St. Joseph's University is creating a School of Health Studies and Education to open in the fall of 2019 as its first new school in 30 years.
The school will draw together existing programs, including autism behavioral studies and interdisciplinary health services, rather than forming new departments. The professors already teaching those classes will be the faculty of the new school at its outset, but St. Joseph's will begin searching for a dean for the school this fall.
"We're not starting an education program here at this university," St. Joseph's president Mark Reed said. "We're developing it, we're enhancing it, we're bringing it much more to the foreground than was apparent in our organizational structure and perhaps in some of our marketing and promotional efforts in the past."
He said the university's two current schools — the College of Arts and Sciences and the Erivan K. Haub School of Business — are not enough to organize academics in a way that allows St. Joe's to grow.
"Our College of Arts and Sciences had become, unfortunately, not really a college focused around the arts and sciences, but it really became kind of where everything else academically that wasn't part of the business school fit," Reed said. "This is as much about an investment and a boost and an opportunity for our College of Arts and Sciences to really move forward."
The School of Health Studies and Education will join a crowded field of allied health schools — those that prepare students for jobs in the medical field other than serving as a doctor or nurse — in the Philadelphia region. Institutions that already have allied health schools and programs include the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Temple University, and Drexel University.
St. Joseph's spokeswoman Colleen Sabatino said the university did "extensive research" into other health and education programs in the Philadelphia region and beyond to inform the creation of the new school.
St. Joseph's is "not looking to just add to an otherwise crowded marketplace," Reed said. He expects the university's approach to stand out because of the new school's interdisciplinary approach to health and education, areas he cited as strengths for the university.
Jeff Hornstein, executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, said the "future of higher education is interdisciplinary" and "all higher educators are trying to figure out how to break down silos and create synergies where they make sense."
More and more often, Reed said, these combinations are aimed at what the job market needs. He said that factored into the university's thought process in creating a new school, as the health care field is "loaded with new job opportunities St. Joe's can deliver in a new way."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care industry is projected to add about 2.4 million jobs from 2016 through 2026. That projection is higher than any other field of employment.
The combination of health studies and education is also a natural step for St. Joseph's because of assets such as the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support and the Institute of Clinical Bioethics, Reed said.
"We need to do everything we can to develop them and look for additional niche opportunities to really make a difference," he said. "That's what this school is really about — cultivating and advancing these institutes and centers which already are distinctive."
The school has also made recent entrepreneurial decisions such as leasing the Barnes Foundation's nearby arboretum and former art gallery in Lower Merion.
With the creation of the school, Reed said, St. Joseph's "takes a step forward in [its] development as a comprehensive university" in a way that supports its Jesuit mission.