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Des Moines University exploring expansion options


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Des Moines University (DMU) is considering whether to add a college of optometry, which would mean constructing another building on its campus on Grand Avenue.

The university’s strong financial position makes it possible to consider expansion at a time when many other institutions are cutting back programs, said Karen McLean, who assumed her duties as DMU’s first provost six weeks ago.

“It would be the only (college of optometry) in the state, and really the only one in a multistate region,” McLean said. “But we have to decide, will that really work, is it a good use of our resources?” The health sciences university is among the 20 largest medical schools in the country, with three colleges offering nine graduate degrees.

According to EyeCareSource.com, there are just 16 accredited schools of optometry in the United States. Two pre-optometry programs are offered in Iowa, one at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge and the other at the University of Iowa.

McLean said DMU is also considering adding an occupational therapy program. If either of those programs is added, it would necessitate building, she said.

“We’ve already consulted with engineers; it would mean taking the surface parking area and constructing a parking garage so we can use some of the parking area for another building,” she said.

Last week, DMU received the results of a feasibility study from Dr. Lesley Walls, a consultant in Tulsa, Okla. President Terry Branstad is reviewing the report and will make a recommendatio to the school’s board of trustees, said spokeswoman Kendall Dillon.

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