LCSC cuts ribbon on Sacajawea Hall
Note: The following story by Joel Mills appeared in the Lewiston Tribune on Aug. 29
For all the proud dignitaries and officials who attended Friday's dedication of Sacajawea Hall, the students might have been the most impressed.
"I think this (building) will really help me be the best nurse I can be," Nate Bartlett said of Lewis-Clark State College's new nursing and health science building.
"I can't tell you how much this building means to me," Ben Stellmon said.
The juniors - both from Moscow - were sitting in one of the hall's large classrooms. They were speaking directly to two of the people who started the push for new nursing education facilities three years ago: U.S. Sen. Jim Risch and his wife Vicki.
"This building you're sitting in is the vision of myself and Vicki," said Risch, who hatched and promoted the idea in 2006 while serving as governor. Then Idaho's lieutenant governor, Risch said he sat down with his wife to make a list of priority projects when he found out Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was leaving office to become secretary of the U.S Interior Department.
Risch said the first item on that list was a property tax reduction for some Idahoans. But right after that was expanding nursing education.
He said two troubling statistics pushed him in that direction. First, in 2005, Idaho nursing schools turned away 800 qualified applicants. "We did not have the facilities to teach them," Risch said during the dedication.
Second, there were 500 vacant nursing positions in Idaho hospitals alone, and probably hundreds more in clinics, nursing homes and other medical facilities, he said.
After touring the campus and Meriwether Lewis Hall, which then housed the college's nursing and science programs, Risch said he recognized that Lewiston should be the home for one of two new nursing education buildings.
"I joked that it has been named the Meriwether Lewis building because he had helped personally in the construction of the building," Risch said.
Risch proposed the state spend $37 million on two nursing buildings, $16 million at LCSC and $21 million at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter included the funding in his first budget proposal in 2007, and the Legislature appropriated the money.
The college broke ground in March last year. The building was completed this summer, and faculty and staff started moving in. Classes began on Monday.
The state failed to supply occupancy costs, however, so the college had to win grant funding for much of the building's equipment. And with the hiring freeze brought on by sharp state budget reductions, LCSC won't be able to truly double its nursing and health science graduates until 2013, when the building will be fully staffed, said nursing division chair Lori Stinson.
There are also some missing pieces of equipment. For instance, a room for a CAT scan machine sits empty. Stinson said the college applied for a grant to buy the machine, but didn't get it. But she will continue to seek other grant funding, she said.
About $600,000 in grants the college did get was used for items like the hospital beds and other support equipment in the three fully equipped nursing labs, and the heavily outfitted radiography lab.
"We had flashlights and cardboard before," said Nan Miguel, interim director of radiography. "Students had to imagine everything."
Now they can practice and learn on the same state-of-the-art equipment they will encounter on the job, she said.
Stockroom manager George Johnson said students and faculty members used to have about a third of the space in Meriwether Lewis Hall to prepare chemicals, petri dishes and other materials for their classes.
"Now we actually have space where we can designate different areas for people to work," Johnson said. "We used to fall all over each other."
Natural sciences chairman Matt Johnston pointed out the building isn't only for nursing and health science students. He said any LCSC student who needs science credits will be able to learn there.
One of the hall's most striking features isn't even in the building. It is Carol Grende's stoic, 61/2-foot sculpture of Sacajawea, walking stick in hand and infant strapped to her back. LCSC named the building after Sacajawea because her spirit of caring is exemplified in the nursing field, according to the college.
The CSI nursing building is scheduled to open Jan. 10, said college executive vice president Jeff Fox, who attended Friday's dedication.