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Nebraska Goes Big

Healthcare Design Studio is unique, leading architecture program in the Big Ten

By Troy Fedderson, University Communications

UNL's Healthcare Design Studio is poised to become a flagship program in the Big Ten Conference.

Available through UNL's College of Architecture and sponsored by HDR, a world-leading architecture, engineering and consulting firm, the Healthcare Design Studio lets students complete in-depth healthcare design research, building up to a final semester project. The program, entering its fourth year, is offered to graduate students in architecture and fourth-year students in UNL's interior design program.

Classes are in a specially designed space in an office building in the Haymarket in downtown Lincoln.

During the fall semester, students focus on designing a healthcare facility. The facility's purpose varies each semester and students present three design options to professors, industry professionals and HDR clients. During the spring semester, students focus on international healthcare issues, researching how Western medicine influences global cultures. Information gathered is added to a database, which can be used to compare and contrast healthcare systems worldwide.

"There are other programs around the country similar to what we offer, but none of them are in the Big Ten Conference. Part of our goal is to help spread this program to other schools in the conference, with UNL being the flagship." said - Wayne Drummond, outgoing dean of the College of Architecture

The program was started through collaboration between Drummond and Sheila Elijah-Barnwell, senior vice president at HDR and a UNL graduate. HDR — the largest healthcare design firm in the United States — provides support to the program, which includes allowing Elijah-Barnwell to volunteer time in the college. She also coordinates classroom presentations by HDR representatives, clients and other industry professionals.

"We hope the program shows students that healthcare architecture is a niche worth pursuing in the profession," said Elijah-Barnwell. "And right now that is a very timely message because the healthcare design industry has been very stable and does not get hit with the peaks and valleys like other design disciplines. It is also timely because of the shift toward health, wellness and preventative care.

These are important issues to the industry and society, and we need to have young professionals involved in the conversation."

Through the healthcare design studio specifically, HDR has hired three UNL architecture graduates to full time positions. Elijah-Barnwell said HDR has also offered several internship opportunities to students enrolled in the healthcare studio, including two this summer in the Omaha office.

"The Healthcare Design Studio has been a very rewarding program," said Elijah-Barnwell. "The students always offer refreshing perspectives and it's been fun watching their interactions with clients. And, I know the students have helped our design teams think about things in different ways."

Drummond said the goal now is to maintain momentum of the design studio and expand the program to offer a graduate degree.

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