Harrison Education Commons opens to praise from community leaders, faculty and students

Education Commons Student Perspectives from Georgia Regents University on Vimeo.

Dr. J. Harold Harrison, M.D. would have been proud.

His wife, Ms. Sue W. Harrison, firmly believes her late husband would have been well-pleased with the new, state-of-the-art facility at Georgia Regents University that bears his name.

The university celebrated the grand opening of the three-story, 175,000-square-foot building – the Dr. J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Education Commons – on Thursday.

“No words can really describe this building,” Sue W. Harrison said. “I get chills every time I walk in here.”

Harrison may have had trouble finding the right words to describe the building, but others didn’t. “Amazing,” “impressive” and “transformational” were among the words floating through the crowd of hundreds that attended the grand opening, a crowd which included representatives of local and state government, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, GRU President Dr. Ricardo Azziz and University System of Georgia Chancellor Mike Huckaby.

“Isn’t this impressive?” said Medical College of Georgia Foundation Controller Kathryn Yates as she toured the building Thursday with Harrison and other members of the Harrison family.

The Harrison Education Commons includes classroom space for the Medical College Georgia and the College of Dental Medicine; a 40,000-square-foot interprofessional simulation center; two 300-seat auditoriums; 13 learning communities; and 13 small-group classrooms.

“This state of the art facility will give both medical and dental students room to grow, learn and to be in a world-class environment. We know that this facility will also give us the capacity to expand the class sizes in both medical and dental schools, and that’s important for our state. We are a fast-growing state; we’re told we’re now about the eighth-largest population state in the country. That requires we serve our people with capable and qualified doctors and dentists and this facility will go a long way toward making that happen,” Gov. Deal said.

A $10 million leadership gift from Dr. Harold Harrison and Sue resulted in the naming of the $76-million-dollar building. The state of Georgia provided $42 million in bond funding, and GRU is raising $34.5 million through private philanthropy.

“This new educational facility is a part of the future that we are building together, a future that ensures continued growth, progress, a future that supports our mutual goals and visions, a future that provides the best that is possible for all of us, our families, our students, our community and the great state of Georgia,” said Dr. Azziz as he recognized the public-private partnerships that turned the Harrison Education Commons into a reality.

Fourth-year medical student John McCaskey was among several other medical students that joined attendees as they toured the building Thursday. He paused in one of the learning communities on the third floor to explain how the room will help foster collaboration between students. He admitted, too, that he was a bit jealous he won’t get the opportunity to spend as much time in them as first- or second-year students.

The community rooms are equipped with comfortable, casual seating, a small kitchenette, and a private study room. Roughly 15 students can congregate in the community rooms outside of the classroom setting.

“It’s about community. I think it’s an important aspect for that – the first-, second- and third-years coming together to learn, to help each other, because the first year, you have no idea what’s going on,” McCaskey said. “It’s conducive to community, which is vital to learning.”

The facility, which is adjacent to the College of Dental Medicine, occupies a portion of the Gilbert Manor housing project and is set to be certified as a LEED Silver building by the U.S. Green Building Council.