Photo by Christina Kelso
Shortly after sunrise on Thursday, Sept. 4, hundreds of community leaders, faculty members and students gathered in front of the College of Health Sciences to welcome the dawn of a new era for Jacksonville University.
The building, completed just over a year from its groundbreaking in June 2013, houses bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs in nursing as well as new programs in kinesiology and communication sciences and disorders, which together make up the School of Applied Health Sciences. The college’s innovative technology includes a Simulation, Training, Academic and Research center and mannequins that model human systems from birth to old age.
“I’m very excited and absolutely thrilled because it really helps the students to understand what patient care is really like without hurting anyone,” said Donna Rowand, director of the clinical skills laboratory.
JU president Tim Cost welcomed the many “time management experts” who managed to gather for the 8 a.m. ceremony. Among the crowd were representatives from numerous local health care providers, from St. Vincent’s to Mayo Clinic, as well as dignitaries such as City Councilman Bill Gulliford.
Referring to a wall inside the college with the names of more than 300 partners, Cost said, “You can’t do what we are trying to do here in terms of a transformation unless you’re willing to step up and take a leadership role. The model is built around partnership. We’re very proud of what we built in the College of Health Sciences.”
Leadership, teamwork, the legacy of the past and the brilliance of JU’s future were all common themes in the remarks preceding the ribbon-cutting and reception.
“This is our new chapter. This is the culmination of strong visionary planning as well as the efforts of countless people,” said Christine Sapienza, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Sciences. “We’re creating a bold new plan here at JU. We are completely excited to be building new programs for our community.”
One benefit to the community relates to Sapienza’s field of expertise: speech pathology.
“We are the largest employer of speech pathology in the area, but it’s also one of our toughest positions to recruit,” said Doug Baer, president and CEO of Brooks Rehabilitation. “This program is a huge asset to Brooks and to the entire region. There’s a lot of energy around here and it’s really infectious.”
Thirty students are currently purusing the Masters of Speech Pathology degree. In addition, 608 people are enrolled in the nursing program, with another 1200 students learning online, according to Sapienza.
The growing demand for health care professionals moved Sapienza’s predecessor, Judith Erickson, Ph.D., to propose the establishment of a new building on campus.
“It was her burning idea to take on this monumental project,” said Beverly Keigwin, a long-time supporter of JU and a licensed nurse herself. Her husband, Jack Keigwin, is a member of the Board of Trustees. “I listened to her ideas and talked them over with Jack. I realized what vision she had and how possible and dynamic this would be for the university.”
Keigwin, whom Cost described as “an extraordinary visionary,” expressed delight with the new building and its immediate success.
“The school has made wonderful decisions,” she said. “We are so grateful it’s already filled and I think it’s helped the college take on a new life.”
Assistant Professor of Nursing Dennis Oakes said the building is “much-needed and it’s an answer to our prayers.”
While the outside of the building echoes the design of the neighboring Davis College of Business and the Lazzaro Health Sciences Center, the interior boasts contemporary appeal, complete with a light well and garden.
“The big difference between this building and Lazzaro was that we were trying to focus on creating an environment that was more holistic for students, with the common spaces that were lacking in Lazzaro,” said architect Glenn Dasher, who also designed the River House. “The environment is more conducive to what health care is today, with more positive surroundings. We tried to make the building reflect that for the students.”
Already the building has attracted new talent among faculty and students.
Catherine Riley, a new assistant professor of nursing, began her higher education career at JU with the start of the fall 2014 semester.
“The building itself is very welcoming,” she said. “It’s wonderful teaching for the first time at a school like this.”
Julie Speulda, a first year student in the Master of Speech Pathology program, moved to JU from Chicago, Ill.
“I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the program,” she said as visitors took self-guided tours through student and faculty presentations. “We’re technologically more advanced than a lot of schools.”
“Seeing everything they were pouring into me as a student just made it the right decision to come here,” said Coretta Coleman-Pantin, a junior in the School of Nursing.
After touring the college, Florida Blue retail manager Catherine Kelly expressed amazement.
“I think it’s come such a long way,” Kelly said, “It’s wonderful to see an organization building on its foundation that way JU has, integrating academia, community, and practice.”
The dedication of this new building, as the opening remarks made clear, is a sign of JU’s commitment to its reputation for excellent education.
Diane Raines, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Baptist Health, spoke about JU’s first forays into nursing education and said that the bond formed thirty years ago between Baptist and the university has strengthened over time.
“JU nurses are sought after by health care practitioners because of who they are and what they know,” Raines said. “JU continues to grow to fit the needs of the community.”