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Bless our hearts as Edmund Burke quoted: The only thing necessary for the triump of evil is for good men(and women) to...

Student center bolsters health campus

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The new Health Sciences Student Center includes a slide for students, along with state of the art lighting and architecture Thursday, March 23, 2017.

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Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Friday, March 24, 2017

East Carolina University unveiled the showcase of its Installation Week activities Thursday when it cut the ribbon on a new student center on the Health Sciences campus, a day before the installation of Cecil P. Staton as the university’s 11th chancellor.

“It makes the week all that more special to me and our university to present this center in the context of my installation,” Staton told the audience of about 150 guests, university faculty and students. “I am grateful for the leadership of (former) Chancellor Steve Ballard and members of the UNC Board of Governors, including ECU-connected governors Henry Hinton, Harry Smith, Robert Rippy, Craig Souza and others. This center is certainly going to be a great anchor for the Health Sciences campus.”

Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, hosted the ceremony presenting the 76,000-square-foot Health Sciences Student Center, the only one of its kind on a medical campus in North Carolina and one of only a few in the U.S.

“A student center is such an integral part of any university’s educational mission, serving as the community center of a college campus,” Hardy said. “A student center specific to the health sciences campus community can serve as both a symbol of an ambitious future and a real sign of progress in defining a dynamic center of campus life.”

With student success as their goal, university leaders look to the center as a catapult to bolster enrollment, increase student engagement and enhance student retention, Hardy said. Its uniqueness should allow ECU to continue to grow its brand, reputation and national presence, she said.

“It is a game-changer for this campus and this university,” Hardy said. “It will truly turn a collection of buildings into a thriving environment encouraging interprofessional interactions among the health sciences disciplines.”

N.C. House Rep. Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg County, who fashioned the bill that led to the center’s approval by the state Legislature, told the guests why he was so interested in supporting ECU.

“You get my support and that of the General Assembly because you’ve earned it,” Brawley said. “(Rules Committee Chairman) David Lewis told me how much he respects ECU for the way you reach and impact the lives of so many people in rural counties, going to them rather than sitting in an ivory tower waiting for people to approach. If you need me, call and I will be there for you as you have been there for the people of North Carolina.”

The two-story building is a multi-functional study, meeting, dining, recreational and athletic center located within the core of the medical campus, surrounded by the Brody School of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the Allied Health Sciences Building and the School of Dental Medicine. It was designed collaboratively by MHAworks Architecture, Stroud-Pence, Holtzman-Moss-Bottino, Stewart Inc. and RDK Engineers. It was built by Rodgers Builders. It will provide employment for 50 students.

Hardy commented on the vision required to get the project approved and built, giving special recognition to Ballard and his team, which the former chancellor numbered in the hundreds. The ECU Board of Trustees approved the dual project of new student centers on the health sciences and main campuses in March 2013, supported by student fees, building revenue, and on and off campus partners. The planning to make it happen began in 2009. The center on main campus is under construction.

“Personally, this is a victory that, for a while, we didn’t know whether we would get done,” Ballard told The Daily Reflector. “To see it here in the middle of this campus and recognize what it will do (for these Health Sciences schools) is a big deal. It’s a university in its own right. I’m very proud of it.”

There were many barriers to overcome for Ballard and the university on the way to the ribbon-cutting.

“For many years after 2009, the chief barrier was financial. The state economy was suffering and we didn’t want to add undue burden and indebtedness to the students, and then there were many questions about the growth of universities,” Ballard said. “I think this campus serves North Carolina really well, so we were able to answer a lot of those questions, and we got a lot of private money to help support it.”

Robert Barton, a third-year student at the School of Dental Medicine and member of the Interprofessional Health Sciences Student Leadership Council, said the student center solves many of the difficult logistical, time and services challenges that many of the students on the west campus face.

“This building will alleviate many of their problems by providing a common space that is readily available,” Barton said. “I think ECU really listened to the students’ voices and followed through.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.

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