By Lori Lovely
As part of a strategic plan for managed growth, Methodist College is moving to a larger location in North Peoria. Currently located downtown near UnityPoint Methodist Hospital, the college is moving to an area that is experiencing a lot of residential, retail, and entertainment development.
“We wanted to stay in Peoria,” explains Dr. Kimberly Johnston, president of the college. The college leadership had considered other locations in downtown Peoria, but there was nothing suitable that would accommodate the future growth of the college.
The old downtown location is just off the interstate, although it’s not clearly noticeable. The new location sits on 13 acres of prime real estate in a highly visible location near a major route in a “rapidly growing area” near a movie theater, sports complex, and the new Hy-Vee superstore.
At 126,000 sq.ft., the building is large enough to accommodate growth. After a complete gut and remodel of what was once a furniture store, the new space will accommodate approximately 1,100 students, which is a significant increase over the current capacity of 500, a space Johnston says they outgrew four years ago. “There’s no more growth room. It keeps our numbers down artificially, thwarting our growth plan.”
There is ample parking and, while not as close to the hospital as the old location, the college will still maintain its downtown connections while simultaneously opening up new opportunities. “We are strengthening our bonds,” Johnston states.
The college is affiliated with both nearby UnityPoint Methodist Hospital and UnityPoint Proctor Hospital, located just north of downtown. Students are able to do their clinical experiences at both hospitals as well as at UnityPoint clinics.
The additional acreage at the new campus allows the college to add student apartments, as well as a café, larger campus store, fitness and recreation rooms, large meeting space for workshops and continuing education opportunities, and a commons area. There will be a library and a lab suite for chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology. In addition, the new building will offer two onsite simulation centers where students learn and practice skills.
“It’s like a contained city for the students,” Johnston continues. “They have food, exercise, a study area, and around-the-clock security. There’s practically no reason to leave!”
Methodist College was established in 2000 in response to national trends affecting changes in nursing education, the nursing profession, and health care delivery. Its heritage extends back another 100 years to 1900, when the School of Nursing, along with the Deaconess Home and Hospital, was founded by the deaconesses of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Since then, the private, not-for-profit college has evolved from the basic school of the Nightingale model into a full-fledged four-year college. “They closed the school, which functioned as a division of the hospital, and began the college, which is now an accredited institution,” Johnston explains.
They began working toward accreditation shortly after she arrived 10 years ago and were awarded candidacy in 2007. They achieved full accreditation surprisingly quickly, just a year later. “Being accredited is important,” Johnston believes. “It’s a reflection of quality and it enables students to seek federal financial aid.
The first students of the college in 2002 had one program to choose from. “It was a completion program,” Johnston explains. “There was no general education here at the time.”
That changed and by 2010, students were able to complete their full degree there.
The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, and the nursing program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and is affiliated with UnityPoint Health-Peoria.
Focused strictly on nursing and health sciences, Methodist tries to be different from other nursing schools by offering degrees the others do not. “We identify holes in education and fill them,” Johnston says.
They now offer many additional options. The RN-BSN can be taken online. An accelerated Second Degree program for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another subject area is fast-paced and challenging. Students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in five semesters. A certificate in gerontology can provide a student with additional job options.
There are two new health science tracks: a Bachelor of Science in Health Science with a focus on either behavioral health or healthcare management.
A master’s degree program in nursing focuses on nursing education. Johnston indicates that the college leadership is working on a master’s degree in nurse leadership and an RN to MSN pathway program. A new Bachelor of Science in Social Work is planned for Fall 2017 and a graduate physician’s assistant program is in the strategic plan for future development.
Including general education courses allows students to complete their studies at Methodist College. The development and integration of new programs is intended to attract more students in a broader range of healthcare fields.
Nonetheless, students will continue to benefit from smaller class sizes and individualized attention from faculty members. In addition, Methodist College’s academic programs combine classroom studies, research, and dynamic real-world clinical experience.
Although the college will now be located a little farther away from the hospital, Johnston expects the relationship to continue unchanged. “The College is an operating division of the hospital,” she explains, adding that the hospital is “working toward corporation.” She anticipates that the college will be separately incorporated by 2019.
Still, she says, they are part of the larger system. “It’s a huge plus. We could not have as large a program without the hospitals as they provide the clinical practice space for our students. One of the most difficult things to obtain for any healthcare education program is adequate clinical space.”
Relationships are important, says Johnston, whose background includes working at three other universities as an educator. “In the fall of 2017 we will institute service learning — what we call community engagement — in which students must volunteer for non-profits in the community.”
Community service will be a graduation requirement because civic engagement is part of the college’s mission. Because most of the students who enroll in Methodist College are Illinois residents, they will, in fact, be serving their own community.
Johnston provides a few other statistics about the student body, which consists of older students (age 25 or older). Approximately 13 percent are male and 19 percent are minorities. Their student loan default rate is low at three percent, likely due to the fact that the employment rate of graduates is 100 percent.
Although Johnston mentions that “there’s a huge nursing shortage,” she attributes the employment success rate to everyone on the scholastic team, calling them a family. Like most families, the one at Methodist College is growing and changing. “We may have to change the name to Methodist University to reflect our growth and all the changes we’ve made!”
Ultimately, this small, century-old school is about “care and science,” Johnston says, so it doesn’t matter how many name changes it goes through, it will always focus on providing quality education for students interested in the healthcare profession.
The College celebrated its Grand Opening on Monday, July 25. All services are fully operational, and the fall semester will begin Monday, August 15, 2016.
For more information, contact the Admissions Department at 309-672-5513, or visit methodistCOL.edu