University Center Project

For decades, Southwest Kansas has experienced a severe shortage of mid-level health care providers in a variety of areas including dental, nursing, physician assistants, physical therapists as well as a plethora of other specialists. Our region is also the only quadrant in the state without a four-year university. Shortage of qualified medical personnel, the lack of higher education, and the fact that we have an extremely low unemployment rate have all been factors contributing to this situation. Due to the lack of higher education opportunities in the area, our area youth have to leave our communities to pursue their degrees and future careers. In the majority of cases, these students never return to southwest Kansas, thus, leaving a greater shortage of qualified professionals. However, the growing immigrant population tends to stay in Southwest Kansas.

The lack of education has severely limited their opportunities in the health care industry and has stiffened job growth in this critical area. Over the last two years, there have been several discussions with Wichita State University (WSU), The University of Kansas (KU) and Fort Hays State University (FHSU) about meeting the higher education demands for this area. These conversations have also included the three community colleges and area technical schools, as well as the Board of Regents and state and federal representatives. The City of Dodge City has taken the lead on this project because they understand the significant need for all of Southwest Kansas and also have a facility available to house the programs and classes. In addition, FHSU and WSU have toured the City facility and have indicated a strong desire to participate. Our anticipated project outcome is that by “growing our own,” our existing health care providers will be able to expand their services and that several new healthcare businesses will emerge.



Grants Received
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) RBDG Grant
The Arthur and Cornelia Scroggins Foundation Fund
at the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas

The Kansas Health Foundation

Project Updates

January 2020

2019 09 UniversityCenterAugustUpdate webProgress continues with the University Center at Hennessy Hall through the newly formed 501(c)(3) non-profit Rural Education and Workforce Alliance (REWA). From the construction and remodeling aspects of the project to continued coalition building and securing financial needs, the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation (Development Corporation) and REWA are continuing to pursue local, regional and national partnerships that make it possible to bring this project to life and create an asset to our region’s educational portfolio.

 Securing funding has been and will continue to be key to the progress of the University Center. To date, there has been partnerships with the City of Dodge City, Ford County, the Development Corporation, the Kansas Health Foundation, the Scroggins Foundation and USDA.

The following funding was secured for the University Center in 2019:

 $130,574 USDA Rural Business Development Grant for construction costs

  • $25,000 Scroggins Foundation for classroom furniture
  • $190,546 USDA Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant for initial technology costs at Hennessy Hall and 5 other frontier communities and special equipment for the FHSU Masters of Social Work Program
  • $250,000 over two years from Ford County to help match grants and provide startup funds for REWA
  • $473,926 from the City of Dodge City in the form of contributions, remodel costs, in-kind rent and staff commitment from many departments

Construction bids have been awarded, and the Development Corporation has been able to pursue Bachelors and Masters level programs to be offered at the University Center. Workforce training, especially healthcare, has been a top priority for the project since it’s conception. This is still true for most of the recruitment being done, however there are other areas of training that we have interest in. So far, there has been program commitment from Fort Hays State University (FHSU) and the University of Kansas’ Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (KLETC) with additional interest from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Newman University.

In 2019, the Development Corporation has assisted in recruiting or expanding the following programs:

  • Newman University Para to Professional Teaching Degree
  • KU Masters of Social Work
  • FHSU Bachelors of Social Work Cohort – 23 students started August 2019
  • FHSU Masters of Social Work – beginning August 2020
  • FHSU Bachelors of Nursing – beginning August 2020
  • KLETC Regional Training Center – opening June 2020
  • KU Med’s Bachelors of Respiratory Therapy – partnered with SCCC and working to bring to DCCC and GCCC

 Additional areas of interest that have arose are Manufacturing and Data Analytics programs from Kansas State University. Representatives from K State Technology Development Institute and Global Campus have toured all 5 community Colleges in the region and are working on prioritizing workforce needs. They will be revisiting the area with potential partnerships to bring more opportunities to our workforce training offerings.

As we move forward, the Development Corporation and REWA will continue to build coalitions across the region and state that bring attention to Southwest Kansas’ workforce issues. It is imperative that our communities continue to work together to “Raise the Region”.

August 2019

2019 09 UniversityCenterAugustUpdate webProgress continues with the University Center. The City of Dodge City has recently confirmed that we have received funds for the construction of the first classroom through a USDA Grant. The City is working on bid documents, and construction will begin soon. Our next goal will be to work on construction across the hall to remodel a room for an additional classroom/office space for the REWA coordinator.

The Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation on behalf of the City of Dodge City has also applied for a USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant. This grant will be matched by funds provided to the Rural Education and Workforce Alliance from Ford County. Once awarded, the funds will be used to provide the technology for the classrooms at Hennessey Hall, the technology needed by FHSU to deliver the Master of Social Work from Dodge City and funding to for the technology to establish classrooms in Tribune, Elkhart, Scott City, Jetmore, and St. John. We hope to hear on the grant award this fall. Additionally, the staff has applied for a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation to furnish the classroom.

Recently, the Rural Education and Workforce Alliance (REWA) has received the status of 501(c)3 non-profit by the IRS. Once we can secure funding, we will look to hire a REWA Coordinator that will continue to build partnerships and coalitions across Southwest Kansas to combat the issues of insufficient access to higher education as well as workforce shortages. The Development Corporation has worked extensively to build the existing coalitions that have helped bring this project to life.

We have been in contact with several higher education institutions, private and public alike, that are interested in offering courses and certifications out of Dodge City across Southwest Kansas. Some programs of interest include Bachelor of Nursing, Master of Social Work, various finance centered degrees and several others including the existing Social Work Cohort that now has 23 students enrolled through Fort Hays State University.

On August 7th, the Development Corporation was able to host a meeting with the Lt. Governor during his prosperity tour regarding the University Center at Hennessey Hall with some of our local healthcare providers as well as city officials and education representatives. There was great discussion between our hospital CEO, Community College President, School District leaders, and City leaders. The Lt. Governor was able to get a more in-depth perception of what healthcare issues we have in Dodge City and Southwest Kansas alike. One plausible solution to retaining our workforce was finding employees that are devoted to the community and the workplace and invest in their education so we can grow that employee into someone who holds a key role in their respective workplace.

Being able to work together as a community and region is a critical factor in continuing to bring this project to life and using it as a tool to help our region combat our shortage in healthcare providers.

June 2019

June2019Progress continues with the University Center. Discussions with wKREDA (The Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance), the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) and NetWork Kansas have continued to be effective with regards to building coalitions across SW Kansas to further recognize the needs for an increase of available healthcare professionals and other workforce training skills needed in the region. In late May, the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation organized and held a Lunch and Learn for Fort Hays State’s Bachelor of Social Work Cohort. The event drew more than 30 potential students for the 2019 class to be held at Dodge City Community College. The Development Corporation has taken the lead in helping to assist higher education entities recruit students to meet workforce needs through the creation of the Rural Education Workforce Alliance (REWA). The Development Corporation and REWA will be hosting a Lunch & Learn for Newman University on their Accelerated Pathways to Teaching program on Tuesday, June 18th.

The City of Dodge City has also applied for two grants with intentions of remodeling a classroom in Hennessey Hall and outfitting this classroom with the necessary technology to make it a successful hub/end-user site. The USDA Rural Business Development Enterprise Grant will help fund the remodeling of a classroom in Hennessey Hall in Dodge City. The new classroom will be able to comfortably seat 50 students. The second grant is the USDA Rural Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant which will help the funding for the necessary technology for a site in Hennessey Hall in Dodge City that will serve as a hub/end-user site. There were many communities and businesses alike that wrote letters of support endorsing the efforts of the City of Dodge City to create a University Center/training facility in Dodge City.

Once the construction of the classroom and equipment is complete, the Dodge City/Ford County Development Corporation, REWA and the Kansas Small Business Development Center will begin delivering their workforce training seminars at the location and across the region to our frontier community partners. The space will be managed by REWA to coordinate programs from the Universities as well as diversified certifications and trainings.

The frontier communities that submitted plans to be incorporated into the initial USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant are Jetmore, Elkhart, Tribune, Scott City and St. John. These communities will all have sites that have a classroom with capability to connect to courses that are broadcasted from the Dodge City Hub site in Hennessey Hall. As of early June, the City of Dodge City is waiting to hear back on the status of these grants that will assist funding of the University Center project.

December 2018

December2018Progress continues with the University Center. One of the top priorities for the long-term success is to change the mindset of Southwest Kansas regarding access to education that is offered close by, and building our own student pool from within our community. We strongly believe that by building an Advanced Healthcare Education Coalition across the region, we will create alliances to keep the“Growing Our Own”approach consistent for community members within all counties. This will be accomplished by keeping all stakeholders well-informed on post-secondary opportunities available within the region, sharing employer programs, and celebrating success stories of graduates.

Meetings with the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF), wKREDA and NetWork Kansas have been very effective regarding coordination efforts to build community coalitions across the SW Kansas region. This collaboration will be vital to the long-term success of a University Center. A grant was awarded from Arthur E. & Cornelia C. Scroggins Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas. In addition, financial support has been garnered from KHF. This funding will assist with the continuation of the project, as well as coalition development needed moving forward. NetWork Kansas has committed to partnering with wKREDA, which is a coalition of 55 Western KS County Rural Economic Development organizations. They will work with local leaders across the wKREDA territory to identify coalition members to build the community engagement needed to build and sustain higher education across Southwestern Kansas. NetWork KS has agreed to partner with the Development Corporation to help facilitate community coalition building.

University of Kansas Medical Center visited Dodge City in October. Dr. Abiodun Akinwuntan, Dean of Health Professions, Dave Burnett, Respiratory Care and Diagnostic Science Chair, Debra Sullivan, Dietetic and Nutrition Chair, Tiffany Johnson, Hearing and Speech Chair and Kim Huyett, Senior Director of Community Relations & Strategic Partnerships toured the Dodge City Community College, Western Plains Hospital and Medical Complex, and Hennessey Hall. In addition, a luncheon allowed KUMC to meet a number of medical providers, regional community college representatives, USD 443 leaders, and other community and legislative representatives. KUMC will be evaluating opportunities to support our University Center initiative to train and increase the healthcare workforce in Western Kansas.

August 2018

August2018Progress continues with the University Center. Meetings with the Kansas Health Institute, Kansas Health Foundation and Network Kansas have been very effective to begin coordination efforts to build community coalitions across the SW Kansas region. This collaboration will be vital to the long-term success of University Center. The consultant met with FHSU on their progress of developing the individual healthcare programs to be offered in our region. Final plans are anticipated September 1st. Scott Smith, the new CEO of Western Plains hospital was introduced to the University Center plan, and was very receptive and excited to help moving forward.

The consultant and Economic Development met with Christina Boyd, KU’s Western Kansas MSW-Social Work Program Director on their master’s social worker program, which is a blended form, that combines face-to-face and online learning for students on Saturdays. This program is a great example of how a student from Western Kansas can attend a local community college, graduate from FHSU with a bachelor’s degree and obtain their master’s degree from KU, while living and working in Western Kansas. In addition, Economic Development staff and the consultant are working with Christina and other universities to bring awareness of their programs to increase student base and business participation.

The consultant and the Economic Development staff met with DCCC to begin plans for a career fair which will include a focus on healthcare in February, 2019. This fair will have a strong emphasis to bring education and businesses together to build partnerships for workforce development.

In September, the consultant will be presenting to wKREDA, which is a coalition of 55 Western KS County Rural Economic Development organizations and resource partners to engage coalition members to build the community engagement needed to build and sustain higher education in Western KS. Network KS has agreed to partner with the Development Corporation to offset some of the cost associated with community coalition building across SW Kansas.

Applications for three grants are being applied for from the Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas and Kansas Health Foundation for continued funding with the planning process and coalition building, working through the regents and universities in meeting their needs, as well as establishing the structure of the University Center. The consultant met with Congressman Marshall while he was in town to explain the University Project and the progress to date.

In addition, the consultant will be meeting with the CEO and other leaders with the NRHA-National Rural Health Association and Pioneer Health Network, which is a consortium of nineteen hospitals in Western KS to provide updates on the University Center over the next few weeks.

For more information about this project, please contact Joann Knight at 620-227-9501, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..