New college equips students for growing health field

April 1 2008

More than ever, people are interested in their health -- hospitals and doctors’ offices are packed with patients and not enough caregivers, parents want to know how to get lethargic kids moving and interested in the outdoors, consumers are concerned about air and water quality, and baby boomers are seeking ways to stay active without injury.

In response to the wide variety of needs of the growing health field, and to prepare its students to meet this need with greater understanding and skills, in July 2007, Indiana State University created a new college -- the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services.

“Health is a huge growth area and there is a tremendous need for skilled professionals in a variety of disciplines, especially right in our backyard of rural Indiana,” said Doug Timmons, co-interim dean of the new college.

“We have brought the different health disciplines together for a whole-health picture,” said Esther Acree, co-interim dean of the new college. “This interdiscplinary approach will give our students a more complete understanding of caring for the human person, and prepare them for a career in health, where professionals from various fields work together for patient solutions on a daily basis.”

This concept of bringing academic departments with a health emphasis together under one roof already has been adopted by many universities throughout the country, and continues to gain advocates.

“We looked at four universities that each had a model where health-related programs were brought together under one roof, and we utilized them as consultants,” Timmons said. “We saw how having all the disciplines with a human services and/or health emphasis under one banner would be a great advantage to our students, the college and the university as a whole.”


The process of creating a new college began on Sept. 15, 2006, when Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs C. Jack Maynard charged a Health Professions Task Force with developing a strategic plan for a comprehensive college of health-related professions.

The task force was composed of health and human services faculty from the College of Nursing, the College of Health and Human Performance (HHP) and the College of Arts and Sciences. The task force also included students from Nursing and HHP, as well as healthcare providers from the local community.

The task force met eight times during a two-month period and thoroughly examined the current situation.

ISU had two separate colleges that prepared health-oriented professionals. Nursing had more than 800 students, while Health and Human Performance had about 700. Independently, their small sizes made it a struggle to gain support for their needs and their ability to meet the training needs of their students; but as a new college, its enrollment would be the second-largest at the university.

In addition, health and health-related programs had been targeted for growth recently by the university’s program prioritization task force. Six of the 12 top-ranked programs on campus were housed in Nursing and HHP.

What the task force found -- through open discussions, consultations and research -- was that there would be enormous benefits to creating a new college.


“Some of the benefits that came quickly to the forefront were those that would directly help our students,” said Virgil Sheets, task force chair and professor of psychology. “A new college, that was properly supported, would have a greater ability to meet students’ program needs, such as making core courses more available; would improve the ability of students to transfer between health-oriented programs; and would broaden opportunities for internships.”

Opportunities also open up in regards to guest lecturers, experiential and service-based learning, recruitment efforts and joint research.

“Some of our faculty from the various departments already are coming together to work on grants for joint research projects for their students,” Acree said. “As the faculty come together, they are creating more opportunities for the students, which is wonderful to see.”

Deb Barnhart, associate professor of nursing, said that the more heterogeneous environment increases the worldview of both students and faculty.

“This approach introduces students to a multidisciplinary health care team of nursing, safety and environmental health, athletic training, physical education, and recreation and sport management,” Barnhart said. “Enhancing opportunities for students to work as a team in college will make it more likely that they will be comfortable working with colleagues on the job, and have a more open perspective of the different possibilities of care available in settings such as community health, pediatric nursing and rehabilitation.”

Speaking for her discipline of nursing, Barnhart said that bringing in a more diversified view to health care had the potential to benefit the field of nursing education overall.

“Diversity in nursing faculty nationwide is very limited due to a variety of reasons,” Barnhart said, “including the cultural belief that it is ‘women’s work.’”

ISU’s nursing program already is chipping away at this stereotype, with 10.5 percent of its enrollment being men, while only 5.4 percent of registered nurses in the United States are men.

“The new college will provide students experiences with not only a variety of health-related disciplines, but also a more diverse faculty,” Barnhart said.


In the nursing field alone, there are not enough qualified candidates for the positions that are open, creating a national shortage.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Indiana is below the national average for the number of nurses employed per 1,000 people, with 7.61 nurses. The national average is 7.82.

“There is an ongoing shortage of nurses, pharmacists, therapists and other health care professionals nationwide, and that it is predicted to get greater,” said Carol Roesch, task force member and vice president of patient care at Union Hospital. “Here at Union Hospital, we are currently expanding and will need additional staff when our new facility opens in two years.”

Acree said that almost all nursing schools throughout the country have had to turn away qualified applicants, due to reasons such as a lack of funded faculty positions and clinical site availability, which further complicates the nursing situation. ISU's nursing department is fortunate in that it hasn't yet had to turn away any qualified applicants.

“With our growth under the new college's structure, we plan to have more faculty positions available, so that we can hopefully accept more students and help with the nursing shortage, especially in Indiana,” Acree said.

As a member of the task force, Roesch said she very quickly saw the commitment and seriousness of those from the different disciplines who were participating in the task force.

“It was obvious that all participants were totally dedicated to forming a cohesive, integrated and stronger college than the two were individually,” Roesch said. “I believe the new college will be just that.

“There will be cross-over education for similar learning needs. The new college can share resources, facilities and equipment among departments. There will be more coordination of students for a better learning experience. I believe that in these ways, with one college, the university will be better able to meet the needs of the community.”


Even before they graduate, students of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services already are helping to meet the needs of the community through service-learning experiences that take them outside the classroom. The new college plans to provide even more of these opportunities.

“As the faculty, staff and students of the varied departments and programs get to know, value and understand each other, unique opportunities and synergies will arise for both traditional classroom and laboratory education and enhanced efforts in experiential learning,” said Jeff Edwards, task force member and chair of the departments of physical education and athletic training. “All of the programs in the new college are fundamentally service-based and this new configuration broadens the worthwhile and rewarding community engagement initiatives that can be embraced.”

In his personal experiences with external stakeholders -- such as legislators, lobbyists, and other universities and educational leaders in Indiana -- Edwards has found them to be enthusiastic about the development of the new college.

The most recent example would be an invitation for ISU and the new college to participate in the development of a Rural Health Corridor between the ISU campus and Union Hospital.

The study group is currently comprised of representatives from the Indiana University School of Medicine-Terre Haute on the campus of Indiana State University; Landsbaum Center for Health Education; Union Hospital Health Group; and the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services.

“This is an example of an initiative that is best addressed on ISU’s behalf by a strong multi-faceted college of health professions such as those that exist in the new college,” Edwards said. “If this venture comes to fruition it could be of great benefit to the state, Terre Haute and the university.”

All in all, the task force determined that a new college could:
• Increase the visibility of health professions at ISU
• Empower the faculty who advocate for health professions
• Promote greater collaboration between health-oriented units
• Attract external resources
• Initiate and develop new health-oriented programs
• Strengthen ties with community partners
• Better meet regional and state needs

In order to support the new college in its efforts to make the above possibilities a reality, the university has pledged its assistance, and last year, the university was able to secure a special $500,000 appropriation from the state to support the development of the nursing program.

“The university, through the offices of the president and the provost, and the Board of Trustees, is committed to the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services being successful,” Maynard said. “This includes the allocation of resources to support its growth and development. The university is moving forward to address the facilities needs of the college as the No. 1 priority for the next budget cycle.”

In its first academic year in existence, the new college is still taking shape, with various committees working on areas such as structure, governance, mission and planning.

A new dean, Richard “Biff” Williams, has been selected to head the college. A former high school teacher and head athletic trainer, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree from Weber State University in Utah, an M.S. in athletic training from ISU, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from New Mexico State University. Currently the associate dean of the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa, Williams will assume his new duties July 7.

“We have an exciting and rewarding time ahead of us,” Edwards said. “Collaborative work is well underway and good things are already starting to result from those efforts.”

The new college’s Web site address is:


PHOTO 1: Download a high-resolution photo at this link: Athletic training in new college
CUTLINE 1: Students in Indiana State University’s athletic training program, one of the longest-running and most prestigious athletic training programs in the country, collect data for their research. Athletic training is housed in the new College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services. (Drew Lurker/ISU)

PHOTO 2: Download a high-resolution photo at this link: Nursing in new college
CUTLINE 2: A student in Indiana State University’s nursing program works with METI, the human patient simulator. METI is used to apply basic science knowledge to various patient cases and to practice clinical skills. Nursing is housed in the new College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services. (Tony Campbell/ISU)

CONTACTS: Esther Acree, co-interim dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-2323 or; Doug Timmons, co-interim dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-3118 or

WRITER: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or

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Story Highlights

In response to the wide variety of needs of the growing health field, and to prepare its students to meet this need with greater understanding and skills, in July 2007, Indiana State University created a new college -- the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services.

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