Marketing professor Thomas Powers teaching using a chalkboard in the classroomLongtime marketing professor Thomas Powers teaching using a chalkboard in a classroom in the Business & Engineering Complex. Photo credit- UAB ArchivesA lot has changed for Collat students since the early days of the school.

“When I came to UAB, there was nothing in the room except a chalkboard and pieces of chalk,” said longtime marketing professor Thomas Powers, Ph.D. “If you wanted to use an overhead projector, you had to order it, and they would bring it to the classroom. We did not even have one overhead projector per classroom, and that was pretty common at the time.”

Now, both students and instructors benefit from not only having the first named school in UAB’s history but a new state-of-the-art building as well.

“The new building is spacious, open and airy, creating a wonderful research and teaching environment,” Powers said. “In addition, we now have the latest technology and a variety of classroom layouts that facilitate different types of courses taught from lecture to case courses.”

That new and fresh learning environment also extends to the virtual world, according to longtime professor Julio Rivera, Ph.D., who has taught at Collat for 34 years.

“When I first got here, we were mainly a commuter school, and we essentially taught in the evenings,” Rivera said. “We would teach two days a week, and it was typically a day and an evening class … Now, with the exception of one course this semester, I think for the last two years, I’ve been all online.”

As of 2021, 65.8% of UAB students enrolled in at least one online class and 29% took exclusively online courses.

“Technology has allowed us to do that,” he said. “Whereas if you wanted to go to class 20 years ago, you had to go to be there. Now, we’ve got a lot of tools and so forth that allow us to not have to be in a classroom personally, but still convey a very good classroom experience.”

Students now expect a first-class online learning experience, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic started, according to Rivera.

“They use all of that technology now,” he said. “They’re used to seeing it. If you don’t have that available, then they’ll find somebody that does because that’s how they want to do things.”

Rivera doesn’t accept physical copies of assignments anymore. Now, he can access all materials submitted by students through Collat’s learning management system. He also holds online office hours.

“That makes a big difference; it makes it a lot easier to get things done,” he said. “I think it also makes people more productive. You don’t have to spend time getting there.”

One downside to a more online existence is limited face-to-face interactions with colleagues, Rivera said. To combat that, he initiated weekly meetings with colleagues in the MISQ department.

“I named them watercooler meetings because that’s where you get a chance to see everybody and just chit chat,” Rivera said. “That was my main intention, to keep that connection going.”

Powers said that adjusting to new technology in the building has been a smooth transition, especially with an internal IT department. Powers noted moving in the new building as his proudest moment at Collat.

“Moving into the new building was a culmination of all the things that have gone right and well for the Collat School of Business over the years,” he said.