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Back-to-school for CHHS brings new organization

August 10, 2016

Sarah Boyd, Rebecca Prtichard and Jasmine Young install a sign to identify the new location of the School of Health Studies offices in Wirtz Hall.

NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences is heading back to school with a roster of changes aimed at bringing synergies and coordination to several programs. Those changes add two new names to the roll call this year: the School of Nursing, and the School of Health Studies.

The important changes include:

Participating faculty, staff and students did the homework for many months to reconfigure the academic programs in CHHS. This past spring, NIU President Doug Baker, the NIU Board of Trustees, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education gave the plan the appropriate approvals.

These changes improve efficiencies in resource management and offer course and program synergies, said College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Derryl Block.

“The alignment of content areas in the School of Health Studies programs will lead to increased student and faculty collaboration, as well as additional research opportunities. Putting the nursing program in its own school mirrors what is a common model at other universities,” Block said.

Janice Strom, chair of the School of Nursing, noted high expectations for her school’s changes.

“The changes will offer enhanced research and practice opportunities for faculty and students, while allowing growth in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs,” she said.

Even with these changes, many things will stay the same. The reorganization does not affect the following:

  • Graduation requirements for students in each major;
  • Course content for the major classes;
  • Resource allocation for academic programs; and
  • Location for the School of Nursing and Medical Laboratory Science program offices, they remain in their current buildings and offices

In class meetings during the spring semester, students in medical laboratory science, and nutrition were reassured their majors are intact, and they will be able to continue on their present course toward graduation, CHHS Associate Dean Beverly Henry said.

Henry also spoke of the advantages the new structure will bring.

“The students were interested in how their options of elective classes could increase with common areas of interest. There are many ways in which laboratory and dietetics professionals work together,” Henry said.

Jeanne Isabel, program director and associate professor for Medical Laboratory Sciences, agreed.

“Careers in any of the health professions encompass communication and teamwork across multiple disciplines. Undecided students in the College of Health and Human Sciences have the advantage of finding the right major with similar prerequisite requirements,” Isabel said.

Future students will experience the most changes, as faculty look at recommendations to streamline courses and requirements

“We had conversations about whether a student really needed to take a particular course if they are taking a similar course. We considered some reductions in requirements while ensuring students remain equipped for long-term career success,” Sarah Geiger, an assistant professor of public health, and member of the group that developed the proposal for college changes, said.

For example, every program may not necessarily need to have its own course in research methods – perhaps public health and nutrition students can take the same course. The committee also took into account relevance in the career world by offering industry-specific courses that would be valuable in the workplace, such as biostatistics, Geiger said.

Josephine Umoren, an associate professor and area coordinator for the Nutrition and Dietetics programs, agreed this has the potential to enhance innovative career options for students in the three programs. “This is especially true for dietetics students as we enter a new era of new education standards set by our accrediting body,” she added.

Though there will be new education opportunities, the core programs and values remain.

“While the college’s structure for its schools has changed, students will find that their academic experience at NIU will be unchanged,” Strom said. “Students will register for courses as they have in the past, highly qualified faculty will continue to teach the courses, and students will continue to be prepared for career success.”

Visit the CHHS website for more information.