Students design future of Morrill Hall in class

Maria Ball

Morrill Hall has been used for classrooms, offices, a chapel, a library and now a class project. It was chosen because of the building’s architecture.Brett Horton, assistant professor of hotel, restaurant and institution management, gave the students in his Hospitality Strategic Management class, HRI 555, an unusual assignment last semester. The students, he said, needed to turn Morrill Hall into a bed and breakfast.Horton said he assigned his students the task of developing a Morrill Hall strategic plan, which included a lodging component and a food-service operation. They were also required to consider the environmental, marketing, human resources, operations and financial implications of the project.The class’ final projects are now on display in LeBaron and MacKay halls.”Our objective is to make the class as real-world as possible,” he said. “The overall goal of the class is to have students understand how marketing, finance, human resources and operations all fit together.”Horton said the project was an enjoyable experience, and it enabled students to think about different ways Morrill Hall can be used.”There is a need for a lodging alternative for faculty and guest speakers,” he said. “Whether it can be profitable is another issue.”Janna Christensen, senior in hotel, restaurant and institution management, said she agreed Morrill Hall would be a good place for faculty to gather.”If there’s one thing this campus really needs, it’s a place for faculty and staff to be able to meet and get away from their students,” she said.The class was demanding but rewarding, Christensen said.”To encompass both lodging and a dining facility in a historical building requires a lot of creativity and ingenuity,” she said. “The combination of real-world application and artful direction by Dr. Horton helped us to develop professionally.”Kevin Roberts, graduate student in hotel, restaurant and institution management, said he also thought the project was a good learning experience.”It tied together a great deal of information that we have gotten in other classes,” he said. “It taught us a little bit more about thinking critically and to think about every aspect of the project, not just one certain part.”Horton said as the projects evolved, the students gained an understanding of what it takes to realistically develop a strategic plan as well as an appreciation for the history of Morrill Hall.”Tearing down such a landmark would be an injustice to the school,” Christensen said. “Morrill Hall was built as a symbol of what this school stands for. It remains as a vital link to Iowa State’s rich history.”