JACKSON, Tenn. – July 27, 2010 – Sheila Mitchell looks around the halls and rooms of the new home for the pharmacy program on the Union University campus and can hardly believe what she sees.
Just more than two years ago, Mitchell, the founding dean of Union’s School of Pharmacy, and her colleagues were busy recruiting their first class of students, who were scheduled to begin their studies in the fall of 2008. Their task was challenging enough without the added burden of a February tornado that caused massive damage to the Union campus and left a cloud of uncertainty in its wake.
Now, less than 30 months later, Mitchell and the rest of the School of Pharmacy faculty and staff have moved into the newly completed and aptly named Providence Hall, a 57,000-square-foot facility that houses Union’s School of Pharmacy.
“Providence Hall is a very significant name to us,” Mitchell said. “Because in the midst of everything that has gone on here in terms of physical issues that were happening with the tornado, we were able, by God’s sustaining providence, to meet and surpass deadlines from the accrediting board.”
The three-story Providence Hall features state-of-the-art technology and a design conducive to student learning. The building contains five large classrooms, all equipped for video conferencing, as well as about 20 rooms for elective classes and small group teaching, faculty offices, a student lounge and the School of Pharmacy’s Student Government Association and Student Organizations office.
The building also features seven laboratories for science research in the fields of pharmacology, drug design/pharmacometrics and drug discovery, as well as teaching labs for sterile preparation, simulation and counseling.
In addition, a large portion of the third floor is devoted to simulation, with multiple human patient simulators that the School of Pharmacy shares with Union’s School of Nursing as a part of the university’s Center for Excellence in Healthcare Practice, directed by Tim Smith, dean of the School of Nursing.
“Simulation is an extremely advanced and innovative method of teaching pharmacy students before they get out into the community and hospital settings,” Mitchell said. Construction began in April 2009. The building is the culmination of several months of planning, which Mitchell said was done in close consultation with the university administration, TLM Associates (who designed the facility), H&M Construction and the pharmacy school accrediting body, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
“The accrediting entity looked at our plans early on and have been involved in making sure that we were meeting the standards,” Mitchell said. “For a new school of pharmacy, the building is built to ensure that we meet and surpass all the accreditation standards.”
In addition to those standards, Mitchell said the building was specifically designed to promote what Union University President David S. Dockery likes to call a “grace-filled community” atmosphere among both students and faculty.
“We want to keep our faculty offices close together, so there’s much collaboration between pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacy practice,” Mitchell said. “We, by design, have offices intermingled between the two disciplines.”
The building will also be used for continuing education efforts for local health care providers and for preceptors of School of Pharmacy students.
This fall, Union will welcome its third class of outstanding pharmacy students, Mitchell said. Plans call for the School of Pharmacy enrollment to consist of about 240 students in the four-year program.
“We are intentionally looking to teach quality education as opposed to quantity education,” Mitchell said. “So with 60 students each year, we’re able to teach a curriculum that is innovative, personal and in line with the high-quality academics in all other areas at Union University.”
Dockery said the opening of Providence Hall was the culmination of months of planning and prayer from many people. He expressed gratitude to Mitchell; Smith; Gary Carter, senior vice president for business and financial services; and Carla Sanderson, provost, for their leadership on the project. He also cited H&M Construction and TLM Associates for their roles in design and construction, and West Tennessee Healthcare, Baptist Memorial Health Care of Memphis, Carl Grant, Lou Oberndorf, Jim Ayers, the Grace Foundation, the Hammons Foundation, the Ashby family and dozens of others for their financial support.
“We are grateful to so many people who have made this building possible,” Dockery said. “These partners, in God’s good providence, have been agents of support to make this building a reality on the Union campus.”