Graduate School of Management builds a high-tech hall

Visitors to the area known as the front door to UC Davis in early April may have noticed something striking, next to the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Buehler Alumni & Visitors Center: a gigantic hole in the ground.

In a little over a year it will become one of the most technologically advanced buildings at UC Davis.

On Dec. 7, ground was broken on Gallagher Hall, the new home for the Graduate School of Management. The building is supported by the largest-ever gift from a UC Davis alumnus--$10 million from 1971 graduate Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., CEO of Allegiant Travel Co. of Las Vegas. With construction under way (check out the webcam), the three-story, 40,000-square-foot building is expected to open in fall 2009. A conference center is being built next door, and a 75-room hotel behind the complex will follow not long after.

The new building includes state-of-the-art technology inside designed for easy use and interactive learning, said Chip Mrizek, information technology director for the nationally ranked school.

Smart lecterns and plasma-screen greetings

Gallagher Hall will have three classrooms that seat 40 people each, plus one large classroom that seats 75. The centerpiece of each classroom will be the "smart lectern" podiums that feature a computer for presentations; a document camera; connections for auxiliary components, such as laptops and iPods; and a touch screen to control the media system.

The touch screens are designed to be sophisticated, but simple for users.

"Programmers can build multiple functions into simple controls," said Derald Reedy, the multimedia design technician for Information and Educational Technology's Academic Technology Services unit who helped outfit Gallagher Hall. "For example, if a lecturer presses a button saying 'show DVD,' the settings for dimming the lights, drawing the shades, and actually playing the DVD will all activate at once."

A large conference room will have a plasma screen television facing the conference table, controlled by a wireless touch panel. The screen will be able to access satellite and cable television.

The entrance to the building will have an interactive plasma screen to display greetings, announcements, and information about events.

Gallagher Hall might well feel like a second home to MBA students because of the time they will spend there. The design uses open spaces to encourage a sense of community and collaboration. The student lounge will have showers, satellite and cable TV, and space to study, network or relax. The result, Mrizek said, should help create a first-rate learning environment.

Future-proofed, remotely diagnosed and cell-phone friendly

The design also supports remote diagnostics and control. Technicians will be able to remotely access the audio/visual systems in each room to check their status. That even includes checking a bulb in a classroom's projector to see when it needs to be changed, Reedy said. Technicians can track which programs or tools instructors use most, using the data to help them focus their support.

Information and Educational Technology will provide technological infrastructure. Wi-fi and cell phone service will be available throughout the building and in the courtyard areas. (Complete cell-phone coverage inside a building is rare on campus, although that's changing. "We are planning and designing full-coverage deployments throughout the campus," said Diane Bahr, the head of Engineering and Construction Management area of IET-Communications Resources. "This building will be an early adopter.")

The design of Gallagher Hall was "future-proofed" to support technology the school might find useful down the road. The classroom touch screens, for example, can be re-programmed. The remote access will help managers see which programs instructors and students use most, and need updates or changes.

"We will have wiring and raceways in place for future capabilities," Mrizek said, "and we picked equipment that can support more capabilities than we'll use right now."