|Neighborhood college graduates to university
The Western States Chiropractic College has officially graduated into the University of Western States
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
The hum of construction lends a hint to the recent activity here, but the changes underway at the century-old school are far more intrinsic than a facelift. The university has plans to expand both its scope and its outreach, while accomplishing the almost impossible task of maintaining its current footprint in the Russell neighborhood of mid-Multnomah County. The restrictions on its conditional use permit with the city have promoted creativity and collaborations that have proven beneficial for all, from neighbors across the street, to potential students across the country, to clinic patients seeking integrated health care.
In order to provide education in this quiet, residential neighborhood, the university must operate in harmony with the community. This restricts the traffic coming in and out of the school as well governs how they use the land they own, factors that would appear to stanch any expansion plans. Yet last April UWS opened its first master's program, adding a master's degree in excursive and sports science to its offerings in chiropractic and massage therapy. With the exception of recruiting 10 new faculty members, who mostly work on a part-time basis, the new program has little outside impact. The first new class drew 25 students, all previously enrolled at UWS for chiropractic degrees. Students become eligible for the master's in exercise and sports science program after six quarters into their 12 quarter chiropractic study, which they can complete concurrently.
Thus, the student population remained stable through the transition. This helped maintain the traffic through the neighborhood and the student to teacher ratio, which influences the quality of the education they receive.
Administrators meet with the pilot group of students regularly to assess the successes and needs of the fledgling program. As for admissions next year, Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. David Wickes described the benefits of staying small. We have to make sure that we have sufficient clinical experiences to support all the students that are in the program so it will probably be the same size or up to 10 students more than that.
Under Clinical Director Craig Kawaoka who ran a similar program in California, the exercise and sports science students study the strains and treatments common to athletes. Like other UWS programs, advanced year students are subjected to real life clinical experience. In collaboration with Parkrose High School, Kawaoka spends his afternoons with a select group of students helping train high school athletes. While the partnership is new the practice isn't. UWS's sports medicine club has offered their assistance at area sporting events in the past.
After the exercise and sports medicine masters program takes hold, UWS plans to introduce additional programs currently under development, all of which are designed to maintain the integrity of the institution without overstepping its bounds.
Essential to this is a less visible improvement to the campus: a $500,000 upgrade to the technology infrastructure. Through a process that involved replacing every device, from the servers to the tiniest switch, the school created a wireless network with the ease of device recognition (so students can automatically log on without a prompt) and the security of a multi-layer structure to protect the medical records of clinic patients. Though students will soon enjoy lecture capture technology - which enables them to conduct a word search and pull up a section of a lecture that may have escaped them - much of this infrastructure will help earn accreditation for a clinical nutrition masters course UWS plans to offer online starting in October 2011. The university collaborated with a voluntary standards verification organization, Quality Matters, which establishes tight criteria for delivering quality online education. They also recruited a full time instructional design administrator to help teachers - experts on the subject matter - translate their knowledge to the web format in order to provide an effective online education. In addition to the course material, the school must ensure that remote students have availability to the same support services, such as the registrar and financial aid, as those physically attending the campus, which involved developing a massive database to store that information. Once the nutrition program is underway, the school will have the ability to shift more courses online and reach an ever-wider group of students.
Another technique the university will employ to extend its reach while maintaining its footprint involves creating a satellite program. In September of 2011, UWS will export a version of its successful massage therapy program to Chemeketa Community College. A clinic and laboratory are being specially designed on the Salem campus to meet the needs of the massage therapy students and patients. Through this partnership, the 45 credits earned during the massage therapy program will count towards half of an associate's degree in the field. That saves them a fair amount of money and gives them a vocation and a way of getting their associates degree so it's a win/win, commented Wickes.
The third program under development may prove it is most essential. Anatomy instructors are, and this is a terrible pun, said Wickes, a dying breed. It is becoming harder and harder for colleges to find qualified people to teach anatomy, and so our masters in clinical anatomy program is going to provide them not only with the very comprehensive detailed physiology knowledge but also the teaching skills, educational theory and delivery.
Educational offerings aside, the physical changes to the UWS campus have garnered the most outside attention. The buzz centers around the construction of the school's new state of the art anatomy lab, which among other resources will feature 11 linked-in computer workstations with 52 monitors, a sophisticated ventilation system that changes air 25 times an hour, a 'preservation suite' for up to 30 cadavers and soundproof construction to eliminate highway noise. The 8500 square foot structure broke ground in June of this year, replacing outdated offices. The anatomy lab currently in use will be cleared and paved to replace the parking lost by the new structure. Though the technology earns the most awe, the practical elements like lockers, sinks and offices for the anatomy instructors will vastly improve the quality of the experience for all. The low profile design mimics Hampton Hall, built in 2001, the most recent improvement to the campus to date.
Notably absent from the campus, and another feature that helps keep the quiet atmosphere here, is student housing. An older student population eliminates this need. Student impact on the community appears minimal. While the school holds no official records of where their students choose to reside, Gresham, Vancouver and downtown Portland seem to be the most popular. Matthew Usel, a fourth year student chiropractic intern from Colorado who has lived in the Russell neighborhood for the past two years while attending UWS, cited the area's lack of student-attracting apartment buildings as a possible reason they choose to reside farther out. He pointed to the Hazelwood neighborhood area near 102nd Avenue and East Burnside St. and a small community in the Argay neighborhood around the Parkrose Post Office on Northeast 122nd Avenue and Shaver Street as the few small bastions of students nearby. Still, he prefers his choice, It is really quiet, and I get along with all the neighbors around me. The people I have met at Thompson Park where I take my dog have all been very friendly. It is a nice neighborhood to live in. He also enjoys the advantage of biking to school in nice weather, which, judging from the crowded bike racks, suggests he is not alone. When asked what steps he thought could be taken to improve relations between the school and community he stated that while neighbors he has met react positively to the school, it would be beneficial for them to come to the town hall meetings - held on campus - and find what kind of treatment options we offer. I would like the good relationship of the school and community to continue because I think they benefit each other to coexist in a healthy way.
Various treatment options are accessible to neighbors from all reaches of the community. The outpatient clinic, long a cause of disagreement with neighbors concerned about public traffic, recently moved off campus, splitting its resources between their Columbia Integrated Care Clinic at 5847 N.E. 122nd Ave. near Airport Way and a new clinic located at 1304 N.W. Civic Drive in Gresham, which opened its doors in October 2009. The two clinics charge a fee for service and have two attending doctors and advanced year student interns providing chiropractic and massage therapy services to the public. UWS also operates the charitable West Burnside Chiropractic Clinic in old town that recently received a $106,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust to help expand their services.
Once over the more momentous transitions, the school will seek to fill in the blanks. The construction fences will come down and necessitate new landscaping and signage. After the implementation of the nutrition online masters course, other online courses will follow. Cooperation with Chemeketa will lead to more collaboration with other community colleges, assisting students who seek a degree but prefer to pay less for the prerequisites. A school that stresses a science based integrative approach to health treatment has no option not to cooperate and innovate. Wickes stressed that the school trains students to function as part of a health care team. With all the squabbling and cognitive dissonance about health care recently, an institution that hears the needs of its neighbors, recognizes its own restrictions and seeks solutions that suit everyone's purpose stands out as a positive example of neighborhood and institutional collaboration.
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