Millennium Lab

Two new Active Learning Classrooms in the McCombs School of Business will be opening fall 2014, supported by a $500,000 grant from the professional services firm Deloitte. 

The new classrooms will be converted from the current Millennium Lab, a computer lab and student collaboration workspace in McCombs. The lab is set to close on the last day of final exams and then be redesigned into the Active Learning Classrooms during the summer. 

“It’s not very easy to do group work, and it’s not really technologically enhanced in those rooms, so this just makes it a lot easier, and that takes down a barrier to doing that type of class approach,” associate dean David Platt said. 

The Active Learning Classrooms will feature a podium in the middle of the room, wall-mounted white boards, multiple projection systems and tables around the room. As a result, the classroom will have no front or back. 

Platt said a concern from many students was not having access to software only available in the Millennium Lab. 

To help prevent that potential problem, James Coombes, assistant director for computer services, designed a remote application service called mCloud for business students who need to easily access software found at the Millennium Lab. The application can be accessed with a remote desktop client to run on students’ own computers. 

“We’re trying to solve the problem where the Millennium Lab is used by students who need to access certain, specialized software that’s either too expensive for them to install on their own computer or just don’t want to go through the hassle,” Coombes said. 

Coombes said mCloud has been in its pilot phase since the beginning of the school year and should become an official service by the end of the semester. Once it becomes an official program, Coombes said students will be able to access the software on their own laptops without having to use the Millennium Lab. 

To make sure all students’ needs were met during the transition to the new Active Learning Classrooms, Platt worked with a committee of McCombs students to ensure the important functions of the Millennium Lab were conserved in other ways. 

“The initial reaction was negative because students didn’t know how McCombs was going to make up for the space that was going to be lost,” Jordan Costen, supply chain management senior and committee member, said. “It’s important for students to understand that we will have all the resources available, if not more.” 

Michelle Patterson, management information systems senior and committee member, said the committee was particularly focused on replacing the space. 

The committee gave Platt ideas to give students a place to use the software, print documents or collaborate on assignments. Patterson said they plan to advertise mCloud more this semester, in the hope that students will be more aware of what the school now offers. 

“The opportunity to be ahead of the curve on some of the new technology that’s being developed in higher education is huge for McCombs,” Patterson said.

I was quite disappointed by the half page of misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric in columnist Stephen McGarvey’s column, “Occupy the Millennium Lab,” which ran Tuesday. I have spent most of the last four years of my life fighting for the student voice within McCombs, and I certainly share the concerns raised by my peers about the possible closing of the Millennium Lab. To truly have robust and productive conversations between students and administrators, though we as students must get our facts straight. Contrary to what McGarvey suggests, the Mill Lab isn’t closing because McCombs thought it would make a great “cost-cutting” measure or because the school wants to allocate more money to those oh-so-delicious Business Honors Program brownies. Nor is it closing because Dean Thomas Gilligan fails to see the great value it provides to our students. Rather, our school’s leadership is considering utilizing the space for new state-of-the-art facilities that will serve all BBA students more effectively. The suggestion that this decision is the result of the administration’s ignorance or the business school’s “greed” is absolutely ludicrous. Have a little faith, Stephen. This isn’t a step backwards — it’s a step into the future. Let’s work with our school’s leadership — not against them — to collaborate on issues like this one and to collectively make McCombs the best business school in the world.

Michael Daehne
President, Undergraduate Business Council
Business honors, finance and mathematics senior  

Perhaps I’m being greedy. Perhaps there are more important issues, such as sweatshop labor, rising tuition costs and expensive student loans. But right now, the issues facing the University have finally hit home. This week, the McCombs School of Business decided that the Millennium Lab, one of the most frequently used resources in the business school, is to be shut down. Quite frankly, this the one of the worst decisions the business school could have made for its students.

Anyone who takes a look into the Millennium Lab — affectionately called the Mil Lab — will immediately understand its importance. It is packed with students all day. It serves as a place to collaborate and work with groups, a place to use hard-to-find and impossible-to-buy software and a place to get printing done quickly, easily and without cost. Removing it would affect hundreds, if not thousands, of students every day.

Business majors pay more in tuition than any other undergraduate at the University. With that, students expect all that extra money to benefit them in more ways than the occasional free meal at networking events. The Mil Lab helps students increase their productivity, collaborate and complete assignments. It is both more useful and more used than any other resource in the entire building. If the business school truly cared about its students, it would be building a second Mil Lab and doubling the study rooms in the Reliant Productivity Center.

And the Mil Lab does more than just help business students. It helps offload the already extensive demand for computers at the Perry-Castañeda Library. Without it, the waitlist for PCL computers would be that much worse. Business and non-business students alike would suffer as a result.

Look McCombs, we get it. You’re running a business. In fact, business is what you teach, so it should come as no surprise that profit is the only thing driving these types of decisions. But you’re also here to educate students, and part of that responsibility involves providing for them and giving them the resources to maximize their productivity. The Mil Lab does exactly that.

If McCombs were to eliminate the Mil Lab, students would have to download all of the multi-thousand dollar Excel add-ons and other MIS, accounting or statistics software to their own machines, which would probably cost the school even more. If McCombs needs to cut spending, there are far more effective places to do so. Free brownies in the Business Honors Program office, I’m looking at you.

But this article will accomplish nothing if it falls on deaf ears. Students must make their opinion very clear to David Burns, head of computer services, as well as Dean Thomas Gilligan. Most of all, students must pressure their professors and respective department heads. Professors, especially those teaching technical majors such as MIS, will not want their students crippled by the business school’s greed, and their input has far more impact than that of a student.

If all else fails, business students should band together and learn from the one group that most of them despise: the Occupiers. If anything can be learned from that rowdy lot of professional protesters, it is that a great amount of attention and annoyance can be generated from standing in one spot, shouting obnoxiously and refusing to leave. Perhaps staking a permanent presence in the Mil Lab will help the administration see that students take their resources seriously. McCombs take note: If the future targets of the Occupy movement are willing to occupy themselves to prove a point, you know you have a problem.

McGarvey is a business honors freshman.