Towson University formally unveiled on Wednesday its Institute of Well Being, which comprises four schools within the College of Health Professions and gives a dedicated, modern space within Towson City Center to those academic disciplines which needed it most.
"This is so important for two major reasons," Towson University President Maravene Loeschke said during Wednesday's ribbon cutting ceremony. "One is it enables our students to get state-of-the-art experience, which leads directly into their loving care in the workforce. And then secondly, it absolutely allows Towson University to be a helpful partner in the Towson community. We will do that in as many ways as we are welcome to do so."
The Institute of Well Being, includes the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, the Occupational Therapy Center, the Speech, Language, and Hearing Center, and the Wellness Center, all of which provide clinical services — many performed by the university students themselves — to the outside community.
"This institute delivers the intellectual, academic and professional expertise to the community while allowing Towson students extraordinary educational opportunities and real-time, real world professional and inter-professional instruction across our many health professions," Charlotte Exnor, dean of the College of Health Professions, said.
The Wellness Center makes up most of the first floor, and includes a large fitness area, children's therapy rooms, the Andrea B. Sherwin Playground and the Ann Stinar-Eve Mueller Exercise Studio.
The second floor is dedicated to the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism, which is both named for and partially funded by a $1.25 million donation from the Hussman Foundation.
John Hussman, who spoke at the event, told an anecdotal story during the ceremony that painted a succinct picture of the center's goal, as related to him by a young autistic adult he knows.
"A few years ago, I asked him, "What is it that people with autism need most from others,' " Hussman recalled. "He struggled to get out eight words. He said, 'The soul must be loved as it is.' And that's the vision behind this Center for Adults with Autism: to embrace people with autism here and now, as they are."
The Hussman Center includes a fully functional apartment for teaching life-skills, space for social and educational programs, and programs that develop work skills in participants.
The Speech, Language and Hearing Center and, Occupational Therapy Center occupy the third floor, with year another life-skills apartment, a fall prevention room, and countless clinical spaces for the speech and hearing patients and students.
"It's such an upgrade from the basement of Van Bokkelen"(Hall), Jillian Harrison, a first-year graduate student, said, as she and her friends, Mary Schmidt and Allison Shulze, toured their new workspace.
Randi Cropper and Tessa Durney, two first-year audiology graduate students who received their undergraduate degrees from Towson University last year and volunteered at the ribbon cutting, said the space finally matched the quality of education they were receiving.
"It's going to make this a lot more competitive," Cropper said. "Our program is already known for being a good program, but this gives us that other edge."
The fourth floor includes administrative offices and a student lounge.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and 5th District Councilman David Marks were both thanked for their support during the ceremony by dean Exnor, with special thanks given to Marks for his bill that allowed the Towson University and MileOne signs atop the building.
Marks said the signage is "not the Times Square signage people thought it would be," but instead cements Towson University as part of the community.
Kamenetz was thanked for his steadfast support of the project, and said he and the university "really do have a shared vision" of developing the college partnership between Towson University and the community.
"I think that's what's really special about this particular building," Kamenetz said. "It really will make this connection, to allow the university to grow into downtown Towson and to not be limited by traditional boundaries of the campus itself."