Where the Transformation Happens


Veterans Hall’s new laboratories give health and human services students real-world experiences – without having to leave campus

Anatomage tables in classroom in Veterans Hall

Collaborative spaces, along with classrooms and labs designed for interactive instruction, are becoming the gold standard in higher education. Veterans Hall, which opened in August 2020, represents what that looks like on UNCW’s campus.

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it,” Benjamin Williams ’21 says of the new hub for the College of Health and Human Services.

As an athletic training major, Williams is particularly wowed by the rehabilitation lab, set up like a real clinic with adjustable high-low tables, and another area that houses an underwater treadmill. In another area of the building, he has access to virtual cadavers with Anatomage tables that function like giant iPads that he can use to examine simulated human skeletons and muscular systems.

“UNCW has always been on the map, but this building puts us on the front page,” Williams says.

Veterans Hall was built with funds from the 2016 Connect NC bond referendum and provides nearly 150,000 square feet of much-needed space for students and faculty in the schools of health and applied human sciences, nursing and social work. But as with many university buildings, philanthropic investment will maximize the opportunities such an expansive new building can provide.

In the case of Veterans Hall, gifts made during the campaign will help outfit the many applied learning laboratory spaces the new building has created, including what will be the region’s only human cadaver lab and an Interprofessional Teaching Clinic. Students in the college have long worked in simulation labs with high-fidelity manikins and volunteer actors who portray patients. But both the cadaver lab and the Interprofessional Teaching Clinic will fully embed students and faculty into real situations, right on campus.

“From a learning perspective, that’s where the transformation happens,” says Ashley Wells, CHHS’ assistant dean for community engagement and impact. “You have to think critically and put what you’ve learned into practice. That causes you to have this deep learning experience where you can see yourself in action and see how well you respond to a situation.”

For Williams, working with real human bodies in a cadaver lab will offer training that even the impressive new Anatomage tables can’t replicate.

“It’s about having the opportunity to experience the effects of diseases on the human body and how bodies can be different, providing a hands-on opportunity to gain that knowledge,” he says. “It’s going to be an amazing opportunity for learning.”

The Interprofessional Teaching Clinic, which will open this year, will merge hands-on learning with community benefit. Although the educational strategy for the clinic is still in development, the goal is to have as many students as possible rotate through, giving them the opportunity to work with practicing professionals, serving real patients and clients.

Even the name of the building is a nod to UNCW’s community-focused ethos. The university has a history of serving members of the military, and the building houses UNCW’s Office of Military Affairs and features a gathering space for military-affiliated students.

“Students are going to be learning from patients as much as applying their problem-solving skills,” Wells says. “It’s the interaction, the experience, learning what someone’s life is like. And that’s transformational.”

Supporting and enhancing facilities like Veterans Hall is a key priority of Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW. To learn more or make a gift, visit uncw.edu/give.

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