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Elizabeth Doherty (from left), Melissa Crane and Alina Taher talk and study in the BLC courtyard.
Elizabeth Doherty (from left), Melissa Crane and Alina Taher talk and study in the BLC courtyard.

When Alina Taher enrolled at the University of Georgia, she knew she wanted to study business, but didn’t know which aspect to pursue until she joined Terry College’s Women in Business group as a freshman.

Now a senior marketing major and president of the women’s student group, she guides others through the career-defining decisions of which major to choose and how to approach classes, internships and networking.

“Women tend to be more competitive with each other in the workplace, and I don’t think it’s something we always realize,” she says. “Women in Business helped me to see that it’s important to bolster each other and support each other instead.”

Taher says women in the group focus on both professional skills and personal concerns, sometimes casually texting each other whether an outfit is appropriate for an event or a résumé is ready to send with the next job application.

“I love helping these women because I was in their position not long ago,” she says. “I see them grow from freshmen to seniors who receive internships and job offers, and I’m glad they’re succeeding.”

Born in Bahrain, Taher always admired her grandfather’s determination to build several businesses to support his family as they attended school in the United States. With her father as a Taco Bell franchiser and her mother and stepfather as owners of Corporate Payroll Services in Norcross, Ga., Taher knew she would follow in the same path of pursuing business, but she needed to find her own direction and her own community.

“At Terry, there’s always a panel to attend or a company to meet, and the new buildings really facilitate that,” she says. “If there’s a company you’re interested in, someone at Terry will be more than willing to help you connect.”

The Women in Business organization, along with many business-focused student groups, moved meetings to Phase II of the Terry College Business Learning Community this fall. At Amos Hall and Casey Commons in particular, companies set up tables almost daily to get to know the next business leaders from UGA.

“Opportunities are happening in these buildings,” Taher says. “I often encourage students to go to these events once a week to develop networking skills, and the new buildings foster that.”

Taking a tour through Phase II

Annie Jiang talks about the same networking opportunities when she gives tours to prospective students as a Terry Ambassador. Now a senior majoring in both management information systems and international business, Jiang first thought she would be a biology major and attend medical school so she could help people. But she switched majors as a freshman when she saw how her interests in technology and economics might help organizations.

“I love giving tours and bragging about Terry College, especially the new Business Learning Community,” she says. “Parents and students are always impressed.”

When she leads tours, Jiang starts with Correll Hall on the north side of the complex, walking visitors through the Davis Graduate Courtyard and its landscaped walkways that burst with white blooms, even through September.

Correll Hall sets an impressive tone for the rest of the Business Learning Community. Tour groups enter the four-story building through a towering rotunda braced by four red brick pillars. Inside, Jiang walks them past the new classrooms for the master’s degree programs, as well as the business innovation lab, Georgia Power Classroom and the graduate commons.

“During this point in the tour, we pause at the top floor conference rooms where alumni come back and create those one-on-one connections with students,” Jiang says. “A mentor has helped me through the interview process, and I currently guide two mentees. We’re big on connections here.”

Jiang then walks visitors toward Phase II, pausing at the open-air courtyard, the picturesque focal point of the BLC. Surrounded by pavers, newly planted trees, and a brick walkway engraved with alumni names, the lawn is lit at night by four light posts reminiscent of Old Allegheny lamps that dotted early American sidewalks. Surrounded on all sides by the four Business Learning Community buildings, the courtyard is accessible by walking through the buildings themselves or down a flight of stairs from the street level, giving it the feeling of a city park ensconced among skyscrapers. 

“The UGA community in general is in awe of the BLC, and we have a sense of pride that we’re in Terry College,” Jiang says. “In Casey Commons, students sit and talk, and the classrooms and buildings overall have a collaborative design.”

On the south side of Phase II, Jiang guides tours through Amos Hall, home to Casey Commons, a 5,000-square-foot undergraduate meeting area filled with couches, cushioned chairs, meeting tables and high tops. She always stops at the project team rooms, case study classrooms and cluster classrooms that give professors flexibility in the way they teach.

“Something as simple as having more outlets near students in lecture halls means they can be more engaged in learning,” she says. “Terry is doing what it can to get students to where they want to be, and that blows my mind.”

Building a great partnership

When Vasishta Monavarty steps into the Business Learning Community, he can’t help but look up. The five-story, all-brick buildings push into the sky, shielding other views — and even other sounds — of campus. Monavarty’s eyes are often drawn to the capital letters on the sides of the brick facades.

“It speaks volumes that all of these common spaces are named after someone,” he says. “Someone donated personal wealth to empower people and educate others.”

Monavarty, a senior finance and MIS major who hails from Cumming, Ga., chose Terry College after watching his parents succeed in the MIS field. Now involved with the Student Government Association, Sigma Phi Epsilon, the Student Technology Committee and Terry Ambassadors, Monavarty often reflects on what it means to give back.

“At Terry, I get to mentor other students, be part of their lives and shape them,” he says. “I couldn’t be at the place where I am without the help of other people.”

And donating the funds to build that place is another level of dedication, he added.

“These alumni could have invested in anything, but they put the money into buildings that will never give them money back,” he says. “They gave back to the students they don’t yet know.”

Phase II construction, built with a public-private partnership combining significant donor support and state funds totaling $63 million, broke ground in 2015 and wrapped up this summer in time for students to attend classes in August. Gov. Nathan Deal, UGA President Jere Morehead and the namesake donors joined more than 600 guests on the courtyard to dedicate Amos Hall, Benson Hall and Moore-Rooker Hall and break ground on Phase III.

The final two of six combined buildings comprising the Business Learning Community will feature ample classroom space, conference rooms, sales lab and faculty and administrative offices when it opens in 2019.

“Today we are celebrating more than bricks and mortar — we are celebrating the great partnership between the university, our alumni and friends and the state of Georgia,” Morehead said at the Sept. 15 dedication.

As the undergraduate center of Phase II, Amos Hall is named for Daniel P. Amos (BBA ’73), the chairman and CEO of Aflac who served as chairman of the Building Terry campaign. Amos thanked every person who gave to the Phase II campaign, down to the last dollar.

“These donations made the difference in achieving our goal,” he said. “On behalf of my family, it’s an honor to put our name on a building for a college that made such a difference in our lives.”

Leading the next students

During another September event in Casey Commons sponsored by KPMG, Terry Ambassador Aman Bhimani watched the easy flow and conversation among students and business representatives as they wandered among tables.

“KPMG set up in the whole hallway, so it was more intimate yet more spacious than before when people squeezed into our previous lounge,” he says. “You get better interaction, and I could tell the alumni were impressed.”

A senior finance and MIS major, Bhimani chose to attend Terry College to emulate his father, who runs a convenience store in Decatur. Spaces such as the Benn Capital Markets Lab and new NASDAQ ticker in Amos Hall make Bhimani confident about his future beyond graduation.

“Students are better able to understand the real-world applications, and the collaborative classrooms create better discussions,” he says. “In business, you’re not sitting alone reading notes, you’re up, you’re talking, you’re interacting.”

Around that same time, senior accounting and international business major Jennifer Hardister encouraged her sister Elizabeth, an international affairs and disaster management major, to join her for lunch at the Au Bon Pain in the Rothenberger Café. They walked around the halls, and Jennifer smiled at her twin sister’s awed reactions.

“I’m almost jealous that I only have one year left to experience it,” she says. “I can tell how much thought went into every room and every table to encourage collaboration.”

As the senior coordinator for the Terry Women’s Initiative, Hardister knows how key that collaboration is. She’s volunteered for two years to give fellow students advice about leadership, confidence, networking and career success. The new Sea Island Scholars Program, for example, pairs 10 female students with C-suite mentors on the Georgia coast for professional mentorship and a weekend of reflection and fun outings like yoga and golf.

“That one-on-one time is one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had,” she says.

Hardister moved the Terry Women’s Initiative meetings to the new buildings this year, where she also takes part in the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program. The buildings’ effect on collaboration, conversation and mentorship already is obvious to her.

“Terry College stands out in its approach to support students,” she says. “From Day One, Terry College supports you on your path to find your career.”