KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee College of Nursing is celebrating 50 years of education and service. The college opened its doors in 1971 and has been growing ever since.

“We continue to expand our impact both in educating wonderful students as well as keeping our communities healthy or making them improve their health,” said Dean Victoria Niederhauser.

New challenges emerge every decade for the healthcare system. In 2020, it was COVID-19. In true volunteer spirit, nursing students stepped in to help vaccinate more than 30,000 people in the community.

“I think people have been touched by the health system even before the pandemic realizes the value of having a smart and very well-educated nurse at their bedside when they are ill, or a family member is ill,” said Niederhauser.

The demand for nurses is skyrocketing. Dean Niederhauser says enrollment has nearly doubled in her roughly ten years at the college. She says the type of graduate they put into the workforce reflects the college.

“We have to make sure that our students are practice-ready when they leave as much as we can get them there,” said Niederhauser.

It’s why she’s advocated to upgrade the college’s building to advance students learning and why she continues to encourage community partnerships.

Dean Niederhauser says the plan is to break ground on the building next summer. She anticipates the renovations and expansion will be complete in Summer 2025.

The goal is to raise $10 million for the building. The dean says the college is halfway to its fundraising goal.