The new home of Washington State University Tri-Cities' nursing program is perfect for Teresa Houck.
The junior from Seattle has an apartment nearby, and she's glad to have the numerous lunch options of central Richland to choose from each day. But that's not the best part.
"It's purely nursing; it's all nursing," Houck said.
More than 100 nursing students and 15 faculty began the semester Monday in the new location on Lee Boulevard, filling its classrooms for lectures and talking in the hall about their classes and training.
Though being removed from the main WSU branch campus in north Richland will take getting used to, students and faculty said the new location is ideal, providing badly needed space and a place to grow.
"Now it just feels like a nursing school," said Kellie Bradfield, a clinical nursing instructor.
WSU launched the campaign about a year ago to open a location dedicated strictly to the nursing program.
Kadlec Regional Medical Center agreed to lease 10,000 square feet in a former shopping center for $1 a year to WSU. And Kadlec, Lourdes Health Network, Trios Health, Group Health Cooperative, Lampson International and other donors donated hundreds of thousands of dollars.
About $700,000 was raised for the first phase of equipment needs, specifically for a new simulation lab and control room, university officials said. Another $145,000 is needed to equip a second similar lab.
"This new space does more than provide a state-of-the-art learning environment for future nurses. It also allows room for growth on the WSU Tri-Cities main campus as we build our academic, research and student engagement programs," Chancellor H. Keith Moo-Young said in a statement to the Herald.
"This generous investment by our health care industry partners illustrates how much can be accomplished when community partners and WSU come together to turn our collective vision for student-centered education and community needs into reality," he said.
Kadlec is still renovating the building, where it also will move some of its services, but Susan Campbell, the program's interim director, said the priority was to get the nursing school's portion finished before the semester began.
Before the move, the nursing program shared classroom space with other disciplines on the north Richland campus.
Now there are four classrooms, each equipped with advanced video conferencing equipment for classes taught by video feed from WSU's Spokane campus, strictly for nursing courses.
Also, there is dedicated space for a practice lab and two simulation labs, allowing students to practice skills as well as develop the ability to perform under the pressure of various health care scenarios.
"Our lab was just a bunch of beds together in a room," said Patricia Madrigal, a junior from Prescott. "This actually looks more like a typical hospital room."
Sharing space with Kadlec will make collaboration between the hospital and nursing program much easier, Campbell said. And there's plenty of room for another couple of dozen students, once there's enough faculty.
The nursing program accepts about 40 new students a year, or about a third of the candidates who apply.
But there's a less obvious boost to the nursing program. Classrooms and faculty offices are now across the hall from each other, rather than on separate floors.
"The benefit right away is the opportunity to connect the faculty with the students in the hallway," Campbell said.
Bradfield said it felt odd to no longer be surrounded by the broader university community at the north Richland campus of about 1,400 students.
Houck, who previously attended the Pullman campus, agreed she'll miss the main Richland campus.
But she's still glad to be studying here, where instructors know their students and there's a strong bond in each class. "It's a better learning experience," she said.
w Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald