Light & Verity

Nursing school finds more room at West Campus

The school's move doubles the campus's population.

Mark Zurolo '01MFA

Mark Zurolo '01MFA

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A few years ago, when then-President Richard Levin ’74PhD asked School of Nursing dean Margaret Grey ’76MSN if she’d ever consider moving the school to West Campus, “I looked at him like he had three heads,” Grey recalls. After all, West Campus—the former Bayer Pharmaceuticals campus, in West Haven—is seven miles away from the school’s longtime home near Yale–New Haven Hospital. But after many conversations with staff, faculty, and students, Grey and the school got used to the idea. This fall, they are comfortably ensconced in a four-story office building constructed by Bayer in the 1990s.

And Grey is effusive about the new space. “It’s so beautiful,” she says. “It’s much brighter and much more welcoming” than the school’s old quarters at 100 Church Street South, in a bunkerlike 1960s-vintage former high school.

The school now has about 50 percent more space than it did on Church Street South. At its heart is a glass atrium called “the hub,” which has a baby grand piano, tables and chairs, small study spaces, a kitchenette, and an area to sit, eat, and chat. The building has been renovated with flexible classrooms suited to modern teaching, and it also has a simulation lab, a biobehavioral lab, and vast expanses of parking. (The school will retain a small amount of space in its old building for use by students, administrators, and faculty when they are on Yale’s medical campus.)

The move that Grey once thought unimaginable came about in response to the school’s needs for more and better space. After the economic downturn, she says, trying to raise $100 million to build a new building or renovate the Church Street South property was not an attractive prospect, especially when the school is more interested in fund-raising for professorships and financial aid.

But even once Grey was persuaded, some nursing students remained skeptical. One concern was that the move would make it difficult for students to continue their work in New Haven community and inner-city health care programs. For some faculty, says Grey, the “biggest challenge was getting our heads around the fact that we’re not going to be two blocks from the medical school and the hospital.” But the Yale administration agreed to increase shuttle bus service from the central and medical campuses to West Campus, running buses every 20 minutes instead of hourly. That was essential for collaborating with the rest of Yale, says Grey; “it would have been ‘No deal’ if the shuttle hadn’t improved.” As it happens, West Campus is also closer to the Veterans Administration hospital in West Haven, where many students and faculty do clinical work and research.

The nursing school is by far the largest entity to occupy West Campus, which Yale bought from Bayer in 2007. Up to now, the campus has housed research laboratories, along with storage and restoration space for Yale’s museums and libraries. The arrival of the school’s 450 students, administrators, and faculty nearly doubles the campus’s population. “The people who are there are excited because there will be more life out there,” says Grey. The administration “just updated the conference center, the cafeteria, and the gym, knowing that more people are going to be around and engaged.”

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