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UND showcases upgrades at old med school

For Megan Berg, a UND junior studying communication disorders, going to class in the freshly renovated Columbia Hall brings a perk unusual on campus--the sound of children.

UND communications instructor Pat Queen Jordheim watches a public speaking presentation Thursday in the newly minted DigiComm lab of the renovated Columbia Hall. Communications was one of many departments that was moved into the updated building that was formerly home to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
UND communications instructor Pat Queen Jordheim watches a public speaking presentation Thursday in the newly minted DigiComm lab of the renovated Columbia Hall. Communications was one of many departments that was moved into the updated building that was formerly home to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

For Megan Berg, a UND junior studying communication disorders, going to class in the freshly renovated Columbia Hall brings a perk unusual on campus-the sound of children.

"It's really cool because we have kids walking right past us as we're walking to class-and I just love being around kids," said Berg, who hopes to work with children in her professional career. "It's so fun when you hear them between or during classes, like during a lecture you'll hear one little scream or something."

Those young children might be an uncommon sight elsewhere, but Columbia Hall's new role as a home for the UND College of Arts and Sciences means the former medical school building now hosts the public-serving Northern Prairie Community Clinic. That facility provides a threefold focus on behavioral health, psychological services and speech therapy to serve as a proving ground for advanced students who work directly with patients, including the rambunctious young clients noted by Berg.

Northern Prairie is just one part of Columbia Hall that has been overhauled over the past few months. Upstairs from the clinic, students practice public speaking in the DigiComm lab, a high-tech space with amenities designed for communications instruction. Tim Pasch, chair of the the communications department, proudly dubs the lab "one of the most innovative spaces on campus right now."

Not far below the lab's glass projection boards, the basement level of the hall has been redone as a series of hubs for psychology experiments and honors college programs. And, beyond the more specialized areas, offices and classrooms up to the second floor of the one-time hospital building have been shined up with various upgrades to make way for a new host of academic faculty and staff. There are pieces still in need of a finishing touch-some new carpeting over here, a door frame over there-but for the most part, UND has completed a series of renovations to resettle much of the previously scattered arts and sciences departments into unified quarters.

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The migration into Columbia Hall began last winter, led by the college's administrative staff. The building's offices soon began to fill with a stream of academic advisers followed by faculty leaving buildings designated for offline status, including Montgomery and Corwin/Larimore halls.

By the start of the fall semester, the college had consolidated some of its largest departments-psychology and communications-in Columbia Hall. Those were joined by communication sciences and disorders, and counseling psychology and community services. College Dean Debbie Storrs said criminal justice is the final department with a scheduled move-in date and should be installed sometime in December.

Storrs describes the move to consolidate the college in the former hospital building as one from "substandard space to fantastic space."

"I think we're pretty filled to capacity here," she said Thursday during an open house at the renovated hall. "Classes are taught here, students come and go-it's a hopping place. It feels like it's really part of campus-and it should, because we have some of the biggest departments here."

The bustle of the hallways and common areas stands in contrast with the more private feel of the Northern Prairie clinic. That's by design, says Manish Rami, professor and chair of communication sciences and disorders.

The move to a new hall allowed for a reboot of how the clinic provided services. In its past home at Montgomery Hall, Rami said, the three areas now pulled together were split into separate units on different floors of the building. Settling into a shared location has required an early adjustment period, but, overall, Rami said the space has given the clinic a more accessible, professional setting for those who come to Columbia Hall for treatment.

"This is good for our students, good for our clients and good for the community," he said, noting the upgrade was "a long time coming."

Berg seems to be evidence of that first point. Having the clinic next to her classes means language samples and other real world data trickle into her coursework, and the clinical environment gives her an idea of what she might be working with in the future.

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"It's nice just having it right there," she said. "It makes me excited for grad school, it gives you a little motivation."

100517.N.GFH.Jeffrey Holm.jpg
Jeffrey Holm, chair of the UND Psychology Department, pauses during a tour of renovated psychology offices and classrooms on the second floor of Columbia Hall. Until recently, his department -- one of the largest in the UND College of Arts and Sciences -- was scattered across campus. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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