Beyond the Building

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Kristine Retherford started each of the presentations she gave to lawmakers over the past two years the same way: “I am a proud alumna of Minnesota State Mankato,” the dean of the College of Allied Health and Nursing, who graduated with a degree in speech pathology in 1973, would say. “Forty years ago, I received my clinical preparation in the exact same footprint that inadequately serves this program today.”

KrisRetherford copyNow, on a table in her office, a thick stack of architectural drawings represents the new and improved footprint that was officially funded through the Minnesota Jobs Bill last May. It’s hard for Retherford to contain her excitement as she flips through the pages. She points out the large, open clinical spaces for dental hygiene and the new private consultation rooms for speech and hearing. She counts the planned simulation labs for nursing students—six total, a threefold increase over what is available now. She shows how the classrooms will be designed to accommodate small-group, hands-on learning.

Retherford certainly isn’t the only one looking forward to the completion of the new building in 2016. But as the dean, and as a former student, she has a unique perspective on the impact this building will have on the college, its students and the community as well.

TODAY MAGAZINE:Were you surprised when you returned to campus in 2012 and found the clinical spaces much the same as when you left in 1973?

KRISTINE RETHERFORD: I was surprised by the size—that it hadn’t grown. The demand for speech and language pathologists has increased, but the space for the program hasn’t grown. And the dental hygiene program, too. It was founded 40 years ago, and the clinic is still in the same place it was then—the basement of Morris Hall. Can you imagine 40 years with no windows?

TM: Both of the clinics in this building—dental hygiene and speech, language and hearing— have been serving the community for decades. How will this building allow them to better serve the community?

KR: It makes us more accessible. Right now, the Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic has two reserved parking spots, which are behind Pennington. There are no reserved spaces for the Dental Hygiene Clinic. The students are actually paying for their patients to park in the pay lot; they buy the passes for them. The new building has parking spots, which will be better. And it will make what we do more visible to the community, too. There are still a lot of people who don’t even know that these services are available here.

TM: How do you see the College of Allied Health and Nursing changing because of this building? What will it allow you and your departments to do?

KR: It will allow for even more collaboration between programs in the college. In the public clinic, for example, we have three rooms that are designated as collaborative exam and consultation rooms. We will be able to bring in faculty and students from other disciplines to consult, collaborate and conduct research.

TM: Is that something that isn’t happening so much right now?

KR: No, it’s not, because our programs are so spread out across campus. And they still will be, but we see this building as a real encouragement to do more collaboration. We worked hard to make sure that every unit would feel like they have space in the building. There are five classrooms that will provide flexible learning space for the whole college. There are skills labs that everyone will use. And there is a conference room for up to 24 people, which will accommodate large group meetings. We don’t have that now.

TM: Who do you think will benefit the most from this new building?

KR: Ultimately, the students do. You can’t diminish the impact it will have on the community, but our mission is to provide the best preparation possible for our students. They need real-world experience with real people in order to get that. This building will help them get that. And then, they will be better prepared as professionals to go out and meet the needs of patients in the community as well.

TM: What are you most looking forward to when this building is completed?

KR: Being able to showcase the wonderful work that goes on in this college as we prepare students for future careers in allied health professions.