Top 5! Belmont University Lands Near Top of Annual U.S. News Rankings of Southern Colleges

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University scores accolades for innovation, teaching, veteran support and more

For the ninth consecutive year, Belmont University has again achieved a Top 10 regional ranking with today’s release of U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 edition of America’s Best Colleges, this year ranking at an impressive No. 5 and remaining the highest ranked university in Tennessee in this category. Moreover, Belmont won the praise of its peers as it was included on a number of additional U.S. News lists that rate institutions on areas critical to student opportunities and success.

Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher said, “These rankings provide benchmarks that are helpful to us as we work to provide programs that equip our students to go out and make a positive impact in the world. While it is rewarding to see Belmont reach a higher ranking overall, it is especially gratifying to be recognized by our peers for excelling in areas that promote strong outcomes for our students. As a student-centered university, this is at the heart of what we aim to achieve.”

In the publication released today, Belmont is lauded for the tenth year in a row for its commitment to “making the most innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities,” landing second on the “Most Innovative Schools” in the South list. Belmont earned acclaim in the following categories as well:

    • Strong Commitment to Undergraduate Teaching (No. 4 in the South): The strong commitment to undergraduate teaching ranking is determined via a survey of peer institutions, who cite their fellow institutions who best reflect that quality.
    • Best Colleges for Veterans (No. 3 in the South): To be included, institutions must be ranked in the top half of their overall category, be certified for the GI Bill and participate in the Yellow Ribbon Program with 20 or more veterans/active service members enrolled.
    • Best Value (one of only 64 institutions recognized in the South): The listing takes into account a school’s academic quality and net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid. The higher the quality of the program and the lower the cost, the better the deal.
    • Internships (one of only 20 institutions recognized in the nation): Schools in this category encourage students to apply what they’re learning in the classroom to work in the real world through closely supervised internships or practicums.
    • Learning Communities (one of only 18 institutions recognized in the nation): In these communities, students typically take two or more linked courses as a group and get to know one another and their professors well.
    • Service-Learning (one of only 23 institutions recognized in the nation): Required volunteer work in the community is an instructional strategy in these programs—what’s learned in the field bolsters what happens in class and vice versa.
    • Study Abroad (one of only 44 institutions recognized in the nation): Programs must involve substantial academic work abroad and considerable interaction with local culture

Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns said, “This has been an extraordinary fall for Belmont. We started the fall semester Belmont by announcing a record-breaking enrollment number for the 17th consecutive year – reaching a total of 8,080 students on campus. These students remind us every day that they are drawn to Belmont by the diversity and academic strength of our programs as well as by the intentional commitment to student success, as highlighted in the U.S. News rankings. I’m particularly proud of this incoming undergraduate class which brings, on average, the highest entering scores on the ACT (average 26.4) in the past four years. As an institution, we are committed to continue to do our best to fulfill the Belmont mission of providing an academically challenging education that will enable our students to engage and transform the world with disciplined intelligence, compassion, courage and faith.”

The U.S. News analysis places Belmont in a premier position among the 135 public and private institutions included in the South region, an area that covers Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Lumos Scholar Shares Her Experiences in Africa

Karah Waters standing with two Tanzanians

Lumos Scholar and recent Belmont  graduate Karah Waters is currently using her Nursing degree from the College of Health Sciences and Nursing to study healthcare in Tanzania.

Waters is currently interning and working as a nurse at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, a program that will last nine weeks. Her tenth and final week in Tanzania will be spent at the Kidodi Village Rural Healthcare Clinic.

She wrote, “I’ve also observed how different the lifestyles of the people are here and how that affects their health either positively or negatively and how it correlates with what I’ve seen in the hospital… I am in love with all of the people here and the various cultures are SO rich in Tanzania. I’ve learned so much!”

Waters is a recipient of the Lumos Award, coordinated through the Interdisciplinary Studies and Global Education department (ISGE).  The purpose of the award is to  transform the lives of young adults by enabling them to embark on a self-designed international working adventure. Recipients explore, engage and immerse themselves in local communities for a minimum of eight weeks in order to deepen their understanding of an issue, project or idea that impassions them.” Lumos Award recipients are expected to “travel with purpose.”

PT’s Dr. Christi Williams and Her Therapy Dog, Layla, Spend the Summer with Community Children

Children huddle around Layla at Monroe Caroll Jr Children's Hospital

Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Christi Williams spent the summer spreading joy throughout the community with her certified therapy dog, Layla. A 7-year old yellow Labrador Retriever, Layla has been volunteering for the past two years as a certified therapy dog through Pet Partners, a local nonprofit organization. Williams and Layla visit many locations on a volunteer basis, including Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt One Hundred Oaks, to spread smiles to patients and health care providers.

This summer Layla volunteered with Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Clinic’s Constraint Camp, a camp that focuses on promoting use of the involved upper extremities by casting the uninvolved side. While there, Layla eased the children’s fears and encouraged them to try new and often challenging tasks. They worked on their gross motor skills alongside Layla by petting and brushing her and finding special stickers inside the zippered pocket of her vest. Gathering stickers from her pocket allowed the children to work on these motor skills, while also proudly displaying proof of the day’s therapist — their favorite yellow lab.

Though Layla loves all her time at camp, Williams said one of her highlights is playing fetch with the children and her favorite pink tennis ball. A very challenging task for the kids as it requires skill to grasp, hold and release the ball, they are determined to play alongside Layla. “She is always patiently waiting for them to throw it her way!” Williams said.

One of Layla's many walks throughout the facility.

One of Layla’s many walks throughout the facility.

Children also enjoy taking Layla for a ‘walk’ throughout the facility where a small leash is attached to Layla’s harness for the kids to hold. Despite the physical challenge this can present, they are eager to participate. A physical therapist herself, Williams loves to work with Layla in the rehabilitation setting. “There’s nothing like watching self-doubt immediately turn into pure confidence when Layla’s ‘leash’ is placed in these children’s hands. Their faces change and they no longer think about it as a challenge. They just do it–and with such confidence!”

Layla and Williams also spent time this summer at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital’s Dog Days of Summer “Paw-ty” where Layla, and other certified therapy dogs, joined children in games, activities and more. Children watched the dogs do tricks on stage and received some takeaways, too —  a dog stuffed animal and a paw print stamp of the therapy dogs who participated.

Layla then traveled to Camp TALK, a camp for children with speech deficits, where she taught children about therapy animals. The kids practiced talking to and giving commands to Layla including “sit,” “lay down,” “shake hands” and “high five.” Layla also showed off her catch skills and played hide-and-seek with the kids.

Layla and some children from Monroe Carrell Jr Children's Hospital“For these children, Layla’s presence creates an environment where they are no longer anxious to try new things or speak in front of their peers,” Williams said. “Having Layla in the room shifts the children’s focus from their disability to simply having fun with the dog!”

Visiting with patients and helping children during their rehabilitation is a big part of what Layla does as a certified therapy dog, but she often has the greatest impact on the health care providers who are working alongside their patients. At the Center for Women’s Health, Layla’s “job” is to visit with the nurses and physicians, providing a necessary break during the day.

“This visit tends to be one of Layla’s favorite stops because these nurses spoil her rotten,” Williams said. “She knows exactly who has treats for her and which drawer or cabinet they are stashed in. Being a health-care provider can be very stressful at times, and Layla provides that much-needed mental break!”

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Pediatric Rehabilitation at One Hundred Oaks and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. 

Dr. Christian Williams Named Director of Belmont University’s New Public Health Program

Christian Williams Head ShotBelmont University recently named Christian L. Williams, DrPH, MPH as Assistant Professor and Director of its new Bachelors of Science in Public Health, a program recently created that seeks to address the critical topic of community well-being. Prior to coming to Belmont, Dr. Williams served as the Public Health Competency Coordinator for the Tennessee Department of Health where she was responsible for workforce development and training, served as the program director for the Commissioner’s Fellowship in Public Health and coordinated all student internships.

In her new role, Dr. Williams will oversee Belmont’s new public health program, educating the University’s first cohort of public health majors. A dynamic field of study and practice credited with saving millions of lives, public health focuses on improving the health of communities and populations by working to develop the conditions and behaviors that contribute to better health for all.

Williams said she has always been interested in the partnership between academia and public health practice, so the opportunity to lead Belmont’s new program was an exciting one. “This role allows me to prepare the future public health workforce and still engage public health practice through research, collaborative projects and opportunities for students.”

Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Nursing Dr. Cathy Taylor said, “We’re fortunate to have Dr. Williams join us in this leadership role with such an exciting new program. The BSPH is a perfect choice for students with a broad interest in population health, health policy or other health-related fields. Graduates will be able to enter the workforce directly or choose to pursue graduate study in a variety of disciplines, and we’re delighted to welcome our first cohort of students this fall.”

Dr. Williams received her DrPH in community and behavioral health from the College of Public Health at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. Her research interests include workforce development, quality improvement, linkages between academia and practice and public health systems and services.

Physical Therapy and Biology Faculty Collaborate to Publish Study in Teaching Journal

Over the past three years, Belmont’s Department of Biology and School of Physical Therapy have worked together to allow undergraduate anatomy students the opportunity to experience a cadaver-based learning environment. Through this collaborative effort, hundreds of undergraduate students have had the opportunity to participate in this interactive experience.

Additionally, undergraduate anatomy faculty have embraced the opportunity to engage with graduate faculty to improve their teaching skills in a gross anatomy laboratory. This collaborative initiative began to generate learning opportunities for undergraduate anatomy students in the cadaver-based gross anatomy lab. By the end, however, this interdisciplinary work ended with meaningful experiences for all participants.

Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Chris Barton and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Dr. Christi Williams documented the interdisciplinary nature of their collaboration, as well as the increased learning outcomes reported by the undergraduate anatomy students, so other institutions can replicate the process.

Their article, “Graduate and Undergraduate Faculty Collaboration Utilizing Peer Observation to Enhance Educational Opportunities for Students and Faculty: A Case Example,” was recently accepted for publication in The Journal of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, where Barton and Williams are co-first authors on the study. Dr. John Halle, professor of physical therapy and Dr. Lori McGrew, professor of biology, are additional authors on the accepted manuscript.

Belmont Adds ACE Resource Guide

The Gordon E. Inman Health Sciences building on a spring day with tulips in front of the building.

As part of a grant recently provided by Tennessee and administered through the Department of Children’s Services Building Strong Brains Initiative, Belmont’s College of Health Sciences and Nursing has developed a resource library to promote the understanding of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) for health care professionals. The library is part of Belmont’s Educating Trauma Information Professionals project.

Principal investigators Dean of the College of Health Sciences and Nursing Dr. Cathy Taylor and Associate Professor of Social Work Dr. Sabrina Sullenberger collaborated with Bunch Library faculty to develop the ACE Resource Guide. The guide provides access to the valuable library of materials collected to support professions that work alongside children and families during sensitive periods of development and beyond. The ACE Resource Guide is available to all Belmont students and faculty and can be accessed here.

Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Students Lead Aquifit for the Nashville Dolphins

OT and PT students work on Aquafit program.

Eight years ago Dr. Natalie Michaels, associate professor of occupational therapy (OT), started the Aquifit program to provide aquatic exercises for wellness, socialization and enjoyment to members of the community. Originally designed to target older adults, Aquifit exercises are performed to music pool-side by physical therapists, occupational therapists, aquatic specialists, OT students and physical therapy (PT) students while community members exercise in the water.

The program has proven successful in aiding members of the older adult community with weight loss and pain reduction,

OT and PT students train with the DolphinsRecently, Aquifit expanded its impact when on Aug. 9, the program was provided to the Nashville Dolphins, a local aquatics program for children and adults with special needs. The Aquifit team was joined by Belmont OT and PT students who helped lead the exercises and assisted participants in the pool. Michaels said that once again the community was “thoroughly impressed by the professionalism and intellect of the Belmont students.”

Michaels was joined by Dr. Timothy Jones (Tennessee State University), Dr. Derek Charles (also from TSU) and Dr Joshua Maloney (Amedisys Home Health). Belmont students who participated in the event included Autumn Powell, Haley Hingtgen and Rachel Morgan from the occupational therapy program as well as Jonathan Lee, Sarah Williams, Kandiss Anderson, Lacie Nugent and Beau Kovach from the physical therapy program.

Approximately 15 members of the Dolphins participated. They reported that they had a “wonderful” and “fun” time, and they really seemed to enjoy their interactions with the Belmont students.

College of Pharmacy Celebrates Inaugural Fellow Completion

Fellow, Dr. Kate Claussen, poses with members of the Belmont College of PharmacyBelmont’s College of Pharmacy, in partnership with Aegis Sciences Corporation, recently celebrated the completion of its first Clinical Scientist Fellow in Drug Information, a two-year program that provides an intensive postgraduate training program focused on drug information, evidence-based practice, teaching and research. Dr. Kate Claussen, of Hendersonville, Tennessee, was the program’s first fellow.

The program is one of approximately 60 postgraduate pharmacy fellowships in the country and offers a unique training experience in areas not widely available in pharmacy training. Two new fellows, Jeneva Garland and Stephanie Manley, began their training on June 1. This program is the first drug information fellowship in Nashville and the only drug information fellowship with a healthcare laboratory component.

Nursing Students Earn Top Honors at Internship Experience

Credo Winners with Dr. Leslie Folds

For the past seven weeks, 16 Belmont nursing students have participated in the Vanderbilt Experience: Student Nurse Internship Program (VESNIP), a summer internship program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), with students from four other regional nursing programs. Three Belmont nursing students were awarded the highest honors at the culminating awards ceremony held on Wednesday, June 29. Of the seven total awards given, three went to Belmont students.

VUMC credo behaviors identify those individuals that aspire to excellence and expert performance by making those they serve their highest priority, conducting themselves professionally, respecting confidentiality, communicating effectively, having a sense of ownership and exhibiting a commitment to colleagues. Carly Rabideau received the Credo Award for the Perioperative/PACU Track, Alexa Yatauro received the Credo Award in the Psychiatric Track and Sarah (Sally) Rogan received the Credo Award for the Critical Care Track.

The entire Belmont VESNIP group with Dr. Folds

All VESNIP participants with Dr. Leslie Folds (left).

This is the 12th year of the VESNIP program. The program began as a partnership between Belmont School of Nursing and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. It has now expanded to a total of 60+ students from four area nursing schools. VESNIP positions are very competitive and are considered elite opportunities for students from around the region. Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Leslie Folds said, “Our students are exceptional and represent Belmont’s values throughout this program.  I was extremely impressed by not only the students’ professionalism, but their ability to engage in critical thinking, reflection and incorporation of evidence-based research to the clinical setting.”

All Credo Winners are pictured above with Dr. Folds.

Pharmacy Students part of Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Group that Wins Simulated Experience Competition

Students participating in SAP-simulated group project represent four disciplines from across campus

Students from Belmont’s Jack C. Massey College of Business Graduate School of Business (MBA and Professional MBA), College of Pharmacy (joint PharmD/MBA) and College of Law (joint MBA/JD) that are enrolled in an accounting course and a management course recently participated in a SAP-simulated group project and won among their classmates. This is the first time that a student group has included participants from all four disciplines.

The SAP-based simulation provides an opportunity for graduate students, in groups of 4-5, to run a simulated company. Each team is responsible for making strategic decisions including product mix, pricing and marketing levels, investment in additional capacity and cash flow management, among other things. They then operate their companies over six simulated ‘months’ of productions. This opportunity is unique as students are able to use SAP, an enterprise software system that is used by many leading manufacturing companies including Nissan, Bridgestone, Tractor Supply Company and Mapco.

Associate Dean & Senior Professor of Performance Excellence Dr. Joe Alexander said the opportunity to work alongside students from other disciplines is incredibly valuable for participants. “In contemporary business settings, that’s the name of the game,” Alexander said. “Cross-functional teams where individuals from different departments and functions must learn to work together, utilizing the skills and information from their areas to help make teams more successful in solving business problems are apparent in today’s organizations.”