Hartford Business Journal

August 23, 2021

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18 HARTFORDBUSINESS.COM | AGUST 23, 2021 By Michelle France mfrance@hartfordbusiness.com C olleges in Connecticut and nationwide have been in a campus construction arms race for years — spending billions of dollars annually to build shiny new buildings in hopes of attracting potential student recruits. And it appears not even a global pandemic will slow those efforts, as three Greater Hartford colleges — University of Hartford, University of St. Joseph and Wesleyan University — prepare to debut, or start construction on, newly renovated or brand new, multimillion-dollar facilities. And while the new buildings are located on different campuses and in different parts of the state, they all share one thing in common — they're catering to growing degree programs in health care, science and technology. Those are all sectors that are expected to see significant job growth in the years ahead, and have become major competitive areas for local colleges, which have been increasingly fighting over a shrinking consumer base. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations, for example, are projected to grow 11% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all job categories. The labor bureau projects there will be more than 531,000 new jobs during that time. Employment in healthcare occupations are also projected to grow faster than average, according to the labor bureau, which estimates jobs in health care will grow 15% by 2029, adding 2.4 million new jobs. Growing opportunity Nursing is the largest healthcare program at the University of Hartford, but the school is also seeing an increase in students seeking other related programs like physical therapy, respiratory care and radiologic technology, said Cesarina Thompson, the school's dean of the college of education, nursing and health professions. For those reasons, the private college built The Francis X. and Nancy Hursey Center for Advanced Engineering and Health Professions, which is on track to debut later this month. The school is spending $58 million on recent construction projects including the new 60,000-square- foot building and upgrades to other classrooms and lab space on campus. The University of St. Joseph (USJ) in West Hartford had the same idea when it expanded and renovated a nursing education and simulation center at the college. USJ President Rhona Free said the college has seen the greatest growth in healthcare programs, including nursing, health science, nutrition, exercise science, public health, pharmacy and physician assistant. "That's where we see the most interest from students and where we see great workforce needs, so we really wanted to make sure we were providing outstanding education in those areas and that requires having the right facilities," said Free. In the last four years, healthcare and science majors, such as biochemistry and biology, have increased from representing 45% of USJ's student population to 49%, for a total of 1,200 students, she said. Meantime, Wesleyan University, the private, liberal-arts college located in the heart of Middletown, is planning to build a new $255 million, 193,000-square-foot science center that would replace its aging Hall- Atwater Laboratory building. "It's not adequate for the admissions of the laboratory work and the teaching of sciences that we want to continue in the future," said Wesleyan President Michael Roth of the preexisting structure. While the project is still in the design phase, it's on track to move into construction planning this fall, Roth said, with the project's debut still a few years away. New buildings, new offerings The plans for Wesleyan's new science center, which will make room for a new environmental studies program and a minor in integrated design, engineering and applied science, come before the school finishes another large renovation of its Public Affairs Center. That $55 million project began in June and should be completed in 2024, according to Roth. While the size of the Public Affairs Center will remain the same, the renovated space will offer advanced learning in programs such as computational analysis in campaign advertising, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Roth said. "This will serve more of our students and classes than any other building on campus," he said. The University of Hartford's new Hursey Center will feature technology-focused labs for advanced studies in areas such as robotics, 3D printing, mechanical engineering and cybersecurity. It will also include several labs, such as a simulation suite, to advance the school's health sciences programs. Specialty insurer Hartford Steam Boiler recently announced it was Building Boom Pandemic doesn't slow CT private college campus expansion plans Cesarina Thompson Rhona Free Wesleyan University is planning to build a new $255 million, 193,000-square-foot science center (shown below) that will replace its Hall-Atwater Laboratory. RENDERING | PAYETTE ARCHITECTS

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