Issues with the School of Social Work building start at its front door for social work junior Nathan McClintock.
Simply entering the building in his wheelchair can be a challenge as some of the doors are heavy, and those with handicap push buttons don’t always work, he said. Although he is able to open it himself, McClintock said he knows for those with certain disabilities it’s harder for them to pull open the door, meaning they have to wait outside for someone to come and help them.
The brown carpet on the inside of the building also makes it hard for McClintock to navigate.
“Carpet isn’t really great for wheelchairs,” he said. “It makes it harder to push on.”
On Nov. 14, the UT System Board of Regents approved $60 million in funding for a new School of Social Work building.
The university requested $72.2 million from the Permanent University Fund but was granted $60 million. The total cost of the project would be about $76 million.
Funding for the new building will also include a new Smart Hospital.
The Permanent University Fund is generated from 2.1 million acres of West Texas land that the Texas Constitution set aside to support the UT System and Texas A&M System, according to the UT System website.
President Vistasp Karbhari had asked the 86th Texas Legislature’s House Appropriations Subcommittee on Article III to make funding for a new School of Social Work building a state priority on Feb. 15, according to a previous Shorthorn article.
“We have a failing building which houses the School of Social Work, which is in a state of severe distress,” Karbhari said during his meeting with the House Appropriations Subcommittee.
The set of cables that hold the building together had started to give way, making it highly likely for the building to fall down, he said at the meeting.
Later, during a February Pizza with the President event, Karbhari said the social work building is currently safe for operation but — because of its structural issues — could become a problem.
The university has begun to work through the details of identifying other funding, final project scope and timing, among other details, chief communications officer Joe Carpenter said in an email.
Originally built as Arlington High School in 1922, the Social Work Complex’s three-story building has brown carpet, beige walls and gray flooring. Plastic seat cushions along the walls line the hallways.
The complex consists of three individual buildings used for general academic classrooms and offices.
McClintock said he hopes the new building will have larger classrooms, movable desks and tile floors — additions that would ease with accessibility.
“Even for able-bodied people, the classrooms just aren’t really built to accommodate the amount of people we put in them,” he said.
For social work junior Jennifer Flores, the school’s location makes her feel deterred from crossing UTA Boulevard to go eat on campus.
“I feel like we’re sort of annexed, in a way, from the school,” Flores said. “I don’t feel like we’re a part of the school, almost.”
She said in the past she has seen advertisements for activities that looked interesting, but because of the distance she did not make the walk.
Social work junior Alejandra Gonzalez said having to park, wait for the crosswalk light on UTA Boulevard and cross campus to get to an event isn’t always convenient.
A large computer room and bigger study areas would be beneficial so students don’t have to go across the street to the Central Library or University Center to study or do work, Gonzalez said.
The new building will be a mixture of classrooms, labs, office spaces and study spaces, Carpenter said. By including the Smart Hospital in the same building as the School of Social Work, it will allow for health-related instructional facilities on campus to be in close proximity.
Given the growth of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and the current Smart Hospital’s repair and upgrade needs, the facility no longer meets the college’s needs, he said.
“UTA’s graduates are in high demand to address the needs of Texas, specifically in this case, the need for increased social well-being and mental health counseling, as well as the continued need to address the nursing shortage in Texas,” Carpenter said. “The proposed building will address both needs.”
In addition to a new building, the funds would also be put towards a new Smart Hospital.
It was 10:30 p.m. when Jenny Roye, assistant dean for simulation and technology, heard the news about the funding and couldn’t find anyone awake to share in her excitement.
Before moving into their current location, a small area in Pickard Hall was used for basic skills labs, and Roye said they needed a bigger space to work with mannequins and run scenarios.
She said they took residence of the portable building that would become the Smart Hospital in 2007, and it was originally intended to be a temporary location.
Currently, the hospital features a large ward-like room for simulations. Roye said she hopes a new Smart Hospital will feature smaller patient care rooms that will make simulations more efficient and realistic.
Nursing senior Nuri Colin said the Smart Hospital has allowed her to apply the content she learns in class to real scenarios.
Colin remembers learning that in the case of a disaster in Arlington, the city could utilize the Smart Hospital to treat people.
“It’s not big enough to be able to hold that many people in case there was a disaster that big,” Colin said.
Expanding the hospital and having more room would make the hospital more useful in an emergency, she said.
Pairing the hospital with the School of Social Work will be a perfect fit because of the interprofessional training they do, such as a poverty simulation, Roye said.
The poverty simulation is a scenario-based practice where students are given a certain amount of money and food to live on for a month. For fifteen minutes each week, students play community members and spend a simulated amount of time paying bills and dealing with other life situations. Roye said through this simulation, students learn how to find resources for their patients and develop empathy for those living below the poverty level.
She said the College of Nursing and Health Innovation also has a new interprofessional education committee that covers topics such as social work and public health.
“We’re working on bringing people together,” Roye said. “That’s more realistic. If you’re in a hospital, you work with social work, you work with physical therapy, you work with nurses.”