Ashtabula health programs grow

Sam Laros

$14.8 million project to finish August 27

Using the alias kentstate_ash, Kent State University’s Ashtabula campus tweets about three times a week.

Lately, the Twitter site’s hottest topic has been a new, $14.8 million construction project: The Robert S. Morrison Health and Science building. The state-of-the-art facility, scheduled to be dedicated Aug. 27, is helping Kent State Ashtabula gain its own regional identity.

Carol Drennen, Kent State Ashtabula’s senior program director for nursing and allied health, said the building will have a lab with a human patient simulator, or a machine that responds like a human patient. There will also be a fully-functional apartment for occupational therapy students to use with patients and a cadaver lab for anatomy and physiology students.

When Gov. Ted Strickland spoke of the failing economy in his 2008 State of the State Address, he addressed the statewide $1.7 billion stimulus package to create more jobs in Ohio. The package included a plan to strengthen higher education so that degrees in “core fields” would be offered throughout more of Ohio’s two-year schools, community colleges and branch campuses.

Kelly Anthony, director of enrollment management and student services, said the Ashtabula campus’ undergraduate student enrollment increased 35.47 percent last spring. She said total enrollment was up 35.62 percent.

Drennen said the recent growth corresponded with a younger demographic of students and a higher transfer rate from within the Kent system and other universities.

Ashtabula was the first of Kent State’s campuses to offer a nursing degree program. It began in 1967 and the first class graduated in 1969. Today, the program has a 100 percent job placement rate, said Drennen.

“When students call, I’ll hear ‘I lost my job, and I know this is (a program) where I will be able to find a job and keep a job’,” Drennen said.

According to e-Inside, approximately 75 percent of registered nurses working in Ashtabula graduated from Kent State Ashtabula’s associate degree in nursing program.

The campus also offers newer associate degrees in radiological technology and occupational therapy assistant technology

The campus’ newest program, physical therapist assistant technology, is planned to start in Spring 2010. Drennen said the program is the first of its kind in the country, which will allow athletic trainers to earn credentials as a physical therapy assistant.

Drennen said the new facility and the unique opportunities it offers will set the Ashtabula campus apart from other universities in the region and the nation.

“I don’t think anything is totally recession-proof, but I think that the (health care) jobs are much more secure than others,” said Drennen.

Contact regional campuses reporter Sam Laros at [email protected].