Nearly two decades after Minnesota State University leaders began envisioning a new building for the College of Allied Health and Nursing, a scaled-back version of their vision is now open.

The university's new $27 million Clinical Sciences Building welcomed its first students this week as they returned from winter break. Next week the dental and communications clinics will welcome their first patients.

The new building was supposed to be ready for students last semester. But construction fell behind schedule, in large part because of frequent rain.

The 80,000 square-foot facility on Warren Street near the Taylor Center is home to the university's School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and Speech, Hearing and Rehabilitation Services departments.

The original conception in 1998 was a building to bring together all seven of the College of Allied Health and Nursing's programs, said Kristine Retherford, dean of the college. After a number of years of failed state funding requests, the plans were trimmed.

A $26 million state bonding appropriation in 2014 funded most of the four-story building and its furnishings. The university invested an additional $1 million to include a basement. Some additional university funds were invested in new technologies and equipment, Retherford said.

Highlights of the new building include spacious and easily accessible dental and communications disorders clinics, nursing simulation labs that replicate a hospital setting, flexible-use classrooms and group spaces, and an abundance of windows providing natural lighting.

“This building really was designed to serve the community and to engage students in learning,” Retherford said.

In the new Center for Communications and Sciences, students and faculty provide diagnostic and therapy services to people with speech and hearing impairments and other communication disorders.

In the Dental Clinic, dental hygiene students from MSU and dental assisting students from South Central College learn while providing community members with low-cost cleanings and other dental care.

In the clinics there are a few new pieces of high-tech medical equipment, such as a video stroboscopy used to evaluate vocal cord function.

Adjacent to the clinics are student training spaces, including a simulated dental clinic where students practice on mannequins.

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