Just a year from opening its doors, the college’s new building is taking shape.
There are no bad views from the new College of Health Professions building on the MCV Campus. That was the consensus of the VCU faculty, staff and alumni who took guided hard-hat tours of the structure in April.
Sizing up the faculty offices and their expansive panoramas, Department of Gerontology Chair Ayn Welleford, Ph.D., beamed. “I was excited before,” she says. “But now, to get to see all this … It’s so fantastic!”
The eight-story, 154,000-squarefoot building at the corner of Leigh and 10th streets will, for the first time, centralize all 11 of the school’s academic units under one roof. College of Health Professions Dean Cecil Drain, Ph.D., has made it a personal mission to unite the college’s programs, which have occupied as many as 13 buildings in the past 49 years and are currently scattered among five buildings on two campuses.
“I have always had it as my goal to get a building,“ Drain says. “It is a phenomenally deserving school.”
When completed in April 2019, the L-shaped, LEED Silver certified building will have a west-facing, eight-story wing and a south-facing, four-story wing. Each of the building’s floors will feature formal and informal spaces designed to promote interprofessional education and collaboration. The building will also feature cutting-edge learning laboratories for human simulation, diagnostic technology, rehabilitation and counseling education. Flexible classrooms will promote student engagement and foster distance-learning opportunities.
In April 2018, 16 months into the project, the building was fully enclosed. Walls were up; windows were in. A cooling system was being installed. Finishes — paint and flooring — were next. Brilliant sunlight glinted off the steel and glass exterior from every angle.
Walking in small groups through each floor, visitors measured the offices with outstretched arms, peered behind steel girders to envision full classrooms and took selfies in front of breezy openings where expansive windows would be hoisted into place. They marveled at high ceilings and airy stairwells, stopping at times to thank the workers wielding power tools and paint brushes. More than 1,500 individuals will have worked on the building since ground was broken in January 2016, and more than 2,000 will have contributed their construction skills by the time doors open for classes in August 2019.
With 12 months of construction still to come, the visitors could only imagine what the spaces would look like filled with students and furnishings. But the vast city views they found and the brilliant natural light they saw flooding each floor required no imagination: The building will be bright, airy and inviting — a stark contrast to the basements and back hallways that have housed many of the college’s programs over the years.
“This is one of the most exciting buildings on campus,” says Jay Davenport, VCU’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “We are so excited to have it under construction and to get the dedication planning underway.”
He adds, “I already have several plans for the open deck — so we’re going to have lots of events up there!”
Sharing in the collective enthusiasm, Russell Davis, Ph.D., professor and the Rev. Robert B. Lantz Chair of the Department of Patient Counseling, called the building “an architectural gem.”
“The whole building is a place of beauty to inspire those preparing for careers in health care,” he says. “It is a reminder that in the halls of science, there must be room for the human spirit.”
Accompanying Davis on the tour was Katherine Lantz, who is naming the patient counseling suite in honor of her late husband. Robert Lantz spent nearly 15 years as chair of the Professional Advisory Group for VCU’s patient counseling program and had a huge influence on the development of the Master of Science program in patient counseling. Located on the seventh floor, the suite will be known as the Rev. Robert B. Lantz Patient Counseling and Clinical Pastoral Education Suite. Lantz was all smiles as she walked through the department’s future home and called the new building “quite handsome.”
Alexander Tartaglia, D.Min., BCC, senior associate dean of the College of Health Professions and the Katherine Lantz Professor, was most struck by the building’s clear design to be student focused. “Student labs that reflect professional practice settings and collaborative learning environments demonstrate a significant opportunity to engage students and promote active learning,” he says. “It delivers on the capacity to promote interprofessional collaboration.”
The building’s ability to exponentially enhance interdisciplinary, interprofessional research and scholarship was a common theme expressed by visitors after the tour.
“The tour of our new building was exciting!” says Tracey Papas (M.S.H.A. ’11). “The health administration space offers many opportunities for collaborating, which is one of the key strengths of our department. It was thrilling to stand in the future classroom where students and alumni will be learning how to lead the future of our health care system.”
The new building is a visible investment from VCU in the college’s academic programs and in support of the health professions.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Ann Charlescraft, D.Min., BCC, who oversees alumni relations and development for the Department of Patient Counseling. “Folks have worked diligently to set this in place. It will be spectacular.”