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Montana State breaks ground on Kalispell nursing building

BOZEMAN — Montana State University students and faculty at the Kalispell campus of the Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing have bounced between buildings since the program opened in 2002.

Currently, classes are held in the basement of the medical arts building on the campus of Logan Health Medical Center. However, a historic philanthropic investment by a couple who own a home in nearby Whitefish, along with a land donation by Logan Health, set the stage for a ceremonial groundbreaking event Tuesday for a new nursing education building.

While speaking at the ceremony to a crowd of more than 100 people, Kaki Mendius, Kalispell campus director and graduate, expressed gratitude for the college’s previous leased facilities but said faculty, staff and students are looking forward to their new home.

“MSU has a vibrant group of young faculty members, and their enthusiasm and creativity will flourish even more in an environment tailored for teaching, learning and shaping the future of nursing care,” Mendius said. “Similarly, our students, many of whom are present today, are intelligent, eager and deeply committed to making a positive impact in our community and beyond.”

The new, nearly 20,000-square foot building will be erected at the northeast corner of Windward and Heritage ways on land donated by Logan Health. Construction is expected to begin this summer. A portion of a $101 million donation by Mark and Robyn Jones, co-founders of Goosehead Insurance, will cover construction costs.

“This building represents far more than bricks and mortar,” said MSU President Waded Cruzado. “This project shows what strong partnerships can accomplish. The partnerships between our nursing college and Logan Health Medical Center will also help shape our curriculum, provide hands-on training and ensure that our graduates are ready to meet the evolving demands of health care. Together, we are strengthening the future of nursing.”

When it first opened, the Kalispell campus enrolled eight students a year. It doubled its enrollment in 2009 and has continued to grow ever since. The new two-story building will feature state of the art classrooms and laboratories and allow the campus to continue to increase its enrollment to help meet the health care needs of the rapidly growing Flathead Valley.

“We are pleased to partner with Montana State University and look forward to working together to expand nursing education in the Flathead Valley,” said Kevin Abel, co-CEO of Logan Health. “Together, we can help shape the future generations of nursing and the future of health care for patients in Montana.”

Improving access to health care for all Montanans is a key goal of MSU’s nursing college. Its other four campuses, located in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls and Missoula, are also expected to start construction on new buildings this summer. The buildings will allow the college to increase enrollment to help offset the state’s nursing shortage and provide comfortable working spaces for students and staff — spaces designed specifically for nursing education and research.

MSU’s nursing college is the largest producer of registered nurses in the state with about 80% of its graduates remaining in Montana to work after finishing their degrees. The college hosts the state’s sole doctoral nursing program, which just received permission to open a certified nurse-midwifery option in the fall.

“This groundbreaking – and the others on our five statewide Montana State University Mark and Robyn Jones College of Nursing campuses – represent the start of a new chapter in the college,” said Sarah Shannon, dean of the nursing college. “With these new, modern educational buildings, we will be able to expand enrollment to meet Montana’s nursing shortage.  We will also be able to deliver high-quality, robust simulation education to ensure that every Bobcat nurse has the opportunity to learn both the common and the rare situations they may encounter in their practice as a registered nurse.”


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