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Wednesday, 01 August 2012 13:05

New Health and Human Sciences building to greet returning WCU students this fall

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fr wcu hhsWestern Carolina University will unveil a state-of-the art $46 million Health and Human Sciences building when students return to campus in a few weeks.

The four-story building will bring together students across a vast array of fields: health care, nursing, physical therapy, criminology and social work.

“We are really lucky,” Linda Seestedt-Stanford, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said of the new building. Seestedt, who saw the project through from beginning to end, sadly won’t be around to enjoy the new space as she has taken a job at another university.

Planning for the building started in 2005. Faculty within the college had an active voice in the design process, presenting their wish list of items. Among the must-haves on Seestedt’s list were lots of open spaces for students to sit and work. Throughout the building are gatherings of chairs and tables Seestedt hopes will promote a sense of community and collaborative learning.

“This building will be well used,” Seestedt said. “It will be alive with so many good things.”

She also wanted people to see the dean and other college administrators.

“The dean should be the most visible person in the building,” Seestedt said.

Since the college was split among four buildings previously, faculty and students would go long stretches of time without seeing the dean and vice versa — something that Seestedt desperately wanted to change now that the entire college will be under one roof.

In the new Health and Human Sciences building there are no 300-person lecture halls as are typical at most universities. Many of the classrooms have cameras for professors to record their lectures for students to watch online. Or teachers can use them to videoconference with guest speakers, students who are not at the main campus or even people sitting down the hall.

“The ideas are just blossoming” now that faculty knows about the new technology, Seestedt said.

The current generation of college students has grown up with various forms of technology, be it cell phones or computers, and they expect it to incorporated into their learning experience.

“Our students demand technology — they want stimulation and connection,” Seestedt said.

On the third floor, a large room set up to imitate an actual hospital has two lines of hospital beds filled with fake patients. The mannequins are smart dummies, if you will. Nursing students can practice intubation, giving the correct doses of medication and collect vital signs. There are also cameras recording their interactions with the mannequins that professors can later critique.

WCU has taken many strides during the last several years to make its campus more environmentally friendly. WCU officials expect the Health and Human Sciences building to garner a silver-level LEED certification.

A major emphasis in the design was natural light. Seestedt estimated that most of the building would not need to flip on a light switch during 80 percent of the daylight hours. One entire side of the 160,000-square-foot facility is floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing as much light as possible to flood the building.

“Light really inspires. It engenders creativity,” Seestedt said.

Even the unnatural lights are energy efficient. The electricity in each room runs on a circuit that automatically shuts off if the room is not in use.

The entrance, or second, level of the Health and Human Sciences building features a garden with indigenous medicinal plants on its outside patio, a place where students, faculty and visitors can gather to work.

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