On a recent tour of Kansas University’s new pharmacy school building on West Campus, Dean Ken Audus stopped to point out the flat-screen televisions in the classrooms, video conferencing technology and redesigned lab space.
But as students and faculty prepare to make the move from Malott Hall into the new building this week, the dean came back to one design feature of the building again and again.
“We built in a lot of natural light,” he said, partly as a nod to the building’s green design — it exceeds LEED silver standards — and partly as a farewell to Malott’s catacomb-like dark corridors and offices.
The $45 million building was funded by state government as a way to meet increasing demand for better-trained pharmacists in Kansas.
When students walk in the 110,000-square-foot, three-story building for the first time, they’ll enter a large atrium and will take a seat in a classroom with many technological bells and whistles.
The building has two identical 175-seat classrooms — they feature twin large projection screens, accompanied by nine flat-screen televisions and microphones for each student.
Those microphones will not only create a better learning experience inside classrooms, but video cameras will beam the students’ voices and images to a number of remote sites as well — across the state, nation and world.
Other, smaller classrooms have similar features.
“We realize we’re going to be in here for another half-century,” Audus said.
The pharmacy program had outgrown its space in Malott, Audus said. Labs were conducted on two different floors at the same time, forcing students, instructors and equipment to move about from place to place.
In the new lab on the building’s first floor, the lab stations are divided into pods of eight, with ample workspace and laptop computers for students to look up drug information.
“The workflow is going to be so much easier,” said Larry Davidow, a pharmacy lab instructor. “The form matches the function. This space is doing the things we need it to do.”
Also, Davidow pointed out, it’s one of the few labs he’s ever been in with windows.
The new building includes rooms that simulate a pharmacy, with a walk-up counter and shelves with drugs on them. There, students will be videotaped and evaluated on how they interact with actors portraying clients.
It’s a system that used to be done in regular laboratories using curtains to separate students and lab counters as shelves, said David Virtue, the school’s director of performance assessment.
“This represents the school’s investment in the clinical expertise of their students,” Virtue said.
Several features of the building aren’t yet up and running, including a pharmacy garden that will surround the building and will be planted in the coming year.
Audus said private funds are still needed to complete a pharmacy museum — complete with an old-time soda fountain — and an operational pharmacy for students, faculty and staff.
A dining area for KU’s West Campus is in the building. It’s called the Mortar and Pestle Cafe, after the grinding tools pharmacists use.
All together, Audus said, the building represents an investment for the future of the university, and for the pharmacy industry in the state.
“We’ve been fortunate to be in one of the top schools of pharmacy in the country for a great number of years,” he said. “This says that the state of Kansas wants to keep that going.”