By CHASE GORSKI
Salisbury University announced a large strategic restructuring this Tuesday headlined by the unveiling of the school’s newest college, the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS).
The move solved a long need for common ground between similar departments that had since been separated within different schools.
“We have been working on this for probably three to four years,” Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Karen Olmstead said. “It started out as a conversation about athletic training in particular needed to be in a department of health sciences.”
The athletic training program has since been within the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies, unlike other similar programs that were housed in the Henson School of Science and Technology.
However, it became evident for SU that there was also a need for a larger scale move that would place a handful of different departments together.
The CHHS will include the new School of Health Sciences, the School of Nursing and the School of Social Work. Following its opening in the fall of 2018, the CHHS will become the largest academic unit on campus with an estimated 2,200 students within the programs included.
This reconfiguration will help increase efficiency across the board for programs and their students. SU officials are also confident that the move will have a draw for incoming students as well.
“Students come to Salisbury and know they’re interested in health…if they end up in the Henson School they miss out on half of what’s going on, if they end up in the Seidel School they miss out on half,” Dr. Kelly Fiala said, who will be the dean of the new CHHS. “The end product will be a better quality education for [students].”
Fiala had previously been the interim dean of the Seidel School of Education with a history in the athletic training department which connects her to the project.
As there were various options for SU to choose from to lead the new college, Olmstead believes that Faila is the best candidate for the upcoming process.
“Kelly had most recently had dean experience and in that role she was there for a restructuring of some of the education programs and I was really impressed with how she managed that,” Olmstead said. “She is also very experienced in setting up programs at a distance and I think there is going to be a lot more of that in the future.”
Each of the corresponding schools will be under new leadership. Dr. Jeffrey Willey will lead the School of Nursing, Dr. Deborah Mathews will take over the School of Social Work and Dr. Robert Joyner will be at the helm of the School of Health Sciences.
A big factor surrounding the shift that was referenced by both Fiala and Olmstead in the press conference was the increasing need for workers in these professions. The biggest topic was the opioid crisis that Maryland has been attempting to control since Governor Larry Hogan announced a state of emergency in March of 2017.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Maryland saw a growth of more than 50 percent from drug overdose deaths.
“Workforce demand is always there, the opioid epidemic will probably be an issue for a long time but there are big issues like diabetes, obesity and aging population,” Olmstead said. “All of those take people with different backgrounds to support them, so that was the big draw this focus on inter-professional education.”
The ever-growing need for workers that will come out of each of these schools functions as one of the biggest reasons for this shift. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care industry is set to increase between 2016-2026 by 11.5 million workers. This increase would make health care one of the fastest growing industry currently.
Not only does this new structure seek to draw more students in to the programs, but it also seeks to provide an all-around better education to prepare students for future careers with training.
“Maryland needs more health care practitioners so the goal is to get them in, get them that better quality training,” Fiala said. “Students at Sea Gull Century last summer we had nursing and social work students with athletic trainers delivering patient care in that community environment.”
Along with increased collaboration between programs and a more efficient path for students, this restructuring promotes the status of nursing at SU to a school of its own.
Before the CHHS, the nursing program was one of the few in Maryland that did not have a separate school or college, until now. Junior Logan Downes said this recognition as a School of Nursing will benefit those students moving on to their careers.
“For my class in particular it’s a big deal because we are going to be the first class graduating in the nursing program with a B.S.N. instead of just a B.S.,” Downes said. “It will look a lot better when we go to apply for jobs and it will improve the program having a bigger name for the school of nursing will interest new freshmen.”
SU President Dr. Janet Dudley-Eshbach was not present at the press conference due to a trip to Colombia to further discuss international programs. Olmstead admitted that once Dudley-Eshbach returned a top priority would be meeting with donors.
The CHHS was announced without a name dedicated to it, but knowing the reputation for private funding that SU has, it does not appear that it will stay unnamed for long.
“Now that we have the college in place the president will be working hard on getting gifts to name the college and each of the schools,” Olmstead said. “Space is going to be an issue so I would imagine that would be a focus for the next president.”
Students can expect for the university to begin discussing plans for a new building that would represent the CHHS and the different schools and programs within.