JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 3, 2004– New graduate programs, increased enrollment goals and continued improvements to the Jackson campus are the focal points of a long-range plan Union University trustees approved at their Dec. 3 meeting.
The plan, “Union 2010: A Vision for Excellence,” outlines goals and provides direction for the university for the next five years.
“I believe Union University is on the verge of a major breakthrough,” Union president David Dockery said. “This plan for 2010 will keep us focused on the future, and will keep before us a vision of what we expect Union to be.”
Dockery said the Union 2010 plan includes eight priorities for the university over the next five years. Among those priorities are keeping Union focused on future opportunities and challenges consistent with the institution’s mission and purpose, cultivating a climate of excellence and innovation, expanding the university’s financial resource base and balancing affordability and accessibility with Union’s commitment to Christ-centered excellence.
As part of the plan, the Christian Studies department will launch three new degree programs -- a master of arts in biblical studies, a master of arts in ethics and a master of Christian studies. These programs are in addition to the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist program and the new doctor’s of education degree in higher education administration.
The CRNA program will begin in the 2005-2006 academic year and will include a 30-month curriculum designed for those who already hold a nursing degree. West Tennessee Healthcare recently committed a $2.5 million gift to support the proposed program.
While the master’s degrees in biblical studies and Christian ethics are specifically designed for full-time students on Union’s campus, Guthrie said the master of Christian studies degree is geared more to staff and church members in West Tennessee churches.
“It gives us a presence in broader Baptist life in terms of graduate education in Christian studies,” George Guthrie, chair of Union’s Christian Studies department, said about the new degree programs. “It takes the quality of what we’ve been doing at the undergraduate level and moves it up a notch.”
Union’s Christian Studies department has grown considerably over the past decade. During that time, students with Christian Studies majors have increased from 70 to 230. The number of faculty members in the department has risen from six to 13.
This growth has allowed the Christian Studies faculty to offer a more diverse and rigorous program, focused on language, research and writing. Because of the department’s growth in both size and quality, Guthrie said the graduate programs will be beneficial to students who seek challenging postgraduate work.
“With the rising levels of our undergraduate programs, we’ve had students who wanted to be pushed to the next level here, and that’s where the master of arts degrees come from,” Guthrie said.
Another part of the Union 2010 plan calls for the continuation of the campus master plan project, contingent upon funding. At the forefront of this plan is the completion of the science building.
White Hall will be a $12 million, 60,000 square foot facility that will house the departments of biology, chemistry and nursing. Originally scheduled for completion by 2005, the building project has been delayed due to tornadoes in 2002 and 2003, as well as funding and space issues. Revised estimates are for the three-story facility to open no later than spring 2007.
Among the other possibilities being considered are an events center, an addition to Jennings Hall, a second building on the university’s Germantown campus, improvements or additions to residential housing or a library building.
“All of these proposed buildings are needed on our campus right now, but we will address the needs as funding is provided,” Dockery said.
Other components of the Union 2010 plan include:
• beginning a department of interdisciplinary studies on the Jackson campus.
• starting a university debate team.
• building a soccer complex, art village and lighted intramural fields.
• starting a women’s soccer team.
• exploring a possible move from NAIA membership to NCAA membership.
In addition, the Union 2010 plan calls for the university to do a feasibility study on at least two other new academic programs. Among those being considered are pharmacy, physical therapy, medical technology and graduate degrees in areas such as music, liberal arts, accountancy, management, social work and others.
The new plan projects a fall enrollment of 3,500 by 2010, up from the current 2,919. Union enrollment has increased from 1,975 to 2,919 since 1996.
“We are incredibly excited about the potential of this plan, which is extremely thorough and comprehensive,” Dockery said. “The plan has been processed across the University over the past 12 months. Strong support for the plan can be seen across all sectors of the campus. We believe it will propel Union to new heights and will enhance the quality of our work in everything we do.”