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Diversity, equity, inclusion a pillar of Neuroscience Research Building

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Woven into the design of the Neuroscience Research Building under construction on the Washington University Medical Campus is an intangible yet still very real pillar deemed as important as the 6,500 truckloads of concrete used to reinforce the high-rise.

The pillar is a holistic philosophy of diversity, equity and inclusion integrated throughout the planning and construction of the 11-story, 609,000-square-foot building at 4370 Duncan Avenue. When it’s completed next summer, the structure will house one of the nation’s largest and most significant neuroscience research buildings, equipped with cutting-edge technology and the brainpower and creativity needed to nurture and advance groundbreaking research into the brain and the body’s nervous system.

“Without diversity, it’s impossible to deliver a state-of-the-art building,” said Melissa Rockwell-Hopkins, associate vice chancellor and associate dean of operations & facilities management at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “There’s diversity in skill, diversity in backgrounds, diversity in race and ethnicity, diversity in gender, diversity in all things big and small. All of it is critical to transforming the building into a steward of scientific innovation and advancement and creating positive growth on the Medical Campus and within the St. Louis community.”

To that end, construction of the Neuroscience Research Building has emphasized equality, employee development and community engagement. “First and foremost, all members of our team are considered equals, with no exceptions,” Rockwell-Hopkins said. “We are all doing important work.”

Rockwell-Hopkins strives to lead her department by example. She is the university’s first female associate vice chancellor to oversee billions of dollars in construction projects, including the $616 million neuroscience building, considered one of the most critical facilities projects in the university’s history.