Celebrating Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall

George Mason University President Ángel Cabrera presents Vice Rector Jon Peterson with a framed photo during the Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, with Germaine Louis, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. Photo by Ron Aira.

George Mason University officials joined members of the Peterson Family, state and local representatives and other members of the community on Thursday to celebrate a transformative new building that will further spur multidisciplinary research.

Peterson Family Health Sciences Hall is the home for the College of Health and Human Services, bringing nearly 2,700 students and 100 faculty and staff from six health academic units and three research centers together under the same roof for the first time. Academic units now calling the spacious new building home include the Departments of Social Work, Rehabilitation Sciences, Health Administration and Policy, and Global and Community Health, and the School of Nursing.

“The research that happens every day and the professionals that are trained every day in this facility will have a very direct impact in the quality of all our lives,” Mason President Ángel Cabrera said.

The 165,000-square-foot facility, which opened to student use in January, is the second-biggest building on any of Mason’s four campuses. The building cost $71 million, with the state covering $62 million. Private donations accounted for $9 million, including an $8 million gift from the Fairfax-based Peterson family.

As a result, the next generation of health professionals will learn and conduct research in the building’s technologically savvy classrooms, wet labs and nutrition kitchen, while working with faculty ranked in the top of their fields.

Perhaps chief among the building’s many highlights are the Patient Simulation Laboratory and the Nutrition and Food Studies Kitchen. The Patient Simulation Laboratory is where Mason’s nearly 1,000 nursing students will gain valuable hands-on experience in practicing teamwork and crisis management. The state-of-the-art Nutrition Kitchen features six cooking islands, each accommodating four students with their own stovetops and workspace. The kitchen’s advanced audiovisual capabilities will enhance nutritional science learning.

“What you see here today is what can happen when the state, our community and this university work together to advance the opportunities for our students and faculty and, at the same time, lift our region in the growing biohealth industry,” said Mason Rector Tom Davis.

“It is terrific to be able to give our incredible faculty and incredible students the best possible facilities and equipment that we can so they can do their magic,” Cabrera said.

Germaine M. Louis, dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said she witnesses the building’s tremendous value every day with the sight of students studying, collaborating and learning in an innovative new space that encourages interdisciplinary studies.

“Our student body and community deserve the best from this college,” she said, “and this is exactly what we’re delivering.”

That was just the idea behind his family’s decision to support a project that could change and save lives, said Jon Peterson, who serves as the vice rector on Mason’s Board of Visitors.

“We broke ground in June 2015 and here we are today,” Peterson said. “It’s hard to get a better return on investment in education than that.”