Using our Listening Ears

The Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) Department in CHHS has had a long, storied tradition of excellence. The Communication Disorders (CD) program at WKU was established in 1975 and offers several excellent academic programs including a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders, a Pre-Speech and Language Pathology program (that provides pre-requisite courses for entry into a graduate program), both an undergraduate minor and certificate in American Sign Language Studies, an undergraduate certificate in Cross Cultural Communication in Healthcare, and a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (both traditionally on-campus and via distance learning, as well as a Rank I certificate online). The Master of Science program in speech-language pathology at WKU is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Dr. Jean Neils-Strunjas

Dr. Mary Lloyd Moore, a Clinical Associate Professor who previously served as Interim Department Head, recently assumed a new administrative position as the Interim Executive Director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex at WKU. Fortunately, Dr. Moore will still teach some courses and remain active in the CSD Department. I really appreciate Mary Lloyd’s dedicated service and we in CHHS and CSD will continue to partner with her to continue vibrant collaborations with her in the Clinical Education Complex (CEC). The silver lining in this news is that we recently were able to hire Professor Jean Neils-Strunjas, PhD, CCC-SLP. An experienced academic administrator with a wide range of leadership, teaching, and research experiences, Dr. Neils-Strunjas came to us from Armstrong Atlantic University (in Georgia) and was previously a tenured Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of Cincinnati for several years. Her expertise includes cognitive communication/language disorders in adults and her current research agenda tests the efficacy of interventions for individuals with mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Jean’s new leadership in CSD provides a great opportunity to build on our solid foundations and a chance to take full advantage of our past successes.

Hearing Screenings3
CSD Students with WKU President Gary Ransdell and Big Red

Recently, the CSD department conducted various events as part of their national association’s Better Hearing and Speech Month campaign.  The campaign helps to raise awareness of speech and hearing disorders across the lifespan.  As part of this effort, the CSD faculty and students hosted a free campus-wide hearing screening event.  President Ransdell, Big Red, and I graciously accepted their personal invitation to have our hearing screened.

Hearing Screenings5
Getting my hearing checked


I received excellent news from the hearing test results that I have no evidence of hearing loss. Hearing well does not necessarily translate into being an active and effective listener. I strive to actively listen to others and as Dean, I will continue that practice. Individuals in high performance groups are active listeners and distinguish facts from stories from beliefs in real time.[1]

Several months prior to my inception as Dean, I read an intriguing book by sociologist Edgar Schien[2] who delineated captivating and key elements to effective communication in a healthy organization. Some of the key elements that he put forward included the following arguments:

  • All too often we interact with other individuals by simply telling them what we think they should know. This exchange does not engender novel ideas, nor develop responsiveness.
  • To create positive relationships and effective organizations, a leader should practice “humble inquiry”, as defined as the “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” (p. 2)

CHHS has so many constituents (students, staff, faculty, alumni, colleagues across campus, community members, consumers, and more) and I will continue to take valuable time to listen to them and take their advice, thereby giving voice to their feelings and experiences. We want to strive to understand and see issues and things from another’s perspective. Kouzes and Posner (2002)[3] reported that listening is not well practiced in organizations, and only one in 3 employees reported that their company listens to them. We want to actively listen to you and pay attention to your needs.

To do this, we have created an electronic “suggestion box”.  CLICK HERE FOR THE “SUGGESTION BOX”.

We will review your comments and suggestions within 24 hours. Your time and opinion is very important to us. Your suggestions, comments, and feedback will provide me with valuable information to identify and overcome barriers that may impede optimal productivity, morale, etc. In the near future, I will have other forums for dialogue with staff and faculty to understand and gauge their needs as an employee in CHHS.

Listening to others and hearing what they say is important and I will use what I hear to continuously find ways in which to improve and build upon the current and past successes of CHHS.


[1] McGoff C. 2011. The Primes. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ.

[2] Schien EH. 2013. Humble Inquiry. Berrett-Kohler: San Francisco.

[3] Kouzes J and Posner BZ. 2002. The Leadership Challenge (3rd ed). Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Experiential Learning: Students and Community Benefit

WKU is nationally recognized for the quality of instruction it provides students for the impressive reputation for community engagement and service learning. In recent years, “experiential learning” has become a popular topic in higher education. Simply put, “experiential learning” is the expression of “learning from doing”. Experiential learning can take on a number of experiences including internships, practica, clinical or fieldwork experiences, undergraduate research, service learning, study abroad, “hands-on” work experiences and other related activities (Silberman, 2007).

Research indicates that experiential learning enhances positive outcomes, including enhanced student learning, on-time graduation, and seamless transition into the workforce. Hands-on application of knowledge can help to build a student’s skills and networks, as well as offer valuable professional experience. Reflection on that experience assists students in articulating their goals and aspirations, to themselves and to their future employers.

Here in the CHHS, we have long been conducting experiential learning. However, we are poised to take the learning experience that students receive in CHHS to an even higher level that not only enhances learning, but also positions them for success after graduation. Experiential learning creates new opportunities for businesses, non-profits, and other organizations that partner with CHHS on mutually beneficial study abroad, service-learning, and internship opportunities. Students make valuable connections and receive valuable experience that serves them well beyond graduation. Additionally, organizations and businesses gain a new perspective and receive assistance with special projects.

This summer, students from our programs will be headed to places abroad including Sweden, Costa Rica, and Iceland, to experience hands-on learning in a variety of ways. While we have so many examples of experiential learning that could be highlighted, I wanted to underscore two impeccable experiential learning opportunities for our students.

School of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport in Indy

Group picture at the Indianapolis Colts’ training facility.

Three of our dedicated CHHS faculty (Drs. Brad Stinnett, Evie Oregon, and Fred Gibson) from the School of KRS offered a 5-day Sport Facility Symposium in Indianapolis. As a part of our ongoing Study Away Initiative, 16 of our students experienced an opportunity to gain more information about the world of sport and recreation from those currently working in the field.  Indianapolis has the great distinction of being referred to as the amateur “sports capital of the world” and the “racing capital of the world.”  During those 5 days, the CHHS students received an unparalleled behind-the-scenes look at facility planning, design, and construction processes in professional, intercollegiate, and interscholastic recreation and sport facilities. Throughout their time in Indianapolis, the students, faculty and staff toured the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Banker’s Life Fieldhouse (home to the Indianapolis Pacers), Lbankerslifeucas Oil Stadium (home to the Indianapolis Colts and NCAA Final Four Men’s Tournament), NCAA Headquarters and Hall of Champions, Victory Field (home to AAA Pro baseball team), and more. These students were given the opportunity to gain hands on insight into their chosen career paths during this valuable experience in Indianapolis.


Institute for Rural Health, School of Nursing, Department of Public Health at Smucker’s

Matt Hunt, Director of IRH, and I discuss collaborations and ways in which to improve rural healthcare in the area.

I recently had the great fortune to travel to the J.M. Smucker Corporation plant in Scottsville and see firsthand the types of novel, “hands-on”, life-changing experiences that our students were able to experience. This Smucker’s plant produces Uncrustables©, the thaw and serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I met with a number of exceptionally promising students from the CHHS School of Nursing, the Department of Public Health, staff in the Institute of Rural Health (IRH), as well as Smucker’s employees. The IRH in CHHS identifies rural health and human service needs and facilitates collaborative arrangements that engages WKU students and faculty and community agencies in addressing these needs.

This academic year, The IRH, and students from CHHS, provided more than 600 services at the J.M. Smucker Corporation in Scottsville as part of the IRH’s worksite wellness outreach. IRH staff, along with 28 baccalaureate nursing students, provided health screenings for Smucker’s employees including: blood pressure, lipid panel, blood glucose, hemoglobin A1C, bone density, and BMI.  Collaboratively, baccalaureate and graduate public health students developed and provided educational presentations for the workforce on topics including: oral health, breast cancer awareness, prostate cancer awareness, ergonomics, physical activity, healthy eating, and stress management. The students served more than 150 Smucker’s employees, resulting in over 160 student engagement hours at the Scottsville facility. The IRH plays an important role of maintaining excellence at the intersection of student engagement and community service, while providing excellent experiential learning events for students.

The experiential learning opportunities described above are just some of the examples of how our students are working in applied health and human service venues to gain valuable work experience. We look forward to continuing these partnerships and watching them grow in the days, months, and years ahead.

Silberman, M. L. (2007). The handbook of experiential learning. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.


Celebrating Success: Dental Hygiene Program

CHHS continues to enjoy a growing student enrollment, successful job placement for our graduates, and excellence and distinction in our many academic programs. One of our outstanding academic programs that I chose to highlight in this blog is our Dental Hygiene program. The program of Dental Hygiene at WKU was established in August 1970. There are four undergraduate tracks in Dental Hygiene and the program has a storied tradition of implementing curriculum to prepare our students for successful careers. Our program is accredited by the Council of Dental Education/Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association and accepts 28 students per year.

Indicative of our excellence was the fact that we recently received notification that 100% of our students passed the national accreditation exam. That is a remarkable accomplishment because the national first-time failure rate is approximately 10%.  This success rate is a byproduct of the excellent faculty and clinicians working and affiliated with the program. Speaking of our excellent faculty, the Dental Hygiene program and the Department of Allied Health has benefitted from the outstanding leadership of Dr. Lynn Austin. Dr. Austin began working for the Dental Hygiene Program in January 1982, and has served as the Dental Hygiene Program Director and the Department Head of Allied Health since 2005. On July 1, 2015, Dr. Austin retired from her full-time role as Program Director and Department Head.

2015.02.10_ academic complex classes _lewis-0460

Fortunately, Lynn will not be leaving CHHS entirely. She will begin a transitional retirement phase of her career and will be teaching a few dental hygiene courses per year. Dr. Terry Dean will be the Interim Dental Hygiene Program Director. Dr. Dean graduated from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry in 1990, and began a tenure track appointment in the Dental Hygiene program in 2005.  He has been involved with our Program Accreditation since that time and currently serves as a CODA Site Visitor as well. Dr. Dean is extremely well-versed in all matters related to our program accreditation. I am confident the program will continue to flourish under his leadership.

To maintain our stellar academic program, we are in the process of undergoing a $1 Million dollar renovation of the Dental Hygiene clinic. This extensive renovation will be complete in mid-August. The renovation includes an expanded lab that will accommodate more student stations, a renovated x-ray space, and additional faculty offices to better meet student needs. The original Dental Hygiene lab was built in 1969 so these renovations are much-needed and will enhance student learning.2015.02.10_ academic complex classes _lewis-0447CHHS works hard to develop and cultivate strong community partners. Many of our dental hygiene graduates are currently working in dental practices in South Central KY. To that end, CHHS works hard to develop and cultivate strong community partners. One such individual is Dr. Andy Burt. Dr. Burt has a private dental practice in Bowling Green and is a long-time supporter of the Dental Hygiene program and WKU. IMG_0667Dr. Austin and I recognized Dr. Andy Burt, and his wife Julee (not present in the photo), with a framed certificate of recognition for their cumulative giving over the years. This sustained giving catapulted them to the Cornerstone Society level at WKU, which honors their leadership and lifelong dedication for their generous support. We appreciate the Burts and many others who help make our Dental Hygiene program top-notch for not only the students but also for South Central Kentuckians.



CHHS: Touching Lives and Improving Health

academic complexWe live in a time of great possibilities for the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) at WKU. As CHHS students, instructors, staff, practitioners, and researchers, we are presented with boundless opportunities for innovation to train future generations of health and human service professionals for South Central Kentucky and beyond. Careers in health and human services touch lives, soothe and heal individuals and families, improve the health and well-being of Kentuckians, and change groups and organizations.

My past three months as Dean of CHHS have been extremely busy but exhilarating with so many important activities in and around campus and meeting so many friends and key stakeholders of CHHS. This time has been valuable to grasp all of the wonderful accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students and imagining and projecting the future for CHHS.

As a leader, I aspire to tap into the collective intelligence of not only my leadership team, but also the entire college. I am a strong proponent of using a technique called appreciative inquiry as a means of exploring future possibilities to strengthen healthy organizations. Simply put, appreciative inquiry is about making what works even more effective. Instead of being preoccupied with the negative and uncovering the flaws, I have been focusing on where each person’s and groups’ strengths reside. I have also been focusing on what is possible and desirable for the future, treating hope and joy as powerful motivating factors. I have been active in what I call the discover mode. I have been engaging in great discussions with so many people to find out where the college’s successes are and which factors are producing them.

As we move forward, CHHS needs to invest strategically. We should place our bets on areas that build on our strengths and advance the priorities of WKU. Therefore, my desire to develop an academic community in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When considering options for strategic investment, I will strive to find balance between health and human services, teaching, research and service, publications and grants, undergraduate and graduate education, and basic and applied research. I will work hard to nurture a vibrant intellectual environment that balances excellence in all of these important activities.

As a way to disseminate information about all of the amazing things CHHS is doing, I have created a blog, “Chatting with Chumbler.” This blog provides an opportunity for me to focus attention on noteworthy accomplishments, current plans, student honors, and all the amazing activities going on in CHHS. News stories and Tweets provide a good snapshot of what we are about, but in upcoming blogs, you’ll meet some wonderful individuals who make this college great, you’ll hear stories about how our community projects are changing lives, and you’ll see ways in which our students are growing as individuals while taking advantage of quality educational opportunities. Many of these opportunities could not be accomplished without the generous support of our friends and stakeholders.

In my meetings with students and alumni, I hear touching stories of faculty, advisors, and staff who have made a difference. That has been the tradition of CHHS – making a difference in the lives of our students – and I have seen an abundance of evidence that we are doing this very well. Thank you for championing it.