The new bachelor’s of science degree in healthcare leadership launched this fall with twice the number of students as expected.

“We planned to have 25 students, but we started with 54,” said Melinda Brown, director of the new Gipson Center for Healthcare Leadership.

An open house was offered in October, giving the campus a chance to see the new classrooms, conference rooms and offices. The center, announced last year, is designed to give students the background needed to succeed in one of the fastest growing sectors of the healthcare field.

Emblazoned on a wall within the center is its mission statement: “To improve and transform healthcare through innovative education of today’s and tomorrow’s healthcare leaders.”

Freshman Gracie Smith says she was excited to join the program as it combines two of her interests.

“I had an interest in going into pre-med, but I’ve also had a passion for business,” she says. “This was something that brought them both together.”

Smith, who hopes to eventually become a hospital administrator, says she’s enjoying her classes, several of which are led by actual healthcare professionals.

“We have a good mix (of adjunct instructors) from Freeman Health System and Mercy Hospital Joplin,” says Brown. “They bring a lot to this program.”