Stetson University has hired an architectural firm and appointed a building committee of faculty and administrators to lead the design of a new health and science building.
Provost and Executive Vice President Noel Painter, PhD, said the university hopes to break ground on the 30,000-square-foot building in May 2020, just before President Wendy B. Libby, PhD, retires. A presidential search is underway for her successor and preliminary interviews have begun with candidates.
Investment in the new building is expected to help Stetson continue to be a major economic engine in West Volusia County and meet student demand for degrees that lead to high-paying jobs.
Located behind duPont-Ball Library and next to Sage Hall Science Center, the new building will relieve the existing demand for space in Sage Hall, Painter said. But even more, the project provides an opportunity to rethink how Stetson prepares students for careers in health and science, including offering more internships and career pathways.
“Sage Hall right now is bursting and the existing plans for a new building satisfied the existing demand for space,” Painter said. “But what this project has become is one that doesn’t just focus on satisfying our existing needs, but rethinks how we actually do education in sciences and health.”
Once the new building is complete, the university will shift its focus to a “substantial renovation” of Sage Hall, which was constructed in 1967 and expanded in 2009, Painter said. Fundraising has started for the project, which will upgrade laboratories, among other improvements. The scope of that project has not yet been defined and is expected to cost many millions of dollars.
“The renovation of Sage Hall is the step of the project that will occur after the new building is built. It’s not concurrent,” Painter explained. “We’ll build the building first and then we’ll move into that building. That will open some room in Sage to do the renovations.”
Expanding Opportunities for Students
Already, Stetson has created and expanded partnerships to provide students with “pathways” to graduate study at AdventHealth University (AHU) and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), the nation’s largest medical college with a main campus in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a branch campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Stetson and AdventHealth have partnered to offer a dual-degree online program, starting this semester, leading to both a Master of Healthcare Administration in Strategy & Innovation (MHA-SI) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
“The MBA/MHA started this fall with 15 students in that program in its first opening,” Painter said. “That’s a really successful start for us.”
The two institutions also are providing pathways for Stetson health and science students into the AHU Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Occupational Therapy programs, beginning this semester, as well.
Stetson biology professor Mike King, PhD, the primary pre-health advisor for students, will be working this year to add pathways into AHU’s programs for nursing and nuclear medicine technology, he said.
Additionally, Stetson has expanded its opportunities with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine. LECOM has Early Acceptance Programs with select colleges, including Stetson, that grants qualified students a provisional early acceptance into LECOM’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, School of Dental Medicine and School of Pharmacy.
Stetson joined the early acceptance program about a decade ago for students interested in a career as a doctor of osteopathic medicine. The dental program came later and LECOM’s new pharmacy program was added this year, King said.
Stetson has seen a growing number of students interested in careers in health care, given the field’s high-paying jobs and demand for graduates. As the fall semester began, 491 undergraduates were interested or had expressed an interest in the pre-health program at Stetson, including 155 first-year students, King said.
“That’s one sixth of our undergraduates,” he added.
Laying the Groundwork
Faculty, administrators and staff met throughout the 2018-2019 academic year to plan for the new health and science building.
Tim Elgren, PhD, was named Stetson’s special advisor on strategic initiatives and met regularly with faculty to develop a framework for new academic programs. He submitted a final report to Painter at the end of his one-year appointment.
The planning also focused on which academic programs would be housed in the new building. The preliminary list now calls for environmental science and studies, counselor education, public health, health sciences and the Center for Community Engagement to move into the facility, Painter said.
Those programs highlight the interdisciplinary approach that Stetson brings to health and science education.
“It’s not just about putting up a building, but cataloguing the health and sciences for the whole community,” Painter explained. “How can you have music participate in the work of health and sciences, or Spanish, or communications, or entrepreneurship?”
The Center for Community Engagement and the public health program will provide “a community-facing element to the building,” providing interaction and outreach with the DeLand community in the health fields, he said.
Up Next: The Design Process
In recent months, Stetson selected Harvard Jolly Architecture to design the building, following an open search and requests for proposal. Harvard Jolly met Aug. 23 with the members of Stetson’s new Health and Science Building Committee, led by Tandy Grubbs, PhD, professor and chair of the Chemistry Department, to kick off the design process.
No decisions have been made yet on what the building will look like. But Painter said one suggestion involves connecting it to Sage Hall via an elevated walkway.
“While it’s not set in stone and there are considerable strong opinions on both sides, I know they have talked an awful lot about having parking underneath a structure that’s connected to Sage and then is a second and third-story building,” he added.
The university anticipates breaking ground in May 2020 with the actual construction expected to start in August 2020, said Bonita Dukes, Stetson’s associate vice president of Facilities Management and a member of the building committee. The committee members will define the functional needs of the building over the next few months. Then, the design team and the contractor can determine a timeline for construction.