Fusion of Business and Science Education at Bentley University    

| September 26, 2017

by Robert Quigley

Bentley University Jennison Hall

A new cross-disciplinary teaching, research, and collaboration space, designed by ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge for Bentley University, provides a promising and practical model for fusing business and science education. The goal is to prepare business school students for jobs in an economy increasingly driven by scientific discovery and technology innovation.

Dynamic science hub attracts students

Opened in January of 2017, the project features an 85,000sf transformation of Jennison Hall, a 1960s structure that is the oldest and largest classroom building on Bentley’s Waltham, Mass., campus. On Jennison Hall’s first floor, a vibrant hub for science was designed to provide a welcoming, active destination that generates interest and excitement among students who can see into the interactive labs and learning spaces.

“The new Jennison Hall teaching and research labs embody the latest thinking in innovative science teaching and learning,” said Rick Oches, Ph.D., chair of the department of natural and applied sciences. “ARC’s design creates a dynamic new learning environment with interdisciplinary laboratories, high-tech classrooms, and interactive social spaces that encourage team-based activities and collaboration. The renovations create an ideal environment to support Bentley’s curricular fusion of the liberal arts and sciences with business.”

Focus on flexible, adaptable learning spaces

To fulfill the university’s integration and cross-discipline learning goals, the new spaces on multiple floors at Jennison Hall feature transparency and flexibility, with glass walls and daylit rooms that place science investigation and teaching on display.

One of ARC’s goals in planning and designing this renovation was to provide the university with a building capable of changing as quickly as contemporary science, technology, and teaching methodology are developing. With its adaptable infrastructure and flexible options for configuring labs and classrooms, the new Jennison Hall will readily accommodate changing program needs for future upgrades and present-day variations of use across science disciplines.

Collaboration and spontaneity welcomed

Three multidisciplinary instructional labs for chemistry, physics, biology, and earth and environmental sciences combine with informal student gathering spaces. These spaces are ideal for teaming work and individual study, with large-screen monitors to plug into, white boards, and flexible furniture setups. “We wondered how long it would take students to find and start using these rooms,” said Professor Oches. “The day we opened, they were found and filled.”

Adjoining the science labs is a new dry laboratory, modeled in part after Bentley University’s popular MBA Studio. Called a collaboratory, it is a team-based, flexible learning environment to supplement the more traditional wet instructional labs. A variety of teaching spaces, including both active learning classrooms and tiered case study classrooms, are dispersed on three floors of the building. Social interaction niches and quiet study spaces throughout the building offer a variety of student experiences.

Streamlined, seven-month construction schedule

To accelerate the schedule and avoid the disruption of prolonged relocations and logistical hardships, the team engaged in extensive preplanning that allowed for construction to be completed in seven months. Instead of a phased renovation spread across multiple academic years, the acceleration was accomplished by taking the entire building out of service for only the summer and fall semesters. Consigli Construction Company was the construction manager, and CSL Consulting was the owner’s project manager, working with the university and ARC on a fast-track renovation completed on January 16, in time for the start of a new semester.

“Jennison Hall is at the heart of Bentley University’s campus and is critically important to academic excellence,” said Gloria Cordes Larson, president of Bentley University. “ARC teamed with us to develop creative, innovative approaches for our soup-to-nuts overhaul of this 50-year old building. The design provides our students and faculty with a dynamic new environment that supports interactive, team-based learning.”

Rob Quigley


Rob Quigley, AIA, is a principal at ARC/Architectural Resources Cambridge.

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