School of technology ‘packed,’ anticipates new health sciences building

Rebecca Watts

If the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority approves the sale of $350 million in loan assets for capital improvements on Wednesday, Missouri Southern will construct an essential health sciences building.

“This will be a phenomenal addition to Missouri Southern’s campus,” said Dr. Tia Strait, dean of the school of technology. “I look at Missouri Southern as the health-care provider for the four-state area. We offer quality and accredited programs.”

Strait said the current health departments are housed in four different buildings.

When the new facility is constructed, the health programs will be in one building, criminal justice will be in a building and computer science will still be in Plaster Hall (formally known as Matthews Hall).

The Ummel Technology Building will still have all of the engineering programs.

“I’m looking forward to being able to walk down the hallways and see the majority of the school of technology under one roof,” Strait said.

Southern has been waiting since 1998 for the health science building. The original architectural drawings will need to be revised because the current facilities have already outgrown the past expectations. Additionally, there will be new graduate programs within the anticipated facility.

“I’m just really excited, and ready for this to happen,” Strait said. “I’m a very patient woman, but I’ve been patient long enough.”

Strait said there will be more opportunity for innovative learning and projects for nursing, dental, respiratory, radiology, paramedics, medical technology, psychology and kinesiology.

“I think it will be a building that will have to deal with the total health of our patients, from psychological to physical,” she said. “Also, I think it will be good for the students to collaborate. Because when nursing talks about respiratory illness and diseases, they would be able to access the director or one of the faculty in respiratory therapy to come be a guest lecturer. They would be more readily available for them.”

The main improvement Strait anticipates will be the space, and the ability to grow. Kuhn Hall needs more space for Southern nursing students and faculty. Strait said there are two faculty members per office and students are forced to use other facilities.

“I’ve got classrooms that are packed. I couldn’t increase the size of my nursing department without larger classrooms,” she said. “The nursing department doesn’t have a computer lab for its students. They do a lot of online testing, as well as case studies. And they pretty much have to leave the building in order to do that. So between classes, they don’t have an opportunity to access the lab.

“I think with the new building we will be able to provide a state-of-the-art computer facility for student use.”

Radiology students have a classroom in Kuhn Hall on the lower level. According to Strait, they need bigger desks.

“They’re still using those tablet desks,” she said. “I actually got funding this year to buy larger desks, but they won’t fit in the classrooms.”

There is a room serving as a laboratory and class. Radiology equipment, such as an x-ray unit, along with a standard classroom set-up, are combined into one space. Additionally, more equipment is expected.

The respiratory therapy program is in lower level of the Anderson Justice Center, constricting the two departments to limited space.

“The criminal justice department continues to grow, respiratory continues to grow, there’s just no space,” Strait said.

In the dental hygiene department and the Ummel Technology Building, enhancements are delivering distance learning with interactive televisions.

“We only have two interactive television classrooms down [in Kuhn Hall] that hold 30 students, and all of the equipment.” Strait said. “I bought some bigger desks, and we’re just barely fitting in the desks. I mean we are packed.”