Lee Then and Now: Top three academic programs of the Centennial year
It's hard for current students to imagine Lee without the School of Nursing, the Communication Arts Building and the School of Business.
Less than five years ago, though, they did not exist. To many alumni arriving on campus this weekend, the south quad of campus, from the Forum to Pangle Hall, represents a whole new piece of Lee.
These programs weren't as prevalent throughout the university before this year’s senior class arrived as freshmen, let alone at the university’s establishment 100 years ago. Growth in these programs has led to the development of new buildings on the south quad of campus. According to Lee’s Office of Institutional Research, these departments are stronger than ever. In fact, their research shows the three most popular majors this year were nursing, digital media studies and business administration.
School of Nursing graduate Abigail Houston joined the program the first semester it opened and said she remembers what it was like before a building was dedicated to her field of study.
“For the first two years, we didn’t have a building and would use any and every classroom that was made available to us to practice our nursing skills and study,” Houston said. “I specifically remember practicing inserting indwelling Foley catheters and performing head-to-toe assessments in the upper rooms of the Dixon Center.”
Upon leaving the program, Houston said she believes that the School of Nursing (SON) and the addition of the building helped prepare her for the reality of her career, though it was a challenge.
“Not only was I prepared to be a nurse due to the intensity of the curriculum, but I was ready to handle anything thrown at me during ‘real-life nursing’ because of what we faced being a part of such a newer, dedicated program,” Houston said. “I can confidently tell anyone that it was worth it—the tears, the consistent [8- to 13-hour] study sessions, random mishaps—every moment.”
Sophomore nursing major Maggie Holman said she chose nursing at Lee because of its dedication to the students and the way it stood out among the rest.
“If Lee’s SON did not have the qualities it does, I probably would have chosen to study nursing at a different university. Lee, as well as the SON, not only teaches the academic and skill side of learning but also teaches the importance of integrity and quality care,” Holman said. “The nurses it produced were not only academically competent but also had hearts and passions for the people they served.”
According to both Holman and Houston, the nursing program at Lee is challenging but completely worth it.
“A lot has changed and improved over the past four years, and I’m so excited for the newer cohorts as they take on this life-changing journey,” Houston said.
Moving back a few decades, business administration was one of the first majors introduced to Lee after its transition from the Bible Training College to Lee College in 1948 and continues to see growth today.
Lee Alumna of the Year in 2017 and President of Austin Peay State University Dr. Alisa White said she remembers the instructors challenging her in the program, making her education translate into the real world.
“I still use the information I learned in marketing and accounting in my job now, though it’s not necessarily a business-related career,” White said. “The real world is unpredictable and fast-paced, and Lee as a whole is very conducive to that environment.”
White said she believes having a building dedicated to business has elevated the program and only helps the students more. Junior international business major Spencer Hodge echoes this sentiment and explains the building’s impact on business students.
“Having the building makes life so much easier on not only the students, but I’m sure the faculty as well,” Hodge said. “Along with that, it gives you a new sense of value when your major gains something new. It lets us know that our administration wants the best for our major.”
Returning to the latest decade, the digital media studies program as it is today didn’t make its true debut at Lee until 2010, but in a short four years, the Communication Arts Building was built after increased growth and attention from students.
Digital media students, with emphases in cinema, studio production and journalism, continually seem to populate the campus. Studio production alumnus Carter Music and sophomore studio production major Corinne Moore said this is due to students’ love for storytelling.
“[I love] the idea that you can tell a story so many different ways and tell a story after the fact,” Music said. “Especially in live video, if you’re not recording it, then it’s gone, and the only way you have to remember it is through the telling of that story. Video is the [purest] form of what actually happened.”
Moore said the emphasis on crafting narratives throughout the department allows professors, instructors and students to constantly push the envelope and explore creativity.
“You’re always doing something new, and you’re always creating. And if you want to push yourself in a certain direction, you can,” Moore said. “The professors here are very accommodating with that, and they always encourage us to work hard and do things differently while pushing the limits of the program.”
Music explained that, from the time the Communication Arts Building was established to now, the overall atmosphere has become more serious and intensive to allow the students in this department to thrive.
“This has become a place where you can go and make a real name for yourself that is valuable when you leave,” Music said. “It has become more professional and trains you in these real-world skills in a better way than I think it did when I was a freshman.”
The growth seen within the nursing, business and digital media programs is a result of the students and the opportunities they have been given. As they continue to flourish, the university follows suit to serve its students and faculty. Lee has produced distinguished, multifarious graduates over the past 100 years, thus setting the precedent of prosperity for the bicentennial.
“I am very proud of my alma mater,” White said. “I think that any Lee graduate can hold his or her own against the world.”