Elon pondering role at research campus
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó Potential conflicts with other universities and the weak economy have cooled Elon University’s interest in establishing a school of pharmacy at the N.C. Research Campus.
“There is some concern about this pharmacy possibility right now, with all the speed bumps we’re encountering,” said Dr. Steven House, associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
But Elon still plans to play a pivotal role at the $1.5 biotechnology complex in Kannapolis, House said.
A private university near Burlington, Elon had proposed launching a pharmacy school at the Research Campus. But administrators may not pursue the idea because the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has named pharmacy its top priority for the UNC Tomorrow plan.
“That gives us pause,” said House, who becomes Elon’s new provost on June 1.
UNC-Greensboro supports Elon’s law school in downtown Greensboro, House said.
“They’re our colleagues,” he said. “We’re not going to fight each other.”
In addition, Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., plans to open a pharmacy program in 2010. North Carolina already has three pharmacy schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, Campbell University and Wingate University.
Launching a pharmacy school at the 350-acre Research Campus would require millions of dollars and a large facility, and “the economy has impacted us,” House said.
Elon has been in talks with developers at the campus for two years. Two other proposals are still viable, House said.
One would cast Elon as a “matchmaker” at the Research Campus, coordinating an undergraduate research program that matches up students with scientists at the biotech hub for internships.
Elon would work with all undergraduate schools participating at the campus, House said. Catawba College in Salisbury, Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer and Davidson College in Davidson all have expressed an interest in finding a role in Kannapolis.
The eight research universities already at the campus would like to make use of undergraduate students, House said.
Elon wants a physical presence on the campus, “even if it’s 2,000 square feet coordinating the undergraduates,” House said. “That would be a wonderful toehold for us.”
Additionally, Elon administrators are considering a new graduate program bridging science, business and entrepreneurship.
Elon offers a graduate degree in business and has a new commitment to enhance its science programs, House said.
“We need to train students for being at the intersection of science and business, where they can speak both languages,” he said.
Science majors in the proposed program would spend their senior year studying business and vice versa. Then, all students would engage in one year of graduate study at the Research Campus, where developers expect many start-up companies.
“It would be a degree in science, business and biotech with a flavor of entrepreneurship,” House said.
Elon has no deadline for determining its role at the Research Campus, but House said he expects things to move quickly.
He stressed that discussions are preliminary.
Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke North Carolina, called the dialogue “very general.”
Developers “want Elon to be a part of the NCRC in some way, but discussions are very early and have not reached any definite conclusions at this point,” Safrit wrote in an e-mail.