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VOL. 10 | NO. 45 | Saturday, November 4, 2017

Univ. of Memphis’ Lambuth Campus Thriving, With More Growth Expected

By Don Wade

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The university, and the history, might have been lost. Six years ago, with the after-effects of a slowed economy still making an impact, Lambuth University in Jackson, Tennessee, was forced to shut down.

Six years after the University of Memphis took over the shuttered Lambuth University in Jackson, Tennessee, the campus is growing, with more expansion on the horizon. (Rhonda Cosentino)

Had it remained closed, it would have ended a history that dates back to 1843 when the school was founded as the Memphis Conference Female Institute, created by the Memphis Annual Conference of the Methodist Church and under a state charter. Fast forward to 1923 and the school is renamed Lambuth College and admitting its first male students.

The crisis in 2011, instead of representing an end, became an opportunity for a new chapter as the University of Memphis stepped in and began offering classes at the Jackson campus. Now, U of M Lambuth is growing and thriving, and more expansion is on the horizon.

“It’s going very well,” said U of M president M. David Rudd. “Better than I would have projected. They’ve done a remarkable job.”

Dr. Niles Reddick, vice provost at U of M Lambuth, returns the compliment.

“One of the things I respect is that the University of Memphis has preserved the heritage of Lambuth,” Reddick said. “I often joke that U of M saved a fortune on paint. Lambuth was blue. The University of Memphis is blue. And it’s the same blue.”

That said, the U of M’s investment has been, and continues to be, significant. The nursing program at the Lambuth campus has experienced extreme growth – starting with a cohort of 20 students in 2012 and now having several cohorts and 160 students with an additional cohort to be added in 2018.

Reddick says the demand for nursing professionals in West Tennessee is substantial. Some students go all four years at the Lambuth campus, but the school also gets a lot of community college transfers.

To accommodate the growth in the nursing and other programs, Rudd is trying to secure $11 million to repurpose two unused dormitories for more classroom and lab space at the Lambuth campus. Also, he envisions potentially adding physical therapy and physician assistant programs in Jackson.

“It’s a unique place and environment to go to school,” Rudd said.

Niles Reddick, vice provost at U of M Lambuth, says the University of Memphis has preserved the heritage of the historic campus in Jackson, Tennessee. (Submitted)

Much smaller than the main campus in Memphis, U of M Lambuth has about 1,000 students.

“I think we can get to 1,500 or 1,600 students,” Rudd said.

Even at that size, the Lambuth campus would retain its small, quaint feel. And for students, be they from Jackson or elsewhere in West Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, Kentucky or Mississippi, that’s the atmosphere they are looking for, Reddick says.

“It’s a beautiful, tree-lined, historic campus,” he said. “And some students are actually scared of the traffic and the city.”

Of course, that cuts both ways. Some students from Jackson choose to live on campus at Memphis, he says, “because they want to get out of Jackson.” And some nursing students who live in Memphis actually chose to attend classes in Jackson.

Online classes also are part of the equation, and some Jackson-based students opt to take at least some of their classes online, Reddick says.

“Our average age is around 24,” he said of the Lambuth campus. “We attract more of the nontraditional student.”

Undergraduate programs at the Lambuth campus include but are not limited to nursing, communications and journalism, political science, music business, criminology and criminal justice, psychology, social work and nonprofit administration. There also are several graduate programs.

Rudd says they are implementing dual credit classes with the Jackson school district and a magnet-like school on the Lambuth campus. In addition, efforts are underway to enhance daily student life with club sports and other activities.

“Get students more invested,” Rudd said.

Meanwhile, recruitment efforts for the Lambuth campus are also being ramped up with everything from targeted digital marketing to strategic in-person recruiting trips across the region.

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