Editor's note: This story first appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the Concordian, the official magazine of Concordia University Wisconsin.

Psalm 127 ”Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

It was only a footprint. Actually more than 400 footprints. Three years ago, on September 14, 2016, Concordia University president, Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, PhD, led a special outdoor chapel service on the grassy soccer practice field just south of the administration building to seek God’s blessing upon a new endeavor: the construction of a state-of-the-art academic building.

Guided by Psalm 127, President Ferry’s powerful prayer on the empty field was for alignment between what Concordia wanted to accomplish and what God had already planned.

Ferry prayed, “Help us to build up—not just buildings but people—people built for others to help others.”

Brick by brick the pieces of the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center—the new house for the Batterman School of Business, health clinics, and collaboration spaces— came together. With the Lord’s blessing and through the labor of many gifted hands, dedicated prayers, and generous supporters, the dynamic Plaster Center took shape.

On August 1, 2019, the community returned to the once grassy field to dedicate the marvelous glass structure standing tall and glistening in the late-summer sun.

The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center innovatively aligns business and health care disciplines to prepare ethical caregivers who are holistically equipped to serve patients’ spiritual, financial, and physical needs.

The three-story 41,000-square-foot academic building houses Concordia’s thriving business school, which graduates more students than any other academic school in the university. It is also home to the new Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic that will provide vital health services to the community, and prepare students with best practices and state-of-the-art equipment to be experienced practitioners in the field.

A hallmark of the Plaster Center is the massive Collabortorium in the center of the house. Everyone— students representing all disciplines and members of the community—are encouraged and welcomed into this creative space to collaborate and tap into some of its resources, including 3-D printers for prototyping, allotted spaces for writing software code, a green room curtain for creating marketing videos, a creative workspace/bench, a robotic automation setup, and a virtual reality work area.

On one side of the Collabortorium is the Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic, a fully functioning clinic that will serve clients with speech and hearing concerns throughout the span of their lifetime. A few key features of the clinic include:

  • Child Language and Literacy Center: a fully equipped preschool classroom and playground for group and individual intervention.
  • Sensory Room: a colorful clinic room stocked with a variety of therapeutic equipment, including swings, therapeutic balls, deep-pressure equipment, and visual and auditory feedback equipment.
  • Audiology Suite: serving clients of all ages, this space includes clinical audiometric equipment with a sound-treated booth.

It’s all business on the other side. In addition to the dozens of business programs offered to undergraduate students, Concordia’s MBA program (the largest in Wisconsin, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) is also housed in this dynamic building. With 15 concentrations to choose from, students can earn their advanced degree in areas like management, finance, innovation, international business, and nonprofit management.

The fastest-growing MBA concentration is health administration. In this area of study, students learn the business side of the health care industry so that they can help to make compassionate care accessible, sustainable, and possible. These MBA students have firsthand experience in the business affairs of the Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic located just down the hall.

More business amenities:

  • A fully stocked culinary lab with cutting edge components, including commercial-grade appliances, a hand-washing station, flexible counters, pull-down power sources, two video systems (including cameras in the hood of the stove), and separate labs for product development.
  • A mock courtroom complete with a judge’s bench, jury section, witness stations, and video screens for viewing digital evidence or presentations.
  • An LED stock market ticker to be utilized by Concordia’s accounting students.

Concordia has long been a hub for innovation and collaboration. A few of the signature business programs include annual start-up and accelerator competitions, an executive speaker series, and important summits in health care and economics.

The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center is the result of creative and imaginative academic leaders who had an uncommon vision to combine business and health care programs so that students will be better prepared to face challenges and find solutions in a rapidly evolving world.

Their vision is alive and thriving in the halls, classrooms, and noisy Colloboratorium. The entire university community is grateful for the hands that built the house, the donors who supported the vision and mission of the university, and the faculty who use this space to prepare the next generation for service. Their labor was not in vain, for this is a house that the Lord has built.

Scroll down to see more views of the new Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center.

Student and community innovators alike may make use of a 3D Maker Lab to collaborate and tap into some of its resources, including 3-D printers for prototyping, allotted spaces for writing software code, and a virtual reality work area.
Rev. Patrick T. Ferry, PhD, university president, celebrates the official opening of the building alongside Ted Batterman (left), donor and namesake of Concordia’s Batterman School of Business, and Mequon Mayor John Wirth (right).
Erik Hollander (center), an assistant professor in the Batterman School of Business, interacts with students in the Collaboratorium space.
A sink in the Hospitality and Event Management Culinary Lab is one small piece of a fully functioning professional-grade kitchen. The lab will be utilized by students in the hospitality and the new product development programs.
Pops of color are a feature of the new building. The main staircase sports a vibrant red.
The Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic’s clinical director, Angela Haendel (right), breaks in the new space and some of its literacy resources.
Games like this “Knock Down Number Challenge” are utilized by Concordia’s speech language pathology program to help young patients achieve their clinical goals.

The fall 2019 Concordian hit mailboxes the end of September. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, call 262-243-4333. 

— Lisa Liljegren is vice president of marketing and strategic communications.

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