Advancing a vision and moving a lot of dirt

President Franklin greets colleagues at the site of DMU’s new campus in West Des Moines.

The sweet smell of hay wafted on the breeze and birdsong filled the air on a recent partly cloudy morning in West Des Moines. On an 88-acre site that was mostly spent cornfields, a pheasant was startled into flight by a buzzing drone overhead. An enormous hydraulic excavator, bulldozer and earth mover/scraper straight out of “Mad Max” awaited their driver – Angela Walker Franklin, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Des Moines University.

She was ready to move dirt, literally and symbolically, on the site for the University’s new campus in West Des Moines. It was a preview of the public groundbreaking event the University will host for its board members, donors, city officials and other friends in September.

President Franklin talks with Jonathan Martin, PLA, ASLA, a partner at RDG Planning and Design.

“A year and a half ago, we first imagined building our new campus here. Now look how far we’ve come,” she told approximately 30 representatives of the University and its partners on the project – RDG Planning and Design, Turner Construction, McAninch Corporation and Formation Group.

Members of the new campus steering committee with DMU Board Chair Michael Witte, D.O., third from right: Victoria Harper-Halverson, fiscal operations administrator; Ralitsa Akins, M.D., Ph.D., provost; Mark Peiffer, CPA, M.B.A., senior vice president and chief financial officer; Stephanie Greiner, M.F.C.S., chief development officer; and John Harris, director of facilities management.

That DMU has advanced its planning process through winter and during the continued pandemic is impressive; so are the myriad earth-moving, infrastructure development and construction tasks to be done. For example, taking countless soil samples to optimize erosion control. Moving 15,000 yards of soil a day. Hauling in something like 40,000 truckloads of dirt, just for the first phase of the new campus plan, to make the site level with the westward extension of Grand Avenue on the site’s southern border.

President Franklin gets ready to dig in.

And of course on top of all that is the monumental feat of envisioning, building and implementing the place where future health care professionals will be trained to take care of the world.

“We believe it’s an amazing story of how we’re building a medical and health sciences university from the ground up,” President Franklin said right before firing up the hydraulic excavator. “Now let’s move some dirt!”

Des Moines University will continue to share this amazing story, as it progresses, on our new campus website.

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