By Estelle R. Brown
BURTON – “Although we’ve been in crisis mode for over a year now, ‘we are thriving; not just surviving!’” declared Dean and Chief Administrative Officer Angela Spalsbury as she announced new renovation plans for Kent State University at Geauga.
In a Zoom presentation on February 24, 2021, Spalsbury unveiled architectural renderings of a new Student Learning Commons area and Nursing Skills Lab & Classroom. The virtual tour demonstrated how the renovation will maximize the existing 5,000-square-foot floorspace, effectively adding 2,000 square feet to the current configuration. Exterior enhancements will include new Kent State signage at the updated patio.
This unveiling kicked off a $1.2 million fundraising campaign in preparation for the construction project scheduled for Summer 2022. Already, Preston Superstore has presented a $20,000 gift toward the project and UH Geauga has donated three hospital beds to the nursing lab.
Upon making the Preston donation for the family business, company spokesperson Jackie Preston-Franck said, “My family and I were so happy to have helped kick off Kent State University Geauga’s fundraising campaign. It is such a special gift to have access to higher education right here in our community. We believe it makes continuing education accessible to everyone in our area. We hope others in our community see this gift and are also inspired to give to this wonderful University.“
Opportunities abound to support different aspects of the renovation, including several levels of giving with named recognition ranging from $10,000 to $250,000. For more information or to discuss a philanthropic donation, please contact Molly Smith, Associate Director of Advancement, at 440-834-3761 or email@example.com.
KEEPING PACE, GAINING GROUND
This project has been in motion since 2019, when the campus sought feedback from the student body, faculty, staff and community members regarding future needs and potential growth. Considering that this regional campus is Geauga County’s only institution of higher learning, Dean Spalsbury spoke about the responsibility Kent State Geauga carries to be responsive to the changing needs of the student body as well as the surrounding community.
The facility was built in 1974 and serves 800-1,000 students annually with 20+ degree and certificate programs. While it has been updated to include advanced technology for remote learning, further accommodations are needed to remain a regional leader. Both renovation projects are designed to improve the educational experience for existing and future students, and will allow the campus to offer more programs and gathering spaces as a trusted county resource.
The new Student Learning Commons — including the relocated Library Services —will expand into the space currently occupied by the nursing lab. It will flow from the side entrance in an open-concept design accented by glass walls and movable furniture to encourage different types of group collaboration. It will also include a multi-purpose area, private study/tutoring rooms, lounge and public-access cafe-style fresh food service replacing vending machines.
OFFSETTING NURSING SHORTAGES WITH EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION
The renovated Nursing Skills Lab & Classroom will occupy the space currently dedicated to the library. It will further modernize and expand the training capacities of the Kent State Geauga nursing program, which was established in the early 1990s. It has since become a leader in the field, recognized as a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing. The only nursing program in Geauga County, it boasts a 100% job placement rate for its graduates (who achieve a nearly 100% pass rate for the national licensure exam, compared to the 80% national average).
While 60% of the nurses working in Northeast Ohio are Kent State graduates, even more nurses are needed to offset the nurse deficit in the region. The expanded program should help to offset projected local nurse shortages, which are expected to reach 3,500 by the year 2023.
By tripling the program space, the renovation will accelerate the impact of the nursing program. It will increase classroom capacity from 20 to 36 students, double the number of hospital beds in the skills lab from four to eight, and provide for two private simulation labs, where currently there are none. The simulation labs model a standard hospital room equipped with a high-fidelity patient manikin (Laerdal SIM Man 3G).
Melissa Owen, MSN, RN, is the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Coordinator/Lecturer for the Kent State Geauga College of Nursing. She said that the current nursing climate — a nursing shortage as the population ages and requires more medical care — constitutes an emergency requiring an equally urgent response.
She explained that a half-million nurses will be retiring by 2022, so the number of active nurses is declining faster than they can be replaced. Meanwhile, 6,000 healthcare positions currently exist in Geauga County alone.
COLLABORATING FOR THE GREATER GOOD
Kent State Geauga’s expanded instructional space and updated skills lab for hands-on experience will help to increase the average number of nursing students graduating with bachelor’s degrees.
Owen said, “Having the space, technology and environment to educate our future nurses will put Geauga County and Kent State on the map as one of the leading contributors to the nursing workforce.”
Dean Spalsbury added, “Working in coordination with Berkshire Schools and Auburn Career Center, our goal is to provide healthcare pathways for Geauga students, giving them many opportunities to pursue careers in health care.”