October 2, 1995 in Nation/World

Putting Style Into Corporate Training Center Stanford Will Transform Facility From Dorm-Style Accommodations

Jim Puzzanghera Knight-Ridder
 

You’re a corporate hotshot and your company has just sent you to the prestigious Stanford Graduate School of Business for half the summer to attend a $27,500 seminar to enhance your management skills.

So you wake up the first day, grab your toiletries and trudge off down the hall of one of Stanford’s aging undergraduate dorms to a communal bathroom in hopes of avoiding the line for the shower.

For corporate executives used to traveling first-class, there’s something wrong with this picture - and Stanford is spending $29 million to correct it.

By 1997, the small but respected business school will have its own 280-room residential conference center on campus to compete with other top universities in the lucrative world of corporate education and training.

The Schwab Family Residential Learning Center, underwritten in part by a large but unspecified gift from discount broker Charles Schwab and his wife Helen, will be used largely as graduate student housing during the school year, said Michael Spence, dean of the Graduate School of Business. But in the summer, the whole facility, with its computer hookups in each room and state-of-the-art meeting rooms, will be home to corporate executives and managers taking courses at Stanford.

“One of the reasons for doing this is straight competition,” Spence said. “We don’t want people choosing between us and Northwestern based on where they’re going to live.”

People attending executive seminars at Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management in Evanston, Ill., stay in a modern, 150-room executive conference facility with dramatic views of Lake Michigan. People attending seminars at Stanford have stayed in the more spartan accommodations of Lagunita Court, a cluster of undergraduate dorms on the shores of tiny Lake Lagunita.

“While it’s charming,” Spence said, “we finally got to the point that we really couldn’t do that any more.”

Executive seminars are a growing field for business schools and provide two tangible benefits - money and interaction between faculty and business people, said Michael Duffy, associate dean of the University of Southern California School of Business Administration. At Stanford, programs range from two-week seminars for about $8,000, including room and board, to a 10-month master of science in management program for $43,000. Stanford is hoping to increase this “important revenue stream,” Spence said.

On-campus conference centers are becoming a necessity in attracting participants. “In the past 10 years, there have probably been two dozen of these go up across the country,” Duffy said.

In 1987, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business opened the $24 million Steinberg Conference Center, a 101-room facility with three amphitheaters, two VIP suites and exercise room. And the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is building its own $8 million executive education center.

While still not up to the standard of a luxury hotel, all the rooms in the Schwab Family Residential Learning Center will have private bathrooms and something else Lagunita Court lacks - air conditioning. Each pair of rooms will share a kitchenette, largely for the graduate students, Spence said. Officials hope to break ground in February and open the center in June 1997.

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