Samuel Merritt University to Build Flagship Campus in Oakland City Center

Kirsten Hammann, SMU News

The 10-Story Project Will Expand Enrollment and Revitalize Community

Samuel Merritt University (SMU), a national leader in health science education, has received final approval from the Oakland City Council to move forward with the construction of a new campus headquarters in downtown Oakland. The 225,000-square-foot, high-rise building will break ground in mid-2023 and is slated to open to students and the community in January 2026.

The new campus, to be built on land once part of the Oakland City Center Redevelopment Plan, will act as the flagship campus and central hub of SMU, complementing their already cutting-edge facilities in Sacramento, Fresno, and the San Francisco Peninsula. The 10-story building will feature 19 classrooms; 41,000 square feet of simulated lab space; state-of-the-art anatomy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and podiatric medicine labs; a makerspace; a motion analysis research center; and much more.

SMU has long been dedicated to the Oakland community, and we’re proud to call it home. Our new campus will help expand enrollment and enhance the student experience, but it will also work to continue the rebirth of City Center and deepen our partnerships with healthcare systems and community health organizations.” —Dave Lawlor, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Treasurer

According to internationally acclaimed project architect Perkins+Will, “The design concept is centered around the idea of a ‘mixer building,’ designed to maximize student-to-student, faculty-to-faculty, and student-to-faculty collaboration.” The new campus will provide advanced training and technology for students while also serving as a hub of continuing education, certification programs, and training for current healthcare providers.

The simulation lab space — quadruple SMU’s current lab footprint —  is being built to accommodate a full spectrum of simulation and immersive learning techniques, including what’s envisioned for simulation-based learning in the future. Everything from manikin simulation to virtual and augmented reality (AR) simulations will be available.

The new SMU campus is all about the future — shaping the future of health science education, investing in the future of our city and state, and transforming the future of healthcare as we know it. Our vision is to build a home for SMU’s next century of growth and reinforce our commitment to our students, alumni, partners, patients, and community.” — SMU President Dr. Ching-Hua Wang

This new campus will help realize SMU’s vision of doubling enrollment in the next decade to combat the critical healthcare worker shortage. SMU currently enrolls about 2,800 students a year and graduates more nurses than any other school in California.

Rendering of a Multidisciplinary Skills Training Lab
Rendering of a Multidisciplinary Skills Training Lab

“SMU is uniquely positioned to counteract what’s predicted to be an increasingly difficult problem — realizing this goal will dramatically expand the healthcare provider pipeline in California and surrounding states. It’s a critical step for the health of our citizens and communities,” said Emily Prieto-Tseregounis, Chief of Staff and Vice President for University Initiatives.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that each year through 2030, there will be nearly 195,000 vacancies for registered nurses.

The new headquarters will also help to continue the revitalization of Oakland City Center, with a new Center for Community Engagement and a publicly accessible plaza, which will feature community programming and bring foot traffic and commercial activity to the area on evenings and weekends. It is also expected to generate 1,140 new jobs for the City of Oakland.

The flagship campus promises to strengthen partnerships with local healthcare systems and community care organizations, help to attract and retain top talent in the state of California, and further healthcare equity in our communities. A staggering 93 percent of SMU graduates end up staying and working locally, often in urban settings and/or underserved communities. Approximately 70 percent of students, 59 percent of staff, and 23 percent of faculty are people of color. Eighty-four percent of SMU students receive financial aid, and 30 percent are first-generation college students.

SMU will invest $100 million of its own reserves to fund the new campus. A remaining $140 million will be funded through debt service and an upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign, which will be launched in 2023.

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