Peterson Hall Opens for Spring Classes


By Ashley Stewart and Dana Nickel, Staff Writers

The Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall opens for classes this semester after being under construction since 2015. The building is the new home of the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS).

“We’re preparing our students to meet future health care needs of the many populations we serve, both locally and globally,” said Dr. Germaine Louis, dean of CHHS. “The Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall makes it possible to achieve our goals by bringing students, faculty and staff together in this incredible state-of-the-art building.”

This immense new building cost $71 million to build and is the second largest of all of Mason’s four campuses (Founders Hall in Arlington remains the largest overall). It is also LEED-certified Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council for including sustainable features in its design, such as the recycled material used for the terrazzo floors.

Areas within the building are still being renovated despite being open for classes and full of students and faculty every day. Furniture is still wrapped in protective plastic as workers finish painting and adding other finishing touches to the new building, but the unfinished sections have not limited other areas that are open for the public.

“It actually got postponed a little bit, so we [faculty and staff] started moving in the week of Jan. 9,” said Danielle Hawkins, communication and marketing officer at CHHS. “Everyone is really excited to be in the space.”

The 165,000 square-foot building has offices, classrooms, wet labs, a health clinic, a nutrition kitchen and an amphitheater. All five floors are being used for classes that range from Women and Gender Studies to American Sign Language, with each floor being utilized as an up-to-date area of study for different disciplines within Mason.

“The classroom was really nice,” said freshman Elizabeth Gillette, who is taking an American Sign Language class in the new building. “It had all the technology we needed.”

By the main entrance to Peterson Hall there is a retail space intended for vendors that will provide healthy food service to students and faculty within the building.

The Dr. Camille Barry Nutrition Kitchen is also located on the ground floor. The new facility includes a camera system and iPads for students to watch the instructor’s demonstrations in real time from any station in the room, and classmates can play back any parts of the lesson that they miss. The new facility provides a high-tech alternative for students that once had to travel off campus to a rented diner for their nutrition and culinary arts classes.

The second floor is now the new home to the School of Nursing, Rehabilitation Science and a clinic. All the classes are now centralized and located together within this new building. Patient simulators are provided in beds for students to practice their nursing skills, and these are accompanied by cameras so professors can observe and evaluate their work. This floor also includes a Gait Lab where Mason researchers can study participants with incomplete spinal cord injuries to determine new courses of treatment and rehabilitation.

The third floor houses the Department of Social Work and offices for the School of Nursing. Within these offices, there is a net lab that is expected to bring in new researchers while conducting current and future research projects.

The fourth and fifth floors were created to house the wet lab research spaces, as well as the Department of Health Administration and Policy and the Nutrition and Food Studies offices for faculty and staff. Some of the building’s internal walls were built with modular construction and flexibility in mind, so that lab facilities can expand over time into new areas of research.

The Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics is located on the fourth floor, alongside the Center for Study of Chronic Illness and Disability and other research areas.

The College of Health and Human Services’ deans’ offices can be found solely on the fifth floor, as well as Mason’s Department of Global and Community Health.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Eberhart and Allie Thompson