UAB officials and Birmingham business leaders are celebrating the construction of a new state-of-the-art facility to house the Collat School of Business and Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Written by Alex Watson
The Collat School of Business is breaking new ground. A new home for business education in Birmingham is being built, an incubator for ideas, designed to transform students into business leaders and attract the very best talent in teaching and research.
The Collat School of Business’ goal is simple: create an environment in which outstanding students live, study and work in an environment infused with an entrepreneurial spirit that transforms ideas into new business and fosters discovery and creativity. The result is an engaging learning experience that extends outside the classroom, well beyond the boundaries of UAB’s campus.
This new state-of-the-art facility, 109,000 square feet on the western side of the UAB campus, will house the Charles and Patsy Collat School of Business, the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, the Regions Institute for Financial Education, UAB’s Healthcare Leadership Academy, and UAB’s Center for Sales Leadership.
In addition, Kate and Claude Nielsen have made a commitment to establish the Nielsen Innovation Lab, which will serve as a home for student entrepreneurship clubs, as well as classes focused on innovation and business incubation. It also will provide a collaborative teaching space in which students can gain first-hand business experience working on faculty-led and student-led startups.
The Kassouf family—and the accounting firm that bears their name—have made gifts to name the Department of Accounting and Finance Suite in the new Collat School of Business building.
The Kassouf Co. Suite is the latest investment in UAB by the Kassouf family and the firm, who also have established endowed scholarships in accounting and industrial distribution and have supported a range of programs across campus.
David P. Kassouf, a member of the Collat School of Business Dean’s Advisory Board, says the “dividends” of investing in UAB are the accomplished graduates who enter the workforce and continue to drive the success of Birmingham’s business community as a whole. “By continuing our support, we hope to catapult UAB into its role as a destination business school and help serve as a catalyst in the development of the next generation of our community’s leaders,” he says.
This facility will be the cornerstone for a new innovation and entrepreneurship district in Birmingham focused on expanding technology commercialization efforts that will positively impact economic development for the entire region and beyond.
Community leaders including Charles Collat, Mayer Electric chairman emeritus; Ed Aldag of Medical Properties Trust; and Billy Harbert of BL Harbert International helped shovel the first pile of dirt at the site, ceremoniously kicking off construction of the project, which began in December 2016 and is expected to last 18 months.
With lead gifts from the Joy and Bill Harbert Foundation and Medical Properties Trust, Collat has raised $10 million towards an ambitious goal to raise $15 million of the $37.5 million cost for the new building at the corner of University Boulevard and 13th Street South.
“Our vision for this facility is to create a formalized structure that leverages UAB’s tremendous on-campus resources—from business expertise to world class medicine to engineering—to facilitate innovation and entrepreneurship leading to commercialization and economic development for the community, state, and beyond,” says Eric Jack, PhD, Wells Fargo Endowed Chair in Business Administration and Dean of the Collat School of Business. “We are honored to partner with generous individuals and organizations who share that vision.”
The new building will feature leading-edge technology and multi-purpose classroom spaces to accommodate small-group learning; showrooms for entrepreneurial projects and sales presentations; labs for behavioral research; and spacious common areas indoors and outdoors. The facility will also offer expanded space for the Career Services Office, the Student Success Center and student organizations.
The Chad Thomas Hagwood Finance Lab will serve as a 40-seat, advanced teaching space designed to provide finance and real estate finance students with hands-on experience performing business transactions and valuable business scenarios that reflect the marketplace.
The plan for the overall architecture of the building is in keeping with the recently completed Hill Student Center, featuring a combination of traditional building materials and contemporary building elements. Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham and Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York City are serving as the architects of record on this project. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, is in charge of construction.
“Our new building will also include a trading room with all of the supporting technologies and mechanisms for our students to trade securities through the Green and Gold Fund, a student- managed investment portfolio valued at approximately $575,000,” Jack adds. “We also will have space to expand our MBA program for physicians in partnership with the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry and Optometry.”
“This building will be home to key initiatives in education, research and economic development,” says UAB President Ray L. Watts, M.D. “It is inspiring to see that business leaders in Alabama believe in our plan and share our priorities.”