Room 310 in Ahlberg Hall doesn’t resemble a normal classroom. Instead of rows of desks, the door opens to a pair of padded patient beds. In the corner sits a rocking chair. A lamp fills the room with warm lighting.
Of course, this is no normal classroom; it is the School of Nursing Maternal-Newborn and Riordan Lactation Simulation Lab, the only lactation simulation lab in the state of Kansas. In this facility, Jolynn Dowling ’88/95 has educated more than 300 undergraduate and graduate nursing students since the fall of 2021.
“And that’s a conservative estimate,” Dowling said. “OB-GYN, SICU, whatever field our students enter – this lab helps provide them with the knowledge to care for lactating people.”
Shocker alumna and eponym for the Riordan Lab, Dr. Jan Riordan ‘79 is considered a trailblazer in the study of human lactation. Decades after its initial release, her publication, “Breastfeeding and Human Lactation,” is still considered essential literature within the discipline.
Today, Dowling follows in Dr. Riordan’s footsteps. Hence, her full title: senior educator and Janice M. Riordan Distinguished Professor in Maternal Child Health.
“It’s an honor to hold this position, both personally and professionally,” Dowling said. “During my undergraduate and graduate programs, Dr. Riordan provided me with mentorship and guidance as my faculty advisor. As a colleague, she supported me in the practice of caring for mothers and infants as I obtained my subspecialty as an internationally-board certified lactation consultant.”
It was funding from the Riordan endowment that brought the simulation lab to life, as well as another of Dowling’s major projects to increase accommodations for breastfeeding on campus.
“When I came into this position, I wanted to see our spaces on campus enhanced and accessible to our campus population and visitors that are breastfeeding people,” Dowling said. “We created an interactive map that highlights all the rooms that accommodate breastfeeding, not just on the main campus, but across the Innovation Campus, the Metroplex and each of our satellite campuses.”
Years of work culminated in the university’s 2023 designation as a Breastfeeding Welcome Here campus and a Gold-Level Employer Supporting Breastfeeding by the Kansas Breastfeeding Coalition. As the first university in Kansas to receive this designation, Wichita State University is emerging as a landmark destination in the study of human lactation and maternal wellness.
“When I think about the endowment, I think about its return on investment,” said Dowling. “The people we have at Wichita State, our students, our engagement with the community, our model of learning – everything is elevated through donor support.”
If her initiatives on campus are any indicator, Dowling does not take lightly her role in advancing the field of maternal child healthcare, nor her title as a Riordan Distinguished Professor.
“I just hope that, in some small way, I am contributing to the legacy after which this professorship was named,” said Dowling. “Truly, Janice was a pioneer. Truly.”