After nearly two years of putting pieces in place, the upcoming University Center, located at the Hennessy Hall campus in Dodge City, has been given the green light.


Construction is currently underway and enrollment is taking place for an RN to BSN program through Fort Hays State University and also construction for the University of Kansas Criminal Justice Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.


Full-time Rural Education and Workforce Alliance coordinator Kyla Keller was also hired in February and will be writing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Planning Grant to fund a workforce study for the region, as well as a marketing plan and building infrastructure improvement plan for Hennessy Hall.


The University Center refers to any program that is not offered in area community colleges and not medical school.


According to Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation executive director Joann Knight, they have been working with several universities to bring in higher degrees and certifications that complement the five regional community colleges and meet the region’s workforce needs.


"We have started with social work and nursing through FHSU but are also working with K-State and KU currently and have reached out to Wichita State University and Pittsburg State," said Knight. "We have also been helping to promote Newman University’s classes."


To date, there have been partnerships with the City of Dodge City, Ford County, the Development Corporation, the Kansas Health Foundation, the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas and the USDA for continued funding.


An informational session for the RN to BSN degree program for FHSU was held in Dodge City recently.


The session was for the University Center and saw the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation, Rural Education & Workforce Alliance, FHSU and Western Plains Medical Complex partnered to allow employers and potential students interested in the degree program to learn more about the courses.


According to the development corporation, courses are set to begin this fall.


According to Keller, the purpose of the RN to BSN informational session was to allow employers, students and current RN’s to be exposed to the details of the hybrid program.


On hand to discuss the benefits of the program were Tanya Smith and Jenny Manry, of FHSU, who talked about RN to BSN courses needed, program requirements, clinical requirements and how to apply to the Dodge City Hybrid Program, as well as getting a BSN.


According to Keller, the Dodge City Hybrid Program is a one-of-a-kind program that allows for students to take online courses, but still receive face-to-face support from instructors.


"We are thrilled with this initial response and hope that employers will strongly consider assisting employees in continuing their education as we gain access to programs such as this, that will fill the workforce gaps," said Knight in a news release. "Our concept of The University Center is to work with the universities across the state to provide a blended mix of delivery of courses that enhance the community college degrees and meet our workforce needs."


Launching in Fall 2020, the RN to BSN Program will be coming to the future University Center location at Hennessy Hall, along with five frontier communities via Zoom video conferencing.


Those are communities are Elkhart, Tribune, Scott City, St. John and Jetmore.


According to Keller, the development corporation and REWA have assisted in recruiting or expanding the following programs: Newman University Para to Professional Teaching Degree; KU Masters of Social Work; FHSU Bachelors of Social Work Cohort – 23 students started August 2019; FHSU Masters of Social Work – beginning August 2020; FHSU Bachelors of Nursing – beginning August 2020; KLETC Regional Training Center – opening June 2020 and KU Med’s Bachelors of Respiratory Therapy (web-based) – partnered with SCCC and working to bring to DCCC and GCCC.


For more information, contact Keller at 620-227-9501 or kkeller@dodgedev.org.


Editor's Note: This story is part of the Good News Initiative where the Dodge City Daily Globe will be highlighting a positive news story daily, sponsored by First Dental of Dodge City.


To send inquiries of possible positive news stories, email managing editor Vincent Marshall at vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.