Special to the Illinois Business Journal
LEBANON — McKendree University welcomed more than 3,000 students this fall, one of the largest student bodies in its 187-year history. University officials attribute the growth to McKendree’s expanding regional and national reputation, increasing community partnerships and a variety of new or successful programs.
Recognized for providing a high quality education at an affordable price, the university has been designated as one of America’s “100 Best College Buys” by Institutional Research and Evaluation, Inc., identified as a top Illinois university offering the greatest lifetime return on investment by Affordable Colleges Online, and named as one of the top five schools for least student debt load at graduation by U.S. News & World Report. The university was also listed in the top 100 for online MBA and MSN programs by U.S. News & World Report.
“While we are pleased to be recognized as one of the finest universities in the Midwest, we are especially proud to be listed as one of the top five best institutions in the region for lowest student debt load at graduation,” said Dr. James Dennis, McKendree University president.
Focused on student success, McKendree offers specialized programs and activities in business and nursing designed to support the development of practitioners and entrepreneurs. From undergraduate and graduate programs, to classes on free market and capitalism, to guest speakers on entrepreneurship, to community partnerships with local hospital networks and businesses, McKendree’s programs and curricula integrate entrepreneurial and small business themes into real-world business and nursing opportunities. Business students have opportunities to conduct marketing research, plan fund-raising events for local non-profit organizations, and participate in ethics case competitions, online business strategy contests and investment portfolio challenges.
Three innovative special topic business courses are currently being offered.
“Economic Analysis of the Pizza Industry” combines assistant professor of economics Eric Abrams profession as an educator with his passion of being an amateur pizza chef. In class, students are conducting market analyses of the pizza industry, exploring pricing and analyzing policies that affect the industry. They also will meet with local pizzeria owners and operators to discuss the ins and outs of the industry, including a few who are McKendree graduates.
“Tourism Marketing” students are conducting a marketing project with Rend Lake Hotel in Mount Vernon, Ill. The students are making observations and conducting interviews with related business units at the hotel, building a marketing report and will present the report to the hotel’s manager at the end of the semester.
“Sport & the Media” focuses on ESPN and the impact it has on how we perceive sports. In class, students explore the evolution of ESPN, analyze its business impact and cultural implications, and discuss how the cable station has transformed over the years into the world’s first 24-hour global sports television and online network.
In 2013, the School of Business and School of Nursing partnered to offer a dual online MSN-MBA degree to nurses possessing a BSN degree who wanted to attain nursing executive positions or become entrepreneurs. The degree combines advanced financial expertise combined with the knowledge required for an advanced nursing degree.
“The MSN-MBA is for nurse-managers and administrators who want a business focus — those who want to be chief nurse executives, nursing directors or supervisors,” explained Dr. Richelle Rennegarbe, nursing division chair and professor of nursing. “This program meets the needs of both the nurses and the institutions. Most hospitals want a business focus but having only an MBA restricts you in nursing. This opens up new opportunities for nurses and provides them the skills and the language to be at the table with a strong voice. We feel it meets a niche that has been needed in our area.”
A dozen McKendree nursing program graduates are currently working as nurse executives at Illinois hospitals, including chief executive officers at Clay County Hospital in Flora, Ill., St. Joseph Memorial Hospital in Murphysboro, Ill.; and St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, Ill.
Since spring of 2014, the university has signed four unique partnership agreements with hospital networks in Illinois, including Barnes Jewish Christian, Southern Illinois Health Care, Sisters of St. Mary and Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, or ICAHN. Through these agreements McKendree RN to BSN and MSN degree programs are available either online or on-site to nurses at hospitals within the networks.
The university’s action plan is part of a national effort to increase educational opportunities for nurses at rural hospitals. “According to the Institute of Medicine, the goal is for 80 percent of all nurses to gain their BSN by 2020,” said Rennegarbe. “At McKendree, we are creative in the way we are delivering nursing education. Through our ICAHN partnership, we will begin an online cohort in January 2016 in 53 critical access hospitals from Galena to Metropolis.”