STAFFORD TOWNSHIP — With a new expansion and technology upgrades at the Manahawkin campus, Stockton University officials said they hope to offer more health science opportunities to students and increase the university’s presence in southern Ocean County.

“It’s more than just a beautiful facility,” Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said. “It’s about more opportunities for all students … and to provide them with the best preparation as we understand the need for this critical profession.”

Officials held a grand opening Thursday of the expanded Manahawkin campus, which added nearly 8,000-square-feet of space with seven physical assessment examination rooms, clinical labs and advanced technology for nursing students.

The expansion is one of several projects the university has worked on during the past year, including the ongoing $178.3 million Atlantic City campus being built on former empty lots at the end of Albany Avenue. That campus is scheduled to open this fall.

About 215 students take classes at the Manahawkin campus, including 24 students in the current cohort of the university’s 15-month accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

University officials said the new building, the former site of Rothman Institute Orthopaedics and adjacent to the existing campus building at 712 East Bay Ave., will offer nursing students more room for hands-on learning experiences and additional general education courses closer to Ocean County residents.

The accelerated BSN students will spend one day a week in class at the Manahawkin site in addition to classes and clinical assignments elsewhere, including at Stockton’s main campus and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, Mainland Campus, both in Galloway Township.

Kesselman said the expansion was only the beginning of growth planned for the university in Ocean County.

Beach Haven Mayor Nancy Davis, a Stockton alumna and member of the university’s Board of Trustees, said she has long advocated for Stockton to have a stronger presence in southern Ocean County.

“I’m very excited about this expansion and the long-term investment,” she said. “There’s no doubt that the facility here will enrich the lives of southern Ocean County residents. I think Stockton will also … attract more people to this area and keep talented young people (to work) in this area.”

Students in white nursing scrubs sat in booths and benches in a new student lounge, walked in and out of exam rooms and worked in the clinical simulation lab, where they could practice inserting IVs and feeding tubes, give injections and move “patients” by using technologically equipped dummies.

Christine MacCotter, a nursing student in the program, said it was hard for her to imagine before that she could attend an advanced nursing program so close to where she lives in Barnegat Light.

Going into nursing as a second profession after leaving a career teaching English, MacCotter said the program has made it more possible to include nontraditional students such as herself.

“There’s such a need for excellent medical care here,” said Stephanie Chung, who holds a doctorate in nursing and is an assistant professor in Stockton’s nursing program in Manahawkin and Galloway Township. “We can even simulate patient conditions using an iPad now. This really is the future of health care.”

Contact: 609-272-7022

Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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