Brian Persinger

More Than Bricks and Mortar

Real-World Learning to Become the New Norm for Business Education at Reynolds Hall

◆ 12 minute read

More Than Bricks and Mortar

2022: The Year of Reynolds Hall.


This is the year that the innovative business building at West Virginia University will open its doors to Mountaineers near and far, from future generations of business students, to alumni, friends and partners who have been part of the fabric of the business school throughout its journey.

The new complex will feature cutting-edge, experiential learning labs that will give students real-world experiences before they even set foot into the vast, bold world of business.

The futuristic building, named for alumnus Bob Reynolds and his wife, Laura, is designed to be a pillar of entrepreneurship and experiential learning on Morgantown’s Waterfront. It will feature collaborative classrooms and learning labs for virtually every discipline.

"Reynolds Hall will be more than bricks and mortar: it will truly be a game-changer for how students learn business at West Virginia University,” said Josh Hall, Milan Puskar Dean. “It will be a connector from WVU to the world, from students across campus to companies around the globe."

Reynolds Hall will be more than bricks and mortar: it will truly be a game-changer for how students learn business at West Virginia University. It will be a connector from WVU to the world, from students across campus to companies around the globe.

- Josh Hall


Below, you will get a glimpse into some of these learning labs and what they behold, including the Wehrle Global Supply Chain Lab, Roll Capital Markets Center, Data Analytics Lab, Social Technology and Research Lab, and Cybersecurity Lab.

They are part of a larger community of labs and centers that will transform the student learning experience through hands-on learning, thanks to the generosity of our Chambers College alumni and friends. These spaces include the  Bill and Patricia Sheedy Experiential Learning Pavilion, the  Marty and Katharine Becker Academic Engagement Success Center, and the  Encova Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. You can learn about all Reynolds Hall gifts and how they will shape the new model for business education at

Listen to the story:

The ‘Minecraft’ for global supply chain studies

John Saldhana

When presenting his vision for the Werhle Global Supply Chain Lab, John Saldanha likens it to a mega-popular sandbox video game in which players explore a 3-D world with virtually infinite terrain.

Like “Minecraft,” the global supply chain lab will provide an immersive digital environment for novel interactions. But this will have real-world implications in leading the transformation of skill building for the future of a digitally-enabled supply chain through virtual reality (VR), allowing students to interact with a three-dimensional visual environment with computer modeling and simulation.

“The lab will operate as a working space where students have the opportunity to build and see VR content,” said Saldanha, Sears chair in Global Supply Chain Management and associate professor. “It will be a sandbox for students to try out ideas. Think of it as a ‘Minecraft’ for supply chain studies.”

The lab is made possible through a generous $1.6 million gift made in memory of Henry B. Wehrle Jr., former chairman and CEO of McJunkin Corp. The donation is a continuation of the Wehrle family’s vision to create a leading Global Supply Chain Management program at WVU. Their initial $1 million gift kickstarted the program and brought Saldanha to WVU in 2014.

Within those eight years – and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic – global supply chain issues have changed drastically, creating a need for high-tech, innovative solutions that will evolve and prosper under the lab.

“Let’s take the example of a soft drink,” Saldanha said. “You have the bottle, the label and the ingredients that go into it like sugar and water, and so on. You also have to consider the plant, the bottle supplier, where the water comes from and modes of transportation. Now, on a tabletop and through experiential learning, students can configure and better understand the connections and how global supply chain works.”

Outside of scheduled class times, Saldanha foresees students using the space to create and develop supply chain concepts as well as faculty working collaboratively with other schools and colleges. Saldanha noted that he and a few students are already working on a project with engineers and robotic scientists, in which the new lab space will be beneficial.

Overall, Saldanha sees the lab giving students a clear, competitive advantage by positioning them for career-ready skill development.

In the traditional classroom, students tend to be in a vacuum. We’ll be leveraging VR and gamifying supply chain education. Think about the training opportunities and the ability to provide information that otherwise would not be available in conventional, two-dimensional flat media that we’ve had for the last 2,000 years.

- John Saldanha


Learn more about the Wehrle Global Supply Chain Lab here.

Setting the bar for the future of finance

Naomi Boyd in Reynolds Hall

Naomi Boyd has revolutionized how finance majors get ready for the marketplace.

Boyd, who leads the Finance Department as chair and champions the College’s innovation mission as associate dean of innovation, outreach and engagement, dreamed of having a training lab for finance students that would allow them to walk into a bank in Manhattan and feel so comfortable that they wouldn’t skip a beat.

She had a big obstacle to overcome to realize that dream: space.

“I wanted a physical space that would force us to get students out of a traditional classroom and invite industry into the doors of academia,” Boyd said. “That dynamic creates a sea of change and innovation to the way that we teach, research and build interactions between students and faculty.”

Boyd shared her vision at a Chambers College Visiting Committee meeting a few years ago. That’s when she met the people who would help her bring it to life.

Penni Roll, partner and chief financial officer of the Credit Group of Ares Management Corporation, was at the table as a member of the Visiting Committee when Boyd shared her dream.

Roll connected to what she wanted to do. She handed Boyd a Post-It note after that meeting with her phone number and said, “I want to help”.

Boyd called her. And the rest was history.

Penni and her husband, Rob, both accounting graduates from WVU, admired Boyd’s experiential teaching style. They wanted to help her create a more entrepreneurial environment for finance students that would allow for a broad-based learning experience to prepare them for careers in the financial industry.

The Rolls partnered with Boyd to bring her Student Managed Investment Fund students to New York City each semester to experience life in the Financial District firsthand – students they’ve built relationships with and have continued to mentor throughout their careers.

They worked closely with Boyd on their shared passion project for the futuristic training lab in Reynolds Hall. As a testament to the vision and generosity of Penni and Rob, it will be named for the dedicated alumni who invested in its success: The Roll Capital Markets Center.

The lab will be a differentiator for future generations of finance majors.

“The Roll Capital Markets Center will expand the opportunities we can offer students,” Boyd said. “In our current building, we can only teach students 12 at a time. When Reynolds Hall opens, we will have space to grow the program and have 40 students at a time actively trading stocks and doing research on a trading floor. It completely changes the environment.”

As Boyd stands in the training lab under construction in Reynolds Hall that started with her dream, she feels proud to see a vision that has come full circle.

Being in the space and seeing what we’ve done with innovation in a few short years really speaks to what is special about West Virginia. When you set the bar high, our students, alumni, donors and corporate partners are going to rally and help us exceed it. Throw a big idea at the wall, and we’ll overcome obstacles to make it happen.

-Naomi Boyd


Learn more about the Roll Capital Markets Center here.

Changing the world from West Virginia through data analytics

Brad Price and Katherine Kopp standing in Reynolds Hall

For data scientists Brad Price and Katherine Kopp, big data has shaped their careers at WVU.

When they launched Data Driven WV in 2019 – a center aimed at using experiential learning to support the prosperity and health of the state’s economy through data-driven technical insights – they couldn’t have imagined the role their brainchild would play in powering the Mountain State through a global pandemic.

Through their partnership with the WV Joint Interagency Task Force, Kopp and Price have used data science to help West Virginia citizens protect themselves in the fight against COVID-19.

In 2020, they developed a data-driven model that forecasts personal protective equipment use and surge conditions at hospitals and living facilities in West Virginia. In 2021, they took it a step further and built a robust and agile digital inventory management system to track vaccine demand and inventory around the state, using experiential learning to bring their Business Data Analytics students to the table to help them activate it.

When Reynolds Hall opens its doors in a few short months, Data Driven WV will have a state-of-the-art, hands-on lab where students can solve the problems of the state through data analytics in their own dedicated space.

“We were already seeing a huge upward trajectory in the market, but COVID accelerated that significantly,” Kopp said. “We’ve seen a great need in our state and across the nation for a workforce that understands the power of data. This lab creates a big opportunity to give our students the hands-on experience to solve real world problems with immediate impact.”

Kopp sees it as a culture shift that will be a game changer for data science at WVU.

“This space will allow us to tear down silos, work across disciplines and collaborate with other centers in Reynolds Hall and around campus,” she said. “We will have more minds at the table and diverse thought in approaching problems.”

It’s that different way of approaching problems that motivates Price, who continues to push boundaries in reimagining a business school’s role in training students to solve them.

“There is a perception that you can’t be technical in a business school,” Price said. “We’ve been blowing that perception out of the water, and we want to keep doing that. We do technical work to understand how it impacts organizations and allows us to solve business problems. This lab gives us a space where we get to teach our students that from day one, working with our innovative partners including DataRobot, Noblis, Leidos, Bravo Consulting and WesBanco.”

Price has big dreams for what future generations of Mountaineers will accomplish in the space.

“We want to be the most hands-on data analytics program in the country,” he said.
“We can change the world from West Virginia in this lab.”

We want to be the most hands-on data analytics program in the country. We can change the world from West Virginia in this lab.

- Brad Price


Making stars

laurel cook portrait in the social media lab

Social media isn’t all toxic discourse and disinformation.

Laurel Cook, associate professor of marketing, has demonstrated the value of social media and marketing with her students since her arrival at WVU in 2014. For example, one of her marketing classes sees students taking on small businesses as clients for a Google Ads campaign, a project aimed at boosting their online presence and brand awareness.

Now, Cook hopes to take MarTech, the practice of utilizing software and tools to achieve marketing goals, to a new level with the opening of the Social Technology and Research (S.T.A.R.) Lab.

“A sommelier cannot master the art of wine service without the experience of tasting wine,” Cook said. “Similarly, students cannot show mastery of their chosen major without immersive experiences in their education.”

The S.T.A.R. Lab will offer students a “learn-by-doing” approach by providing access to current and emerging marketing technologies, Cook added. While MarTech gets marketers closer to the consumer, it has been missing from higher education up until now, she said.

“My vision for the S.T.A.R. Lab includes collaboration between the stakeholders you may expect, namely students, faculty, our local business community and corporate partners,” Cook said. “However, I also anticipate working with tech providers, developers, policy makers, and social marketers, such as Transformative Consumers Research and Twitter for Good.

I believe that this union between technology and purpose will create a space that’s exciting yet challenging. This lab space should provoke everyone involved to push boundaries that place us firmly outside of our comfort zones.

- Laurel Cook


The lab will help showcase the College’s marketing expertise in analytics, social media, search engine marketing (advertising and search engine optimization6), inbound marketing, mobile and design. Also, the lab’s co-created social content will be on full display through the sizeable livestream feed that greets anyone who enters the second floor of Reynolds Hall from the PRT.

Cook noted that while a few tech-related lab spaces exist at other institutions, even fewer are included in business schools.

“Of those lab spaces at other schools that include technology, few, if any, are dedicated exclusively to MarTech,” she said. “Our lab will have a marketing science orientation, unlike other tech-related labs managed or led by computer science or information science faculty.”

Red vs. Blue: A cybersecurity battlefield

Christopher Ramezan Portrait

The best way to secure a system is to learn how to break a system, said Christopher Ramezan, assistant professor of cybersecurity in the Department of Management Information Systems.

With the launch of the Cybersecurity Lab, students will partake in battle through Red Team vs. Blue Team exercises. In the cybersecurity world, red teams are on offense and attempt to attack and break into systems. Blue teams play defense, guarding the network against cyber attacks and threats.

In turn, these exercises will give students a glimpse into the real world of cybersecurity.

“The main purpose of our lab is to be a space to work on the most nascent cybersecurity threats affecting modern businesses,” Ramezan said. “We’re going to be tackling these problems in multiple ways, such as through research not only with our graduate students but undergrads in helping large and small businesses tackle cybersecurity issues.

“Cybersecurity is an applied discipline. It's not something you can master through just reading a book. The best way to learn cybersecurity is to get hands on experience, and that’s what we’ll do for our students.”

The lab will consist of up to 15 workstations that simulate a small business network. It will include several servers and a small, closed-off network isolated from the larger university network.

Outside of classroom instruction, Ramezan envisions the lab helping students, including those not in the Chambers College, train for international and national competitions, in addition to preparing them for the workforce.

Ramezan anticipates some of the workstations to be dedicated to machine learning and artificial intelligence, both key components in battling cybersecurity.

“We definitely want to be a leader in that space as well,” he said.

Despite the technological advances adorning the new lab space, Ramezan also wants to keep focus on the University’s long-rooted tradition as a land-grant institution, intended to assist those outside the academic circle.

We're a land-grant institution so we want to use the lab to help businesses in the state of West Virginia with their cybersecurity challenges. If a business wants us to take a look at how they conduct security awareness training or want us to come up with proof of concept of how to implement a zero trust architecture on their small business network, we can do that in the lab. Those are really fun projects for our students to work on.

- Christopher Ramezan


Shaping the future of business education

There are opportunities to shape the future of business education at WVU through the learning experience in Reynolds Hall. For more information, please contact Milan Puskar Dean Josh Hall here.