Purdue Northwest Boosts Biological Sciences
Purdue University Northwest (PNW) says it’s passionate about training students to pursue careers in the biological sciences and healthcare; PNW Chancellor Thomas Keon notes healthcare is the second-biggest economic driver in the region, but it’s been challenging to overcome the university’s dated facilities to train these future workers. PNW believes a new Bioscience Innovation Building at the Hammond campus will be the perfect antidote for antiquated facilities, and it’s backed by $35 million from the state.
“For any campus—particularly one of our size—[the funding] means we are a campus that the state believes is worth investing in,” says Keon. “It provides a stimulus for everybody to see we have a strong future, and that we’re an important institution for Indiana.”
The building is also a critical addition for the region, says Keon. It will house the university’s nursing program—a profession in high demand locally.
“There’s an enormous need for nurses in northwest Indiana,” says Keon. “The nursing students are almost 100 percent placed every semester when they graduate. The only reason it isn’t 100 percent is because some might want to go out-of-state or want a specialty area that would send them to Chicago, as opposed to northwest Indiana.”
The university’s nursing program is full each year, admitting the maximum number of students allowed by accreditation standards. Keon expects the new facility to grow enrollment in the biology program, which is already one of the largest majors on campus.
The current building that houses the nursing program, the Gyte Annex, was built in the 1950s; university leaders say it’s an inadequate 21st century instructional facility and faces additional challenges, such as mold in the basement.
The new building will be state-of-the-art and include high-tech laboratories for the nursing and biological sciences programs. The nursing lab, for example, will include high-tech patient simulators, or mannequins, that can simulate a wide range of medical scenarios, such as births, heart attacks and strokes.
“The new labs will give us a tremendous opportunity to boost quality in both areas,” says Keon. “There’s going to be a tremendous amount of excitement among the faculty and students about having a new facility for learning experiences.”
Biology students will have another new space for learning; in late 2017, local residents donated the Taltree Arboretum & Gardens in nearby Valparaiso to the university. Keon says the 300-acre living classroom will be a valuable tool for applied research and the study of plant science.
University leaders expect the projects to breathe new life into the Hammond campus, which hasn’t had any new construction in 25 years. The school began pushing for the Bioscience Innovation Building in 2008, but the recession and the state’s subsequent restriction of funds for higher education construction projects delayed PNW’s efforts.
The university will break ground this summer and expects to complete the building in 2020. Keon says it will be a modern training tool and testament to the school’s role in training workers for the region’s economy.
Keon says “vital legislative support” made the project possible.
Keon says PNW graduates are an important part of the economic landscape in northwest Indiana.