UI president touts campus progress

Partnerships with community colleges is one way the University of Iowa is reaching out to more students, University President Sally Mason told The Messenger editorial board.

On a recent visit to Fort Dodge, Mason explained how students can attend Iowa Central Community College and get their University of Iowa degree.

“Our biggest program, and our first really successful area, is the nursing program,” Mason said. “You can get your RN degree at Iowa Central, and you can get your University of Iowa BSN degree at Iowa Central too. Most of it is done online.

“We’re making it as easy as possible for place-bound people to get a bachelor’s degree, and not have to move to Iowa City and uproot the family.”

There are currently 111 students from Webster County attending the University of Iowa. There are 492 UI alumni in the county, and 3,788 Webster County residents received service from UI Hospitals and Clinics last year.

A new children’s hospital is one of the biggest projects on campus, she said.

The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital- ranked among the the top 30 in the nation – presently occupies space within the main hospital complex.

“We know that children’s medicine is actually quite different from adult medicine, and their needs are quite different from those of us who are a little older. We’re building a freestanding children’s hospital for the first time,” Mason said.

The new, 11-story hospital will feature a larger neonatal intensive care unit.

The biggest difference will be in how the rooms are configured, Mason said.

“These rooms will house not only the patient, but the patient’s family,” Mason said. “We used children and their families to help us think though what we needed in the children’s hospital.”

Mason said the hospital should be ready by 2016.

The campus has seen a flurry of construction – much of which will replace or repair buildings damaged in heavy flooding in 2008.

Three buildings are being completely replaced: the art building, the music building and the performing arts center.

“These are phenomenal facilities that will be completed in 2016. They’ll be safely out of the floodplain, which is even better news,” she said.

Flood mitigation strategies developed after 2008 were put to the test this spring as the rising Iowa River again threatened campus.

One building, damaged in 2008 and since repaired, is now protected by what Mason called an “invisible wall:” a 12-foot-high aluminum barricade that can be assembled as needed.

According to Mason, a five-day constriction timeline for the wall was estimated.

“It took us less than three days,” she said. “I think in an emergency we could get it down to one.”

Mason has served as UI president since 2007. Before that she spent six years as provost at Purdue.