Eastern Washington University says that with the help of the business community here it has identified three major areas of study it plans to target as part of its strategy to expand its presence near downtown Spokane.
Although details of its updated academic plan still need to be fleshed out before it goes through the approval process later this summer, the Cheney-based university has landed on three signature themes that it will structure its new programs around, says Ron Dalla, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Those themes include health and wellness and health services, water and the Inland Northwest, and urban community, and would serve as umbrellas over new programs here that could include a medical diagnostic imaging program and a physicians assistant program, Dalla says.
The updated academic plan is part of EWUs efforts to establish a larger presence here, specifically within the University District east of downtown, where it plans to consolidate its Spokane operations eventually.
Were a part of the University District, and were interested in helping that district grow, Dalla says. Were planning and looking to consolidate our offerings in Spokane in the University District to support the concept of a University District as a way of responding to the economic and educational needs of the Spokane metropolitan region.
Meshing new programs with old
As part of the planning process, the university is evaluating the programs it already offers in Spokane, what new programs would be in greatest demand here, and what programs would fit best with those offered by Washington State University at the Riverpoint Higher Education Park, he says. It also has taken into account the concerns of the business community here by factoring into its decisions a study conducted by Patrick Jones, executive director of EWUs Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis, who asked Spokane employers what programs would help them meet their work-force needs.
Included in the health and wellness and health services theme could be a medical diagnostic imaging program, which would be a new offering by EWU and the first one of its kind in the state, Dalla says.
The university also is considering adding new programs related to rural health-care delivery, as well as entering a partnership with the University of Washington to offer a physicians assistant program.
The health services theme is an obvious one from the standpoint that thats one of the largest areas of growth in Spokane at this time, he says.
EWU plans to expand its health-services offerings here in part to complement UWs plans to begin providing in 2008 instruction at the Riverpoint campus to first-year medical school and dental school students, which the Washington Legislature approved in its just completed session, Dalla says. The additional EWU programs also would augment the health-sciences programs the school already offers at Riverpoint, which include physical therapy, dental hygiene, occupational therapy, and a communication disorders program, he says.
The water and the Inland Northwest umbrella in EWUs plan would include programs related to water and its importance to the region, as well as history of the Inland Northwest.
One proposed program under this theme is a center for water studies, which would identify opportunities for students and faculty members to study water issues in the Spokane area and would coordinate those projects, he says.
Another program could be a cultural and interpretive center, where the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture could display some of its Native American artifacts, EWU art faculty and students could display their work, and visitors could view a display about the impact of Ice Age floods on the region, Dalla says.
In addition, EWU might expand to Spokane the aquatic biology and environmental studies programs it offers in Cheney, as well as start a new sustainable energy program here, he says.
Water is an extremely important part of Spokane and the Inland Northwest, Dalla says. With the Riverpoint campus right by the (Spokane) river, the importance of water to the area, and some of the specialties we have in Cheney, it seemed natural to us to take advantage of our expertise and the importance of the river and expand.
As part of the urban community theme, EWU is looking at establishing what it calls a center for community engagement, which would coordinate student community service projects with the needs, interests, and capabilities of businesses and nonprofits in Spokane.
In addition, EWU might expand the urban and regional planning programs it offers here, which currently focus on the East Central neighborhood, to include other neighborhoods in the Spokane area, he says. EWU hasnt identified those neighborhoods yet.
The urban and regional planning programs at EWU focus on topics such as community development, land-use planning, environmental planning, transportation planning, urban design, and economic development. They also provide planning research and technical assistance to communities and tribal governments in the region.
The (Riverpoint) campus is located in an urban setting, and with our existing degree programs in social work and urban and regional planning, which do a lot of work with various urban communities within Spokane, we thought it was natural to continue those efforts and expand them, Dalla says.
A group at EWU that includes Dalla; Earl Gibbons, vice provost for international and educational outreach; Neville Hosking, vice provost for administration and planning; and several academic deans presented its preliminary academic plan to the universitys board of trustees a few weeks ago, Dalla says.
The board supported the initial plan, and asked the group to put some meat on the bones of the proposal, he says. The group hopes to submit a rough draft of the academic plan to the board by the end of June, and to get the boards approval of a final version by August, Dalla says.
While some of the programs would be expansions of programs offered in Cheney or Spokane and wouldnt take as long to implement, others would have to undergo a lengthy state approval process since they would be new degree programs, he says.
The group hopes to have a clearer idea of the time needed to implement the plan by August, he says.
Ultimately, EWUs goal is to have an academic plan for Spokane that would guide the size and uses of a building it plans to construct on the Riverpoint campus, he says.
To fund design and planning work for its planned new building, the university currently is soliciting offers from potential buyers for its longtime four-story, 67,000-square-foot EWU Spokane Center building, at 705 W. First downtown.
The university expects to seek construction money from the Legislature to erect its new building at Riverpoint in the states 2009-2011 biennium, and wouldnt start offering some of the new programs under its revised academic plan until that building was completed, he says.
Contact Emily Brandler at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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