CAMPUS: TAMIU’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences set to expand degree plans, facilities
By Isabella M. Garcia
Bridge Contributing Writer
Published Monday, Nov. 20, 2023
With a newly allotted $4 million from Texas, TAMIU received approval to submit proposals for multiple nursing and health sciences degree programs.
Along with faculty of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, developing these proposals are College of Nursing and Health Sciences Dean Marivic Torregosa and Health Sciences Department Chair Kyung-Shin Park.
“We need to explain why we need these programs at [Texas A&M International University],” Park said. “We gotta persuade the educational board … the good thing is, we already have the budget.”
Park said these plans have been in the works for a while.
“Our [University] President [Pablo Arenaz] got approval for this budget. I mean, he worked very hard … but due to COVID-19, everything got delayed,” Park said.
Torregosa said this area’s expansion is imperative not only at TAMIU, but in Laredo.
“The University really has a big impact … because [it is the producer] of health care professionals who will address the needs of the community,” Torregosa said.
She continued to explain these programs’ importance, saying that for a new program to be suggested, there must first be a need for it in the community.
“Laredo is really an island … and there’s nothing around it … so that’s why I think if we want to address the health care needs of the community, we have to have our own professionals,” Torregosa said. “That’s how you sustain.”
Postgraduate degree programs currently in development include public health, communication disorders or speech therapy, kinesiology, occupational therapy and nursing. Clinical lab sciences is also one of the suggested programs but is expected to be offered as an undergraduate degree.
To house these new programs, designs are underway for a new building expected to open in 2026. Along with a construction crew and architects, Park will oversee the building plans to ensure facilities, such as laboratories, are set up for proper use.
“If everything goes as we planned … there will be a total of three buildings [under the College of Nursing and Health Sciences],” Park said.
He said they expect one to be solely for nursing, another for health sciences and the third, a clinic for the use of both branches.
“While they’re doing that, we’re writing the coursework,” Torregosa said.
Torregosa also said there are a number of considerations that must be made when developing these programs. Among these assessments are new staff and faculty salaries and benefits, student scholarships, partnerships with surrounding medical facilities for clinical hours and required equipment.
“[$4 million] is not enough,” Torregosa said. “That is just the start.”
She estimated a whopping $2 million needed for a single program.
“In my experience … from the time [proposals] get submitted for review … to all the processes [before a program is officially opened], it takes about two years,” Torregosa said.
The TAMIU Public Relations office expects to handle the marketing of these new programs. The PR office also expects to be provided a budget to inform larger audiences about these new degree offerings using online sites and social media.
“You cast your net wide. There is a website called [Centralized Application Service] … a national database,” Torregosa said. “Students who are browsing for, let’s say, occupational therapy school … our name, our university will pop up there.”
Currently at the forefront of these new degree programs are occupational therapy and clinical lab sciences and are expected to be completed first. Occupational therapy is planned to be a doctoral degree and clinical lab sciences, an undergraduate degree.
Occupational therapy is expected to be a hybrid program, meaning coursework will be done from home, as well as in a class setting. Clinical lab sciences is expected to be solely a face-to-face program.
Junior nursing major Deandra Carreon likes the idea of hybrid programs and believes it’s necessary to implement more online programs.
“I live in Hebbronville,” Carreon said. “Because it is hard. Especially when you work a full-time job and you have kids … and you’re not from here.”
She expressed interest in joining one of the developing post-graduate programs in the future.
“It would impact Laredo … to have these options,” Carreon said. “Laredo would grow.”