April 05, 2004
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

Marie Farrell accepted the Nursing Department chair’s position at California State University, Bakersfield in the summer 2003 with a vision. Farrell has proposed building a multi-story state-of-the-art nursing center at the northwest corner of the CSUB campus.

Her proposal would put a new 45,500 square-foot nursing center adjacent to Mercy Southwest Hospital and across Stockdale Highway from several physicians’ offices to maximize the center’s potential. She envisions a building that will be used for both nursing and other events. “It’s classrooms and its nursing-skills lab will be expanded to become a learning resource center, and classrooms will be large enough to accommodate other departmental events and community-group functions,” she said.

She sees the center with an open floor plan and soft lights and plants to reflect a philosophy of health and well-being. “Stone, water and other natural elements will be used to underscore the emphasis on the centrality of nature to our health and to its healing properties,” she said. She wants a building that is “equipped with the technology appropriate to learning and teaching, for demonstration and for multiple and varying seating configurations. The Learning Resource Center will provide students and local community technical and professional groups with hands-on practice materials to develop competencies for a variety of settings simulated as intensive care units, inpatient hospital units, home-care environments, ambulatory and primary care clinics and emergency rooms.”

She has two principal reasons for wanting to build a new nursing center:

“We don’t have enough space, and not enough faculty,” she said. “So we want to create a place of learning, a dynamic teaching, learning and research environment that attracts well prepared and competent faculty, students, staff and community groups.”

She has received support for her idea from CSUB President Tomas Arciniega, Sigma Theta Tau nursing honorary society, and key members of the California Legislature. She is also conducting a community of interest study with business and community leaders to foster consciousness-raising among the business and health leaders of the community. “We want to emphasize a community effort on this,” she said.

“This is so very important, because our best measure of our humanity is the way we care for our people,” Farrell said. “The public knows the commitment nurses have to the health of the people and the public trusts nurses to fulfill that commitment.”

Farrell came to CSUB after what might best be described as a storied career. She earned her bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, a master of science in counseling from the University of Connecticut, a master in maternal an child health nursing from Boston College, a master of public health from Harvard University, and her doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University.

Before joining CSUB, she was the dean of the College of Nursing at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She has held faculty positions at a number of colleges and universities, including Boston College, Fitchburg State College, Mass.; Curry College in Milton, Mass.; Harvard, University of New Hampshire, Tufts University in Boston, The Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

She has worked for the World Health Organization, a United Nations agency, in Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia. While in Europe she was part of an international team to help reconstruct health facilities in Romania, Albania, Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Central Asian republics, Morocco, Turkey, and Israel.

“I worked for the U.N. in Europe to promote world health,” she said. “It was our mission to convince national governments that keeping their people healthy was critical to their future. Before the Berlin wall fell, some countries in the east had little opportunity to exchange ideas. At the first all-European nursing conference we held, we provided a venue for this kind of exchange. I want the same thing here.”

Bakersfield appealed to her for a couple reasons: one of her sons lives in California, and she was ready to move closer to family. “My husband and I wanted to work out here,” she said. “Our son lives in Los Angeles, and he wanted us to be here. I had been doing multiple things in multiple places – overseas, in India and Europe.

“After all those years of traveling all the time I was ready for a change. I’ve worked and traveled in about a third of the world’s countries. I wanted to give something to my own country.”

She learned of CSUB’s opening, consulted a friend about it, interviewed, and was hired. “And it’s a great place,” she said.

Now she’s dreaming big dreams for CSUB and Bakersfield.

“I want a center of health activities for Bakersfield, with CSUB leading the way,” she said. “I have visions of an absolutely beautiful place, with both Eastern and Western concepts, a wonderful place for the faculty to teach, and for students to practice. We want to design the health-care system of the future, so we have a lot of work to do.”