Schools in the City | An interview with Matthew Shank, Marymount University & Samantha Baker, Ballston BID

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Marymount University Ballston Center | © Connie Zhou

Colleges and universities have cracked the code to propel cities forward toward the future of education: focus on the campus experience, expand pathways to new careers, and partner with surrounding communities and cities to drive growth. In Arlington, Va., Marymount University has done just that.

In today’s podcast, Duncan Lyons, Design Director at Gensler, is speaking with Matthew Shank, President Emeritus at Marymount University and President of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, and Samantha Baker, Director of Operations at the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) and graduate student at Marymount University, to talk about what makes Marymount a model for the future of higher education in mixed use, urban environments.

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Marymount University Ballston Center | © Connie Zhou

Throughout history, cultural institutions have acted as engines of innovation in the community — think of Paris’s La Sorbonne, open since 1150, and Philadelphia’s UPenn, built in 1755. Shifting from exclusive educational salons to places for community activation, institutions of higher education are today pumping out the next generation of thinkers and innovators while increasingly networking with neighboring businesses to boost their local economies and advance employment opportunities for students. Ballston, where Marymount is located, is an epicenter of innovation and learning, anchoring the west side of Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor in the DC-Maryland-Virginia region.

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Marymount University Ballston Center | © Connie Zhou

Marymount’s new home for its business school and graduate programs in Ballston is an academic office building that offers leasable space for private companies. Companies and community members are welcome to lease any of its retail or work spaces, or to activate in the campus’s outdoor plaza and ground-level, public-use auditorium. The integrated building design enables the university and business entities to have an ongoing dialogue, enhancing the quality and value of Marymount’s programs: learning in a business environment. The project intended to connect with the surrounding community by re-envisioning the urban college campus, revitalizing an area of Ballston where Marymount had a presence by creating a public space to connect the community with businesses, campus, and residences — three space types that the development embodied. This vision of a larger purpose allowed the project, in partnership with the Ballston BID, to play a larger role in the Ballston neighborhood’s development while establishing a new model for higher education that draws in the business world while welcoming the local community.

Through integrated facilities that engage their communities, educational institutions are having greater impact on local and regional economies. They are magnets for the best and brightest talent, breeding innovation ecosystems that attract residents, businesses and employers. In turn, new industry and business partnerships spur innovation and create new career pipelines for students.

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As always, thanks for tuning in!

The Gensler Design Exchange creates a dialogue between design experts, creative trendsetters & thought leaders to discuss how we can shape the future of cities.

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