FORT SMITH — The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith announced Friday that it will use the largest donation it has ever received to expand its nursing, art and design programs.
Chancellor Terisa Riley told the crowd at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce’s first Friday breakfast that the Little-Rock-based Windgate Foundation has donated more than $18.7 million to the university. dollars for this purpose. The donation will allow the university to more than double the number of nurses graduating from the university each year and expand its Windgate Art and Design building.
D. Antonio “Dean” Cantu, dean of the university’s College of Health, Education, and Humanities, said the donation will help UAFS address a shortage of nurses in hospitals. of the river valley, as well as throughout the country. Fort Smith is home to two major hospitals: Mercy Hospital and Baptist Health.
Paula Julian, executive director of the university’s school of nursing, said that based on conversations with local partners where students go for their clinical learning experiences, the River Valley needs twice as many nurses as it currently has.
“That’s how big the shortage is in this community, so if you extend that to our region and beyond, as I’ve said before, it’s the biggest shortage of nurses in our lifetime,” said Julian said. “And we are grateful that Windgate has invested in us and given us the opportunity to produce more nurses to help patients recover.”
Julian said the university has nearly 200 students in its nursing program, which is close to the number it had before the covid-19 pandemic began. He is also starting to see increased interest in the program.
Katie Waugh, head of the university’s art and design department, said her program is also growing. It has about 140 students.
Riley said more than $9.9 million of the $18.7 million donation will go towards expanding the nursing program through 2025. It will also allow the university to pay competitive salaries to nursing teachers, among others.
The donation is expected to be invested in two phases, according to a press release issued Friday by the university. The university will spend about $4 million initially to immediately hire 27 faculty members to expand its traditional and accelerated bachelor of science in nursing programs to serve 198 more students per year. It will also spend some of the money to expand and equip new and existing simulation labs.
The second phase of this investment will allow UAFS to reinstate its associate degree in nursing and RN to bachelor of science in nursing programs, the news release said. The university is set to hire 13 faculty for these programs to serve 100 more students each year if the programs are approved, bringing the total number of new hires to 40 and annual nursing graduates to 300. .
Julian estimated that the university’s associate degree in nursing ended about 10 years ago. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing Registered Nurse program was discontinued two years ago. However, the pandemic has demonstrated the need for nurses at all levels – from licensed practical nurses to baccalaureate and beyond, she said.
Cantu said the university creates different pathways to try to meet potential students where they are.
“So by bringing back the ADN program, it allows us to have an opportunity or a pathway for those who want to pursue that degree, the associate degree, or also those who have the LPN and want to complete their RN through that pathway” Cantou said. “Similarly, by bringing the RN back to the BSN, it creates another pathway that meets people who have the RN but want a bachelor’s degree; it meets them where they are in their career path.”
Outside of the nursing program, Riley said UAFS will use more than $8.8 million from the Windgate Foundation to construct a 19,876 square foot addition to its Windgate Art & Design building.
This project, which will begin in 2023, will coincide with the expansion of existing courses, as well as the addition of new ones, which will expand what UAFS has to offer students in the field of art and design, indicates the Press release. It will include a carpentry and ceramics workshop, a digital fabrications suite, a book art center and additional classrooms, offices and studios. It will also have expanded space to support art history and museum programs and papermaking.
Riley said the newly expanded Windgate building will feature a “more obvious” entrance on its south side as well to welcome visitors to its art gallery and the events taking place there.
Waugh said the larger facility is tentatively expected to be fully available in 2024.
UAFS’ annual budget for fiscal year 2023 projects a shortfall of about $6.4 million, according to information provided on the University of Arkansas system’s website. This is between projected operating revenues of over $19.5 million and operating expenses of over $77.6 million, in addition to non-operating revenues of $6.4 million.
Thomas Sacce can be contacted by email at [email protected]
Previous Windgate support
The Windgate Foundation has awarded the University of Arkansas Fort Smith more than $25 million to support its Windgate Art and Design building and endowment in the past, in addition to visual arts and design programs and a full endowment of scholarships for needy students.
Source: University of Arkansas at Fort Smith