New University/Training Center is open

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe
Members of the community gather at the new University/Training Center in Dodge City as Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation's Joann Knight cuts the ribbon to mark the grand opening.

After a lengthy development and labor process, several members of the Ford County Commission and others were in attendance for the ribbon-cutting and official grand opening of the University/Training Center on Wednesday.

For a long time, Ford County and the surrounding region lacked a four-year Regents university, but now with the University/Training Center, located at Newman University, people pursuing a career in health care will be able to finish their bachelor’s and master’s degree locally in a classroom setting.

Following welcoming remarks from assistant city manager Melissa McCoy, several speakers spoke about what else this facility will have to offer, starting with Mayor Joyce Warshaw.

Warshaw said she contributes this part of southwestern Kansas’ lack of a Regents university to a shortage of qualified medical personnel, the lack of higher education and an extremely low unemployment rate.

She believes that now it is here, the growing immigrant population will have more access to higher education opportunities past the community college level and that likewise, area youths will be able stay in southwest Kansas as they pursue their degrees.

“We deserve better access to health care and higher education and through these opportunities will raise up our region,” Warshaw said.

Warshaw thanked the City and Development Corporation staff for their extensive work on the project and the USDA, the Scroggins Foundation and the Kansas Health Foundation for their grant donations, as well as Sen. Bud Estes, who could not attend.

Additional commendations went to consultant Terri Mujica McClain, WKREDA, the Kansas Board of Regents, the Southwest Kansas Coalition, Southwest Kansas medical professionals and region community colleges.

“This will be the beginning of many long-term partnerships that will make a difference in educational opportunities for the people of southwest Kansas,” Warshaw said upon welcoming partners Fort Hays State University, the Kansas Law Enforcement Center and Newman University.

Ford County Commissioner Chris Boys spoke about the potential that the facility has already shown by briefly talking about a homebuyers class taught by Mollea Wainscott with Dodge City economic development. The class had both an English- and Spanish-speaking class.

“Really, when you go in and you see these rooms, they’re decked out, they’re made right now to be a university setting and we’re just very excited on the county’s side,” Boys said.

Executive director of the Law Enforcement Training Center Darin Beck talked about how the new University/Training Center will serve community police as an ongoing continuous education and training site.

Once officers have graduated their basic training from the Law Enforcement Training Center main campus in Hutchinson, the mandatory continuous training is often limited to just that campus.

In an effort to find a way to regionalize and remedy this limitation, Beck said, he reached out to communities across Kansas to find available classroom space to utilize for their continuous training program. He was surprised to find Dodge City was already working on a similar program.

The University/Training Center in Dodge City is the first site for the Law Enforcement Training Center’s regionalized continuous training initiative and local officers will use this facility to complete their mandatory yearly 40 hours of additional training.

“We’ve already been working with Sheriff Carr and Chief Francis very closely and we’ll be bringing everything from identifying implicit biases and how to equip oneself to resiliency training,” Beck said.

Associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Nursing Dr. Tanya Smith, from Fort Hays State University, explained that the online RN-to-BSN hybrid learning module utilized at the facility is designed for practicing registered nurses with their associate degree in nursing to help further their education by earning their bachelor’s degree in a more convenient location.

The RN-to-BSN program will be taught by adjunct instructors Ginger Rupp and Jennifer Lix, from Dodge City Community College, both in the facility and online.

Rupp and Lix will meet with students every other week in person at the University/Training Center and through Zoom for satellite areas.

“The purpose of the hybrid program is to provide face-to-face instruction with students who prefer more instructor contact than a traditional online program,” Smith said.

The classes are meant to be sequential as students finish their degree.

Timothy Davis, chair of the Department of Social Work for Fort Hays State University, expressed gratitude for the cooperation and lengths that the facility will go toward helping people earn their four-year degree in social work in a convenient location.

The social work program will offer both bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work.

Katie Eisenhower, executive director of the Scott City Development Committee, spoke on behalf of Scott County. She commended Ford County and its efforts with the University/Training Center and how that is why Scott City will serve as an affiliate distance learning center.

Dodge City/Ford County Devolopment Corporation executive director Joann Knight gave the closing remarks.

“We’ve had tremendous partnership from all five community colleges in this region and I hope this project and that working with the pathways through the high schools, that we will eventually be bringing in higher level coursework to meet our workforce needs,” Knightk said.

She said that while health care was always their first focus and that law enforcement “fell into their lap,” they are working on adding manufacturing, data analyses, and construction programs.

Knight said they are open to working with any community willing to become an additional satellite campus, alongside Jetmore, Elkhart, Tribune, Garden City, Scott City and St. John.

Business training seminars that will be broadcast across the region will also be available at the University/Training Center.