University looks for land to house new health program

UNA President Dr. William Cale speaks to members of Downtown Florence Unlimited Feb. 15 during their meeting at the Florence/Lauderdale Public Library in downtown Florence. 

UNA is searching for land to house the new integrative health program, said UNA President Dr. William Cale last week.

Cale told members of Downtown Florence Unlimited that the university and Chinese businessman Zhang Zhiting are looking at property on Cloverdale Road, Helton Drive, Darby Drive and Chisholm Road.

“We have been looking at these land parcels and talking with (land owners) about those particular parcels of land,” Cale said.

The university, upon approval from the board of trustees, will enter into an agreement to run this program fully funded by Zhang. In January, Cale and Zhang signed an international agreement to create the program.

Zhang wants to build a campus that can hold 1,000 to 2,000 students, Cale said. The property would house classroom and lab space, as well as a garden.

“Because Mr. Zhang is so interested in botanicals … he hopes to create gardens with an emphasis on botanicals,” Cale said.

Zhang would like to grow plants rooted in health, among other plants, Cale said.

Cale said the garden would be something members of the public would be able to visit and enjoy. UNA Trustee and DFU Secretary Libby Jordan said she has spoken with members of the tourism community and they feel the potential garden would draw more people to the Shoals area.

The program will provide classroom experience to students working to obtain a master’s degree in integrative health.

“I hope one day—if we are successful with this—we can move into a clinical situation (with the program),” Cale said.

Since the university is already approved at a graduate level to teach health, this program will be added to the existing health curriculum UNA already has, Cale said. Currently, the faculty and administration are working on creating a curriculum for integrative health.

“We have just found a niche that universities like ours can strive to do,” Cale said.

Florence Councilman Andy Betterton asked Cale what members of the city could do to support the university’s plan. Betterton said everyone in the Florence community looks at UNA with a sense of pride and will stand behind this initiative.

“I think the best thing that all of us can do right now is talk about this in positive types of ways,” Cale said.

Cale told Betterton and other members of DFU the university would need help with zoning, utilities and other necessities that will be needed to build the new facility.