The Board of Visitors Committee on the University’s College at Wise met Friday to discuss two new graduate programs at the College at Wise and to hear an update about student engagement following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Provost Trisha Folds-Bennett presented a proposal to the Board to establish a nursing graduate program for Wise to train family nurse practitioners. Upon completing the program, graduates would be qualified to practice medicine independent of physicians.
Folds-Bennett said the proposal is meant to address a critical need for primary care practitioners in Southwest Virginia, where Wise is located.
“We think that this will fill an important need in the region,” Folds-Benett said. “We have conducted surveys of folks in the region, and we get a strong demand for the program when we survey current practitioners.”
She acknowledged that other schools near Wise, such as Emory and Henry and Radford University Carilion, have the same programs as Wise, but she said the overall demand for nurses exceeded any concern for schools’ potential competing for resources.
“There’s duplication across the state, but when [we] put out the notice for this, nobody expressed any concern,” Folds-Bennett said. “There is a critical need for healthcare professionals.”
The nursing masters program initiation year would have an estimated 10 students. The following year would increase program enrollment to 39 students. Folds-Bennett said the curriculum would be flexible to accommodate working and part-time students.
The Board had previously approved a proposal to establish a masters in education program at Wise. Both programs are expected to begin in the fall 2023 semester pending approval.
Also during the meeting, Logan Smith, student member of the U.Va. Wise College Board and third-year at Wise, addressed the Board about student engagement at Wise. He said students at Wise are still feeling post-pandemic effects on campus, which has caused student leaders to become spread too thin and eventually burn out.
Smith proposed creating “twin clubs” between organizations that exist at the University and at Wise. He said existing organizations at the University could provide resources to Wise clubs that might be struggling with membership or engagement.
“We hope this will provide U.Va. Wise students with more opportunities to expand their extra-curriculars beyond southwest Virginia, as well as build a sense of belongingness to U.Va.’s main campus,” Smith said.
Smith also said that the twin clubs initiative would allow students in the Year in Wise program to build connections on Grounds with their future Charlottesville peers. Year in Wise is an initiative where students who are waitlisted at U.Va. may complete 30 credits at Wise and then transfer into U.Va. for their second year.
Smith hopes the initiative will also eventually expand to include philanthropy organizations and Greek life.
Another subject at the meeting was admission statistics, presented by Donna Henry, chancellor of the College at Wise. She said Wise has already surpassed 1,400 applications, which is a more than 200 percent increase from this time last year.
“We have really cast a wider net to get these applications for the College,” Henry said. “We have a far reach across the Commonwealth with students who are coming to U.Va. Wise.”
Wise has been recruiting out-of-state students with their Appalachian Regional Commission Initiative. The program, designed to increase the geographic diversity of Wise students, offers reduced out-of-state tuition to students who live in qualifying areas.
Wise’s target enrollment for the fall is 500 new students. 76 students are currently confirmed to attend, which is over a 50 percent increase from this time last year.
The next Board meetings will be held in March.