University adds $5 million toward economic development programs

Junior Ben Ragan measures voltage in an experiment in an engineering technology class. The Engineering Technology Department received a grant to add a Chemical Engineering Technology program.

After years of UNA giving to the Shoals area, the Shoals Economic Development Agency is giving back.

UNA will receive $5,000,000 toward programs which are economically beneficial to the Shoals area.

The Engineering Technology Department will receive $1,500,000 toward adding a chemical engineering technology program to fill current employment positions in the area. This is only the Engineering Technology Department’s second year at UNA.

Department Chair of Engineering Technology Peter Rim said this will be the first chemical engineering technology program in the U.S.

“When starting at UNA, it was clear that the university and community were committed to building a beneficial program,” he said. “My past corporate experience was in managing growth programs, and I am enjoying this growth experience immensely.”

UNA Human Resources posted a position Oct. 27 for a chemical engineer to lead the chemical engineering technology program. Rim said he hopes this professor will start fall 2018.

The chemical engineering technology program will be located in the same area as engineering technology.

Rim said he believes the program will make students marketable because of the hands-on experience the program offers.

“The experiential and applied curriculum the students experience combined with Co-Op opportunities prepares them to be more immediate contributors to their organizations,” he said.

Freshman Andrew Garrison said it is impressive the department is already growing.

“They have seen a lot of success,” Garrison said. “Any chance to grow the program is great.”

Rim said he believes the program will benefit existing companies and be an asset in recruiting new industry to the area.

“One cannot grow a new program without many people throughout virtually all aspects of the university being very responsive to our requests,” he said. “We are truly appreciative of those efforts.”

A total of $2,000,000 will go toward the Anderson College of Nursing. This will help pay for a simulation lab and aid in the construction of Laura M. Harrison Hall, the future home of the nursing program.

The Anderson College of Nursing was originally set to move into Laura M. Harrison Hall fall 2018, but contractors appraised the design at $7 million over the estimated budget.

Michael Gautney, assistant vice president of facilities, administration and planning, said he hopes contractors will complete construction by fall 2019, a year after the original estimated completion date.

Junior nursing student Katherine Dennis said it is great to see expanding programs receive monetary help.

“The nursing program is growing, and we need more space to work from,” Dennis said. “We don’t have enough rooms for lecture, we only have three labs for the entire program and our faculty deserve bigger offices.”

The College of Business will also receive $1,500,000 to fund the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development.

SEDA is in the process of sending UNA the money for these programs. Planning will begin immediately.