September 9, 2008

Taking Space to a New Frontier


TU's multiuse design features moveable walls and furnishings.

Studying in a cubicle never encouraged Jacob Johnson to think outside the box.

So when he was given the chance to design a new classroom and study area for students at the University of Tulsa's Collins College of Business, he eliminated the walls and added swanky computers, rolling tables, white-boards and magnetic walls.

Johnson, a 2006 Collins graduate, is the director of the new Studio Blue. The workspace at the school is based on the kind of Silicon Valley start-ups that are now dominating the business world.

"The whole physical aspect of this is about a culture of creativity," Johnson said.

The school finished Studio Blue in the Helmerich Building during the summer after tearing down the cubicles that used to be called group study areas. Students can now use Studio Blue during school hours, and soon the room will get a card reader for after-hours access.

The renovation cost the school about $200,000.

Creative workspace has been a hot trend in the business world, with many young entrepreneurs tearing down cubicle walls to encourage creativity. Companies such as Google Inc. and Disney's Pixar have led the trend, and smaller start-ups are following with hopes of stealing some of their innovative prowess.

Studio Blue is a state-of-the art room, complete with several new Apple iMac computers attached to various walls. The furniture is on wheels so students can manipulate the room's setup.

The school has also incorporated the latest technology into Studio Blue, including wireless keyboards and mouses for the iMac computers as well as video cameras and audio recorders. Students can also use a one-way viewing wall to conduct focus groups and product testing.

Associate marketing professor Charlie Wood has been the first teacher to take advantage of Studio Blue, using it for group work with his marketing communications class.

During a class Tuesday morning, students jumped from a lecture mode and split into groups for a creativity exercise. They wheeled around chairs, tables and whiteboards, sticking Post-it notes to the walls as they came up with ideas.

"The whole point of the class is learning how to create; learning how to come up with new ideas," Wood said.

Students then slid the tables back into place for a guest lecturer's presentation.

Wood's class is working on a marketing project for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, raising awareness about the number of women, especially mothers, in the state's prison system. By the end of the semester, students will produce a video featuring women in the system.

Wood plans to use Studio Blue for all the class' group work time.

"I'm really excited about working here," said senior Jamil Malone, a communications major and marketing minor from Wichita. "I'm a Mac lover, so I'll use this place a lot."

What: Studio Blue

Where: Helmerich Hall, University of Tulsa

Purpose: TU's business college opened Studio Blue this summer to encourage student creativity.

Facilities: The state-of-the-art office has movable furniture, new computers, wireless keyboards and mice, and magnetic walls to make innovation as easy as possible.

Kyle Arnold 581-8380

[email protected]

Originally published by KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer.

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