Two student representatives of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences Department of Occupational Therapy—Erika Moderow and Ashley Prososki, MOT—joined representatives of Steinberg Hart, the principal architect of the new SMHS building, and Whittier College in presenting at the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) Pacific and Regional Conference at UCLA recently. Both UND and Whittier had new learning spaces constructed by Steinberg Hart. The presentation, “Student Experience in Active Learning Spaces,” contrasted the schools’ previous learning environments with their new spaces and highlighted how the new active learning environment has positively impacted student learning.
As the team's poster notes, before the new building opened, the occupational therapy program was housed in UND’s Hyslop Sports Center. Occupational therapy (OT) students spent all of their time in one classroom—Hyslop 360. The classroom bordered a weight room, the bathrooms were antiquated, and there was no daylight. The classroom set up was stagnant, and students only interacted with each other, not other health sciences or medical students.
"Needless to say, OT students were thrilled when the new SMHS building opened in 2016," said Prososki. "The new building featured not only sunshine but freedom to move between classes, bathrooms that worked, access to professors, kitchens to use, and the opportunity to interact with students from other professions. The change was profound."
According to Prososki, who graduated in May 2018, over 80 people attended the presentation and the response from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive. People inquired about the flexibility of the furniture in the SMHS learning spaces, the open classrooms, and the learning communities. They asked about the functionality of the space, what works, and what does not work.
"The experience of being a presenter at the SCUP conference was an excellent opportunity," added Moderow. "We were able to network with other professionals that ranged from architects and geologists to university personnel. We gained perspective on other spaces, learned the ins-and-outs of what the SMHS has to offer, and were able to attend other presentations on active learning spaces. And we were able to share how the new SMHS building has enhanced our learning experience and were able to showcase the forward thinking of UND."