UTA opens new building for state’s largest social work, nursing programs

Ribbon-cutting marks opening of new School of Social Work/CONHI Smart Hospital building

Friday, Apr 14, 2023 • Jeff Carlton : Contact

President Jennifer Cowley, along with donors and special guests cutting ribbon

With a ribbon-cutting and community tour, The University of Texas at Arlington celebrated the opening of its new School of Social Work/College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI) Smart Hospital building, which promises to bring innovative teaching to nursing and social work students under one roof.

The 150,000-square-foot building includes state-of-the-art learning spaces enriched with the latest technology, including:

  • A Smart Hospital that’s home to dozens of medical robots capable of simulating heart attacks, strokes, respiratory distress or even childbirth to help UTA nursing students participate in critical simulation-based learning that prepares them for the workforce.
  • A classroom set up as an apartment suite, where social work and nursing students can practice in-home services, such as hospice care or site visits.
  • A virtual reality (VR) lab where nursing students can take mental health and clinical foundations courses in a virtual environment. Using VR headsets, they practice communication and interviewing skills with patients, as well as how to maintain a sterile nursing environment.
  • A simulation theater, which can be reconfigured to resemble a courtroom, a hospital room or whatever learning need a class has.
  • A counseling center that gives social work students the chance to hone their craft with real clients. The center, which features a separate entrance for those who may be uneasy about reaching out, is also open to students, faculty and staff who may need a helping hand.

“This is 150,000 square feet that creates the very best learning environment for our students,” UTA President Jennifer Cowley said. “The UT System understands the critical needs that we have to advance health care in our communities, and they were here to step up and make this building possible.”

The facility opened to students earlier in the spring 2023 semester. It completes a new health sciences quad on the southeast corner of campus, which also includes the Science and Engineering Innovation and Research Building; Pickard Hall, which houses CONHI; and the Life Science Building.

“The opening of this building could not be happening at a more opportune or critical time,” said UT System Regent Christina Melton Crain. “The work that will occur here in the years ahead is not only essential to the mission of UT Arlington but also of vital importance to the state of Texas.”

One of the unique features of the building are classrooms with large glass walls that allow people walking by to see the innovative learning taking place inside. It’s part of an intentional effort known as Learning on Display.

That accessibility extends to study spaces around the building. Several building features, including moveable tables and chairs and student study spaces with glass walls, aim to invite students to use the building as their home base for studying or just spending time with friends.

“Collaborative work within this building will set the stage for the future of health care and social work,” said Tamara L. Brown, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “We know that when professionals in social work and nursing collaborate, patients have better outcomes.”

As the No. 1 producer of nurses in Texas and one of the largest nursing programs in the nation, CONHI is leading the charge to address Texas’ critical shortage of highly qualified nursing graduates. The college is a three-time designated National League for Nursing Center of Excellence, a designation awarded to institutions that demonstrate an unwavering commitment to excellence in nursing education. The previous Smart Hospital, which was intended as a temporary space, served the college for nearly 15 years.

The School of Social Work trains social advocates who improve the lives of Texans through education, interdisciplinary research and evidence-based clinical practice. The school has more than 12,000 alumni making a difference every day in government agencies and organizations, as well as creating and leading nonprofits, working in the military or in private practice and serving as deans, professors and directors in social work programs worldwide. Its previous building was built in 1922.

Arlington Mayor Jim Ross called UTA “the best dadgum campus in the UT System.”

“Admittedly, I’m a little biased,” he said. “But I have witnessed this city and this university grow and transform into two wonderfully intwined and beautiful entities.”