BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana University formally dedicated the $10 million Brian D. Jellison Studio Classroom and Studios at the Kelley School of Business, in a Sept. 9 ceremony that highlighted both how online education has evolved and the impact that the new facility already is having on the student experience.
Funded through a $16 million gift in 2020 from the Brian and Sheila Jellison Family Foundation, Jellison Studios are providing Kelley online students with the experience of being in a live classroom for faculty instruction and interaction with their peers. The studios also will offer on-site and online students with new ways to learn, making their time in the classroom more valuable and dynamic.
Carrie Docherty, interim vice provost for strategy and innovation at IU Bloomington, thanked the Jellison family, not only for their gift for the studios, but also for their support of Kelley’s Brian D. Jellison Living Learning Center, which moved to the newly renovated McNutt Residence Center this fall.
“The investment in Jellison Studios offers a fresh, future-focused dimension to a Kelley education,” Docherty said. “It offers a tangible expression of IU’s commitment to offering an education that equips our students to help lead the ever-changing world they will enter as alums. And it shows us why Kelley continues to lead the way as a top school of business.
“I cannot overstate the importance of the Kelley School to Indiana University and our campus – as well as to our partners here in Indiana, across the country and all over the world,” she added.
Brian D. Jellison, a 1968 IU graduate, created the foundation with his wife, Sheila, and their three daughters before he passed in November 2018. In addition to being a loving husband and father, he also is remembered as a passionate leader and mentor to many, both inside and outside of Roper Technologies, where he was CEO for 17 years.
Studios keep Kelley on the ‘leading edge’
In his remarks, Ash Soni, interim dean of the Kelley School, the SungKyunKwan Professor and a Kelley faculty member since 1981, provided a history lesson on how instructional technologies have gone from projecting images on a screen to today’s use of interactive videotelephony platforms such as Zoom.
“We’ve come a long way since the days of the overhead projector. I’m old enough to remember when that was considered innovative classroom technology,” Soni said. “When we first started developing online courses, we did live classes using what was basically a text-based chat room. We only had a limited number of characters to make a point.
“Think about it, it was like teaching a class using Twitter, except that Twitter is more advanced because of the number of characters,” he added.
In 1999, Kelley became the first top 20 business school to launch an online MBA – Kelley Direct — with a class of 14 students. This past year, more than 700 students graduated from the school’s online programs. “We have always been at the leading edge in online education and to this day we’re still the very best, with multiple No. 1 rankings,” Soni said.
For example, this July Poets & Quants, an influential news source about business education, published a glowing profile of the school’s Kelley Direct Online MBA program, “The Future Of The MBA Is Happening Right Now At Indiana Kelley.”
Calling Kelley Direct “both a pioneer and a runaway leader,” the article went on to say, “Its faculty, numbering about 100, is second to none and deeply involved with curricular innovations; varied does not begin to capture the quality of its course content … and, thanks to a $10 million upgrade in 2020 to its Jellison Studios Classroom, few other major OMBA programs compare in terms of state-of-the-art design and delivery.”
Leveraging technology to support teaching
Dan Smith, dean emeritus of the Kelley School, president and CEO emeritus of the IU Foundation and the Clare Barker Chair of Marketing, cited the Poets & Quants article in his presentation, which also included videos showing how he uses the Jellison Studios to teach in his Kelley Direct classes in marketing strategy.
“When we talk about the Jellison Studios it’s tempting to say that it’s nothing but a gee-whiz experience, it’s amazing, it’s easy to talk about the technology,” Smith said. “But I don’t want any of us to lose sight of the amazing impact that this is having.”
He went recall an earlier conversation he had with Hilary Jellison Simonds, one of his former MBA students and one of Brian and Sheila Jellison’s three daughters. She had asked him, “What is free enterprise? My Dad cared a lot about that.”
“I thought about it for a second,” Smith said. My response “was something like this: free enterprise is a system that encourages people to dream bold dreams and enables them to turn those dreams into realities that not only serve themselves, but they advance communities and societies for all. It is unmatched in its ability to improve the human condition.
When I “start thinking about the Jellison Studios and what you’ve done, you’ve enabled the Kelley School to live that definition of free enterprise,” Smith added. “Our students come to us with dreams, hopes, aspirations and your gift has opened up our ability to reach around the world and advance societies through business education.
“This is the cutting edge and there are so many major business schools that can’t even comprehend what we’re doing right now … because of you.”
Soni noted that Smith had been “camped out in the Jellison Studios for much of the summer … creating a road map” for others who will teach there in the future. Through videos, Smith showed how the Kelley learning environment becomes more possible and immersive for anyone around the world. His students also spoke about how much they appreciated the “special atmosphere” and “quality experience” offered through the Jellison Studios.
Sarah Smith-Robbins, director of learning technologies at Kelley, leads the team that operates the Jellison Studios. She said she’s thrilled to “play in that space … It really is like Christmas every day when we come to work.”
But she also stressed the importance of the new facilities in leveraging technology to improve education.
“We’ve always been agile and forward thinking in using the right tools at the right time,” Smith-Robbins said. “However, the reason why Kelley has been successful hasn’t been in the way we’ve using technology. It’s been the faculty. No amount of shiny and bright technology can make a disengaged instructor into a good one. Our magic has always been our engaged, genuine faculty.
“The power of these studios is that they allow us to scale up the impact that our faculty can have,” she added. “They mean shrinking the distance between instructors, students and their learning community no matter where they are in the world – right here with these awesome instructors.”
A family’s support of free enterprise, financial literacy and lifelong learning
Two of Brian and Sheila Jellison’s daughters earned degrees at Kelley. Michelle Jellison was awarded a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1990, and Hilary Jellison Simonds received an MBA in marketing in 2001. Their other daughter, Christie Jellison Mucha, received a master’s in education from Lesley University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Speaking on behalf her mother Sheila and her sisters, Hilary Jellison Simonds highlighted the close ties between her family and the university. “Indiana University will always hold a special place in our family’s hearts,” she said. “My sister Christie said it best when she remarked that it was extremely meaningful for our family that IU will always be a place for our father is remembered.”
Simons reflected on a dinner meeting with Dean Emeritus Idalene “Idie” Kesner in 2019, when they discussed support of the studios.
“It was her vision for a state-of-the art studio that could really keep Kelley at the forefront of online education and the opportunities that it could bring … to build both local and global connections, to share the Kelley education with a broader audience, to reach more individuals and help them build both business and personal skills – skills very near and dear to my father and to our family,” she said.
“No one could have imagined at that dinner back in 2019 that online education was about to take on a whole new meaning in just a few short months (with the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown),” she added.
Soni also noted the importance of Kelley’s online capabilities when all IU in-residence classes were moved online and how the Jellison’s gift proved to be prescient.
“We had a long history of online teaching, and we had already had the technology and pedagogy in place, which made the transition much easier for everyone involved,” Soni said. “The lockdown gave everyone a new appreciation for online technologies and accelerated the shift by other business schools to become more connected.
“We had already announced the Jellison Studios before lockdown, so while everyone else was playing catch-up, we were forging ahead into this new territory of 3-D experiences, virtual classrooms and real online interactions with our students,” Soni said. “We talk a lot about connections at the Kelley School because connections create momentum. The Brian D. Jellison Studios will create momentum for our students for years to come.”
The dedication ceremony was live streamed and is archived for viewing along with other major IU events at broadcast.iu.edu.