Woolsey Hall designed to highlight collaborative spaces, active learning

  • Woolsey Hall is scheduled to open in 2022 as the new home of the W. Frank Barton School of Business.
  • The three-level building is designed to encourage mixing of students and faculty through use of community spaces and easy access to technology.
  • A social stair will give students a place to gather and study.

Student feedback helped guide the design of Wayne and Kay Woolsey Hall. They asked for collaboration, and they asked for caffeine.

“Coffee, safety, a welcoming environment and a chance for people to come together,” said Emily Patterson, executive director of facilities planning at Wichita State University. “I don’t think coffee is an official pillar, but it’s helpful.”

Woolsey Hall, the new home for the W. Frank Barton School of Business, is 30 to 40 percent finished and expected to be complete in late spring 2022 and ready for summer 2022 classes. The building, located on the Innovation Campus, will be a 125,000-square-foot facility that is targeted to be certified with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver rating, the most widely used green building rating system.

Recently, Patterson guided a tour and explained many of the building’s features to the small group. The importance of collaboration is the leading force in Woolsey’s Hall design and outfitting.

“There is more ‘we space’ and less ‘me space,’” Patterson said. “We wanted to break down silos between departments and get people mixing.”

The building features an atrium and social stair with all floors visually connected – a person can point directions to almost every area of the three stories from the floor of the atrium. Classrooms are flexible to facilitate teaching and active learning styles that could incorporate tables, circular seating or desks arranged in small groups.

“Much of this is in response to feedback we’ve gotten about not creating endless corridors,” Patterson said. 

The building features one break room, which encourages faculty and staff to mix throughout departments. A wellness rooms is available for privacy for medical or lactation needs. Common spaces help produce the conversations and collisions that drive business. The social stair offers places for casual conversations and studying and serves as a welcoming feature.

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At the October 2020 groundbreaking ceremony for Wayne and Kay Woolsey Hall, Barton School Dean Larisa Genin told students the facility will be a place “where you will explore your full potential and ambitions.” 

In classrooms, power outlets are raised off the floor for ease of use – no more crawling under tables for plug ins. Students can check out mobile power stations, similar in size to a camping lantern, to use with laptops and phones.

“That way, we can let people use any space without worrying about where to plug in,” Patterson said. “Everybody has power. If you unexpectedly run out, you can take it to class or anywhere in the building.”

Research for Woolsey Hall’s design included visits to university business schools and corporations to see how other schools built and how businesses operated.

Woolsey Hall and the Promise Bridge that will span the water feature to its south, will serve as a connection from the Innovation Campus to the rest of the university.

“This will be the new home for the business school, but it’s a building for everybody on campus,” Patterson said. “There will be classes held here that aren’t just for the business school. It is meant to be a building that makes everyone feel welcome.”

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