UI College of Pharmacy opens new facility to accommodate more students

The new College of Pharmacy building aims to offer individualized experiences to University of Iowa students.


Emily Wangen

The University of Iowa Pharmacy Building is seen during a media tour on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2020. The building opened its doors to students this semester.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

After spending a year and a half in an old, outdated building, second-year pharmacy student Kyla Peters stood in the brand new College of Pharmacy building Tuesday morning, beaming at how the new facility was already bettering her education.

The College of Pharmacy welcomed students into its new building on the first day of the spring 2020 semester — the project has been in the works since College of Pharmacy Dean Don Letendre began his tenure at the University of Iowa.

Peters said the new building is more spacious than the old facility, which reaps its benefits.

Emily Wangen
University of Iowa College of Pharmacy Dean Donald Letendre talks to members of the University of Iowa strategic communications team and press during a media tour of the newly-opened Pharmacy Building on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2020. The building opened its doors to students this semester.

“There’s a lot more study space available so you’re not trying to cram to find a table,” Peters said. “The [new] lab spaces are a lot more inclusive and are more similar to how we will be practicing when we are pharmacists.”

Letendre said he wanted to build a new facility because he believed students were an afterthought when the old Pharmacy Building was built in 1961.

“One of things that struck me when I first interviewed at Iowa in 2007 was [how] you’re providing such a high-quality education and research program in very unfavorable conditions,” Letendre said.

He said the old building was among the worst facilities for a College of Pharmacy across the country. No one believed the new facility would be built, Letendre said, but he persevered even through the halting of plans by the 2008 flood.

“From 2007 to 2010, I wasn’t quiet,” he said. “I was crisscrossing the state meeting with legislators to begin the process of garnering legislative support for our new facility. During that time frame, I went to 96 counties … When I visited with a legislator, I did so with a pharmacist in that community. Every pharmacist in this state recognized our deficiencies in our educational facility.”

In September 2010, the state Board of Regents approved the UI’s initial plans for a new Pharmacy Building, Letendre said. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency, the General Assembly has appropriated $66.3 million since fiscal 2015 to the building out of the $96.3 million budget.

This was the largest appropriation by the state for a building by a factor of two-and-a-half in the state’s history, he said.

Letendre said the new building has a mock community and hospital pharmacy to train students along with more lab space and technology-friendly classrooms.

Emily Wangen
A lecture hall is seen during a media tour of the newly-opened Pharmacy Building on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2020. The building opened its doors to students this semester.

Pharmacy Associate Professor Ethan Anderson arrived at the UI three years ago and has already seen the benefits of the new facility on research and in laboratories within a few weeks.

“We are all moved in, but we’re still finding the right workflow still,” he said. “We have lab meeting areas in the back. It’s really nice to come in [to these spaces] and throw things up on [screens] and be in here for long experiments, especially when they are 12 or 18 hours long. This is a very unique future … I’m staying here [at the UI] for a long while.”

Between these additional lab spaces and the inclusion of large windows and various study spaces on every floor, Peters said it was hard to pick her favorite part of the new facility.

The College of Pharmacy set up Professional Organization Development Societies, or learning communities, to create peer mentoring for students in all years of the pharmacy programs, Letendre said.

“[The natural light] impacts my mood,” she said. “I’m much happier here … I personally really like the PODS area. A group of friends and I were sitting in the PODS on [Jan. 31] and we were eating lunch, and it felt like we were practicing pharmacists. It was a surreal experience compared to what we had had before.”

Emily Wangen
Part of the pharmacy practice learning center is seen during a tour of the newly-opened Pharmacy Building on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2020. The building opened its doors to students this semester.

However, Letendre said his main love of the new facility involves accessibility.

“This was built to enrich students’ experiences for all students,” he said. “… If you have the intellectual capacity to pursue one of the two rigorous programs we have, and you are physically disabled, we want you to come to Iowa because we are going to take good care of you.”

He outlined the ramp features in lecture rooms that go to the very front as well as how labs are tailored for wheelchairs. The elevators also open on both sides, Letendre said, so anyone can just pass through.

With this new building and all of its features, Letendre said he was excited for current, future, and past students to embrace their new facility.

“We also hope this will become a destination spot in the future for alumni, regardless of when they graduated,” he said. “We are so proud we now have the premier facility in the U.S. and maybe even the world. This is going to be our home for many decades to come.”