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New Academic Building Opens on South Campus

Bright, Spacious, on Time and on Budget

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Nursing students will use new, advanced facilities in the Health and Social Sciences building opening on South Campus.

By Sandra Seitz

“Walking into the new building, it’s so spacious and beautiful,” said Nursing Assoc. Prof. Lisa Abdallah. “It just infuses new energy, a new sense of productivity into the faculty and the students.” 

Good energy was in ample supply at the opening of the new Health & Social Sciences building, the first new construction on the University's South Campus in more than 30 years. The $40 million, 69,000-square-foot building is home to three of the University’s most popular majors in health and social sciences: criminal justice and criminology, nursing and psychology.

Students led tours of the state-of-the-art simulation laboratories, observation rooms, a demonstration hospital wing and true-to-life exam room in the nursing facilities. Futuristic-looking classroom chairs move on wheels for discussion groups and every lecturer has access to smart-room technology for presentations. Throughout the building, informal sitting spaces encourage the sort of casual conversation that so often leads to creative collaborations.

Well-Deserved Praise

In opening remarks, Chancellor Marty Meehan acknowledged the important support of the governor and the state delegation in bonding the new construction.

“We fought every step of the way to keep that funding in the bill,” said Rep. Kevin Murphy, who was, at the time, chair of the Committee on Higher Education. “Though the building is beautiful, it’s you, the people, who make it worthwhile: the faculty—the superb training you give is the best in the Commonwealth; the staff—you make every event run smoothly; the students—your intellect, your achievements and your spirit are outstanding; and the administration—the cutting-edge leadership of Martin T. Meehan in transforming this university.”

When planning major changes, a good relationship between city and university is critical. Bernie Lynch, Lowell city manager, said, “This building marks part of an energized relationship. We understand that a stronger city makes the university more attractive to students, and the successes of this university make the city more successful. Success is not just bricks and mortar: it includes the success of the sports teams and moving to Division 1. Great things still lie ahead.”

“Bringing a project to completion requires seamless teamwork,” said Meehan. He praised the campus team, including building committee members Dean Shortie McKinney, of the School of Health and Environment; Prof. Eve Buzawa, chair of the Criminal Justice and Criminology Department; and Prof. Richard Siegel, chair of the Psychology Department.

The Division of Capital Asset Management, the state’s real estate and construction arm, managed the project. The building was designed by Cambridge Seven Associates Inc., and Gilbane Building Co. was the general contractor. 

Carole Cornelison, commissioner of the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, said, “Having just started as commissioner when we broke ground in spring 2011, I consider this my first completed project. It was delivered on time and on budget.”

Construction of the building supported hundreds of jobs, while helping UMass Lowell make room for its growing student body, which has seen a 30 percent increase in undergraduates since 2007. The building has the capacity to serve nearly 900 students and more than 140 faculty members. 

“The building is filled with light, color and innovation, and is a welcoming presence to all who enter,” said McKinney. “The quality of the building represents the quality of our students and our nationally respected nursing program that has grown substantially and just celebrated its 40th anniversary.” McKinney announced the upcoming name change of the department to be the School of Nursing, effective June 1, when the School of Health and Environment becomes the College of Health Sciences.

Luis Falcón, dean of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, said, “The building brings two colleges into proximity and opportunities for interdisciplinary research. The commonality is that their research and teaching include both public policy relevance and practical training.”

Falcón announced that criminal justice and criminology will be named the School of Criminology and Justice Studies, effective June 1, in recognition of its comprehensive degree-granting program, the strong regional and international connections of faculty and its place among peer institutions.

Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney thanked the working partners in the project and said, “Everyone gave meticulous attention to detail, without a lot of stress along the way. This building is one step towards the future in the plan to make this a truly great university. The Chancellor has led one of the most remarkable transformations of a public university in this country.”

In Memoriam to Dean Coppens

The opening of the new building was a bittersweet event for the campus community, with the passing of Nina Coppens, former dean of the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. She had been a passionate champion of the project. 

“Nina had many important roles at UMass Lowell,” said Meehan. “She was dean, the chair of the Psychology Department and on the faculty of the Nursing Department. She was known by everyone as a mentor, leader and friend.” A garden in her name is planned.

“The seeds in the garden will represent the seeds that she planted in us—with the desire to learn, to give back and to aspire to greatness,” said Meehan.