Birk Collaboration Hub on the third floor of the Christine E. Lynn University Center is an open, warm space with 22 individual workstations where students can hang their skateboards, then get down to work.
When they are ready for a break or a brainstorming session, students can move to one of the sofas that invite quiet conversation. The design allows students to focus on individual work while also making it easy to share ideas.
The Collaboration Hub is a generous gift from Bernadette Birk, who knows what it takes to become a business leader. Decades ago, she defied the male-dominated corporate interior design field to create her own niche.
“In those days, they didn’t want women in design firms," she said. " I was in a firm with 27 men, and I was the only woman. They couldn’tnot hire me—my portfolio was too good. So, they gave me the worst jobs.”
She managed to turn the challenge to her advantage. How? Through hard work.
“In corporate design, it’s very rare to be on deadline and on budget," she said. "I was always ahead of deadline and under budget. Within two years, I was the boss of the guys who’d set me up.”
Birk taught at four New York City colleges: Parsons School of Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York Institute of Technology and Queensborough Community College. She served as a role model for female students, who sometimes lacked confidence.
“They would come into the course very timid. As time went on, they got more and more confident,” Birk said.
By the end of the course, the students could present their work to professionals for in-class critiques without flinching. “And I would just want to cry, looking at these young women and remembering where they’d started and seeing how far they’d come.”
New coworking space designed to inspire
The entire third floor of the new university center is designed for students, entrepreneurs and South Florida organizations to share ideas, leverage local resources and collaborate on projects. The floor plan includes conversation areas and conference rooms that invite teamwork, breaks or brainstorming.
The coworking space is also home to Lynn’s Social Impact Lab and Watson Institute. Both programs provide experiential learning opportunities for students to generate positive impact, both locally and globally, through sustainable business concepts.
Director Jerry Hildebrand said the Social Impact Lab will “catalyze student energy and enterprise. In our new home, we will be better able to provide expertise and experience to eager student pioneers who see business as a force for good.”