Remember that scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, when Ferris' friend, Cameron, is mocking the wacky hand-signaling of the traders on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange, and he ends up looking more like Curly from The Three Stooges? That's probably what most of us see when we watch news clips of the daily doings at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
On the surface, the NYSE is a confusing, disorganized landscape where chaos rules. In reality, however, it's a purposeful, systematic platform for buyers and sellers to trade shares of stock in companies. The NYSE is the barometer of the American business climate. The question is: How do you give your students hands-on experience in this important yet perplexing business environment when you're so far from Wall Street? It's quite simple, really - you bring Wall Street to your students.
That's just what Robert Morris University's School of Business will be doing with its innovative new PNC Trading Center and U. S. Steel Videoconferencing and Technology Resource Center. These exciting additions will be housed in a planned 8,000-square-foot building across from Lafayette Center on the Moon Township campus. The new building will complete a School of Business quadrangle, set within the stunning surroundings of Massey Gardens.
The PNC Trading Center, which was made possible by a $520,000 grant from the PNC Foundation, will be a state-of-the-art facility offering students dynamic, hands-on experience in financial trading strategy. The U. S. Steel Videoconferencing and Technology Resource Center, made possible by a $500,000 grant from the United States Steel Foundation, will enable the School of Business to provide distance learning and corporate training, and will link the school's undergraduate programs in Moon Township to its graduate programs in downtown Pittsburgh.
The PNC Trading Center will simulate the NYSE floor and feature a fully functional trading room, complete with real-time stock tickers and computer stations with market information and analytical software. It will also include workstations in a two-story stadium arrangement, allowing for ease of observation and instruction - a feature that will set it apart from similar trading rooms at other business schools.
The center will have applications for research that will expand the financial literacy of RMU students, faculty and the broader community. It will not only serve as a showroom for the School of Business and the University but also as a tangible example of RMU's cutting-edge curriculum. Most important, it will provide yet another opportunity for the kind of applied education that RMU strives for.
"At Robert Morris University, our strength lies in our passion for providing opportunities for engaged learning through hands-on, real-life experiences," said President Gregory G. Dell'Omo, Ph.D. "The generous grant provided by the PNC Foundation will allow us to build on that strength. We are also grateful for the support of the PNC Financial Services Group, which has long been a partner in our educational programs at our School of Business."
Thomas K. Whitford, chief administrative officer of PNC, sees the trading center as both a benefit to students and as an investment in the region's economic vitality, by helping to draw exceptional business students to the University. "The PNC Trading Center will provide RMU business students with an exceptional learning experience," said Whitford. "It will allow them to understand the real-world impact of certain financial trades in a unique educational setting."
The U. S. Steel Videoconferencing and Technology Resource Center will feature multimedia computer workstations, including Dell and iMac computers, which will familiarize students with the software and databases that drive modern business decision-making in global and virtual organizations. The videoconferencing center will be fully integrated into the School of Business graduate and undergraduate curricula, and will serve as an important business and economics research center as well as a corporate training resource for companies and other organizations.
"U. S. Steel has supported the RMU School of Business for three decades, and now it is helping the school give our students the hands-on experience with technology they need to compete in an international business environment," said Dell'Omo. "The U. S. Steel Videoconferencing and Technology Resource Center will be a valuable asset to the Pittsburgh business community."
Derya A. Jacobs, Ph.D., dean of the School of Business and professor of operations research, sees the center as a sign of the school's commitment to its students. "This state-of-the-art facility will reflect the high standards that we have set in the School of Business and is indicative of our intense professional focus at both the undergraduate and graduate levels," said Jacobs. "Our faculty and students are very excited about the new resource center and they are anxiously awaiting the official ground-breaking."
RMU alumna Susan Kapusta, Ph.D., '81, general manager of community affairs for the United States Steel Foundation at U. S. Steel, sees the new center as a benefit to both U. S. Steel and RMU. "We're looking for the type of high-quality talent you're growing here at Robert Morris University," said Kapusta. "In the corporate arena, recruiting and retaining quality employees is always a challenge. RMU is helping us meet this challenge. We think this is a great investment for U. S. Steel, and we're very proud to be a part of it."Currently, RMU has 150 alumni working at U. S. Steel, including 160 interns.
"The trading center and the videoconferencing facilities reflect today's fast-paced, high-tech business environment," said David L. Jamison, J.D., RMU provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. "They are definitely exciting pieces of applied technology, and, more than that, they are essential to today's applied, professional business education."
Another exciting change in the School of Business involves the school's downtown Pittsburgh location. In December 2007, RMU announced plans for a multi-million dollar investment in its signature property at 600 Fifth Ave., the sale of a smaller downtown property at 718 Fifth Ave., and the expansion of its M.B.A. program offerings beginning in 2008.
"Our signature downtown building has been the home of our M.B.A. program and will continue to be," said Jacobs. "However, with the University's investment plans for the 600 Fifth Ave. property, we'll be expanding the number of offerings at this location, which works well for our students.
"Our new facilities, both in Moon Township and in downtown Pittsburgh, will reflect the important role that the School of Business plays in the region's economic life," said Jacobs. "These generous grants from the U. S. Steel Foundation and the PNC Foundation will greatly enhance the school's ability to attract quality, diverse and international students and faculty."
The School of Business is also in the process of acquiring accreditation from AACSB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. AACSB International accreditation is a prized certification that represents the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide.
Currently, RMU is in the process of voluntary, non-governmental review of the University and its business programs for AACSB International accreditation. In order to achieve accreditation, RMU must measure up to a set of rigorous standards that are relevant and applicable to all business programs worldwide, and which support and encourage excellence in management education with measurable outcomes.
RMU has recently been appointed an external peer review and will be submitting a self-study report to AACSB International by Aug. 1, 2008. The peer review team is scheduled to conduct a campus visit Feb. 8-11, 2009, for a final evaluation.
"Approximately one-third of U.S. business schools and 15 percent of business schools worldwide have achieved AACSB International accreditation," said Jacobs. "Achieving this highest of standards for business schools worldwide will demonstrate. RMU's commitment to quality and continuous improvement among our peers, both nationally and internationally. It will enable us to enhance our partnerships with national and international universities and organizations, which will in turn generate greater opportunities for our students and faculty. Accreditation will also help RMU recruit and retain faculty from top Ph.D. business programs."
RMU started out as a reputable school of accountancy. Today it's a comprehensive university, nationally recognized as a leader in business career training. Currently, the School of Business has over 1,900 students spread throughout its B.S.B.A, M.B.A., M.S. Human Resource Management, M.S. Nonprofit Management and M.S. Taxation programs. The new School of Business quadrangle, the renovations downtown and the pursuit of AACSB accreditation reflect the University's commitment to remaining the premier business institution in the region.
"The goal of the School of Business is to give our students an advantage as they head out into the real world," said Dell'Omo. "These new facilities will do just that by enabling us to broaden the students' understanding of the complexities of the global arena and promote the thinking skills necessary to chart the evolving technological marketplace."
Susan M. Kapusta, Ph.D., '81, general manager of community affairs and the United States Steel Foundation at U. S. Steel, was instrumental in acquiring the $500,000 grant for the new U. S. Steel Videoconferencing and Technology Resource Center.
"Today's fast-paced, globally oriented economy demands that participants be comfortable using the latest technology when conducting business with colleagues and clients in the office next door or in foreign countries," said Kapusta. "We are proud to support the creation of this videoconferencing center and Robert Morris University's efforts to prepare today's students to be tomorrow's key contributors to the workplace of the future."
While progressing through assignments of increasing responsibility up to her current position at U. S. Steel, Kapusta earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from RMU in 1981, a master's degree in corporate communication from Duquesne University in 2001 and a Ph.D. in corporate communication from Duquesne in 2006. At various times, she has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Community College of Allegheny County, Shadyside School of Nursing, Duquesne and RMU.
For the past six years, Kapusta has helped lead the strategic mission of the United States Steel Foundation and is also a member of its board of trustees. Besides handling community relations for U. S. Steel, she is also responsible for all non-foundation corporate donations. Among her current responsibilities, she manages a multi-million-dollar budget, leads staff and volunteer efforts for hundreds of people and has developed award-winning community outreach partnerships with numerous philanthropic organizations in Pittsburgh. She also oversees U. S. Steel's annual United Way "Million Dollar Club" employee campaign, and, in 2007, was named a council member for the United Way's Women's Leadership Initiative.
Kapusta is a U. S. Steel representative on the $55 million Carnegie Library Capital Campaign Cabinet and is on the advisory committee for Beginning with Books Center for Early Literacy. She is a former member of the board of directors of the Community College of Allegheny County, an active member of the Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society and a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh XVI. Kapusta is a native of Pittsburgh.