Union to expand Physician Assistant facility

Even before excavators begin breaking ground for the new science and mathematics complex, the Union College Board of Trustees has approved a plan to convert part of the Don Love Building to make more space for Union’s two newest programs.

“This started as a plan to create more room for our physician assistant program,” said Gary Bollinger, vice president for Financial Administration. “We've expanded our goal slightly to make the renovated space meet the needs of the PA program and also the international rescue and relief program.”

At the regular board meeting on February 6, the board approved a plan to renovate a roughly 15,000 square-foot area currently leased to AdventSource to provide classroom and skills lab space for the two programs.

“The success of the health sciences and related programs have been key to the growth and success of Union College,” said President John Wagner. “We believe that by providing adequate space for these popular programs, we will continue to strengthen the future of our school.”

Expanding programs require more space

Since its launch fifteen years ago, the physician assistant studies program has shared the upper floor of Larson Lifestyle Center with nursing. But both programs have experienced significant growth in the last few years.

In 2008, nursing began enrolling a January class each year, which effectively doubled the number of students in the program. The physician assistant program enrolled 30 students for the first time this year after accepting only 27 last school year and 25 in previous years. While this expansion was made possible, in part, through a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, classroom space in Larson was no longer sufficient and a classroom in the library was renovated to accommodate larger classes.

Even with an expansion of nursing offices, two classrooms, and a high-tech patient simulation lab in an adjacent building, the two programs, along with international rescue and relief, have been forced to share a small clinical skills lab—packed full with a PA class of 30 students.

After a exploring a number of options, the board decided to move ahead with converting the south end of the Don Love Building currently occupied by AdventSource. The renovated area will provide adequate skills lab and classroom space for both the PA program and the IRR program. The move will allow nursing to expand into the entire second level of the Larson Lifestyle Center.

“This expansion allows us to continue to build on the reputation Union has for PA graduates with integrity, compassion, and excellence,” said Mike Huckabee, PA program director. “God has blessed Union with exceptional students, more than the PA Program can accept up to this point. The opportunity of this expansion will strengthen the PA program with enhanced educational facilities and the room we need to grow.”

About AdventSource

More than thirty years ago, Union College started an industry on campus to manufacture supplies for Pathfinders and other ministries. In the mid-1990s, Union College spun off the organization, which was rebranded AdventSource and now operates independently to serve all of North America. AdventSource, which produces and sells a host of ministry materials and provides meeting and website support services for churches, has continued to lease the space on the north end of the Don Love Building.

The board’s facilities committee is finalizing plans to relocate AdventSource on or near campus, Bollinger says. The company provides more than $100,000 each year in student employment and a number of business services for the campus.

A timeline is being established for the relocation of AdventSource and the renovation of the academic space. “Architects are already creating possibilities,” he said. “We will be working on these projects concurrently with the science and mathematics building project.”