In our ongoing series dedicated to Miller Hall, we previously took an in-depth look at the functional operations of this beloved building and its grounds. But how did Miller Hall become the home of the Raymond A. Mason School of Business?
Today we will learn more about the evolution of the business school from the time when the undergraduate business and MBA programs were housed in Tyler Hall and Blow Memorial Hall to its current location from an invaluable staff member who witnessed the transition first-hand.
Influencing Forward Progress
Susan Ballard-Huther currently serves as the Manager of Financial Operations and has worked at William & Mary for over twenty years. Throughout this time, she has seen the business school undergo several iterations of change and has played an active role in how the Mason School evolved into the leading academic institution it is today.
Ballard-Huther began working at William & Mary in February 1999 as an Operations Coordinator. Back then, the “Business School,” which consisted of the undergraduate business and graduate-level MBA programs, was located in both Tyler Hall and a part of Blow Memorial Hall. Initially, Ballard-Huther supported building operations as well as faculty and staff travel.
“As time went on, I noticed so many opportunities to learn and grow,” she said. “I saw the chance to create efficiencies in other processes and fortunately was able to jump in and apply my skills to the task.”
She was instrumental in converting the then-paper-only system of storing search files to an electronic access database system. She also reduced waste and costs associated with over-ordering and under-utilizing materials by creating an optimized supply inventory system.
Though her efforts had a significant impact on the administrative operations of the business school, her flexibility and willingness to step in to help other departments when they needed it expanded her knowledge of academic program recruitment and admissions.
“When the single employee for the infant Master of Accounting Program (MAcc) unexpectedly resigned, I volunteered to assist on an interim basis until they filled the vacancy while simultaneously fulfilling my responsibilities as operations coordinator,” she explained. “I had the opportunity to learn firsthand about academic program recruitment and admissions, helping to bring in the new MAcc class by coordinating and participating in interviews and other admissions and enrollment activities.”
Following this experience, Ballard-Huther accepted an offer to work for the then-new Associate Dean, Stu Williams and assumed new responsibilities which she still executes today.
“One of my responsibilities was being project coordinator for the implementation of the school’s new school-wide financial system, Navision, for which I was also database administrator. This gave me the opportunity to harvest data and write custom reports. It also gave me first-hand exposure to accounting. I took on the role of budget manager for the school and that role has stayed with me since then,” she said.
More Growth, New Opportunity
In those days, the future of the business school was uncertain. The business programs were increasing in popularity and they consequently outgrew their designated space in Tyler Hall. Dean Larry Pulley, envisioned a new building that could accommodate more program growth and student enrollment, and began raising funds to plan and construct a new home for the business school. In the meantime, the team searched for creative temporary solutions to their space issues.
“[Associate Dean Williams] explored every available nook and cranny; most famously, the disgusting bird infested Tyler Hall attic. Undeterred, he had plans drawn and estimates done. We even whimsically dreamed of increasing office space with double-decker cubicles and clear enclosed desk pods surrounding the building. Unsurprisingly, it did not prove to be cost-effective,” Ballard-Huther said.
What did prove to be effective were the fundraising efforts of Dean Pulley who soon had enough money to plan the new building’s construction. His team, of which Ballard-Huther was a part, pivoted their focus and worked together to site-shop potential locations.
“On several occasions, we found ourselves roaming around campus with a measuring tape in hand checking out available spaces. One memorable and perhaps auspicious exercise, though admittedly very boring, was to monitor the daily usage of the Common Glory parking lot. That location is where Miller Hall sits today. Throughout the course of an entire day, in alternating shifts, we sat in the parking lot, clicker in hand, counting vehicles going in and out,” she said. “I think about that each time I walk through the front doors to Miller Hall.”
Moving to Miller Hall
After choosing the site of the Common Glory parking lot, construction on Miller Hall started in 2007. It opened for classes in 2009 and Ballard-Huther recollects the days leading up to the first semester in the building.
“Our relocation was a very big deal for all the faculty and staff working in Tyler and Blow so there was lots of excitement and plenty of energy to go around,” she said. “Many of us were involved in various new building-related planning activities due to both the immense scope of the move and the need for a paradigm shift in how we operated.”
Ballard-Huther volunteered to serve as liaison to the moving company.
“I was the onsite person in charge of organizing the purging and packing process. We had to purge, in some cases, a decade or more of accumulated papers and other items from offices. Large bins were located all around the buildings with scheduled pickup dates for disposal. There were files to archive, due to either retention requirements or historical significance so yet another process to plan and schedule,” she explained. “Once we completed the purge, packing began. We each calculated the number of boxes to pack up our offices and, naturally, had to pack everything before move day.”
Not everything would be taken to Miller Hall, so an inventory system was established to send each piece of furniture to its correct destination.
“It was a lot to accomplish in a short period, but we all worked together as a team and our “stuff” arrived safely and, for the most part, ended up in the right places,” she said.
Witnessing Continued Progress
Once Ballard-Huther settled into her new home within Miller Hall’s walls, she continued to witness and contribute to forward progress.
Progress at an institutional level include an evolving academic portfolio which recently added the one-year Master of Science in Business Analytics program and several online program degrees and certificate offerings. Ballard-Huther has witnessed the establishment of several centers of excellence such as the Boehly Center and the Center for Online Learning; and she’s seen the Mason School tackle issues that impact the greater Tribe community by creating organizations such as the Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Ballard-Huther’s personal contributions to Miller Hall and to the Mason School also continue to have a significant impact. On a daily basis she works closely with university colleagues and external parties to find solutions which will aid financial operations to run more smoothly and efficiently. She combines her congenial can-do attitude with her past experience to continually improve processes and effectively manage projects as the Mason School looks to move forward into the future.