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Into the Future with Rowling Hall

Giving News

From left: President Bill Powers, Red McCombs, Terry and Robert Rowling, and McCombs dean Tom Gilligan celebrate the Rowlings' gift.

Call it a portal for progress—or a laboratory for bold, earth-shaking ideas. Either way, when Rowling Hall opens its doors in 2017, its contemporary architecture will support an exciting, modern take on business pedagogy, fulfilling the UT maxim that “what starts here changes the world.”

Named in honor of Dallas Distinguished Alumnus Robert Rowling, BBA ’76, and his wife, Terry Hennersdorf Rowling, BBA ’76, and their family, who recently contributed $25 million to the McCombs School of Business, the 458,000-square-foot Rowling Hall will house the school’s graduate programs and expand its conference and executive education space. The state-of-the-art structure will take into account the trend away from the “sage on stage” teaching model and allow instead for spaces that inspire interaction, collaboration, and inventiveness.

“We’re designing areas that range from playrooms for idea generation to boardrooms where those ideas are launched,” says Eric Hirst, associate dean for graduate programs, who notes that students today tend to come to graduate school fully loaded with work experiences. “Our students are tinkerers in the best sense of the word. They are curious, inquisitive, and creative. They are problem solvers who relish the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and test their ideas.”

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With that in mind, principals at Ennead Architects have worked with McCombs faculty, staff, and students to formulate a vision. The design will incorporate current trends toward teamwork, hands-on exploration, and sharing in business education. While classrooms in older buildings typically present the tiered model, in which a teacher essentially holds court, the rooms in Rowling Hall will come in a variety of types, from flat to hybrid to tiered. There will be spaces for reflection, a cafe for socializing, interview rooms that can double as study areas, and event spaces to attract off-campus mentors as well as movers and shakers.

The goal will be a structure that enables teamwork, sharing, and brainstorming between professors and students and among peers. Abundant light and a sleek aesthetic will set an avant-garde tone—apropos for a school aimed intently at the future.

“We’re not thinking about a fabulous space that opens in 2017,” Hirst says. “Rather, we are envisioning the needs of students in 2027, or 2037—long after many of us retire.”

Learn how you can invest in Rowling Hall and the future of University of Texas business education.

A key design imperative of Rowling Hall is improved interaction between teachers and learners, which planners say is an absolute necessity in an elite graduate program.

Meant to be a hub of activity, the facility’s future site is where the university meets the Capitol complex and downtown. Situated at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Guadalupe Street, just west of the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Rowling Hall will be a threshold to Austin’s business community with an open-door policy to encourage local involvement and information exchange.

The promise of a sophisticated social environment, executive learning centers, and the building’s inevitable buzz presages a crowd that hails from the business school and well beyond.

“We seek an environment that broadens the impact of our intellectual capital on management practice and policy making, helping address our most important human challenges,” says McCombs dean Tom Gilligan.

Robert Rowling and his family have a strong passion for Texas and the university and for creating educational opportunities in the state they call home.

“Texas is the best place in the country to do business,” Rowling says, “and we hope this gift will encourage the best and the brightest to come to Austin to get their MBA and be part of the phenomenon that is Texas.”

Learn how you can invest in Rowling Hall and the future of UT business education at

Story by Becca Hensley

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