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During a December 1 press conference, Louisiana College President Dr. Rick Brewer announced the proposed advancement of the College’s curricular offerings that include a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, a Master of Science in Social Work, and a 100 percent online RN to MSN track that will enroll registered nurses practicing with an associate degree in nursing or hospital diploma attain a Master of Science in Nursing.

“Our academic leaders have been working on these projects for several months and have identified needs in our region. We trust that these programs will help us meet those needs,” Brewer said.

Two of the proposed degrees will receive funding through a Healthcare Occupations Program Grant from The Rapides Foundation. The Master of Science in Social Work will receive $554,146 while the Bachelor of Science in Nursing will garner $54,436. The degree offerings are part of the school’s Vision 2020 plan, which strives to raise $20 million and enroll 1,500 students by 2020.

Representatives from the two largest hospitals in the region said the new programs will help address a growing need in the medical field.

Nancy Hellyer, CEO of Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, said many times young people leave central Louisiana to earn degrees in these areas. “Millennials are becoming the largest workforce,” Hellyer said. “We know the number one thing they want is career preparation, or they’ll leave. If we’re able to offer in our community a very solid program such as this one,” she said, “it really will make all the difference for Christus Cabrini.”

Rapides Regional Medical Center CEO Jason Cobb thanked the LC for its vision: “It’s a great day for Louisiana College, it’s a great day for your students, and it’s a great day for the community, and especially in the healthcare arena,” Cobb said. “So we thank you for letting us be a small part of it. We’re looking forward to what it becomes for this community."

Dr. Marilyn Cooksey, dean of LC’s School of Nursing, said, “Louisiana College has a rich heritage in the medical field. We are elated to expand our influence beyond the bachelor level in nursing to even greater excellence through a graduate nursing degree.”

Regarding the Master of Science in Social Work, Brewer said it is “unique to our state and beyond” because the curriculum has an 18-hour healthcare component and is based on a Christian worldview.

“Our graduates in the helping professions have impacted the Louisiana College community, central Louisiana, and beyond for more than 100 years, said Sheri Duffy, Chair, Human Behavior Division, associate professor of Social Work, and Social Work Program director. “We believe the Master of Social Work degree will epitomize the integration of faith and learning through a biblically based social work perspective and practice.”

Brewer believes the proposed BS in Computer Science is not only needed, but will prove to be a popular track of studies as technological advancements proliferate on a global scale.

“In keeping with our commitment to the integration of faith and learning, the absolute necessity of ethical values is crucial in the digital world,” Brewer said. “We believe curricula based on a Christian worldview is the supreme source for such a need.

Brewer expressed thanks to LC faculty and staff, and to LC community partners, all of whom share a “common vision for a healthier community through superlative academic pursuits and have a passion for excellence.”

Planned for launch for the fall 2017 semester, the curricular offerings await approval from the College’s accrediting body.

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Brian Blackwell of the Louisiana Baptist Message contributed to this report.