IUSB Elkhart Center Starting Advanced Programs

A new set of programs could make the Indiana University South Bend Elkhart Center a key place for students seeking careers in healthcare fields.

A $400,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County is part of a $5 million investment by IU South Bend to start a cluster of advanced health science programs at the Elkhart Center in downtown Elkhart. Undergraduate classes in speech language pathology will start this fall on the South Bend campus and master’s level courses will be offered in Elkhart in the fall of 2018, said Chancellor Terry Allison. Occupational therapy and physical therapy programs could follow after that, he said. He is hoping for 120 students to be in the programs in the coming years. IU South Bend would become the only public university in the northern half of Indiana offering these programs.

“They fit IU South Bend’s mission of training students to meet the needs of the community,” said Allison. “These programs are in our strategic plan.”

A Deloitte study commissioned by the regional campuses of Indiana University shows a need in northern Indiana for speech pathologists, occupational therapists and physical therapists. There is also national data showing that some of the fastest growing fields nationally are in these areas. “The top 12 jobs list includes these professions,” said Jann Joseph, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at IU South Bend. “We heard from our community partners in the health sciences and medical professions that they need people to be trained in these fields.”

Classrooms at the Elkhart campus at 125 E. Franklin Avenue will be converted to audiology and therapy lab spaces. Lower level general education courses will still be offered there, but this is a shift in how the site will be utilized. “We saw an opportunity to expand these programs in spaces that we have in Elkhart and to support the Elkhart community,” said Joseph.

Civic leaders helped build the IU South Bend Elkhart Center that opened in 2007, but enrollment has fallen as people return to work after the Great Recession. Many Elkhart County students attend classes in South Bend and even live in the residence halls there, said Allison.

Hiring professors and renovating classroom space requires investment before students arrive and start paying tuition. In addition to the Community Foundation of Elkhart County grant, IU South Bend is seeking money from the Regional Cities Initiative, and private donations to help with the costs.

The Community Foundation’s Vibrant Community Grant Committee is excited about supporting reinvestment at the IU South Bend Elkhart Center. “We’re hoping to not only bring that four-year opportunity here, but to help train people in these health occupations,” said Shannon Oakes, senior program officer for the Community Foundation. “It’s a unique opportunity for our community.”

Gathering cohorts of students to study in Elkhart County and work in its hospitals and the new Elkhart Health Fitness Aquatics Center to be constructed could have another benefit. “We’d love to see students who aren’t originally from this region stay here to live, work and play and become part of our community,” Oakes said.

Allison and Joseph believe the investment will pay off. “This provides us an opportunity to expand the use of the Elkhart Center and produce skilled employees for local jobs in the healthcare industry, ” Joseph said. “It will be a job-producing program.”

Marshall V. King is a freelance writer and photographer who wrote this on behalf of the Community Foundation of Elkhart County.