Health/Science Center takes shapeSep 20, 2012 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
During a Wednesday tour, Central Wyoming College faculty expressed enthusiasm for the new facility's potential.
When it opens next year, the new Health and Science Center at Central Wyoming College will enhance the learning experience for hundreds of students in CWC's nursing and science programs, according to faculty, who talked about plans for the center during a Wednesday tour of the facility.
"It's so much more efficient," assistant professor of biology and microbiology Steve McAllister said, gesturing toward the empty space that soon will house six full laboratories on the first floor of the center.
The lab space has been designed so that students working in similar subject areas are closer to one another, McAllister said. Currently, he said, they are "scattered in various labs."
"Here we'll combine physics and environmental health and safety together," McAllister said, pointing to the north. "And over here we'll have earth sciences."
Microbiology and chemistry will share one laboratory as well, with other rooms dedicated to physiology, biology and anatomy. McAllister was especially excited about the anatomy lab, which will incorporate a cadaver room for the first time in CWC history.
Several of the labs will share prep space to maximize efficiency, and McAllister said each room also has its own safety shower and eye wash station.
"We currently have just one to serve four labs," McAllister said. "So this is safer as well."
Stairs to the second floor have not yet been built, but CWC board members and others on the tour were able to imagine the classrooms and laboratories described by health and sciences dean Kathy Wells.
Two 40-seat nursing classrooms will be situated in the southwest corner of the second floor, across the hallway from two skills laboratories that Wells said will "double and triple" the types and groups of students who can use the space.
Wells said 80 nursing students and hundreds of others share limited amounts of lab space, but in the new Health and Science Center they can split up into smaller groups and take turns using classrooms and laboratories.
"Then the small instructional spaces can double for meetings, and we'll also have space for students to get together in cohorts in study," Wells said. "We don't have that now."
On the east side of the second floor, Wells said a simulation lab will offer students a higher level of competency by allowing them to experience "real-life" medical emergencies before they graduate.
"Students can apply their knowledge in settings we can't anticipate," Wells said. "We're excited."
The simulation lab has generated some interest in the professional medical community as well: Wells said she already has spoken with one organizer who is planning to bring a regional simulation event to Riverton.
"He said it was the perfect space, not found anywhere west of the Mississippi (River)," Wells said. "We can really customize their professional development needs."
A 96-seat auditorium is going up on the west side of the center, and Wayne Robinson, CWC's director of the physical plant, said that room also has been designed with students in mind. For example, he said seats have been arranged to encourage collaboration and communication in the classroom.
"We want to get that interaction that's so important between student and faculty," Robinson said.
The space also can be used for meetings and public gatherings, he said, noting that doorways to the Health and Science Center are strategically placed to encourage use of the rest of the campus.
"It integrates well," Robinson said.
He reminded board members that several classrooms will be empty next year when nursing and science programs move to the new center. Robinson said he will meet with organizers this week to discuss uses for the older rooms.
Robinson anticipated that steel framing work should be finished soon so the developing Health and Science Center can be enclosed before winter comes. Building completion is scheduled for July 2013, followed by a phased move-in before classes begin that fall.
The center is budgeted to cost $17.2 million. Funds have come from a $11.5 million bond initiative approved by voters in November 2010, and another $6.5 million in matching funds was allotted for the center during the 2011 state legislative session.