University expands degree offerings

Two new degrees, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), and Speech-language Pathology and Audiology, will be offered in the fall of 2016 at Bluffton.  The nursing program will be offered as a partnership through Northwest State Community college, located in Archbold Ohio.  The speech-language program will be completely through Bluffton.

“A nursing program is an expensive and complicated program to run, and that has stopped us from being able to offer the subject in the past.  Luckily, we were approached by Northwest State University, which makes this all possible,” said Lamar Nisly, associate dean of academic affairs.

The partnership will allow freshman students to enroll at Bluffton and take basic science and general education courses while receiving most of their nursing classes, some of which will be through video conferencing, from Northwest.

“What’s really neat about our program, is that while students are getting their four year degree, they will actually receive their associate’s degree from Northwest and, once they sit for their nursing examinations (NCLEX), will be able to start working as RNs as they are finishing their bachelor’s,”

The new director for the program, Sherri Winegardner, will begin at Bluffton in January.  She will teach some courses as well as coordinate the collaboration between Bluffton and Northwest.

“The demand for nurses is only going to go up as our population ages.  ObamaCare is pushing for nurses who are more qualified, and hospitals typically like to hire nurses with BSN degrees,” said Nisly.

Nisly noted that while the program is designed for traditional students, Bluffton also hopes to attract local nurses who want to go back to school to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Because of the timing of accreditation of the program, incoming freshman to Bluffton will not be able to start the program until the fall of 2017.  Nurses with their associate’s degree are currently being recruited to start the BSN completion program in the fall of 2016.

Meanwhile, the speech-language pathology and audiology program  will launch fully in the fall of 2016.

“There is a profound need for speech-language pathologists throughout the country.  But not only that; the degree matches Bluffton’s mission statement—it allows students to get out there and help improve people’s quality of life.  We realized as soon as we found this degree that it was a perfect match for Bluffton,” said Gale Trollinger, education department chair.

The program will seek to provide students with a rich undergraduate experience to prepare them for entrance to graduate school, according to Trollinger.  A master’s degree is required to be certified in the field of speech-language pathology.

Speech-language pathologists and audiologists work with those who have disorders in speech, language, social communication, cognitive communication and swallowing.

The program is also being offered as a minor, which will also  help to prepare students for graduate school.

“We’re hoping some of our intervention specialists will add the minor, because it would be a wonderful addition to any education program,” said Trollinger.

There is an anticipated 19% growth rate in job openings for speech-language pathologists.  Jobs can be found in hospitals, schools and nursing homes.

“The great thing about speech-pathology is that it fits with so many disciplines.  It’s currently in the education department, but it could just as easily be in the English department, or the music department, or a science department.  It’s very interdisciplinary,” said Trollinger.

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