UM holds ribbon cutting for home of new nursing program

Published 5:18 pm Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

MONTEVALLO – The University of Montevallo has expanded its educational offerings even further, now in a new direction with its proposed nursing program which will be housed in Myrick Hall.

The University of Montevallo held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its new nursing facilities on campus at Myrick Hall on Friday, Feb. 16. Guests gathered around the front steps of the health sciences building, which has recently undergone renovations to house the proposed nursing program.

“We’re super grateful for all the support that nursing at UM has received,” UM President Dr. John W. Stewart III said.

The new program will further expand the university’s list of degree options and, according to Stewart, the program will have a distinctively different perspective at UM.

“When a graduate at Montevallo finishes with a degree in nursing, they’re going to know a depth of human suffering from reading (Fyodor) Dostoevsky (and) they’re going to know the history of healthcare,” he said. “They’re going to know the political science of it and they’re going to get a fantastic background in the sciences that we’ve had for a long time.”

Holly Dean, CEO of Shelby Baptist Medical Center attended the ribbon cutting and shared her thoughts on the importance of the program and its connection with the services at the hospital.

“For us at Shelby Baptist, this is a really exciting day,” she said. “We’re bring a new nursing program into the backyard of not only Shelby County, but the surrounding communities.”

Dean also spoke on how the proposed program would directly benefit the nursing workforce in Shelby County and elsewhere.

“We are always struggling with nursing shortages and it’s not just Shelby, it’s every organization, it’s really challenging,” she said. “And so, having a program like this is going to help educate and really escalate the workforce and healthcare (industry). We want to be proud supporters of this program.”

Dean spoke positively of the amenities and technological offerings in the new facilities for the nursing program at Myrick Hall.

“They’ve got beautiful simulation labs here set up,” she said. “It’s really going to make it feel just like you’re in a hospital. And so, we’re going to have great students come out of this program and we’re excited at Shelby to be a potential clinical site for these students and to help them in their educational journey.”

The ribbon cutting also served as an introduction for Dr. Crystal Bennett, who will serve as the inaugural dean of the nursing program. Bennett joins UM from the University of West Florida, where she served as the director of the School of Nursing since July 2021 and as an assistant professor of clinical practice since May 2020.

Bennett shared that her son is currently a Montevallo student, and that she was impressed by the University when he first came for a visit. She expressed her desire to come to a place that is “uniquely small,” a trait that she says the university should be proud of.

“Nursing is absolutely rooted in the arts,” Bennett said. “We are part of a caring science profession. You can have all the skills in the world, but you have to care. You have to truly have a heart to give to others and meet them where they are, at the beginning of life and at the end of life. It’s truly an honor to be in a profession where we can experience both.”

Dr. Courtney Bentley, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, shared that she was happy to hand over the reins of the new nursing program to Bennett.

“She was an integral part of our phase two submission to the board of nursing, which we have submitted and we will await their response,”  Bentley said.

Bentley also recognized Dr. Constance Smith Hendricks for her contributions to the proposed nursing program. Hendricks, known internationally as an exemplary nurse, scholar and leader, has helped develop numerous quality nursing programs at universities across the southeast.

“Without her support, we would not be where we are today,” Bentley said.

Former Montgomery mayor and UM Board of Trustees Chair Todd Strange spoke during the ribbon cutting and spoke on the bridge between the nursing program and liberal arts.

“We are known as a liberal arts university and nursing is nothing more than liberal arts—taking care of the entire person,” he said. ‘This is but the beginning of something that will lend up in the total allied health curriculum because our job is to educate those individuals that can get a job in the future.”

Following the ribbon cutting, guests were allowed to tour the facilities and enjoy a reception. Myrick Hall now features a variety of amenities for students and staff to utilize for the program, including the Simulation and Skills Lab, two patient simulation rooms, two observation rooms, two classrooms and a nurses’ station which were completed as part of renovations in the building in August 2023. Additional renovations are planned to be completed by July 2024.

UM is finalizing the Step II application to the Alabama Board of Nursing. If approved by the board at the May meeting, UM will launch its nursing program in August 2024. Once final approval is received, specific details regarding nursing program admission requirements will be made available.