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Enrollment at UND biz school exceeds building capacity, grows faster than teaching staff

GRAND FORKS - With student enrollment at an all-time high, North Dakota’s largest business school is considering building a new facility.

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Total student enrollment this fall at the University of North Dakota’s College of Business and Public Administration is 2,007, nearly double what J. Gamble Hall was designed to hold when it was built in 1968, according to Laura Dvorak, spokeswoman for the business college.

College officials are now developing a vision for a new facility that has more technology, corporate-sponsored rooms and space for student collaboration and studying, they said.

The college has also responded by hiring a modest number of teachers, mostly lecturers and instructors. But while the number of students has grown 38.2 percent since 2000, the total number of teachers, including full-time professors and part-time lecturers, has gone up 17.2 percent in the same period.

There are now 102 teachers.

Growth factors

College officials say there’s no single reason behind the increase.

For instance, students have been attracted to UND’s smaller class sizes for special-topics courses or electives, allowing them to get to know the faculty better, and they’ve also become more interested in specific programs, officials said.

The college is also one of only 681 accredited business schools in the world and one of only 10 in the Upper Midwest.

“A lot of factors draw people to UND,” Dvorak said.

Several officials attribute the enrollment growth to Dean Dennis Elbert, the school’s longest-serving current dean, who will step down to a faculty position July 1.

Undergraduate enrollment this fall was 1,775, an increase of 39 percent since he started his tenure in 1997, according to the college.

“It’s all about the team,” he said in response.

But in spite of the crowded conditions, officials said students haven’t had a difficult time graduating on time or found trouble getting into classes. If a section is full, students can add their names to a waiting list or replace it with another they need to graduate, said Judy Jahnke, the college’s academic adviser.

College’s response

The college has been using more lecturers and instructors to carry the teaching load, she said.

Lecturers and instructors now make up about 40 percent of the total number of those teaching at the college, according to the college. In 2000, they made up 32.5 percent.

Lecturers usually teach part time, with one or two courses per semester, while instructors usually teach full-time, with an average of four courses per semester, Dvorak said.

As student interest has grown in the college, so have the needs of students and instructors.

Elbert said the college has pushed for new programs to respond to demand, such as the master’s degree in applied economics. This effort has put UND at the top of several national lists and increased enrollment, according to the university.

The college has also added several symposiums for students and the career development center, which provides students with career prep and networking opportunities, Dvorak said.

Building needed

However, the college’s current building inhibits the kind of learning it strives for, officials said. For instance, Gamble Hall has no communal gathering area; the only area students can congregate now is at a few tables underneath a large staircase.

And despite about $3 million in renovation work since the facility was built, some rooms lack technology for online classes and are physically aged, said college officials.

All of these factors have led the college to consider the development of a new facility, they said.

“We’re doing the best we can with what we have,” Elbert said. “But when you envision a new building, you can integrate all of the latest ideas.”

No details are publicly available on any proposed building, they said.

But, Elbert said, a new building should have modern technology in all classrooms, food service and more corporate-sponsored rooms, which will create better networking opportunities for students as well as mentoring and job placement.

“The more practical exercises like internships and co-ops you can do, the better off you are in terms of preparing that graduate for the workforce,” he said.

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