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Notre Dame unveils Chicago executive classroom in historic Santa Fe building

by Carol Elliott, Director of Newswriting

August 14, 2008


The Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame has strengthened its presence in Chicago with the construction of its executive education classroom located in the historic Santa Fe Building at 224 S. Michigan Ave.

The college is hosting an open house for the public Aug. 27 (Wednesday) from 4 to 7 p.m. Guests must register by Aug. 22 by calling 800-631-3622 or visiting http://Executive.ND.edu/openhouse on the Web.

“Since 2002, Notre Dame has had a commitment to executive education in Chicago,” said Carolyn Y. Woo, Martin J. Gillen Dean of the Mendoza College. “With this new facility, we’ve expanded our capacity to offer values-based programs to executives who are seeking new pathways for ongoing leadership in this increasingly complex global economy.”

The 9,500-square-foot second-floor space houses the Notre Dame Executive MBA (EMBA) program. The 17-month program began in 2002 in a shared conference center in downtown Chicago. Notre Dame’s is the third largest executive MBA program in Chicago with a combined annual enrollment of two classes of about 130. Chicago EMBA students began utilizing the new space on Aug. 1. The facility also is used for non-degree executive programs offered by Notre Dame.

The comprehensive renovation, which took about six months to complete, involved the construction of dedicated executive educational space in what previously was a traditional office suite. The location now comprises a technologically advanced 70-seat tiered classroom, four breakout rooms, an executive dining room, a reception area and a business center.

One of the challenges, said William Ketcham, a principal of project architects VOA Associates, was planning the design to resonate with both the architectural significance of the Santa Fe and the traditions of Notre Dame.

“The reception room needed to hearken back to the Notre Dame campus through the use of wood and its traditional design and detailing,” he said.  “We took advantage of the large windows and transomed doorways along the storefront to connect visually to the historic lobby and Grant Park to the east.”

The executive classroom was designed with specific acoustical criterion in mind. The architects installed high-performance window glazing to mitigate the high traffic noise from the Michigan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard exposures, and revised the mechanical systems to reduce any distractions. The classroom tiers were arranged in a curved shape and the ceiling articulated to reflect sound so classroom discussions can be heard easily without the use of a voice amplification system.

“The building is a treasure, a real gem,” said Sharon Keane, co-director of Executive Education at the Mendoza College. “We planned the renovation to reflect an appreciation for the Santa Fe’s historic architecture, while augmenting it with a first-rate learning environment that meets the unique needs of executive students.”

Notre Dame purchased the 17-story Santa Fe in 2006. The structure, originally called the Railway Exchange Building, opened in 1904 and is considered one of Chicago’s first high-rises. Renowned architect Daniel Burnham designed it according to his signature style, which combined ornate detail with a simple layout. The white terra cotta structure has a square floor plan featuring a skylit lobby with a grand staircase that occupies the bottom two floors. Distinctive portholes line the upper cornice to allow natural light into upper-level offices.

The Notre Dame Club of Chicago – the University’s largest alumni club with nearly 10,200 graduates living in the area – and a Notre Dame Development office are located in the Santa Fe as well.

The Santa Fe is located in the historic Michigan Avenue district among some of the Chicago’s notable attractions, such as Millennium Park and the Art Institute of Chicago. Today, the building also houses VOA Associates Inc., the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the city’s largest architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Founded in 1980, Notre Dame Executive Education provides leaders in the executive and management ranks the opportunity to develop and strengthen their leadership abilities and business acumen skills with an emphasis on values-based principles in keeping with the Notre Dame mission. Today, Executive Education offers degree as well as non-degree programs in South Bend and Chicago, awarding about 120 MBA degrees annually and delivering programs throughout the United States and abroad.

The Notre Dame Executive MBA in Chicago is a concise 17-month program that starts every January. It features full-day Friday and Saturday classes on alternating weekends. During the course of study, candidates spend four separate weeks on Notre Dame’s South Bend campus. One week is spent participating in Executive Integral Leadership, an innovative program that adopts an integrated learning model that emphasizes balance in all dimensions of development and self-awareness.

The non-degree programs include open enrollment courses, which are public offerings that further the business skills of working professionals, as well as custom programs designed to assist client companies in business, government and the nonprofit industry in achieving specific organizational objectives. Notre Dame’s Executive Education recently was ranked 15th among business schools worldwide by BusinessWeek magazine for its custom programs.

For more information about the Notre Dame Executive MBA program or other Executive Education programs offered in Chicago, call 800-631-3622 or visit http://Executive.ND.edu on the Web.

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