Dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Chemistry David Shubert, Ph.D. believes that, in the future, Newman University can double the number of students in science and health sciences with improved facilities and increased faculty staffing.
But the announcement that the university will construct the Bishop Gerber Science Center and make renovations to Eck Hall is more than a “build it and they will come” story out of the movies.
“We have a really terrific science and pre-medical program at Newman," Shubert said. "It was started in 1969 when Dr. Surenda Singh joined the faculty, and we’ve been going strong ever since then. We have a very dedicated and talented faculty. We have a very motivated and hard-working group of students. There’s a real synergy in the kinds of environments that are created here. What the building will do will be a platform to let those kinds of interactions grow and become even better than they are.”
A new state-of-the-art building has been the missing piece of the otherwise world class science programs which feature impressive student outcomes in pre-med, nursing, nurse anesthesia and other health science fields. The newly designed two-story, 51,400-square-foot Bishop Gerber Science Center will feature specialized equipment, the latest lab and classroom technology and a high-tech ventilation system.
Alumna and Wichita physician Susan Giovanni, DO believes new facilities will have a major impact on the university.
“I honestly am shocked at how we can recruit good students with the science building that we've got," Giovanni said. "I think that speaks to the teaching and the learning atmosphere. If you can do it without the structure, kudos to you, so with the structure, it ought to go like gangbusters.”
The Bishop Gerber Science Center will feature a 48-seat active learning classroom and an 80-seat classroom. The building will also have a physics lab/classroom, a general purpose biology classroom and lab, a microbiology and genetics lab, a human anatomy lab, faculty and student research labs, general and organic chemistry labs and classrooms, a physiology lab, a cell/molecular/biochemistry lab, faculty offices and gathering spaces for students.
“To me, it's about the student. The student needs a safe, healthy environment to learn in. Those students need a new building. That's all there is to that. I'm OK with that. I'm good with that. I can support that,” Giovanni added.
In addition to the new science building, the $24.5 million project includes renovations to several spaces in the existing Eck Hall to give students in nursing and allied health programs new technology and training environments to increase workforce success potential.
The plan for the first floor upgrades in Eck Hall include a nursing lab, two intensive care unit (ICU) simulation rooms, two operation (OR) simulation rooms, a respiratory care classroom, a respiratory care lab and a task training room. The second floor upgrades include an improved diagnostic sonography classroom/lab, a radiologic technology classroom/lab and an occupational therapy assistant classroom/lab.
“When we look at the new building with state-of-the-art science facilities and nursing labs, it will make all the difference in a student's ability to practice more effectively and be comfortable," Newman University Director of Nursing Teresa Vetter said. "It will also help in their ability to begin to apply their knowledge and actually utilize it.”
Vetter explained that that, in nursing and the allied health fields, learning is much more than memorizing to perform well on an exam.
“I think we all would admit that we're best at those things we've had the opportunity to practice frequently, and so that's what those up-to-date facilities allow us to do.”
“The ultimate goal is to provide a better education for our students and that, as a university, is important," said Director of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Program and Assistant Professor Sharon Niemann. "But as a practitioner, it's going to also hopefully provide better patient safety... so improved labs and simulation opportunities are important.”
Renovations to Eck Hall are scheduled to start in May of this year.
The beginning of construction for the Bishop Gerber Science Center depends on the remaining fundraising efforts, although university officials hope to begin this summer.