Georgia Gwinnett College recently celebrated the opening of its much-needed Allied Health and Sciences (AHS) building. While the facility opened this summer, about 200 people attended a September ceremony marking this important milestone in the growth of the college.
Speakers included Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Gwinnett Medical Center President and CEO Phil Wolfe, indicative of the building’s importance to the Gwinnett region and the state of Georgia.
The AHS building is important for several reasons. It facilitated the introduction of GGC’s long-awaited nursing program, which requires highly customized instructional facilities.
It also accommodates dramatic growth in the number of students majoring or taking courses in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. Because almost all students must take at least one laboratory science course, the new building made the college’s continued overall growth possible. Without the facility, Georgia Gwinnett’s enrollment would have been restricted due to the lack of laboratory space. In fact, it was calculated in 2006 that GGC would run out of laboratory capacity when it reached 6,000 students. The AHS building will enable GGC to enroll up to about 11,700 students.
Nursing fulfills promise to community
“When Georgia Gwinnett was established, the college made a commitment to the Gwinnett community to provide a baccalaureate degree in nursing,” said Dr. Diane White, dean of the School of Health Sciences (SHS). “This building makes this program possible.”
According to a Georgia Senate study, the state may face a shortage of 37,000 nurses in a few short years.
GGC enrolled its first 31 nursing students this fall, and will enroll about 30 each fall and spring semester until it reaches its maximum enrollment of 120. The classes are small due to the students’ need for detailed personal attention. The SHS expects to graduate 60 new nurses each year (see related story).
STEM outpaces campus growth
“The number of STEM majors at GGC is increasing at a greater rate than GGC’s overall growth,” said Dr. Thomas Mundie, dean of the School of Science and Technology (SST). “In the last four years, GGC has grown by an astounding 103 percent, but in that same time period, STEM majors at GGC have grown by an even greater 135 percent.”
One reason for this growth is that the region offers a wide range of employment opportunities for students with degrees in STEM disciplines, with increased job availability well into the future. Many STEM careers offer high salaries, making them attractive to students.
As one of the fastest-growing institutions in Georgia, GGC is key to meeting the employment needs of the thriving STEM industries of the region, state and beyond. GGC’s degree programs were selected to align with the needs and opportunities of Gwinnett County and Atlanta’s northeastern metropolitan area. The SST offers bachelor degrees in biology, chemistry, exercise science, information technology and mathematics.
The need for large spaces
Nursing and STEM instruction share a critical need – space.
“It takes more square footage to teach a nursing or STEM student than those in most other majors,” said Dr. Lois C. Richardson, interim senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs and provost. “Laboratories and clinical learning spaces are very large, and require equally large areas for supplies and service. The technology needed to support laboratory and clinical instruction also requires a lot of room.”
To accommodate an intermediate level of growth, GGC constructed the $7 million, 24,000-sq. ft. Instructional Laboratory Facility in 2011. This structure was designed for incorporation into the AHS building and opened for the 2011 fall semester in time to serve about 8,000 students.
Ground was broken on the $30 million, 91,000-sq. ft. AHS building in early 2013. It was funded through the Georgia 2013 fiscal year budget.
“This magnificent structure is the result of thousands of hours of effort by GGC’s team of specialists from facilities/engineering, logistics, space management, educational technology, finance, security, advancement, academic affairs and more. Our entire community owes them our thanks for their outstanding efforts in bringing this exceptional building into academic service.”
– Dr. Stas Preczewski, President, GGC
Combined, the completed AHS project includes 115,000 sq. ft. and contains four physics laboratories, eight biology laboratories, nine chemistry laboratories, five anatomy and physiology laboratories, and one lab each for exercise science, IT systems, computational sciences and digital media.
Some laboratories are configured to serve multiple disciplines, allowing flexibility in scheduling. The biology and chemistry laboratories are serviced via large, central, secured corridors, where staff and faculty prepare and store materials, supplies and equipment.
The nursing program is supported by a state-of-the-art Simulation Suite with a central control room equipped with wireless technology for managing patient bed simulations. It also contains a 14-bed Nursing Skills Laboratory that resembles a large intensive care unit, complete with a nurses’ station.
In addition, the building contains three classrooms, eight student study/commons areas, 36 faculty offices and the SST and SHS administrative offices. It also contains a laboratory for the psychology program, which is offered through the School of Liberal Arts.
“Moving to the AHS building also allowed GGC to add more than 70,000 sq. ft. of undergraduate research space in Building A,” Mundie said. Undergraduate research experiences are of particular importance to STEM students.
Continuing GGC’s unique style
The AHS building was designed to mirror the unique, modern architectural style of other campus buildings.
It features an exterior of brick and metal, and has a curved, glass curtain wall that complements the curves of the Library and Learning Center, Student Center and signature building. Its main entrance opens into a dramatic three-story atrium containing the main staircase and unique lighting fixtures that look like beams of sunlight striking the walls and ceilings.
The AHS building is positioned on the eastern side of the college’s central lawn and has an enclosed courtyard between the new portion and the instructional laboratory wing.
See event photos and video below.