When it comes to institutions of higher learning, Francis Marion University is officially one of a kind.
FMU recently became the first university in South Carolina to be classified as a Professional Doctorate University. The classification, approved by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) in June, enables Francis Marion to offer additional doctoral programs in the field of health sciences or other professional disciplines.
“The SC Commission on Higher Education congratulates Francis Marion University as the first Comprehensive Teaching University in South Carolina to meet the criteria for classification as a Professional Doctorate University,” said CHE President and Executive Director Rusty Monhollon, PhD. “This change increases the depth of doctoral programs in South Carolina and was based on program needs identified by FMU which were validated through our rigorous review process. Becoming a Professional Doctorate University broadens FMU’s mission and reflects the institution’s strong commitment to academic excellence in graduate education, and the advancement of educational opportunities in our state.”
Institutions of higher education in South Carolina are now designated by one of five classifications: research universities, professional doctorate universities, comprehensive universities, two-year institutions, and state technical colleges.
In late 2020, members of FMU’s Board of Trustees amended the university’s official mission statement to include “three applied doctoral programs in health professions.” The amendment then went to the CHE for final review and approval.
FMU’s School of Health Sciences began offering a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) in 2018 and will add a Doctor of Occupational Therapy in 2024. A third doctoral program is expected to be established in the next four years.
“The university has been working to develop these programs for the past several years. We are very proud of the faculty for the hard work that they’ve invested in achieving this distinction. It represents an enormous amount of effort and a unique accomplishment,” said Dr. Fred Carter, president of Francis Marion University. “Of course, we are committed to expanding our curriculum in the years ahead to better serve students across this state and region.”
FMU’s School of Health Sciences can trace its roots to 2005 with the addition of the baccalaureate nursing program. The Doctor of Occupational Therapy will become health science’s fourth academic program.
This rapid growth required Francis Marion to open three new classroom buildings to accommodate the health sciences, most recently in 2021 with the Hugh and Jean Leatherman Medical Complex in downtown Florence.
A fourth health sciences-related facility – the Dr. C. Edward Floyd Medical Consortium Building on Cheves Street – will open in 2025.