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Campus Life

‘Spirit of collaboration’: McVey Data Science brings Miamians together

92,000-square-foot facility will have its grand opening event in March

McVey Data Science building
Campus Life

‘Spirit of collaboration’: McVey Data Science brings Miamians together

After only a few days into the 2023-2024 spring semester, many already were impressed with what they’ve seen from the newest addition to Miami University’s academic buildings.

Count Bob Davis among that number. Davis chairs Statistics, one of the departments that now calls the McVey Data Science building home. The 92,000-square-foot facility officially opened for students on Jan. 29. They quickly started utilizing spaces meant for collaboration in the three-story building located along Tallawanda Road.

“I walk past those spaces and students are there with their books open and their computers open, talking and working on things,” Davis said. “I think the way it’s set up with all the collaborative spaces makes it an attractive place for anyone.”

Increasing collaboration was one of the goals behind the construction of McVey Data Science, which was funded through a generous $20 million gift by alumnus Richard M. McVey ’81. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility between Withrow and Benton Halls was held in fall 2021.

Along with shared spaces to gather, McVey Data Science includes instructional space, offices, and research and project areas.

With 14 classrooms, 12 conference and seminar rooms, and 88 offices, McVey Data Science was envisioned as a place to foster transdisciplinary research, a forum for industry partners to connect, and a venue for academic instruction, student activities, and informal conversation.

The Department of Statistics, the Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design, the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, the Center for Analytics and Data Science, the Armstrong Institute for Emerging Technology, and the Lilly Leadership Institute are housed within McVey. Information Systems and Analytics also has a presence but not office space.

“We have some of the most cutting-edge programs in the same building,” said Eric Bachmann, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. “It generates a lot of excitement when prospective students come to campus and tour. It’s going to help with recruiting.

“There is a spirit here of collaboration.”

Interior of McVey Data Science building
The many glass windows and doors allow natural light to fill the interior of the McVey Data Science building.

An innovative approach

Early in the project, data analytics were used to simulate what would be the most likely walking paths taken throughout the building. Data also was compiled to project the use of the building, which was then utilized in creating McVey’s atrium space.

Rick McVey ’81, the building’s namesake, is at the forefront of the financial technology industry. As founder and executive chairman of MarketAxess, McVey helms a leading electronic trading platform for global bond markets.

As a former student-athlete who later served on Miami’s Foundation Board, McVey also is a passionate supporter of the university as it advances the field of data science.

“The opportunity that Rick’s gift afforded us had a tremendous impact and allowed us to do a lot of things,” said John Porchowsky, Miami’s project manager for McVey Data Science. “A lot of thought went into creating the building. It’s a live space, and there is a lot going on.”

Pushing the Miami brand in innovative and energetic new ways was part of the process.

“We’re getting the most bang for our buck out of the square footage,” said Robert Bell, Miami’s director of Planning, Architecture, and Engineering. “We really wanted it to be a place we could show that Miami is in touch with today and with the future.”

The XR Stage inside the McVey Data Science building
The XR Stage area is one of the innovative elements of the McVey Data Science building.

An eye toward the future

For proof of the forward-thinking represented at McVey Data Science, look no further than some of the building’s centerpiece spaces — from its Experiential Learning Lab to the XR Stage, VR track space, and Cybersecurity Lab.

  • The Experiential Learning Lab consists of both open project space and lockable storage for student projects and specialized equipment.
  • The XR Stage combines augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality as an LED-based workflow creates a live, virtual, immersive environment that allows content to be generated in real time.
  • The Cybersecurity Lab is an experiential learning environment for students to safely experiment with simulated cybersecurity methods.

Giving students access to cutting-edge resources such as the XR Stage is an example of Miami’s rising reputation for education in digital arts, data science, and digital technology. Plans are already in place this semester for the Department of Music to work in the space for Opera and Laptop Ensemble projects, said Michael Bailey-Van Kuren, chair of the Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design.

“Our primary mission is to drive student engagement and student learning,” Bailey-Van Kuren said. “Being in Emerging Technology, we don’t always know how things are going to be used. We try to provide state-of-the-art equipment, and students might find ways to utilize it in a manner we’ve never thought of.

“No matter what we do and what the technology is, why we’re here and why we’re at Miami is the chance to work with students and see how they impact the world when they leave here.”

Fixtures like the XR Stage are signature spaces that “put us a step ahead,” said John “Skip” Benamati, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Analytics (ISA).

Benamati was part of the committee that worked with architects to design the building. With ISA continuing to grow as a department, space was at a premium. McVey Data Science is helping to relieve some of those issues.

One aspect of McVey that caught Benamati’s attention was the usage of light. An abundance of windows and glass doors lets natural light fill the building’s interior.

“It is an interesting, well-thought-out design,” Benamati said.

“I’m excited to see where this takes us. It will be fun to watch and be part of.”

The Data Summit was held at McVey Data Science
The recent Data Summit was held at the McVey Data Science building.

Celebrating McVey Data Science

A grand opening for the building is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 14, and will feature Rick McVey and guest speaker Billy Beane, the former executive vice president of baseball operations for the Oakland Athletics and the subject of acclaimed book and feature film “Moneyball.”

The event also will be livestreamed. Registration is available for both the grand opening celebration and the livestream.

McVey Data Science marks the third opening of a new Miami facility in the past year, following the Lee and Rosemary Fisher Innovation College@Elm in February 2023 and the Clinical Health Sciences and Wellness building this past June.

“It’s unusual for us to have two new buildings going at the same time,” Bell said. “Along with College@Elm and Clinical Health Sciences, this building really does represent Miami looking toward the future with its programs and putting in these spaces.”

Added Porchowsky: “It’s a rewarding process. Seeing the students’ responses when they come in and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at what we’ve done. That’s really the proof.”

Bachmann hopes McVey’s unique design and spaces help bolster the already deep connection between students and faculty.

“That’s kind of the Miami thing. It’s one of the key things we do here,” Bachmann said. “Hopefully, this building will continue to make this bond even stronger.”

While McVey Data Science was still in its planning stages, several artist renditions were provided. Many of them featured students working together throughout the building.

That conception quickly turned into reality.

“For that to happen within 72 hours of the start of a semester is really an amazing thing,” Davis said. “Our space consultants said that if space is designed properly, these things will happen and they will happen organically and quickly. They knew what they were doing.”