$66M UNCW health care building included in statewide ‘Connect’ bond headed to voters

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An artist rendering of the 135,000 square foot health and human services building UNCW hope to build with the passage of a statewide bond. Courtesy image.
An artist’s rendering of the 135,000-square-foot health and human services building UNCW hope to build with the passage of a statewide bond. Courtesy image.

UNC-Wilmington stands to gain a new state-of-the-art healthcare building as part of a comprehensive statewide bond.

Connect NC–a measure to make improvements in education, parks, safety, recreation and water and sewer infrastructure in 76 counties–will be put to voters during the March 15 primary. Included in the $2 billion proposal is $66 million for the construction of a 165,000-square-foot health and human services building on the local campus.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the University of North Carolina Wilmington to address the growing need for highly trained health and human services professionals and increased access to healthcare to under-served communities in North Carolina, especially in rural areas,” UNCW chancellor Zito Sartarelli said.

Enrollment in the university’s College of Health and Human Services has grown 135 percent since its establishment in 2010, according to Sartarelli. There are currently more than 2,500 students majoring in one of 10 undergraduate and five graduate degree programs in nursing, public health, social work and other similar tracks.

UNCW is also set to unroll its first doctoral degree program in nursing practice this fall.

If approved by voters, the $66 million building would fall under the university’s CREST–Campus for Research, Entrepreneurship, Service and Teaching, Sartarelli said. That move, he added, would allow UNCW to establish an “innovative and entrepreneurial space” that would offer more opportunities for hands-on learning in 21st century classrooms and laboratories.

“Applied learning is really essential, especially to a student, no matter if you are a business major or a nursing major. As soon as you’re able to get your hands on something and be able to figure it out for yourself and do it correctly, it changes everything,” allied health student Yancey McCoury said.

And the impact of that kind of training would be felt outside the building and off campus, Dr. Charles Hardy, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, added.

The college’s strategic plan already includes partnerships with area health and human service agencies, practitioners and other universities. A larger, technology-equipped building would allow UNCW to add more degree programs and strengthen collaborations across the state, Hardy said.

“It’s beyond bricks and mortar,” he said. “What it means to us is we can embrace our community…and our region will prosper.”

Should the bond measure pass, construction would get underway in 2016, with an opening slated for the 2018-19 academic year.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.