Ashland University Expands Academic Involvement in Healthcare Related Professions

Dwight Schar College of Nursing and Health Sciences

6/28/12 ASHLAND, Ohio -- Ashland University officials are expanding the University’s academic involvement in the field of healthcare related professions and have restructured some of its academic programs for fall semester of 2012.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10 of the top 20 fastest growing professions are in the healthcare industry and this industry boasts more than 15 million jobs now,” said Ashland University President Dr. Fred Finks. “With advances in health and the country's aging population, we see an ever increasing demand for health professionals across the board.”

Finks said Ashland University has restructured several academic departments and has renamed its college of nursing as the Dwight Schar College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Ashland University Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew said it is through these health related professional preparation programs that the University sees growth and interest occurring for students. He noted that this interest will continue to have a significant impact for the University’s natural sciences programs as well.

“For the past several years Ashland University has invested heavily in the form of faculty, laboratories and facilities on our campus and we believe this latest academic decision will continue that trend of moving this University forward,” Pettigrew said. “It’s the University’s intention to develop academic programs centered within the area of Health Sciences by adding specific programs that will assist in servicing the growing needs of the health care industry.”

Pettigrew indicates that the University is currently working on developing a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) and a bachelor’s degree in healthcare informatics as the next academic programs related to Health Sciences.

“The DNP would be a graduate nursing program with a focus on specialization as a family nurse practitioner to assist with the projected shortage of primary care providers in the country,” Pettigrew said. “A feasibility study is in progress to consider rollout by spring semester 2014.”

The informatics program will be an interdisciplinary degree with the areas of nursing, business, and communication being directly involved in its formation, Pettigrew said.   

Faye Grund, interim dean of the new Dwight Schar College of Nursing and Health Sciences, indicated that interdisciplinary education, particularly in the health science fields, will promote collaborative professional relationships in future employment opportunities of graduates.

“Educational experiences encouraging interdisciplinary study will enhance the students appreciation and understanding of other professionals, lead to exploration of future practice models, and challenge current norms and values students associate with other professionals,” Grund said.

In addition to the Schar College name change, Pettigrew said the restructuring will impact a number of academic departments and programs. These include:  

  • the Sport Sciences Department has been renamed the Department of Health Sciences and has been administratively moved from the Schar College of Education and reassigned to the Schar College of Nursing and Health Sciences. The academic components of the Sport Sciences Department that are assigned to this new department are the Exercise Science and nationally accredited Athletic Training programs, which include the Lifetime Wellness course.

    Dr. Randall Gearhart Jr., associate professor of sport sciences, is the chair of the new Health Science Department. Dr. Gearhart, who came to Ashland University in 2003, has served as chair of the Sport Sciences Department for the last four years. He was previously associated with Southern Illinois University and brings expertise in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and exercise science to the new department.

  • the nationally accredited Dietetics program, which was housed in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, is now assigned to the new Health Sciences Department.
  • the Sport Management program, currently in the Department of Sport Sciences, has been administratively moved to the Dauch College of Business and Economics as a new department.
  • the elimination of the physical education major and related teacher licensure programs that are currently housed in the Sport Sciences Department.

Pettigrew noted there was no loss of personnel positions with these changes and that all currently enrolled students in the physical education major and licensure programs will be permitted to finish their academic programs.

“The realignment of these programs originated from constituents within the academic departments involved with the support of the administration of the University,” he said.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.

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