GREENEVILLE – Swift work continues as construction crews prepare multiple spaces within the Meen Center to serve as the home of the Niswonger College of Optometry at Tusculum University.
Since the completion of the fall semester, crews from the Tusculum facilities department as well as a contractor have been extremely busy converting 50,000 square feet for this innovative new program, which has been created to address the prevalence of ocular disease in Central Appalachia.
Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, founding dean of the Niswonger College of Optometry and executive vice president of Tusculum’s College of Health Sciences, is extremely impressed with the progress.
“All crew members have tackled this project with gusto and are proceeding rapidly to ensure we are ready when we receive the go-ahead from our accrediting agency to begin educating students,” Dr. Buzzelli said. “We have engaged in a methodical process, which has kept us on track and enabled us to demonstrate to the accrediting agency, everyone on campus and the community that we are focused on establishing the premier college of optometry in the nation. The Niswonger College of Optometry is particularly grateful for the support we have received from all sectors of the university.”
The space where crews started first – and the most progress has occurred – is the methods classroom on the ground floor of Meen. There, the majority of the framing for each of the 16 training rooms has been placed and drywall is now being applied. Crews are also working on installing the necessary electric and plumbing services to serve the teaching, training and equipment required for the four-year program. As they finish this work, crews move to other parts of the building to tackle the same types of construction activities.
Viewed as a whole, the renovation project will prepare the areas Tusculum needs for optometric examination labs, an anatomy lab, a primary care ophthalmologic surgery suite and exam rooms.
Abundant technology will enhance the teaching and learning experience for faculty members and students. For example, the methods classroom on the ground floor of Meen will have a camera that will transmit a lesson from the faculty member by video and audio into all 16 training rooms. Each of these rooms will have a desk for students to enter their documentation, which will mostly occur digitally.
In November, the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education determined the Niswonger College of Optometry had completed the first stage of the accreditation process. Pending the receipt of preliminary approval for accreditation, Tusculum projects to enroll its first class of 70 students in fall 2020.
“The Niswonger College of Optometry will strengthen the quality of and access to eye care in the region and profoundly impact people’s lives,” said Dr. James Hurley, the university’s president. “The need for enhanced ocular care has been evident for a long time, and we are excited about taking the next steps in this process so we can begin meeting patient needs as soon as we receive remaining approvals. Our college of optometry will be pioneers in training physicians exclusively in the contemporary practice of optometric medicine, and that will produce excellent results for the region and rural health.”
Information for the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education is: Address: 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141 — telephone: 314-991-4100.