life, three of the biggest were Grand Valley, business and education,” he said. “To have a school and building that brings all of those passions together, I don’t think there could be a better way to honor him.”

The Homework

A team of students, faculty and staff members from the Seidman College of Business was assembled to research what the center would look like, what it would include. Some members of the team, including Bob Brown, project manager and assistant director of Facilities Planning, Williams, and Seidman faculty members, visited top business schools around the country.

Sridhar Sundaram, chair of finance, said the idea for including different types of
classrooms came from the visits.

“We knew we wanted a state-of-the-art trading room, breakout team rooms and case rooms,” said Sundaram. “This really allows flexibility and the ability to enhance our academic curriculum.”

Pictured is a state-of-the-art trading room that features Bloomberg computer terminals and a flat screen TV with financial data.

Team members visited the University of Michigan, Miami University of Ohio, Bentley University, College of William and Mary, Harvard Business School and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Another idea from the visits was the need for innovative cluster classrooms and technology that allows students to reserve team rooms via the Internet,” said Sundaram. “It was a unique opportunity to learn from the triumphs and even failures of those who had built business colleges recently.”

Sundaram said the visits also showed the importance of expanded study spaces and food service for students.

A survey was distributed to Grand Valley business students asking for their priorities for the center. More than 430 responses were received.

“Students expressed the desire for a food court and marked study areas,” said Matt Berendsen, ’12, who served as the undergraduate student representative on the team. “It’s so important to have the option to get something to eat and not have to leave the building. The same goes for study space outside of the classroom.

Students like spaces where we can mingle, eat and collaborate. Some students don’t mind noise while they study and others prefer quiet.”

The Seidman Center has a study and dining area located in what is known as the Huizenga Exchange, and a separate study lounge for a more quiet place. Graduate students expressed a need for a place to go after work so a lounge was included.

The Technology

The Frey Foundation Lobby of the Seidman Center features a stock market ticker, a running report of the prices and trading volume of securities traded on the various stock exchanges.

The center also features a state-of-the art Tilkin Financial Markets Center, case rooms, 15 breakout team rooms for student interaction, and an accounting tutoring lab. The center includes nine Bloomberg computer terminals where students can monitor and access stock market action. It also has an interactive flat screen TV which also displays financial data.

“These features keep Grand Valley on the cutting edge of business technology,” said John Reifel, interim dean of the Seidman College of Business. “These real-life scenarios are an important piece in how our students learn. Teaching today is an interactive process.”

Three innovative cluster classrooms have tables with chairs that can be easily rotated to allow the class to break down to do group learning exercises.

“Employers want graduates who know how to work well in teams and are highly flexible,” said Reifel. “The cluster classroom gives our students that experience.”


Seidman Fast Facts

• In its 40-year history, the Seidman College of Business has grown from 145 students to 3,300.

• The college offers an accelerated, full-time, integrated Master of Business Administration
program that has an innovative curriculum, a paid fellowship, international experience and a stint in Washington, D.C.

• The college has given Grand Valley international standing as one of only 178 schools of
business worldwide that have a dual accreditation in both business and accounting by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

• The college attracts an impressive graduate student population, with GMAT scores that are
consistently among the highest in the state.

• More than 200 employers help shape the Seidman College of Business curriculum and provide internships for students.

Page last modified August 26, 2013