School of Business building opens for business


Photo by Jillian Stob

Classes began in the new School of Business Building on Aug. 29.

Sunlight streams through the windows. You can see cars whizzing down the Beltline, but all you can hear is the hum and chatter of students taking advantage of collaborative study spaces. Overhead, a massive display known as a ticker presents the latest information from financial markets.

This is Calvin’s brand-new School of Business. After years of planning and 15 months of construction, the building opened for business on Monday, Aug. 29 with the commencement of the fall semester. The space, in its modernity and flexibility, serves as a “tangible symbol of the growth and new opportunities at Calvin University,” according to Bob Eames, a professor of business. 

The School of Business building is an $11.25 million dollar project funded by Cate and Sidney Jansma. Sidney Jansma is a Calvin alumnus and serves as chair of the board at Wolverine Gas and Oil Company.

The space is “very student-centric,” said Eames, who has been an integral part of the project since its original conception in 2011. It includes specially-designed classrooms, including a room intended for accounting students who need to use two screens simultaneously and another designed for capstone seminars.

Beyond classrooms, the building also features a variety of informal student gathering and study areas. According to Eames, students can reserve “enclaves” to take tests in a distraction-free environment, study with friends in collaborative spaces or charge their phones and laptops. 

“I love the space and how much natural light there is,” said senior marketing major Madeline Macrae. When she first toured the new building, Macrae found herself struck by how “modern” it was. “It made me excited to learn,” she said. 

The building was designed to be a space for everyone. “We said that one of our top priorities was to make sure that the building was welcoming and accessible to everyone, regardless of physical ability,” said Eames. He noted the building’s accessible entryways, elevator and “sweeping, circular ramp.”

The School of Business was designed to be a hub of business education – at the undergraduate level, where Calvin’s day 10 report shows that business has been the most popular major for the last five years, but also at the graduate level.

“Five years ago, we didn’t have an MBA,” said Anne Gaertner, operations manager of the School of Business. “You couldn’t get an MBA at Calvin College. It’s that transformation from a department of business to a school that takes it up a notch, because many colleges have a department of business – but we have a school.” 

Recently, the School of Business launched a certificate in global business for undergraduates, as well as a new major in operations and supply chain management. For graduate students, the school now offers an online MBA program, a master of accounting program and certificates.

There are opportunities for non-business students, too. Jim Ludema, dean of the School of Business, highlighted the Calvin Startup Garage. “This is a startup incubator that will help students think through and actually launch businesses of their own,” he said. Part of this help – which is available to any Calvin student, regardless of major – includes funding. 

The Startup Garage aims to “launch 100 Christ-centered businesses in 10 years,” Ludema said. The program aims to eventually expand beyond Calvin to serve the wider Grand Rapids community.

Business initiatives like the Startup Garage connect directly to Calvin’s Reformed mission, according to Ludema. “We believe that every form of human endeavor should be a redemptive agent in the world. Nowhere could that be more true than in business,” he said, citing the sheer number of people who work in business, the impact of businesses on the environment and the “people-affirming cultures” that businesses can create.

“We think that business is a uniquely omnipresent or ubiquitous institution that serves society,” Eames said.

What’s next for the School of Business? Leaders are currently developing a major in business analytics. “With the whole digital revolution, the need for business analysts is just booming,” Ludema said. They are also working with organizations in the community to determine what kinds of continuing education are needed. But for the moment, Eames and Ludema hope the School of Business will have effects that ripple throughout the university. 

“Our hope is that we’re a catalyst for growing enrollment at Calvin University ––— not just for business,” said Eames.

“We see the School of Business as a driver for growth at both the undergraduate and the graduate level,” Ludema added. “We want to support broader growth and help all disciplines thrive. Ultimately, it’s about impact in the world.”