The Catholic Commentator 

With a new name, new logo and new degrees, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University, or FranU, is ready to step into a new class and join the ranks of other universities in the state that offer a top tier education in medical science. 


Fran U gym.tif

Aubry Turner, an academic advisor, and Kelly Rodriquez, an assistant professor, demonstrate equipment in the new physical therapy gym at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (FranU). The university unveiled its new name, new degree programs and new learning environments. Photo by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator


Meeting community needs in a number of specialized areas prompted the school to rebrand and refocus. Among the new degrees offered are Doctor of Physical Therapy, Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences, Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Bachelor of Business Administration. 

“FranU continues to respond to the needs of the community through our new programs and innovative learning opportunities,” said Dr. Tina Holland, president of FranU during a news conference Feb. 21. “Our programs not only deliver the necessary content and skills, but are also tightly wrapped in our Franciscan values and traditions.” 

As part of a $1.4 million capital project, the school has a new physical therapy gym and classrooms featuring advanced audio/visual equipment and two Anatomage tables, a virtual human anatomy system that is projected onto a screen. 

The new physical therapy suite will aid students in the new DPT program. 

“It’s very exciting to have a wonderful facility for our students to learn in and practice in and potentially have patients come in to work with our students down the road,” said Dr. Kirk Nelson, director of physical therapy. 


Franciscan Missionaries of Our lady University new FranU logo. 


The DPT program starts in the fall and applications are already enrolling in the 40 available spots. According to Nelson, the doctoral program will give students another option for physical therapy education. Currently, the state only has two programs, Shreveport and New Orleans. 

Joshlyn Shelby, a biology major at FranU and a member of the student government association, said the new branding campaign will attract attention to the school’s programs.

“I’m very excited to see our school expand,” she said. “I’m in love with the new facility. I think it’s really going to help future physical therapists.” 

While the name is new, the school is not, dating to 1923 when Our Lady of the Lake School of Nursing was established by the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady (FMOL) to support a new sanitarium in downtown Baton Rouge. The school and the hospital moved to the Essen Lane location in the 1970s, and in the 1990s the school changed its name to Our Lady of the Lake College. 

“Under the name Our Lady of the Lake College, a lot of the people in the community associated that with the hospital and didn’t really realize that we had a real university,” said Rebecca Cannon, vice president of enrollment and student affairs. “Anytime you do a rebrand, it brings recognition into the community, so that’s what we’re really looking forward to is honoring the legacy of our sisters and really promoting that status of a university.” 

Next up for the university is a campus master plan for a “more unified campus,” Cannon said. 

“One of the things that’s really important to a student is that physical campus,” she added. “(This would) allow us to create more co-curricular activities for students.”