Years of dreaming, planning, and engineering culminated today (Friday, March 3) with the official dedication of Asbury Hall – The University of Southern Mississippi’s state-of-the-art nursing building.
Special ceremonies on the Hattiesburg campus included a ribbon-cutting and tour of the facility. Faculty and staff in the College of Nursing began moving into the $31-million building last November. Classes were held for the first time when the current semester got underway in January.
“I can’t tell you how excited and proud I am for the University and particularly for Dr. Katherine Nugent, our Dean of the College of Nursing, that we are able to make the transition in our nursing program to Asbury Hall,” said USM President Rodney D. Bennett. “It was Dr. Nugent’s vision that helped bring this project to reality. Cutting-edge facilities such as Asbury Hall play a critical role in recruiting and developing students who will ultimately play important roles in the future of healthcare in Mississippi and beyond.”
The nursing program’s new building allows for an increase in nursing enrollment from the current 550 students to more than 800 and expands new programs in the College of Nursing through student interactive areas, an enlarged and enhanced clinical simulation lab, computer labs, and classrooms that will promote the acquisition of knowledge in a positive and interactive learning environment. The move from Harkins Hall to Asbury Hall increased the square footage devoted to the College of Nursing by 135 percent.
Nugent expressed gratitude to all who contributed their time and money to the Asbury Hall project. She also conveyed special pride in the fact that the facility’s opening coincides with the College of Nursing’s 50th anniversary.
“Today is certainly one of my finest moments in 13 years at this University,” said Nugent. “From the first day of construction until we were finally able to move in, I can say that this building has exceeded our biggest dreams. How amazing it is to know that we have a new building in the same year of our 50th anniversary. We now have the necessary space and technology to advance nursing education and practice far beyond what we were capable of providing in the past.”
In January, 2012 the USM Foundation announced an $8 million fundraising campaign to help construct a new facility for the nursing program. The College of Nursing Building Campaign got off to a strong start with a $4 million commitment from the Asbury Foundation of Hattiesburg, a gift that led to the naming of Asbury Hall. Groundbreaking for Asbury Hall took place in September, 2014.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who was on hand for the dedication and ribbon-cutting festivities, played an instrumental role in helping USM secure necessary funding to advance the project. Approximately $20 million in state bonds was appropriated by the Mississippi Legislature toward the project. Federal grants totaling approximately $4 million also were acquired for construction costs.
“Given my position in state government people often come and ask for money,” said Reeves. “But what struck me as different about this request was the fact that the University said, ‘here’s what we’re going to do. And if we’re successful, will the state provide some assistance?’ USM showed a commitment right from the start, and I am happy that the state was able to provide a strong commitment in return.”
Reeves noted that the benefits of a new nursing building extend well beyond the obvious upgrades in comfort, technology, and academic resources.
“What I know for sure is that every single student who studies here and graduates from this program is going to be able to get a j-o-b,” said Reeves. “We need more college graduates in Mississippi and projects such as this represent an investment of taxpayer dollars that return a positive rate. And I believe that’s something that we can all be proud of.”
For more information about the College of Nursing, call 601.266.5454 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/nursing