Potential departmental changes in Watkins’ future

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Elizabeth Watkins funded the construction of Watkins Memorial Health Center. Her will specifies what the facility can and cannot be used for.

Although there won’t be any major renovations or construction crews occupying Watkins Memorial Health Center in the near future, the building could undergo some changes and some shifting of services.

Diana Malott, associate director of Student Health Services, said the physical therapy department had recently been downsized, and further consolidation of clinical services on the first floor is another possibility. This combination would allow for extra space on the second floor that other groups could potentially use.

“We’re still investigating and exploring options on other departments within the University that might need some space, either temporarily or permanently, that might fit within both the mission of the building and the space that we may have available,” she said.

In order to explore that possibility, Student Health Services has had to examine the will of Elizabeth Watkins, who funded construction of the building through her trust.

“Her will specifies what can and can not occupy this building,” Malott said. “It made us realize that going to outside groups or someone outside the University or even a part of the University that’s not tied to wellness of some kind or student benefit might be difficult because it would not really meet the terms of her will.”

Groups wanting to occupy the building must be health-related and beneficial for students and can’t disturb or detract from the services already being provided by the center.

“Space is at a premium here on the campus,” Malott said. “We just want to make sure that they’re aware of ours, and we’ve tried to do that so that they know that we would be happy to host other departments if it works out for them and they fit well within our mission as well.”

Frank DeSalvo, associate vice provost for Student Success, said there are some “obvious connections” between the health center and other departments and that renting the space could benefit students either directly or indirectly.

“What’s driving this is our desire to give the students the best we can from that space,” he said. “If it’s not going to be used for health care, then let’s possibly look at generating some money that we can then direct toward the health care.”

The Student Health Advisory Board is one of Student Health Services’ outlets to get feedback and suggestions and to implement them. Natasha Kothari, a senior from Overland Park and board chair, said the occupation of the second floor had not yet been discussed because the board is currently beginning the revision of the student health fee.

“As the student representatives in this decision-making process, we take this duty very seriously in the hopes that we can provide students with a financially viable option that does not compromise the quality of our services,” Kothari said.

Malott said the needs of the building as well as the needs of students are being considered as they look at what direction to take in the future.

“It’s what we’re going to need and what the students want that will help dictate what we do,” she said. “There are some shifting services, but we’re trying to stay with what the students need and expect from their health service.”

Emma LeGault is a sophomore from Emporia majoring in journalism. Read more from .

  • Updated Jan. 29, 2013 at 12:56 am
  • Edited by Paige Lytle