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UI officials hope for a new College of Pharmacy facility

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | DECEMBER 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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After experiencing years of “outdated learning,” UI College of Pharmacy officials have high hopes for an approval from the state Legislature to create a new facility on the West Campus.

Within the next few weeks, Iowa legislators will consider the decision to fund construction of a new pharmacy building.

“What we can say about today’s facilities is that it is woefully inadequate for educational delivery, pursuit of research and discovery, and providing meaningful opportunities of student exchange — socially and academically,” said pharmacy Dean Donald Letendre.

In the potential plan, UI would demolish Quadrangle Residence Hall and build a new facility in its place. Letendre said officials will request $70 million to be approved by the state in the upcoming legislative session, which will begin in January. The total cost of the building is estimated at $96 million.

After years of conducting classes in cramped classrooms and outdated research labs, the communications director for the school said oficials have seen a drop in enrollment and have lost staff members because of the outdated conditions of the facility.

“Have we lost a few faculty members that we would have preferred not to because of the facility? Absolutely,” said Barbara Kelley, strategic communications director at the pharmacy school. “We are a top-notch college of pharmacy, and the UI is known in that nationwide realm of pharmacy schools. We need to stay at the forefront of the nation.”

Within the past few years, Kelley said, the number of applications the college has received has decreased. In 2010, the college had 785 applicants; as of this fall, the school received 568.

When comparing the UI pharmacy school to other popular pharmacy facilities, Kelley said Kansas and Kentucky have larger and updated buildings. She said the UI only has four breakout rooms, while other schools will have 25 to 30, and they are almost twice the size.

She said the students and researchers need another area in which they can crunch the data and do their communication and research in a separate room.

The best way to see change on the UI campus and advocate for a new building is allowing the state leaders to see the facility firsthand, Letendre said.

Lentendre has reached out to legislators for the past few months by conducting tours, visiting legislators in their hometowns, and visiting the Capitol advocating for a new facility.

The six-year dean of the school said most effective way to understand the areas in which the college suffers is to invite legislators to tour the current facility. In October, Gov. Terry Branstad visited the facility in order to persuade the state leaders to support a new building.

Over the summer, Brandstad denied funding for planning a new building, saying the money would be better spent on the building itself.

“There’s always going to be demands for additional facilities, but we have got to make sure that we’re prioritizing with the limited resources that we have,” Branstad said in a previous interview with The Daily Iowan.

The last major update the facility has seen was in the west wing in 1996, which will remain if the funding is approved. The section from 1961 would be demolished.

A UI senior who is currently in the process of applying to the College of Pharmacy said she hopes legislators will approve the budget, because the health-care system and technology are constantly evolving.

In order for the university to continue to produce the best and highly skilled pharmacists, Alyssa Breitbach said, the facilities need to evolve as well.

“It is equally important for a pharmacy school to provide me with a professional and knowledgeable base to help meet patients’ needs at the highest level I can offer in our ever changing health-care system,” Breitbach said.


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