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University Dedicates Collaborative Learning Space for Business Students

May 13, 2019

OBU recently dedicated a new collaborative learning space inside Bailey Business Center on the University’s campus in Shawnee. The dedication ceremony took place Friday, May 10, in tandem with the University’s spring Board of Trustees meeting.

The collaborative learning space is located on the first floor of the Bailey Business Center. It was created to be a place where students can refresh themselves between classes while collaborating with other students and faculty. It includes four sets of tables and chairs, sofas, a kitchenette, a wall-mounted TV, a large dry erase whiteboard, a soda machine, and more. It was designed to strengthen the culture and community of the University’s business students. Renovations began in December 2018 and were completed this semester.

Dr. Will Smallwood, senior vice president for advancement and university relations, welcomed guests.

Jeff Madison, whose family provided the funds for the project, then shared thoughts about why collaboration is so important to him and the vision he sees for this new space for OBU business students. Madison and his wife, Kathy, are the restaurant operators and local franchise owners of Shawnee’s Chick-fil-A restaurant, located at 4637 N. Kickapoo Ave. Before entering the restaurant business, he served in the United States Army for 26 years.

He recalled how he learned to value collaboration through a powerful personal experience while serving in Afghanistan in 2005. It came through an encounter with a brigadier general and learning from his perspective on collaboration. Out of that experience, Madison established his own definition of collaboration, one he now uses in the business world.

“Collaboration is when you get information that you think somebody else needs and you go out of your way to get it to them,” he said. “It’s kind of like the Gospel. We have information that other people need and we have to go out of our way to get it to them. It’s different than coordination that you do on a day to day basis. It’s a much more dynamic thing and it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it needs to happen.”

So, as he and Smallwood were talking about what to call this space, they landed on collaborative as a descriptive word for the proactive exchange of information and ideas that would be facilitated among students while spending time together.

The idea for creating the collaborative learning space began with Dr. David Houghton, dean of the Dickinson College of Business at OBU.

“Since early in my time at OBU, I felt like we were lacking a space for community building in the College of Business. There wasn’t a place for students to just ‘hang out,’ relax, and bounce ideas off of each other,” he said. “But, I couldn’t think of a good location for a community space. Libby Unruh, president of Enactus [student organization], made the same observation a couple of years ago. Hearing the same concern coming directly from a student increased my motivation to create a space for them. We identified a large space in back of our auditorium that was being used for storage. I knew that could be renovated to create the community space if we could fund it.”

Madison heard Houghton share his vision for this type of space at a College of Business board of executives meeting. The first time Madison heard the idea, it didn’t resonate. However, upon hearing Houghton’s idea a second time, he was moved to action, desiring to create a special place for business students to connect, meet, learn and collaborate.

“I think it is crucial to what we are doing in the business college to have a place where students can collaborate together to build culture, to shape culture, to help us to be strategic thinkers,” Houghton said.

He then shared his deep appreciation for the Madison family and his gratitude for the impact of their generous gift.

Dr. Pat Taylor, OBU’s interim president, likewise shared his thanks to the entire Madison family for their generous gift and support for students at OBU.

OBU business student Libby Unruh closed the ceremony by leading the dedicatory prayer. Unruh graduates May 17 with a degree in finance and serves as president of the student business group Enactus. Stephen Allen, chair of OBU’s Board of Trustees, also participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony.