Construction of the Health Sciences Center at FLC is officially underway. At a small and virtual groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, October 9, campus leadership, donors, and Health Sciences faculty tossed the first shovels of dirt to signify the beginning of the transformation of FLC into a reputable institution for public health education, high-altitude study and training, world-class athletics programs, and excellence in the health sciences fields. The HSC will be a cutting-edge academic research and teaching facility that will include new construction and revamped spaces in Whalen Gymnasium.
Health Sciences is the largest and fastest growing department on campus. With the HSC, students interested in health and well-being, nutrition science, public health, exercise science, physical therapy, and sports administration will have modern tools and unmatched opportunities for real-world applications.
"This center will foster collaborations that better address health across the spectrum, from that of the individual to that of entire communities. Through this our graduates will be better prepared to address modern, complex health challenges."
"This center will foster collaborations that better address health across the spectrum, from that of the individual to that of entire communities," said Melissa Knight-Maloney, associate dean and professor of Health Sciences. "Through this our graduates will be better prepared to address modern, complex health challenges."
In the new space, classes and research will now be conducted in a human-body research lab for biomechanics analysis and run-out labs, a teaching kitchen for nutrition science, and a public health lab for microbiology studies. The facility will also address regional needs for general health, wellness, and fitness assessments. The Durango Performance Center currently operates out of a very limited space in Skyhawk Hall and more room would mean being able to tap into the growing market of fitness assessments for non-professional athletes and high-altitude training camps.
After years of planning and analyzing community needs – and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has exacerbated health disparities in rural Colorado – the HSC will be transformative for FLC students, faculty, and the Four Corners region.
"Having a Health Sciences Center gives other Black and Indigenous students of color the opportunity to become the health professionals we didn’t have growing up,” said Public Health senior Ally Gee.
The HSC project has a total price tag of $32.9 million. The State of Colorado will contribute $29.6 million and FLC is required to contribute 10%, about $3.3 million, through fundraising. FLC was awarded its first piece of the state allocation in 2018, a little over $3 million, for design costs of the HSC and will receive $26.6 million this fiscal year for construction. In the spring, Governor Jared Polis signed into law Senate Bill 20-219, which paved the way for funding for higher education capital construction projects at three Colorado colleges and universities, including the HSC. The Capital Development Committee put forth the bill’s lease-agreement as a way to take advantage of low interest rates and direct funding to continuation projects at FLC, University of Colorado, and Colorado State University.
The FLC Foundation has been fundraising the remaining $3.3 million through donations, grants, and partnerships. In a spectacular culmination of years of fundraising efforts, FLC also recently received a $2 million pledge from the Schlessman Family Foundation for the HSC, completing the 10% match required for Capital Construction funding. Gary Schlessman (Business, ’79), vice president of the Schlessman Family Foundation, arrived in Durango to attend FLC in 1975 and discovered an education to live by and friends to last a lifetime. Schlessman has never forgotten his roots at FLC and has been a proud supporter of the College for the last 33 years.
“My grandfather’s philosophy was to always give back to the communities and organizations that gave you the opportunity to have what you have and do what you do. For me, that’s Fort Lewis College.”
Construction of the HSC is expected to be completed by March 2023.
"We can't wait to walk through the doors of this great facility soon," said Knight-Maloney.