Wake Forest University Marks Milestone with Opening of Downtown Campus

WINSTON-SALEM—It was a historic day Tuesday for Wake Forest University, as it opened a brand new campus in downtown Winston-Salem.

The university is now a part of Winston-Salem's Innovation Quarter, making its home in one of RJ Reynolds’ former tobacco buildings.

Tuesday kicked off the first day of classes.

"We think it's important to be a part of the city in ways that going forward will make us even more distinctive as an institution,” said Director of Academic Programming Rebecca Alexander. “The medical school is already downtown. Now we're rejoining the medical school by being a part of downtown."

Triad native Jaime Fashimpaur is majoring in art history, with a minor in historic preservation.

She says the renovated building is a hands-on example of what she's learning.

"They're teaching about historic preservation, but they're also keeping with that theme and preserving these spots that are really historic to Winston for as long as I can remember,” Fashimpaur said.

The 115,000 square foot space is now home to classes for three new majors at the university: biochemistry and molecular biology, medicinal chemistry and drug discovery, and engineering.

"Compared to the original Wake Forest campus, this is a lot bigger and there's more light,” said junior Jorge Dabdoub. “It's very exciting, and there's a lot more opportunities you can have for research and studying."

Wake Forest is also hoping to use the new space to collaborate with other area universities and community colleges to develop programs and classes.

"One of the first classes that's being taught here is being taught jointly with Winston-Salem State,” Alexander said.

"The space is very collaborative, and that's something that's going to lend itself well to learning and education,” Fashimpaur said.

It took the university about a year and a half to renovate the Reynolds building before it opened the new campus Tuesday.