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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE | HEARD ON THE BEAT

USC School to Embrace New Technology

December 03, 1997|JESUS SANCHEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The building boom at the nation's business schools has spread to USC, which recently broke ground on a new $25-million home for its graduate business programs.

The design of the three-story structure--which will be named the Jane Hoffman and J. Kristoffer Popovich Hall--reflects the desire of university officials to create an environment that fosters collaboration among students and faculty and embraces the newest technology. Even the outdoor cafe tables will be wired to permit students to plug their laptop computers into the Internet.

USC is also under pressure to keep up with the competition. A surge in graduate school applications and the growth of continuing and executive education programs has found many schools scrambling to expand. UCLA and Loyola Marymount University have recently completed new business schools, and a new school is in the works at Chapman University. Popovich Hall, which will open in two years, will allow USC to admit nearly 20% more new students per semester. Each new class will have about 300 students.

"They are having to compete with some of the big new business schools . . . and they need to be right up there [with the top programs]," said project manager Bob Murrin, an architect at Los Angeles-based A.C. Martin Partners.

Planning of the building began with the layout of the large, classrooms, where students will be taught using the case-study method pioneered at Harvard University. Seating will be arranged in a horseshoe-shaped pattern, with the students' desks set on terraces that rise from a central "well" where the teacher will be able to control high-tech audiovisual equipment, Murrin said.

The classroom arrangement is conducive to discussion because most of the students will be able to face each other instead of simply facing forward toward the teacher, Murrin said.

High-technology will play a prominent supporting role in the 55,000-square-foot structure, which will be located at the corner of Exposition Boulevard and Figueroa Street. Classroom desks will be wired to permit students to plug in laptop computers. Professors will be able to display graphics from a student's laptop computer on large, wall-mounted video screens. The rooms will also include cameras and microphones to broadcast the classes to satellite locations.

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Jesus Sanchez can be reached via fax at (213) 237-7837 or by e-mail at jesus.sanchez@latimes.com

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