College of Business lighting up Ballentine Hall as it celebrates its centennial

Illumination and student celebration Sept. 21

KINGSTON, R.I. – Sept. 15, 2022 – The University of Rhode Island’s College of Business turns 100 in 2023 and the year-long celebration continues Wednesday, Sept. 21, with an illumination of Ballentine Hall and a student celebration on the Quadrangle. The night will also include a lecture by Karen Davis ’82, M ’93, a member of the College of Business Hall of Fame, speaking to about 560 first-year students in a course redesigned to mark the College’s centennial.

For the lighting, Ballentine, the College’s home for the last 55 years, will sparkle like a theater on opening night, including a roofline of blue and white lights, trees lining the Quad wrapped in blue lights, blue spotlights shining on the building, and a 6-foot-tall, blue “100” in the lobby.

The ceremony will start at 7:45 p.m. and feature refreshments – including a classic ice cream cart provided by Green Line Apothecary of Wakefield – and music by guitarist Stephen Atlas, associate professor of marketing, and Grammy-winning musician Nate Jones ’15.

“The idea behind the celebration is that afterward, Ballentine will be lit up every night until commencement in May,” said Christy Ashley Ph.D ’06, the College’s associate dean of undergraduate programs and professor of marketing. “We’re going to use it as almost a beacon to bring alumni back to campus. One of the goals of the centennial celebration is to strengthen connections with our alumni. We have some alumni who are very engaged, but a lot who are not. We’d love them to come back and take a picture in front of the building or attend an event.”

The College of Business has been a leader in business, research and outreach in Rhode Island since being established in 1923 by Howard Edwards, president of the then-Rhode Island State College. Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the College today has more than 2,300 undergraduate and about 350 graduate students across 10 undergraduate majors, nine graduate programs and three Ph.D. specializations. In 2020, the College launched the popular Doctorate of Business Administration program, and this fall it opened FinTech, an undergraduate program in financial technologies.

“The motto of the College of Business is ‘Not Business as Usual’ because we mean business and we provide a solid and sound business education,” says Shaw Chen, interim dean and the Alfred J. Verrecchia-Hasbro Inc. Leadership Chair in Business. “As we are marking the completion of 100 years of high-quality business education, we are looking to build the College to address the demands, challenges, changes and opportunities of the future to serve a greater purpose, and continue to provide customized, flexible, sustainable, and lifelong learning opportunities.”

For the centennial, the College has fine-tuned a general education class for first-year students who intend to major in business. “Developing Brand ‘You’ for the Future of Work” provides the students the chance to consider their values and figure out what their place will be in the changing business world as they explore topics on artificial intelligence and sustainable development. About 560 of the approximate 670 first-year students are enrolled in the course.

“One of our pillars for the centennial is ‘Launching a Second Century of Impact,’” Ashley said. “And this course is all about the future. The students are being encouraged to be part of the present and to tell their story, but also to think about what is next.”

The students will learn about business from business leaders, hearing from more than a dozen diverse speakers who will talk about the future of their industries and the role of personal branding. The speakers and topics give the students a chance to consider their own values and skills. It also allows them to broaden their perspectives on business beyond the College’s quantitative courses that they must take in their first two years – such as calculus, accounting, micro and macroeconomics – and see how their values and skills align with their intended major and career goals.

The lineup of speakers includes Nishita Roy Pope, a former director at Dell Technologies and founder of Tribe Academy and WorldRoo; and Margie O’Brien, director of Rhode Island Capitol TV. Among the alumni speakers will be Alex Couture ’95, head of technical operations at Google; Idrees (Lanre) Ajakaiye ’95, founder of 25 Bough Street Development; and Karen Davis ’82, ’93, co-founder and chief executive officer of North Star Impact Group, who worked at URI for 14 years, including as the College’s director of advancement, before a 20-year career at Hasbro Inc. On Sept. 21, Davis will discuss how personal purpose can lead to a life of impact.

“Karen is an important part of the College of Business’ history. Among other things, she fundraised for the last Ballentine Hall renovation, redesigned Rhody the Ram, and came up with Oozeball with the first Student Alumni Association,” said Ashley. “She is a dynamic speaker who also made a tremendous impact through her philanthropic and social impact leadership at Hasbro and we are excited she will be joining us.”

Early in the course, the students are tasked with building a personal branding plan, looking at their strengths and their values. It will also give them skills in Adobe Creative Suite, which they all have access to, as they create professional videos and use social media to reach different audiences.

To get comfortable with the tools, they are being asked to research a College of Business alumnus and create an Instagram story about them. “That will also get them more familiar with the centennial and all the people who made an impact in the past,” Ashley said.

The course will go on to explore topics on artificial intelligence and sustainable development, bringing in speakers to address both areas. The sections provide an overview of two areas that are important across business disciplines, and the students will consider how both will impact the business world and what that might mean to them.

Across the class, students will get a chance to fine-tune their presentation skills with a semester-ending poster presentation in the Memorial Union during which students will envision their place in 2030, and new AI-driven software that the College is using from PitchVantage that allows students to practice in front of an audience that provides them feedback.

“This is another thing where they can see application of artificial intelligence that’s relevant to them,” Ashley said. “But we’re also developing a skill that we know from employers and faculty that is critically important to their development.”

Wednesday’s lighting is one of number of events the College of Business is planning over the academic year to celebrate the centennial, including a tent during the Rhodyville celebration, which takes place before the URI-Elon football game during Alumni and Family Weekend.