In February 2020, the University of La Verne held a town hall meeting. The sole topic on the agenda was its 2025 Strategic Vision, a roadmap of themes, goals, and plans that would be used to guide the institution into the next decade. Of particular interest was the singular transformative initiative—a new College of Health and Community Well-Being. Its bold mission: to address complex, community-level inequities prevalent in the system while offering new and relevant programs to students interested in pursuing a career in the medical field.
Then, three weeks later, the world shut down.
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed systemic flaws in healthcare in the United States, chief among them workforce shortages. Reports from the Department of Health and Human Services share that thousands of hospitals across the country face a labor shortage, with more than a thousand saying they are critically short on staff. Those projections are expected to grow as Americans continue to age. By 2025, the deficit of trained workers could reach well into the millions.
The coming launch of the College of Health and Community Well-Being could therefore not be more timely. The University of La Verne is poised to recruit, educate, and deploy a diverse healthcare workforce capable of reflecting and serving the Southern California region and beyond. The vision is about to be made manifest.
A Commitment to Well-Being
That’s not to say all this is new to the university—it has long held a keen interest in health and wellness. Opened in 2019, the Randall Lewis Center for Well-Being and Research links the region to resources for physical, emotional, and mental well-being.
“By leveraging our current health programs and enhancing our efforts to provide health profession education, our graduates will be able to return to their home communities and be prepared for professions that are in high demand,” said President Devorah Lieberman.
Many of the university’s existing health-focused programs will form the cornerstone of the new college in its first of three phases. Many more are planned in the coming years, including programs in nursing. Nursing is a key part of the plan, as the nurse-to-population ratio in California is low and tens of thousands of qualified applicants are turned away from nursing programs annually because of a lack of available space to accommodate them. Proposed training spaces for nursing include simulated labor and delivery suites, operating rooms, and pediatric care. Additionally, partnerships with local community colleges and businesses could provide registered nurses with an associate degree an opportunity to complete their bachelor’s in nursing. The goal is to craft an educational experience that prepares students for the frontlines of medicine while addressing novel challenges at the patient and community levels.
“The students we attract are from the region,” said Interim Vice Provost Brian Clocksin. “They are interested in returning to the region, and they represent the demographics of the region. We have a chance to lead the work in training the next generation of a diverse health and well-being workforce.”
The Next Phase
Successive phases could see a number of new degree programs launch. Among those under consideration are health science, public health, behavioral analysis, occupational therapy, clinical laboratory sciences, genetic counseling, and respiratory therapy. New certificate programs will also be developed, and several are already available through La Verne Extended Learning.
The end result will be a new college positioned to make the university into a change leader in healthcare training. The pieces are coming into place and have strong backing to succeed over the next five to 10 years. When they are put together as one whole, the results will be transformative for the university and the region.
“It’s critical to think of well-being as an umbrella term of the interconnection between different phases of our life,” added Clocksin. “As we move forward as a society, especially post-pandemic, there is overlap in our systems that has to be looked at through a systems approach, not just individual pieces. Education, health, food security, safety. If we focus solely on one and put everything else on the side, it can lead to illness or lack of thriving. We have to look at a holistic approach to how we prepare students, train the workforce, and build institutions of higher education in the community.”
The new College of Health and Community Well-Being is being designed to do exactly that.