The School of Nursing at Auburn University is getting a new home.
An 89,000-square-foot facility at the corner of South Donahue Drive and Lem Morrison Drive will allow for the school to increase its student enrollment, attract additional faculty and provide students and faculty with spaces specifically designed to foster learning and research initiatives.
A formal groundbreaking ceremony for the $29 million project was held Nov. 20. Construction is expected to begin in January and be completed by August 2017.
Miller Hall has housed the School of Nursing since 1979, when Auburn first began offering a bachelor's degree in nursing. But by 2009, it no longer provided enough space to accommodate the amount of students interested in the nursing program.
When Gregg Newschwander became dean in 2009, he was well aware of the nationwide demand for schools of nursing to help address the national nursing shortage. Unfortunately, Auburn was limited in the number of highly qualified applicants it could accept each year because they didn't have the room to serve them.
However, with a new building on the horizon, Newschwander remains certain Auburn will be even more attractive to students seeking a top-tier nursing education.
"Increasing our enrollment is vital to providing stability, not only to an industry plagued by bedside, primary care and outpatient staffing shortages, but to our graduate programs," said Newschwander. "Since our undergraduate program feeds into our graduate programs, increasing the capacity for undergraduate admissions will have a significant influence on meeting the health care needs of the people of Alabama and beyond."
The new building is deliberately being located at the southwest corner of South Donahue Drive and Lem Morrison Drive. Its close proximity to the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine will allow for interdisciplinary collaborations with between Auburn nursing students and VCOM medical students.
Auburn University officials are calling the corner its Health Sciences Sector, as a new pharmaceutical research building for the Harrison School of Pharmacy will also be constructed on the vacant property.
Last year, Auburn Provost Timothy Boosinger declared the new nursing building to be one of his top five facility priorities. Auburn's Board of Trustees agreed earlier this year to hire Stacy Norman Architects of Auburn, with Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore, Maryland, to provide architectural services and Hoar Program Management of Birmingham, Alabama, to serve as construction management for the project.
By relocating to a building more than four times larger than Miller Hall, the School of Nursing will be able to have room for more students and faculty. A new building designed to support learning and research will attract additional highly qualified faculty to teach in state-of-the-art classrooms, lecture halls and simulation labs.
With only 11,700 square feet, Miller Hall has limited space for faculty offices, two simulation areas and a small auditorium. Students attend nearly all classes in Haley Center or Cary Hall.
The new building will have a tiered auditorium, active learning classrooms, a student lounge, public spaces and 34 faculty offices, as well as multiple small rooms for group meetings.
Newschwander and a faculty committee have been working closely with the architects to ensure the building's design best addresses the school's space needs, while providing students and faculty with a facility best suited for learning and research.
Active learning classrooms, for instance, will be included because they are intended to promote student engagement in a technology-rich environment. A skills lab and simulation suite will allow students to put their classroom knowledge to work.
The committee has been deliberate in considering space needs, specifically for students, who will likely be spending all day in the new building. A student lounge area, for instance, will feature a wall of windows that reach up to the second floor, natural wood elements and a baby grand player piano.