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Helen Wood Hall Expansion to Enhance Academic Experience, Accommodate Enrollment Growth

  By Patrick Broadwater
  Thursday, October 1, 2020

A $15 million expansion project at Helen Wood Hall will enhance the academic environment and allow the UR School of Nursing to better serve its surge in new students.

The project, which adds three floors to the Loretta C. Ford Education Wing, will provide for the continued projected growth of both undergraduate and graduate students and new expanded experiential learning spaces. Construction begins this fall and is expected to be completed by May 2022.

$1 million of the expansion was awarded by the Higher Education Capital Matching Grant (HECap), part of the grants for capital projects at 35 colleges and universities across New York to help campuses modernize facilities, enhance student experiences and spur economic development.

HWH expansion drawing

The School of Nursing opened the fall 2020 semester with another record-breaking student body. Its total enrollment has grown by more than 50 percent since 2016, from 529 to nearly 800 students. The timing of an enrollment boom couldn’t be better since the demand for nurses in the workforce is also at an all-time high.

In response to the workforce needs and health professional education trends over the past decade, 21st-century nurse educators must employ active learning approaches that ensure graduates are competent clinicians, employ data-driven clinical decision making, demonstrate complex problem solving skills, and effectively collaborate on inter-professional teams. This requires a dynamic, flexible and highly individualized learning environment. Experiential learning labs will support a variety of learning activities, including high-fidelity simulation, standardized patient scenarios, virtual/augmented reality experiences, and task-based education for development of psychomotor skills. This new space will also be used as collaborative spaces for case-based learning, team-based learning, and debriefing activities.

“Year after year, student response to simulated learning opportunities—currently limited due to existing capacity—is overwhelmingly positive with students universally requesting additional simulation experiences,” said Kathy Rideout, EdD, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, dean of the School of Nursing and vice president of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Therefore, the additional space will not only deepen student learning, but also enhance student engagement and student satisfaction with their educational experience at the School of Nursing.”

Helen Wood Hall was originally built in 1925 to serve as a nursing dormitory. In 1972, the SON was established as an independent school within the University and the building was converted from a residence hall to a school of nursing—dormitories were converted to offices, classrooms, and clinical lab space. Over time, limitations in classroom and clinical lab space restricted necessary program growth. The need to incorporate larger and “smarter” classrooms as well as advanced clinical simulation experiences led to the addition of the Loretta Ford Education Wing in 2006, a 28,000-square-foot expansion of Helen Wood Hall that includes four large classrooms, an auditorium for 170 people, a seminar room and atrium. This current vertical expansion project will expand even more the academic programs and instructional capabilities that are critical to student learning in an increasingly complex health care system.  It will also allow for renovation of significant square footage on the first floor of Helen Wood Hall due to the relocation of the existing skills and simulation labs to the new addition. This will be completed in a separate phase.

Click here to learn more about the Helen Wood Hall expansion project. For more information on supporting the expansion project and available naming opportunities, please contact Andrea Allen, director of advancement and alumni relations, at

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