With the turning of ceremonial dirt Friday, University of Central Florida students, donors and administrators celebrated breaking ground on the transformational Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion — a state-of-the-art building that will strengthen patient care by enabling UCF to graduate 150 more highly qualified, compassionate nurses each year.

Members of the UCF Board of Trustees, UCF College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole and UCF President Cartwright officially break ground on the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion. (Credit: Courtney Shapiro Photography)

Made possible by support from the State of Florida and many generous donors deeply invested in the future of nursing, the community and the state, the groundbreaking ceremony marked a major milestone demonstrating the potential that can be unleashed with the power of philanthropy when many key stakeholders join together to tackle one of the community’s greatest challenges.

“The UCF story has been fueled by partnership, community investment, industry engagement and the support of our elected leaders,” says Alex Martins ’01MBA, chair of the UCF Board of Trustees and CEO of the Orlando Magic. “Today’s groundbreaking on the new home of our nationally ranked College of Nursing is a true symbol of community partnership, where together this community has positioned our great university to unleash the potential of every individual and drive impact across our region and our state.”

The Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion, anticipated to open at Medical City in Lake Nona for the 2025-26 academic year, will help Florida address a critical nursing shortage amid a growing population. Eighty-five percent of UCF’s nursing graduates remain in Florida.

“UCF has a bold vision to scale our nationally ranked College of Nursing to provide the highest quality healthcare education to graduate more nurses, who are desperately needed in Florida,” says UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright. “The UCF College of Nursing’s Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion is a state-of-the-art space that will enable us to reshape the next generation of healthcare and create a healthier, brighter future for our entire state through education and innovation.”

(Credit: Antoine Hart)

Supported by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, the State of Florida has committed $43.7 million for the new building, along with increased funding to support nursing faculty and students. Former Senate President Wilton Simpson championed the initial funding for the building.

The Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion is named in honor of Dr. Phillips Charities, which provided the $10 million lead gift for the project, a gift that served as a catalyst for many other philanthropic donations.

“Dr. Phillips Charities is proud to partner with UCF to address the nursing shortage by creating the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion not simply as more space to train additional nurses, but as a leading national program to provide talented nurses who give patient-centered care using innovative, tech-savvy approaches for the future,” says Kenneth D. Robinson, president and CEO of Dr. Phillips Inc. and the Dr. Phillips Foundation. “The Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion allows for just that.”

Thanks to $5.5 million in support from the Helene Fuld Health Trust, students will learn from the latest in modeling-and-simulation technology, giving them unrivaled opportunities to practice various scenarios of patient care while preparing for careers in a field that continues to become more high-tech. The new building includes three times the lab and simulation space as the current College of Nursing building, which will help fuel innovation within the college and across disciplines on campus.

Kenneth D. Robinson, president and CEO for Dr. Phillips, Inc. and The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony. (Credit: Courtney Shapiro Photography)

“The Helene Fund Health Trust is proud to continue our long history of supporting nursing students’ success by investing in UCF’s Simulation, Technology, Innovation and Modeling (STIM) Center,” says Robert Campbell, vice president of Trust & Fiduciary Services at HSBC, which oversees the trust. “Simulation is a critical component to strengthening students’ nursing skills, preparing them to provide the best care for patients, and improving the health and welfare of our communities.”

AdventHealth and Orlando Health each contributed $5 million toward the new building and also student scholarships, support that will be critical to helping more students earn their degrees and advance to the workforce. The two hospitals also became UCF’s first Pegasus Partners, the deepest level of partnership with the university.

UCF’s new Pegasus Partners program offers opportunities for select partners to engage across the university in ways that create meaningful value for both organizations. That engagement includes talent development and recruitment, shared research projects, joint ventures and collaborations and strategic philanthropy.

AdventHealth and Orlando Health employ more than 12,000 nurses combined at a total of 34 hospitals across Central Florida. Both systems will rely on UCF to help prepare the additional talent they need to combat the national nursing shortage and expand their workforces.

“We are honored to celebrate this milestone with UCF, the College of Nursing and the many community partners who are making this dream a reality,” says Randy Haffner, CEO of AdventHealth Florida. “Together, we are ensuring Florida will have the well-educated, highly trained and skilled nurses needed to keep our communities healthy and whole today and in years to come.”

A team from AdventHealth, a Pegasus Partner and founding donor, with Knightro and UCF nursing faculty Sandra J. Galura ’12PhD (right). (Credit: Courtney Shapiro Photography)

“This is an exciting day for UCF, the College of Nursing and the entire community,” says David Strong, president/CEO of Orlando Health. “The creation of this nursing school is not just the construction of a building; it is the start of a legacy of exceptional care, ensuring a brighter, healthier future for our communities.

Among other donors supporting this transformational project are the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation, Addition Financial Credit Union, Roslyn and Jody Burttram, Parrish Medical Center and VNA Foundation.

The College of Nursing will become part of the UCF Academic Health Sciences Campus, in a hub of healthcare activity in Lake Nona known as Medical City. The college will be next to the UCF College of Medicine, opening up more opportunities for collaborations in research and in training future doctors and nurses together.

In October 2005, the Tavistock Group, donated $12.5 million and 50 acres of land to UCF to help establish the College of Medicine. UCF went on to buy additional land, enabling the campus to meet the university’s and community’s needs into the future.

A National Leader in Nursing Education and Simulation

Currently, UCF graduates more newly licensed RNs annually than any other institution in the State University System, with approximately 260 Knight nurses entering the workforce each year.

According to the Florida Hospital Association, an additional 2,300 registered nurses (RNs) are needed to enter the workforce each year to address Florida’s projected shortage of 37,400 RNs by 2035.

UCF President Cartwright and David Strong, CEO of Orlando Health, a Pegasus Partner and founding donor. (Credit: Kadeem Stewart ’17)

Of the more than 16,000 Knight nurse alumni, more than 85% live and work in Florida and nearly 60% stay in Central Florida, according to a recent alumni survey.

The high quality of UCF’s nursing graduates, and the program’s emphasis on innovative technology, is reflected in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings. UCF is ranked No. 31 for Best Undergraduate Nursing Programs — an incredible 65 spot increase over two years.

The college is among an elite group of 29 simulation programs worldwide to earn the Healthcare Simulation Standards endorsement from the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

“A building is space where you’re able to do what you need to do. For the UCF College of Nursing, it will be a venue where great thinkers live, future nurses learn, and innovators and scholars work together to solve our world’s most pressing healthcare problems,” says College of Nursing Dean Mary Lou Sole. “In this building, the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion, UCF will unleash potential that will have an immeasurable impact for generations to come.”

While many students are called to the nursing profession from the start, others decided to pursue nursing after another career and enrolled in accelerated second degree bachelor’s in nursing program, which fast tracks a bachelor’s degree in Nursing for career changers in just 15 months.

(Credit: Courtney Shapiro Photography​)

Among recent graduates is the moderator of the groundbreaking festivities, Kris Hysler ’23. She previously earned a degree in theater and was working as a bartender before she was inspired to make a change by intensive-care nurses who took care of her dad after he suffered an injury.

“I stand before you today as a living testament of the power of unexpected turns, the resilience of the human spirit, and the compassion and dedication of nurses who can change the course of a person’s life and make an immeasurable impact,” Hysler said.

UCF is building the Dr. Phillips Nursing Pavilion in conjunction with HuntonBrady Architects, Ayers Saint Gross and DPR Construction.