President Dr. Louis Agnese and benefactors Naty and Debbie Saidoff share a photo following the dedication ceremony on Aug. 30, 2012.

By Brance Arnold ’10 MA

The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) officially opened the Debbie and Naty Saidoff Center with a celebration held on Aug. 30, 2012. The $7.5-million state-of-the-art facility serves as home to the university’s new School of Physical Therapy and its newest Adult Degree Completion Program (ADCaP) location.

The 75,000 square foot Center is named after benefactors Debbie and Naty Saidoff, a Los Angeles couple who donated the building, a former Albertsons grocery store, to UIW.

“We are grateful to the Saidoff family for this wonderful gift,” said UIW President Dr. Louis Agnese. “The new School of Physical Therapy compliments our health-care mission and allows us to offer an academic program needed in our city.”

“As an Israeli immigrant to the United States, my family is proud to support UIW’s faith-based Mission that aims to educate populations historically underserved by higher education,” said Naty Saidoff. “UIW has an excellent academic reputation, and we’re excited to be affiliated with a university that is a leader in the health-care field.”

The Saidoff ’s, who were previously unfamiliar with the university, were inspired to give to UIW after hearing of the gift made to the university’s optometry school by Sandra and Stanley Rosenberg.

Located on San Antonio’s northwest side, at the corner of Tezel and Guilbeau Roads, the Saidoff Center includes a 7,000 square foot therapy clinic to serve the community as well as a research lab, classrooms and office space for the School of Physical Therapy and ADCaP program.

One of two atriums in the Saidoff Center during construction.

In addition, UIW has partnered with CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System Rehabilitation Services to offer outpatient rehabilitation services to the public. The clinic is one-of-a-kind, designed to incorporate the high quality patient care delivered by CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Rehabilitation Services Associates with top tier teaching and research provided by UIW. The clinic blends direct patient care delivery with real time student learning and serves the surrounding community with physical, occupational and speech therapies, and in collaboration with the new Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, provides therapy services for pediatric patients.

“By working together to provide education and health care services to the community, UIW and CHRISTUS Santa Rosa are addressing identified community needs – the shortage of physical therapists and the need for access to convenient outpatient rehabilitation services,” said Cary Fox, regional vice president/chief administrative officer for CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. “This unique partnership will leverage the outpatient management expertise of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa, as well as the skills of the faculty, which together will provide a more robust training experience for the students.”

Fox indicated that though the university has worked closely together to provide residency options for its nursing and health care training programs, the Saidoff Center is a first for both ministries of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI) to partner in a single UIW location to provide training for students coupled with health care service to the community.

For the School of Physical Therapy, the 54 students of the inaugural class began classes on August 20 and are studying for a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. The curriculum for physical therapy includes entry-level and post-professional programs.

“The Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum uses a problem-based learning (PBL) methodology which places students in a position of active responsibility for learning and mastering content,” said Dr. Caroline Goulet, founding dean of the School of Physical Therapy.

One of two atriums in the Saidoff Center completed.

And now that the Saidoff Center is open and students are settled into the program, Goulet feels the students are adjusting to their new roles and a more predictable weekly routine. She said the Saidoff Center is a place that positively facilitates learning and instruction.

“I am blessed with a wonderful teaching and learning environment and feel privileged to be working with an outstanding faculty and staff,” said Goulet. “It is fascinating to observe students’ transition to problem-based learning and to observe growth just a few weeks into the program.”

The ADCaP portion of the Saidoff Center includes classrooms, a computer lab, advising offices and a reception area. The current configuration accommodates 175 undergraduate students per week, providing the students take two classes per term, and master’s courses add another 50 to that total. It is staffed from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Undergraduate classes are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings with graduate courses offered on Wednesday evenings. The location offers several undergraduate degrees ranging from a Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences to a Bachelor of Human Resources as well as a Masters of Business Administration.

Vincent Porter, dean of UIW’s School of Extended Studies, believes the facility and the program show the paramount growth of UIW’s accessibility to students throughout the San Antonio community, particularly providing much needed educational opportunities to the northwest area of San Antonio.

“The Saidoff Center will give the communities of the far northwest part of San Antonio access to achieve a bachelor or master’s degree without stressing their personal lives,” explained Porter. “I think UIW hit a home run! The building is an exceptional example of an off campus learning center for the adult student.”

“It is also profound that we opened in Fall I with 77 students in attendance,” continued Porter. “This is the largest opening for an ADCaP site to date.”

McChesney/Bianco Architecture, the firm that has designed many of UIW’s facilities, designed the Saidoff Center. The Center includes energy-saving features commonplace in UIW buildings. The replacement of the existing stone façade with new brick and cast stone masonry link the building to architecture found on UIW’s main campus. A unique challenge the architects initially faced, yet overcame, was to make use of natural light in the building’s design.

A rendering of the Debbie and Naty Saidoff Center.

“We were able to accomplish this design goal by incorporating two large atriums into the existing roof that allow natural light into the building,” said architect Joseph Bianco. “The introduction of natural light into spaces that would otherwise be dependent totally on artificial light allows the university to save on energy.”

According to Bianco, the introduction of natural light has been proven to increase productivity and learning in classrooms and office spaces. Overall, the greatest achievement for the architects perhaps lies in the conversion of the building itself.

“One of the highlights was the opportunity to be able to reuse and transform an existing, vacant building structure into a totally different building type, i.e. a grocery store to a building of higher education,” Bianco said.

UIW’s Saidoff Center is indicative of the high level of educational and professional service and accessibility the university provides students and the greater community. And by strengthening relationships with prominent service-based institutions in San Antonio such as fellow CCVI ministry CHRISTUS Santa Rosa, UIW continues to live and perpetuate the very Mission in which it is so firmly rooted.