Knox partners with Union to create healthcare pathway

Union College and Knox County Public Schools have formally adopted an agreement creating a career pathway program for students focused on pursuing education in healthcare. The program will be directed primarily to Knox County students in the Allied Health Science and Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences programs of study.

Officials from both institutions joined together on August 3 to sign the memorandum of agreement and discuss the benefits of the partnership.

“When you strengthen our local schools, you strengthen Union,” said Dr. Marcia Hawkins, Union College President. “It is in our best benefit to have all the resources available for our local school systems to use for the benefit of their students.”

“This partnership will be an integral part of our school system and the relationship we have with Union,” said Kelly Sprinkles, Superintendent of Knox County Public Schools. “If we work to strengthen our school system, then we can strengthen our community.”

The agreement between the institutions creates a student matriculation and program admission agreement to Union College. Knox County students will be eligible for Union College’s scholarship programs, will have certain fees and courses waived and will be offered direct admission into Union College programs, like the nursing program at the Edna Jenkins Mann School of Nursing.

Students in the Allied Health Sciences and Biomedical Science programs are provided with specialized coursework to prepare the students for post-secondary education in healthcare concentrations. Many students can go to work in healthcare following high school graduation, but many recognize the opportunity that exists with college level coursework in healthcare and choose to further their education.

“These students are working very hard in high school to prepare for careers in healthcare,” said Dr. David Johns, Union’s Vice-President for Academic Affairs. “This agreement will remove the barriers and help these students move into our health career programs and beyond.”

Over the last year, Dr. Johns has helped to establish pathway programs at other education institutions in the area. Laurel County’s Center for Innovation joined Union in a similar agreement last fall. While the agreements are established to primarily benefit students looking toward a career in nursing, Union offers other academic opportunities through the partnerships.

Dr. Marisa Greer, Union’s Dean of Nursing; Ralph Halcomb, Principal of Knox County’s Allied Health Program; and Gordon Hinkle, Chairman of the Knox County School Board, participated in the signing ceremony recognizing the importance of the partnership. Charles Lovell, CEO of Barbourville’s Appalachian Regional Healthcare center was also on hand to support the partnership.

Union College opened the Edna Jenkins Mann School of Nursing in 2010 offering registered nurses an opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). In 2012, a pre-licensure nursing program was introduced. In May, a total of 14 students, the first official pre-licensure class, graduated with their BSN.

In addition to offering healthcare opportunities for coursework in nursing, Union College students can pursue degrees in athletic training through the Edna Jenkins Mann School of Nursing. The college also offers nine pre-professional degree programs mostly focused around healthcare. To learn more, visit