Academic Facilities

Donor Recognition and Technology Take a Front Seat in the New Building

Susan Shafer
Susan Shafer
October 3, 2022

Pride, love for UND shine through new Nistler building

Dean Amy Henley says the four banquettes in the middle of all the action are some of the most coveted spots in the brand-new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

Just as brightly as the sunlight filters through the two-story wall of windows in its grand gathering space, a great sense of UND pride shines through the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration.

The $70 million building — funded largely through private donations, including the lead $20 million gift from Werner and Colleen Nistler, along with a $20 million match from the state of North Dakota — welcomed its first students to classes last month. Five weeks later, visitors are still in awe.

It’s the kind of place where one student on opening day was heard to say, “Wow, I can’t believe I get to go to school here.” And a stranger in a peer review said, “This building screams how much you love your students.”

Yes, the 111,000-square-foot community in the heart of campus truly is that impressive.

UND Today had the opportunity last week to take its own guided tour with the college’s dean, Amy Henley, and its director of external relations, Laura Arneson.

Dean Amy Henley explains how a great amount of thought went into designing spaces that were comfortable and adaptable as the needs of the college change in years to come. The green panel of doors behind her opens up into a large auditorium that can be used for all sorts of events — with tiered seating at the ready for a speaking engagement or round tables for a banquet. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.


“You step back and think … thousands, tens of thousands of students will be impacted by this timeless learning environment that so many people came together to create for them. You can’t help but feel pride,” Henley said. “It’s very humbling to look around and see … wow, this many people believed in us and believed in the vision that was decades in the making.

“If the college didn’t have that long history of being successful and connected, I don’t know that all of these donors would have made the same generous investments.”

For their leadership and their gifts, she said, the University is incredibly grateful.

Orange barrels, tape and workers still could be seen finishing work outside the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration last week. Inside, Dean Amy Henley says the work is 98 percent finished — with just a few final touches left to do here and there and some technology to install once the supply chain catches up. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

A round of thanks all around

And that gratitude, in part, shows in the 62 separate spaces that are named for individuals, families and businesses throughout the four-story building. Everywhere you turn, you see the name of a person who made the dream possible. Classrooms and conference rooms. A flexible multipurpose auditorium and smaller “touchdown” study spaces. A soon-to-be-open cafe and even a tiny banquette tucked into the first landing of the atrium’s open stairway. All proudly bear a name.

Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

In total, more than 250 donors contributed to the building project, and each eventually will have their spot on an artsy second-floor wall display — one of the few things that remained a work in progress last week.

Down a long stretch of an adjacent walkway and open to the community room below, visitors also get a glimpse into the personal stories of alumni and others who have made substantial gifts to the college.

“We absolutely love this gallery. It’s probably one of my favorite displays,” Henley said. “It’s such an honor to be able to show students and parents why all these people chose to make a gift to education and why they believe in the UND experience.”

There are unique spaces just about everywhere in the new building. This clever and sprightly alcove is located just off the landing on the main stairwell. Above, Henley shows off the gallery of donors who have given substantial gifts to the college. The display shares a bit about their personal stories and how UND helped them become leaders. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

Cozy hubs that feel like home

Henley explained that the whole building was designed with the idea of three very connected, adaptable and seamless engagement hubs focusing on students, faculty and community.

“We hear students feel very at home here,” Henley said. “They come to class and aren’t in a hurry to leave. That’s what we wanted. They’re hanging out. They’re interacting in all sorts of activities.”

Interrupted by the tour group, Marketing and German Studies senior Sabina Haase of Fort Worth, Texas, said she could attest to that.

“It’s really nice to have all the new technology and so many new spaces to study and work together on projects,” she said. “One of my favorite things is all the glass and the really modern vibe. It’s just very bright and open with all the windows to let the sunlight in. That’s going to be especially nice in the winter.”

Though quiet in this moment, Dean Amy Henley says this wide-open community gathering space gets busy. It includes a large fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows, a jumbo news screen and a wide variety of seating styles. If you like comfort, the rocking chairs will rock your world. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.

See for yourself at open house

If you don’t check it out sooner, you can see the shiny-new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration for yourself at its grand opening during UND Homecoming. An official ribbon cutting is planned for 11 a.m. Sept. 30. And the bonus: You’ll be able to meet the Nistlers, who plan to be there for the celebration.

Until then, here are just a few of the features that caught our attention …

  • Mellow mood and modern look. Unlike Gamble Hall, the former home to UND’s business school, Nistler College has an open and more welcoming feel. Its calming earth tones — with just the right splash of branding and UND green — say come on in and have a seat.
  • Speaking of seats. It’s worth a mention that there isn’t a bad one in the house. You’ll find a huge variety of seating options and moveable arrangements that fit your every need. You say you want a super-comfy, cushioned rocking chair? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
  • Convenience all under the same roof: Kitchenettes and open spaces in department areas offer faculty, students and guests a place to collaborate or just gather to share a conversation over coffee and a caramel roll.
  • The tops in technology. At the touch of a button, clear glass turns opaque for privacy in large conference rooms. And though supply chain issues have caused some delays, all 20 classrooms will be equipped with high-tech cameras and audio systems to enable popular “full flex” learning. So on any given day, a student might opt for attending class in person or at home. The timing of the key design phase and the outbreak of the pandemic created a unique COVID lens, Arneson said.
Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.
  • A walk-in closet like you’ve never seen before. Have an interview next week but nothing to wear? No worries. Students can choose one accessory and two pieces of professional clothing each semester. Donated by alumni and local companies such as Scheels, the fashionable business attire is either gently used or brand-new.
Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.
  • Storytelling from the start. Immediately upon entering the main doors off University Avenue, visitors are greeted by a panel of large screens sharing student success stories. They see and learn about students just like them who already have found ways to lead through their experiences at UND. Want to know more? That’s easy. Just scan the giant QR code to pull up the full story on your phone.
  • An outdoor oasis and indoor walkways. Let’s face it, we have beautiful weather … most of the time. On days like today, you might enjoy the scenery from the inviting outdoor patio. But when it’s boots and parka season, you quickly can scoot over to the neighboring Chester Fritz Library or Merrifield Hall through the skyways without your toes or your latte getting cold.
With the sunlight streaming in, students get to work in the grand community gathering space. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.
We take a peek inside an Accountancy classroom. Unlike Gamble Hall, the floors are flat to keep the space more flexible. Photo by Janelle Vonasek/UND Today.
Come visit the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration for yourself at its grand opening during UND Homecoming. An official ribbon cutting is planned for 11 a.m. Sept. 30. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.
Susan Shafer
Susan Shafer