McNeely Legacy Opens Doors

The 'new' McNeely Hall offers many opportunities for business students

A new McNeely Hall awaits business majors this fall. Built on the site of the former Christ Child building, the new McNeely is state-of-the-art, and at 75,000 square feet it measures nearly three times the size of "old" McNeely - renamed the Summit Classroom Building.

The new building is named for Harry McNeely Jr., a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees and a generous benefactor to St. Thomas. Over the years, McNeely helped support faculty development programs and the creation of graduate programs in business. As a member of the second of three generations in his family's business, he helped establish the university's Center for Family Enterprise.

"The history and connection with the McNeely family and the University of St. Thomas spans many years," Dean Christopher Puto said. "We are indeed fortunate to have such generous supporters and friends."

Gazing at the fresh Mankato-Kasota stone exterior of McNeely Hall, it's easy to marvel at the speed in which the new building has appeared. In less than 15 months, the former grade school building at Cleveland and Summit was razed and the new undergraduate business building was constructed - from the underground parking ramp to the third floor roof.

But very little was effortless in planning this project. Negotiations for a new undergraduate business building on the St. Paul campus began in 1999, but it took until 2004 to reach an agreement with neighborhood groups and the City of St. Paul before construction could begin. To put things in perspective, senior business majors were freshmen - in high school - when plans for this building were first conceived.

A Place to GatherOne of those seniors is Christina Dockendorf, a finance and marketing double major. As president of the American Marketing Association - the largest student organization in the Opus College of Business - Dockendorf would have been hard-pressed to find meeting space to accommodate her group in the former undergraduate business building.

"The old McNeely did not have a facility where a group of 100 plus students could congregate," Dockendorf said. "Large clubs had to be extremely mindful of room request dates to ensure they'd be able to meet, while smaller clubs were left to use random classrooms that were available. The constantly changing location proved very challenging in establishing consistent membership attendance."

To address this need, McNeely Hall's new Great Room, surrounded on three sides by large windows that look out over Cleveland Avenue, seats up to 150 people and includes a stage, the latest computer and video technology and a food preparation room.

The College of Business' nine student clubs are already lining up for an opportunity to use the new meeting room.

At Your ServiceDockendorf and the 38 percent of St. Thomas undergraduates who major in business also will notice a confluence of services and programs in the new building. One program that will enjoy greater access to the students it serves is Business 200: Learning Through Service.

Formerly located in the Murray-Herrick Campus Center, Business 200 will now have an office in McNeely to help coordinate volunteer opportunities for the nearly 500 business administration students who are required to spend at least 40 hours in community service before they graduate. Last year, 492 students volunteered 19,460 hours at 241 nonprofit organizations all over the world.

Dockendorf fulfilled her Business 200 requirement while participating in the London Business Semester, where she visited elderly people in their homes to teach them how to use their computers. "Getting to know those people was such a wonderful experience," Dockendorf acknowledged.

More Space for CommutersOld McNeely Hall is not without its own charm. Minneapolis native, Mai Yer Xiong, a Minneapolis public school scholarship recipient, was first exposed to the College of Business while working in the administrative office in the old McNeely Hall during the summer prior to her freshman year.

Thoughts of her first job on campus send her reminiscing. "The best memory I have of the former building is the simplicity of it. Although it is a little smaller than some buildings, it is very cozy," Xiong said.

"And I love the smell of old McNeely Hall" she fondly recalled. "I will definitely miss that."

As a participant in the REAL project - a six-week academic orientation program for newly admitted St. Thomas students of color - Xiong was assigned a work-study position while taking classes and getting acquainted with the campus. It was during her first year that she decided to change her major from science to accounting, one of the 12 concentrations offered by the College of Business. Advisers in the department talked her through the process of changing majors and helped plan out a strategy that would allow her to study abroad and complete her degree on time.

As a commuter student, Xiong is excited to explore some of the many gathering places in the new building. "I'm really looking forward to having more spaces to study and relax in the new McNeely Hall," she said.

Advise and AssistThe professional advising staff that helped Xiong make such a smooth transition will be expanding in the new building as well. A team of advisers will be readily available to assist students with enhanced guidance in areas such as academic planning, career exploration, internships, skill building, networking and a host of additional services critical to transitioning from college to work. The new, larger meeting rooms also will enable the Opus College of Business to host career development functions, working collaboratively with the Career Development Office and local firms that actively seek St. Thomas business students for jobs and internships.

One student who has benefited from St. Thomas' reputation in the local business community is Amy Fondell, a human resources management/leadership and management double major from Dubuque, Iowa. Fondell spent her summer as a human resources generalist learning how a small HR department functions within a larger organization.

Fondell worked as a work-study student in the College of Business administrative office in old McNeely for three years, greeting visitors, dispensing information, answering the phone and accommodating faculty needs. She's anxious to be part of the flagship student assistant team in the new McNeely Hall. With her newly acquired human resources experience, Fondell will no doubt be a valuable resource in training new students to run the office. And with all the high-tech equipment in the building, training will be essential.

"The overall learning environment will be much improved," Fondell said. "Not only will the classrooms look nicer, but they will be better equipped with amenities that were missing in the old building, such as technology."

Technology at the Speed of BusinessTechnology in the new McNeely building will help students in myriad ways. The Opus College of Business is the first business school in the nation to be designated as a Sun Center of Excellence (COE), a worldwide program of Sun Microsystems Inc. that intensifies the use of technology in targeted industry sectors to yield innovation and enterprise.

The access to new technology appeals to Lake Elmo native Tyler Olson, an entrepreneurship major with a technology business of his own. Olson's business, Ty the Tech Guy (, is a technical services company helping the average person with computer problems or questions. The company specializes in using everyday language to explain complicated concepts behind computer problems.

Entrepreneurship students such as Olson will attend classes in both of the College of Business' new buildings, McNeely Hall in St. Paul and Schulze Hall in Minneapolis, which opened to great fanfare in fall 2005.

"The new buildings bring increased opportunity to the business department," Olson said. "With more technology, more space for classes and professors, and more possibilities for interactive opportunities, I think it will greatly benefit students, faculty and staff."

Since transferring from Wheaton College a year ago, Olson has been able to exchange ideas and resources with fellow student entrepreneurs while also gleaning invaluable wisdom from his business professors. With their help his business took a significant step forward this summer.

Owing to the new features in McNeely Hall, opportunities for undergraduate business students are expanding. The space and technology will no doubt add to the quality of the classroom experience as well as the co-curricular opportunities afforded to students. And people are taking note.

"When I looked for a college to attend, I wanted to find schools that would inspire me, guide me and support me in my business ventures," Olson said. "Being from Minnesota, I knew that St. Thomas had a great business department, but I didn't know how it compared to other well-respected schools. Finding out that St. Thomas' Business Department - and especially its Entrepreneurship Program - is ranked among the top in the nation came as a surprise to me. That discovery, however, led to my decision to transfer to St. Thomas.

"In retrospect, that was one of the best decisions I have made in my life."

More from B Magazine