GVSU Center Impresses Visitors

July 25, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — A first look reveals that a second opinion isn’t necessary.

The Grand Valley State University Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences appears to be as state-of-the-art as state-of-the-art can possibly be in an educational setting today. 

There are many unique aspects that define the new structure that ceremoniously stands at 301 Michigan St. NE — too many to list in a single story. 

But perhaps its most distinct feature is that it has been designed to house all the university’s health professions, from pre-natal to elderly care, under one roof — which signifies a major break from tradition. In the past, some career programs, such as nursing, have been segregated from the medical core.

“This building recognizes the continual aspect of providing care,” said James Moyer, GVSU director of facilities planning.

And the center was designed that way with the learners in mind, because students in the health professions, like their counterparts in art and music, have a tendency to hang around their building for most of every class day.

“This building is a unique way to promote learning,” said Lisa Haynes, GVSU director of operations for the Pew Campus and regional centers.

When students arrive for their first day of class on Aug. 25 they will find 30 teaching and research labs, 10 classrooms, 10 seminar rooms, three computer-equipped classrooms, one distance learning center, 18 conference rooms, 15 student study areas, a library system almost beyond description, food service areas, and lockers all strategically arranged for their convenience on five stories.

The students will also discover that much of the equipment they’ll be learning on is the same equipment they’ll eventually work with at area hospitals.

Even the XIMATRON simulator, an 8-foot-high, 9-foot-long machine that charts the best path for cancer treatment, is a clone of the one used by Saint Mary’s Mercy Medical Center.

But GVSU students won’t be the only ones to benefit from this medical-teaching marvel, as businesses in the life sciences industry will also reap a reward.

The Grand Rapids SmartZone occupies much of the top floor.

This is where Matthew Dugan has his office. A Muskegon native who left the Michigan Economic Development Corp. for GVSU, Dugan directs the SmartZone and oversees the leasing of office space and labs for the medical research and technical support firms that will locate there.

The office spaces are large enough for a small firm and offer eye-catching views of the city. The seven labs are of a generous size.

Two are very large while the other five are just large. All, however, can be rearranged, as the walls are removable and the benches can be raised and relocated. The result is that one large lab can become three smaller ones.

“This isn’t typical,” said Haynes. “Usually everything is hardwired and permanent.”

There is also a healthy dose of realism on this floor.

Moyer said that students will work with real researchers on real projects and look for real results.

He indicated that students in genetics microbiology and cellular microbiology are the ones that will be most involved.

Businesses and students will also benefit from the 150-seat Hager Auditorium located on the first level.

Moyer explained the room was designed to provide a comfortable place to sit for three or four hours.

The auditorium has three video projectors, wireless Internet access, and electrical outlets for laptops for those lengthy sessions that drain batteries.

Companies can rent the room for meetings and Moyer said the room already has bookings running into next April.

The GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences cost $53 million to build.

Peter and Pat Cook and Richard and Helen DeVos lead a lengthy list of prominent contributors who made construction possible.

Pioneer Construction Inc. directed the project, while Design Plus drew it up. And although it took 27 months to build, it will probably only take a single visit to appreciate it.

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