How does one of the top business schools in the world celebrate 75 years?
It practices “business not as usual,” Homer Erekson, dean of TCU’s Neeley School of Business, said.
That means sending college students back 20 years to their childhood, to days of playing in rainbow-colored ball pits.
Students don’t need to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s or McDonald’s Playplace to travel back in time, however. They can find a ball pit in Tandy Hall.
The Neeley School of Business set up a purple ball pit in the building’s lobby as one element of its 75th anniversary celebration this semester.
The ball pit, which contains about 8,000 purple balls, measures approximately 6 feet long, 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall. Some of the balls have questions relating to the Neeley School written on them.
Students can even film themselves asking each other questions and submit them. A panel of judges from the Neeley School will choose the best six videos and award an iPad mini to the first-place contestants and $75 TCU Barnes & Noble Bookstore gift certificates to the five runners-up.
The real question is: why a ball pit?
The idea came from Erekson himself after seeing the “Take a Seat, Make a Friend” video on YouTube. In the video, SoulPancake, a Los Angeles-based media company has strangers ask each other “big questions” inside a ball pit on a busy street corner, according to the SoulPancake website.
Erekson decided Neeley should recreate this idea.
“We were thinking about how we can celebrate in creative and new ways that people might have fun with,” Erekson said, “and we’re already getting ideas about how to build community and build up the business school.”
Erekson said the ball pit also fits with the Neeley Promise of unleashing human potential with leadership at the core and innovation in the spirit.
“Part of being innovative and creative is for people to have fun together and build community,” he said.
Though Erekson said he can think up creative ideas, it takes someone else to execute them.
That’s where Brian Buck comes into play.
The husband of a TCU graduate and the senior vice president of Cox Commercial Construction LLC based out of the Houston area, Buck said he accepted Neeley’s request to build a ball pit about six months ago.
Buck first partnered with the Neeley School last year, he said, making the 75th anniversary diamond-shaped countdown clock, which also sits in the Tandy lobby.
Buck said he likes making custom things, so the school’s ball pit request did not seem strange.
“It’s a hobby of mine,” he said. “I had never made a ball pit, but I thought, ‘Yeah, I can make something like that.’”
The ball pit did seem a bit strange, however, to Yun Lim, a freshman business major.
“I was kind of surprised the first time because it’s really random, you know, a ball pit,” Lim said. “But then I realized it was for a video contest, and then I was like, ‘Okay, this might be kind of fun.’ I like it.”
As of August 27, Lim had not gotten in the ball pit, nor had he decided if he would submit a video into the contest.
But the Neeley School plans to get more entries next week, when it hosts videotaping sessions 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on September 9-13. Entrants can upload their videos to the Purple Pit YouTube page via the Gmail address email@example.com, password: purplepit.
The contest ends September 25, and winners will be announced at the November 2 gala event for Neeley’s 75th anniversary.
As the Neeley School continues beyond this milestone, Erekson said he wants to be sure the School adapts to new ideas about education and becomes a leader in those ideas.
The purple ball pit begins that endeavor, taking a colorful, old pastime and generating new, fun and innovative ideas for carrying this internationally-recognized business school into its next 75 years.