Today marks the last of my updates of the work of our strategic planning task forces: Integrated Health and Wellness. This group was tasked with the most exploratory work of any of the eight task forces. Their job was to collate all of our campuswide programs related to health care, and to survey the local markets for unmet needs as possible areas for future expansion.

Many of us heard rumors that St. Thomas was going to start a College of Health, and these rumors fed more speculation on what would be included in that college. This was not the main task of this group, however. They did the initial exploration of possible roads we could take to build on our current strengths.

We already have strong graduate programs in the Opus College of Business, Graduate Psychology, as well as Engineering related to the health care field. At the undergraduate level, in addition to the programs in health and human performance, many programs support students who ultimately want to work in health care professions.

The task force mapped out a road forward to raise the visibility of the programs that we currently offer from which we can build for the future. They recommend that St. Thomas build a comprehensive website for both graduate and undergraduate programs related to health and wellness so that prospective students can find these programs more easily. They also recommend enhancing our pre-health advising for our undergraduate students and explore collaboration between our global health and public health programs. They have identified some possible areas for expansion, perhaps in physical and occupational therapy, but recommend a deeper market study before launching new programs.

The task force also recommends that whatever we do should be grounded in our mission and provide a mission-based approach to health and wellness. For example, we might explore a graduate program in bioethics for current practitioners, or perhaps develop an innovative program for those wanting to do pastoral work in hospitals and other health-related systems. They recommend that we focus on serving vulnerable populations, including the aging population.

What does this mean for the immediate future? For one, it means that we will proceed deliberately and reflectively as we enhance our programs related to health and wellness. Will we end up with a college? It is too soon to tell, but now we know what will be our next steps as we seek to keep our programs innovative and mission driven.

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