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Winston-Salem State University, UNCSA, and the North Carolina Collaboratory partner to launch virtual reality training for nursing students

WSSU-Haley Gingles, 336-608-8690,;
UNCSA-Katherine E. Johnson, 336-770-1402,


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., May 1, 2023 – Winston-Salem State University School of Health Sciences will be the first HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in North Carolina to incorporate virtual reality (VR) into the clinical training curriculum for nursing students.

This opportunity is a collaboration between WSSU and the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). Funding has been provided by the North Carolina Collaboratory through an appropriation from the North Carolina General Assembly, including via its Historically Minority Serving Institution Grant Program. Nearly $800,000 has been awarded to the two schools for digital design and program implementation. This endeavor will be among the largest investments in virtual reality through the Media and Emerging Technology Lab (METL) program at UNCSA, and one of the most significant partnerships between the two universities.

“I am so very proud of our health sciences faculty and staff for leading the way in virtual reality,” said WSSU Chancellor Dr. Elwood Robinson. “They have once again placed WSSU at the forefront of medical technology. As one of our state’s highest producers of nurses, it was imperative for us to rethink training, given the current challenges. VR will help us fill these gaps while positioning our students for long-term success. The collaboration with UNCSA has been stellar. We are all appreciative of their work to launch this groundbreaking initiative.”

“This partnership demonstrates the impact that the arts and storytelling can have on initiatives that help us think about and improve our world in a myriad of ways,” said UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole. “I am excited to be working together with our colleagues at WSSU and the N.C. Collaboratory to help launch this incredibly important new work.”

This program provides innovative training techniques designed to help address the national shortage of nurses and is receiving attention from educational nursing programs across the United States. The use of virtual reality offers students early access to train in clinical environments through simulated real-world experiences. The experiences are designed to develop clinical judgment and increase knowledge retention, as well as provide students with safe and early access to clinical environments. 

WSSU’s virtual reality curriculum is a highly customized educational platform produced in conjunction with the School of Filmmaking at UNCSA and its industry partners Looking Glass XR and Out of Our Minds Studio. Initial VR modeling for the project was built using Unreal Engine, a platform developed by North Carolina-based company Epic Games. There is interest and potential to deploy the platform to nursing programs across the United States. 

The arts and science collide in this joint program. Ryan Schmaltz, director of special VR projects at UNCSA, along with Stacy Payne, School of Filmmaking alumni Tyler Burchett and Mikaela Byrd, worked with WSSU School of Health Sciences faculty and administration including Dr. Leslee Battle, Dr. Cecil Holland, Dr. Susan Hall, Dr. Gina DeCelle, and Dr. Tori Brown to integrate storytelling and technology with the newest RN certifying standards, Next Generation NCLEX.  

WSSU integrated virtual reality into its curriculum on April 25. The VR lab will be housed in the Center for Design Innovation.

About Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem State University fosters the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and depth of character needed to transform the world. Rooted in liberal education, WSSU’s curriculum prepares students to be thought leaders who have the skills and knowledge needed to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Founded in 1892, WSSU is a historically Black constituent institution of the University of North Carolina with a rich tradition of contributing to the social, cultural, intellectual, and economic growth of North Carolina, the region and beyond. Guided by the motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” WSSU develops leaders who advance social justice by serving the world with compassion and commitment.

The University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) is a top-ranked arts conservatory and America’s first state-supported arts school. The nation’s only public university of five arts disciplines on one campus, UNCSA prepares emerging artists for careers in dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music at the undergraduate through post-graduate levels, as well as through a specialized high school with free tuition for in-state residents. UNCSA provides industry-leading instruction in a safe and inclusive environment where students are encouraged to leverage the arts as a mechanism for change. Interdisciplinary opportunities arising from the unique arts ecosystem on campus at UNCSA prepare artists to enter an evolving global arts and entertainment industry. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina System when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit

About the N.C. Collaboratory
The North Carolina Collaboratory is an interdisciplinary research entity that partners with academic institutions and state agencies to transform research into practical information for use by State and local government. Since its authorization in statute in 2016 by the legislature, the Collaboratory has stewarded $148 million in appropriations from the N.C. General Assembly, investing in over 400 research projects across all 17 University of North Carolina System campuses and numerous N.C.-based private colleges and universities. The Collaboratory is committed to developing innovative, evidence-based solutions that serve the State and its constituents.


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