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Duke nursing school breaks ground on new facility

Administrators, including President Richard Brodhead and School of Nursing Dean Catherine Gillis (third and fourth from left, respectively) broke ground on the Nursing School’s 45,000 sq-ft. expansion Thursday afternoon.
Administrators, including President Richard Brodhead and School of Nursing Dean Catherine Gillis (third and fourth from left, respectively) broke ground on the Nursing School’s 45,000 sq-ft. expansion Thursday afternoon.

The Duke University School of Nursing officially announced its 45,000 sq.-ft. addition to the Christine Siegler Pearson Building in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

The new $20.2 million space arises out of a desire to better address the needs of an expanding faculty and student body. The new portion will house academic office space and research facilities, as well as new learning technologies—such as interactive classrooms, simulation labs and an audio and video recording studio. Construction is expected to be completed by February 2014.

“The contribution and promise of academic nursing can be overshadowed by more established and socially prestigious academic disciplines—not so at Duke,” DUSON Dean Catherine Gilliss said. “Nursing is emerging on this campus as a leader in producing knowledge that serves society.”

At the ceremony, administrators noted that DUSON has had a long line of recent successes to match the excitement surrounding the new building.

President Richard Brodhead commended DUSON for its continual faculty and student expansion. When he arrived at Duke in 2004, DUSON had 40 faculty members and 400 students. Since then, those numbers have increased to 70 and 800, respectively.

He also acknowledged DUSON’s jump in the U.S. News and World Report Ranking—the school rose from 15th place in 2007 to seventh place this year.

“If I were one of the six schools ahead of you, I would just get out of the way,” Brodhead said.

DUSON has also received nearly $4.3 million in funds from the National Institutes of Health, ranking it 10th among nursing schools in the past year, based on the amount of NIH-funded research.

The space is reflective of the school’s “upward trajectory” over the past couple of decades, Gilliss said. Until very recently, DUSON did not have a space the school could call its own and moved locations on a regular basis.

The first DUSON location was the Baker House, established in 1932, but the school moved to the Hanes House approximately 20 years later. Gilliss said DUSON’s time in the Hanes House was an awkward period in which students both lived and attended class in the same building.

“The upper floors of Hanes House were our dormitory, and we went to class on the first floor—where we also picked up our mail, visited the library and picked up our starched aprons,” she said.

From 1972 until 2006, DUSON was primarily located in the Elizabeth C. Clip Building—a single story, 9,000 sq.-ft. space. Most of the DUSON staff were strewn across Durham due to the limited space, Gilliss said.

In 2006, however, DUSON moved into its current location—the Christine Siegler Pearson Building, a 58,000 sq.-ft. facility.

Clinical nurse educator Donna Biederman noted that the groundbreaking ceremony for the additional 45,000 square-feet of space signified how DUSON is still growing.

“When I first came here, I thought this building was brand new,” she said. “To find out this building is six years old and they’re doing another groundbreaking—that’s pretty amazing. I didn’t realize when I came here that the school was growing so rapidly.”

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