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Liberty to build business school building

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Amid its ongoing $500 million construction and campus renovation campaign, Liberty University will be building a new dedicated home for its School of Business, to open on its Lynchburg campus by fall 2018.

The cost of the building, which will be around 78,000 square feet, has not been finalized.

Liberty also has announced a new partnership between the school and Charlotte, N.C.-based Hendrick Automotive Group, the nation’s largest privately held car dealership group, to establish an auto dealership management curriculum.

“Our president [Jerry Falwell Jr.] is making a huge investment back into the campus, which we know impacts the region, impacts our students and builds more value for everyone. … It’s something that’s been a long time coming and … we know our students will certainly take pride in that,” says Liberty School of Business Dean Scott Hicks. “We have some outstanding programs, some of them are second to none, and the facility we’re looking at will certainly be that way too.”

The new Liberty School of Business building is being designed by Richmond firm Glavé & Holmes Architecture, known for projects such as Christopher Newport University’s Jeffersonian Christopher Newport Hall and Pope Chapel, as well as the Fredericksburg Courthouse and buildings at the University of Virginia, the University of Richmond and Washington & Lee University. It will be built by Lynchburg-based English Construction, which also built Liberty University’s Center for Medical and Health Science.

The new Liberty business school will stand where Religion Hall is currently located on its Lynchburg campus.

The largest university in Virginia and the fifth-largest in the nation, Liberty serves 15,000 residential students and 90,000 online students. The School of Business, which has been housed in Green Hall, the university’s main academic building, accounts for about 24,000 of those students, including 2,150 residential students.

Its new building will house an auditorium, the school’s Center for Entrepreneurship, a trading room, the university’s information technology program and “gathering spaces not only for our students but for the business community in the region,” Hicks says. “We want this to be a destination spot for them to come in and take advantage of using the facility and work with our students. That creates opportunities for our students.”

In addition to helping forge new partnerships with state and local business, the new building will also reflect the school’s perspective on technology. Liberty’s School of Business is preparing students for the business world of the 2020s and 2030s, Hicks says, and is focusing on digital marketing technologies such as virtual-reality, augmented-reality and mixed-reality experiences. Data analytics and health-care informatics will also be increasingly important areas of study.

This spring, the school will launch a pilot class for its automotive dealership curriculum, created in partnership with Hendrick Automotive Group. The full program will launch in fall 2017.

“We’re excited about the opportunity of entering into a partnership where we can have the ability of reaching more quality people [to hire],” says Daniel Dehass, executive general manager of Hendrick Automotive Group. “We want to do a better job educating young people that this is a viable business and a good career option. … We’re not just looking for salespeople; we’re looking for people who have the ability to step in and grow and not just grow but grow quickly — our industry has a very high ceiling.”

There are only two other colleges in the nation with similar programs, Hick says, despite the fact that the United States has the second-largest auto industry in the world. The nation has about 118,000 dealerships, employing workers in positions ranging from administration and sales to finance, information technology and mechanics.

The new curriculum will address topics such as how dealerships can successfully adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace that will include driverless cars and on-demand transportation services such as Uber.

Discussing the changes coming to the bustling school, Hicks remarks, “We’re constantly moving. It’s nonstop.”

This story has been updated with more details on the business school building's size and location.

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