WKU Fly Fishing: A Visit to Missoula, MT

Next Monday, I will be heading to Montana, joining with the WKU Fly Fishing group on a five- day experiential learning excursion in Missoula. A total of 13 individuals (eight students and five community members) will be embarking upon this trip to MT, the fifth trip that Professor Raymond Poff, from WKU’s Recreation Administration program, has led at WKU. The students and community members will receive individualized instruction to improve their understanding and proficiency in fly fishing.

Fly fishing is somewhat of a foreign sport for me. Even though I grew up in Paducah, KY, which is situated around one of the nicest man-made lakes in the region, I never EVER went fishing before, much less fly-fishing. My childhood focused around the swinging of a bat. Needless to say, my baseball swing needed to be altered a bit in order to replicate the recent instruction I received on the casting of my rod. Professor Poff had me join him on South Lawn earlier this month to show me the basics of fly fishing. After several attempts, I eventually did get the hang of the casting. A little to my advantage is that the action of fly fishing reminds me of swinging a bat in baseball and combine that with the throwing of a frisbee. In an effort not to provide too much comic relief on my explanation of this sport, fly casting seems to be quite an arduous art.

Fly fishing on the South Lawn on the campus of Western Kentucky University.
Fly fishing on the South Lawn on the campus of Western Kentucky University.

Although this instruction was a great introduction to fly fishing, my guess is that the South Lawn is very different than the Big Blackfoot River! My practice will definitely be put to the test since I am a rookie angler at best. In Missoula, we will have access to five species of trout: Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat, Hybrid Cutbrow and Brook. My goal is to lure in a beautiful gray-green trout that is over 18 inches!! Our group will be on the Big Blackfoot River near Missoula, the same setting of which Norman Maclean’s 1976 book “A River Runs Through It” was set. You may be more familiar with the 1992 Robert Redford film adaptation of the book starring the young Brad Pitt. Just last month I read a great article on how fly-fishing in Montana is a rapturous experience: Fly-Fishing in Montana, Where a River Still Runs Through It . As an avid fisherman himself, the author emphasizes the sacredness of the Big Blackfoot River, and his experience on the river equivocal to that of the characters from “A River Runs Through It”:

 Just above the mouth of Belmont Creek, I hooked a rainbow of my own whose eponymous colors flashed in the sunlight. Shortly before I had left for Montana, the Orlando mass shooting had taken place. The day before my departure, Britain had voted to leave the European Union, threatening the global economy. A family member had recently received a serious medical diagnosis. But at that moment on the Big Blackfoot River, all that existed were the sun and the water and a fish on the other end of my line. “One great thing about fly fishing,” Maclean wrote, “is that after a while nothing exists of the world but thoughts about fly fishing.

I am hoping to capture that same revelation on the Big Blackfoot River, as Maclean described, a solidarity with the experience of the sport and the reflection on the instruction at hand. As I have said in previous blogs and the Impact magazine, experiential learning opportunities are extremely important for CHHS students. Experiential learning is the development of knowledge, abilities, values, behaviors and attitudes through first-hand experiences outside of the traditional classroom. In short, experiential learning involves “learning through doing”, but more importantly “learning through reflection on doing”.  Through continued strategic development, I aspire to expand experiential learning opportunities for both our students and faculty.  The WKU Fly Fishing group is a case in point of where students will develop unique skills and attitudes in Montana that one could not otherwise experience. I anticipate this trip will lead to a greater understanding and appreciation for the sport of fly fishing and a greater respect to the community that provides the instruction of the sport.

I have only passed through Missoula once, spending one night there, back in 1995. I do remember Missoula fondly—it is the home of the University of Montana and in the heart of the Rocky Mountains— upholding a very picturesque landscape. This time, I am even more excited about my venture to Missoula as it will definitely be more exciting and eventful in this outdoor paradise!

I encourage you to follow me @NealeChumbler, as I will highlight the trip in real time.

Until next time,




Neale R. Chumbler


Reflections from Cherry: Health as a Necessity

Shortly after my arrival back to the Hill to serve as Dean of CHHS, I met with Provost Emeritus Barbara Burch. She gave me a copy of the 1926 book, Education: The Basis of Democracy, written by WKU’s founding president, Dr. Henry Hardin Cherry. Dr. Cherry, who was president for over 31 years, was a prominent visionary and educator whose decree “The Spirit Makes the Master” steers the campus community yet today. Dr. Cherry’s famous and pronounced statue is fixed atop the hill in front of the building named after him.  His presence at WKU is evident to anyone who arrives on the Hilltop campus.

Cherry edit

Cherry’s Education book was a compilation of messages, lectures and presentations that he delivered at chapel services held daily in the Van Meter Auditorium on WKU’s campus. It is no wonder that WKU became one of the largest and best teacher-training institutions in the nation during Cherry’s tenure. Cherry was an educator with the keen ability to inspire others.

Reading through this book, with material dating well over 100 years old, I am amazed at the relevance of the material in our lives today. I find the material particularly applicable for the CHHS. As I read from chapter five, “Health, a Necessity in a Democracy”, I was struck with how Cherry’s words were so pertinent for units in CHHS such as: physical education, recreation administration, public health, nutrition, and dietetics, just to name a few.

Excerpts from chapter five of Cherry’s Education: The Basis of Democracy:

  • Religious, moral, mental, and economic weaknesses are written at the bottom on each page of the history of the governments that have neglected the health of their people (pg. 28).
  • In order for one to be an effective citizen, he must have a strong body for the soul to work in, a trained mind, and what I shall call ‘the other thing’. These are the three big necessities of an effective citizenship, and they should be a part of educational program and every other effort designed to advance the welfare of the human being (pg. 27).
  • Not many people are strong enough to carry the load of a sick body and to succeed in spite of physical weakness (pg. 28).
  • Good health is the normal nature of the human being (pg. 29).
  • It is a high duty of democracy to disseminate health information among the masses, to build up a good-health sentiment, to protect the people against preventable diseases, and to assist them in having a sanitary body for their minds to work in (pg. 30-31).
  • Universal physical training is the most important and urgent improvement in American education (pg. 31).
  • The conservation of health is a spiritual and economic problem that is challenging every citizen of America (pg. 31).
  • In order to promote the physical well-being of all the people, a proper system of physical examinations and health instruction must be carried on in the various grades of the schools (pg. 33).
  • Conserving the vitality of the people by stopping the pollution of streams, by observing the sanitary laws of health in the home, in the school, in business enterprise, and elsewhere will contribute not only to the ideals and to the happiness, but to the economic productivity and prosperity of the people (pg. 33-34).

In this chapter, Cherry describes how the health of the individual can also affect the non-physical qualities of the human body. Poor health can alter the morality, spirituality, and mental capacity as well. He went on to make a poignant claim that during the World War 4,650,500 men served in the United States Army and 1,340,625 men were rejected to serve based on physical disability. That is an astonishing number of rejections especially when you consider the age of the average man who fought in World War II was a mere 26 years of age. Cherry then states that most of the defects listed as the cause for rejection were preventable by adequate physical education programs.

“Health as a rule is a purchasable commodity, and its price is education.”

Cherry’s book dovetails so nicely with the vision and mission of CHHS; our dedication to improve the quality of life in the community through education, service, collaboration, leadership and scholarship. The disciplines in our college have roots in outreach to the community, and requires our students to complete clinical experiences, field work, or internships with a myriad of health and human service agencies in our region. What Cherry established in his chapel talks, was inspiration to care for generations to come by focusing on the conservation of health in the present generation. What we do today, creates what we are tomorrow. As our college evolves, and emphasis is placed on the future of CHHS, I am indebted to Cherry’s practical and relevant teachings on the importance and priority of our health today as the basis and foundation for everything else. As a health and human services college, CHHS has the responsibility to not only provide health education to our community, but to also be ambassadors and champions for making health instruction a vital component of education.

I am encouraged to know that WKU was in part built upon the instruction and discipline of good health and physical well-being. This foundation serves as an opportunity to guide CHHS from the heritage of our founding president.

Physical incompetence can be a powerful enemy. CHHS has positioned itself to have a profound generational impact over the enemy. As we educate ourselves, our students and our community about prevention, treatment and wellness, we are better able to perform at the capacity to which we can protect our generation and preserve future generations.



CHHS Strategic Plan, 2016-2020

As I begin my 18th month as Dean, I am so pleased to unveil our new strategic plan and it is now retrievable, Western Kentucky University (WKU) College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) Strategic Plan. From my first day as Dean, I have strived to obtain strategic balance in the functions of teaching, research and service, balancing stability and flexibility. I believe you will find this strategic plan nimble, yet profound with a great breadth of material that will guide CHHS through 2020, and that will inspire all to excel in pedagogy, scholarship and community service.

We revisited and revised our mission and vision statements, as important changes in the environment have occurred. The strategic plan also includes a summary of our planning process, our core values, vision/mission, strategic intent as well as our strategic objectives, as described here:

  1. Implement effective faculty development programs to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.
  2. Enhance existing international educational opportunities and develop new ones.
  3. Increase the opportunity to produce quality research, peer-reviewed publications, extramural grant/contract activity, and technology-based innovation.
  4. Enhance interprofessional education and service learning for students.
  5. Initiate and cultivate CHHS interdisciplinary collaboration at all levels within the University.
  6. Create an environment within CHHS that fosters diversity and inclusivity among students, staff and faculty.
  7. Provide opportunities for staff, faculty, and students to participate in community outreach programs.
  8. Implement workshop events for staff trainings and professional development.
  9. Implement the distribution of a staff handbook for quick reference to university systems.

In a previous blog, CHHS Strategic Plan: Phase 1 I articulated that it was important that CHHS had an active and relevant strategic plan, all of which is imperative for purposes of communication, marketing, and fundraising. We needed to identify high-priority areas that can help us accelerate more significant positive impact upon allied health and human service professions. Support for decisions is predicated on the ownership of decision making. The process of the strategic plan began 12 months ago and I strived for “bottom up” participation as a way to ensure support for this final version of the plan.

The first phase of the strategic planning process consisted of a one-day retreat held August 2015, that included the CHHS Administrative Council (Department Heads, Institute Directors, Associate Deans, Assistant to the Dean, Senior Development officer and myself) and our facilitator. Our facilitator was Dr. Dan Pesut, Professor of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. We learned several novel and innovative leadership techniques including strengths based and values based leadership and universal patterns of high performance, the principles of liberating structures (rules governing how we choose to relate to others), and ecocycle planning that invites a leader to focus on creative destruction and renewal in addition to typical themes regarding growth and efficiency. Then in January, the second phase of the strategic planning process was a one-day retreat. All CHHS faculty and staff, along with CHHS stakeholders and students attended the retreat. At this retreat, we used Open Space Technology (OST) that considers both freedom & accountability where participants create their own agenda. We sparked action on strategic matters that meant the most to the participants. OST is an effective, economical, fast and easily-repeatable strategy for organizing meetings between 5 and 1,000 participants. We had nearly 300 individuals participate in this event and started with the following premises:

    • Where do we have successes we can celebrate?
    • Where do we have assets we can capitalize on?
    • Strived for this bottom up planning as a way to ensure support for the final products.

We considered topics such as interprofessional education, applied research, teaching effectiveness, service learning, media and marketing, just to name a few. So many notes and ideas were put forward from so many participants. The OST platform enabled an egalitarian way of fostering input and sharing of information. After this productive day in January, I met with my, CHHS Dean’s Internal Advisory Council and then formed a new CHHS Coordinating Council that included equal representation from each department/school. Both of these groups compiled these detailed notes and, in turn, synthesized the key salient themes. A draft was developed by the CHHS Coordinating Council and provided to the CHHS Dean’s Internal Advisory Council, which reviewed the final draft. The final draft was then given to the CHHS Administrative Council to review. Significant feedback emerged from this draft and a sub-committee from each of these committees assisted me in preparing the final version of the strategic plan.

In sum, this plan was the result of many dedicated individuals committed to CHHS. We will review the plan every year and will not have a failure for follow-up. I am excited for what the next four years will entail at CHHS.

Excited for the journey,


Welcome Back to the Hill!

Today is the first official day of Fall 2016 semester start, and what an exciting time it is to be a Hilltopper! Our faculty and staff within the College of Health & Human Services (CHHS), have been busy preparing not only for this very first week of class, but also for this entire academic year and beyond. Shortly after my arrival to WKU in Spring 2015, I put plans together to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, students and constituents to develop a strategic plan for CHHS, as described in my blog entry, CHHS Strategic Planning: Phase I and CHHS: Strategic Planning: Phase II . There have been some challenges, a few setbacks and many wins. As the CHHS transitions into the next phase of development, it is essential that we are mindful of the CHHS value statement:

Collectively, we are challenged to be human change agents by creating a community of scholars dedicated to the education of next generation health and human services practitioners who are committed to enhancing the quality of life and health where people live, work, and play.


Creating a Community of Scholars:

While it is one of our goals to consistently recruit top talent into our college, it is also impeccable to make sure our infrastructure supports that goal. As reflected in our values statement, CHHS is challenged to create a community of scholars dedicated to the education of next generation health and human services practitioners. This week we hosted our bi-annual CHHS All College Meeting for our faculty and staff. These meetings, held before the start of the academic term, bring light to our upcoming goals, the challenges we face, and provides opportunity to recognize achievements and awards.

2016.08.17_ chhs meeting _lewis-0005
CHHS All College Meeting- August 17, 2016 at the Medical Health Sciences Complex

Being the largest college on campus, we have an equally large base of faculty and staff, with nearly 250 colleagues that support our college. I am honored to be working as Dean of a college that boasts such rich tradition, research and service at WKU. At the meeting, we were honored to bring recognition to the 57 colleagues within our college that have served over 10 years at Western Kentucky University, as well as honor 18 colleagues that have served over 20 years at Western Kentucky University. It is humbling to see the committed dedication our colleagues bring to both WKU and the CHHS.

CHHS Faculty & Staff with over 10 years of service to WKU.
CHHS faculty & staff with over 10 years of service to WKU.
CHHS Faculty and Staff with over 20 years of service to WKU!
CHHS faculty and staff with over 20 years of service to WKU.

We also recognized six colleagues for receiving advanced degrees in their respective fields.

I am thankful for the team we have in place at CHHS. Our success, as a college to be human change agents committed to enhancing the quality of life and health where people live, work and play, is as great as the people committed to our core. Without a doubt, I believe we have a resplendent basis for success at CHHS!


Committed to enhancing the quality of life and health:

As a college that has faced budget cuts and limitations to our resources, we are constantly re-evaluating our processes and structure to maximize our tools at hand when equipping our faculty, staff and students. Committed to excellence in the allied health and human service industries, CHHS and WKU are always striving to maintain an edge in this competitive and ever-demanding field. So, I cannot be more excited about the new partnership that was established just last week between Western Kentucky University and Med Center Health, in the construction of the Med Center Health Sports Medicine Complex on WKU’s campus. This new healthcare and affiliation agreement between WKU and Med Center Health further strengthens the commitment of leading education and healthcare service organizations in South Central Kentucky, and also creates an opportunity for the CHHS Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program to re-locate to main campus (DPT currently located off-campus at the Medical Health Sciences Complex), and be joined by Med Center Health’s Orthopaedic/Sports Medicine/Rehabilitation group. This new partnership and building engages our DPT program with our WKU athletic teams in a new state-of-the-art facility.

We have so many great successes, resources, projects, contributions, support, research and planning taking place in the CHHS, and I expect a grand, unparalleled 2016-2017 academic year on the Hill!

Warm Regards,


Mount Carmel, Israel: Experiencing, Learning, Collaborating

The University of Haifa (UH) experience was very productive and splendid. As my most recent blog entry indicated, Strengthening CHHS’ Global Footprint , I traveled last week to initiate discussions with several UH officials to establish a new Global Health summer program as a study abroad option for Masters (and Honors) and an international teaching option for faculty within CHHS.  What a wonderful experience it was for me to not only visit with the UH as we worked to establish a new study abroad program, but to also learn of the rich history within the towns of Mount Carmel.

The city of Haifa, where the UH is located, is Israel’s third largest city. Haifa is located on the northern slope of Mount Carmel, which is a coastal mountain range in northern Israel that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea towards the southeast. I had the opportunity to travel through much terrain from the Baha’i Gardens to the Mediterranean Sea, to Caesarea Palace, and the Sea of Galilee. The views were breathtaking, the history was fascinating and the people were engaging.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on top of Mt. Carmel.
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea on top of Mt. Carmel.

Sitting beside the administrators of UH, felt like I was sitting among my colleagues at WKU. We shared a vision and a passion for the empowerment of educating our students with limited cultural boundaries. I met with the International School managing director, the head of the Study Abroad Department, the co-director of the International Mater’s Program in Global Health, who also oversees the Global Health Graduate Summer program, director of the School of Public Health, as well as the vice provost and former director of the School of Public Health. Developing the structure and curriculum of the new Global Health summer program, allowed us to envision cross-cultural teaching in an experience-based learning atmosphere. My hope for this program that we are designing, is that our students will be exposed to cultural disparities that will encourage student-led research collaborations.

During my visit, I also explored future one for one student exchange options, began mapping UH curriculum to academic programs in public health and explored the student services, which actually offered great food and a wonderful bookstore! I talked with two students in the cafeteria from Georgia who were there studying. They were truly enjoying their experience at the UH. The classes were rigorous, yet reasonable and the opportunities on the weekend to explore the sights and sounds of Israel (many of which I was able to post on twitter @NEALECHUMBER last week) is extraordinary according to the students. Please visit my Twitter page to see more pictures from the Haifa and the UH, as I am sure you will find that the city and university are gorgeous.


The University of Haifa at Mount Carmel, Israel.
The University of Haifa at Mount Carmel, Israel.

As educators, we have the greatest opportunity to be the vessels through which our students develop both personally and professionally. Providing resources, tools, experienced-based learning opportunities, such as this Global Health Summer program at the UH, enables our students to be geared for the competitive marketplace upon graduation. As A Leading American University with International Reach, WKU is actively positioning itself to prioritize the globalization of education.

I am excited for our new international partnership with the UH and anticipate the inaugural program in Summer 2017 will be a great success for both the UH and WKU. I was asked to come back to the UH in November to solidify these productive conversations even further. Overall, this experience was great and very successful, and I anticipate future and positive opportunities for CHHS.

Had to take advantage of the opportunity to display my red towel and WKU spirit while in Israel!
Had to take advantage of the opportunity to display my red towel and WKU spirit while in Israel!

Until next time!



Follow me on Twitter @NEALECHUMBLER
Follow me on Twitter @NEALECHUMBLER

Strengthening CHHS’ Global Footprint

Last summer I introduced the concept of “experiential learning”, as becoming a popular topic in higher education over the recent years. As written on my blog post Experiential Learning: Students and Community Benefit , “experiential learning” is the expression of “learning from doing”. Inevitably, this method of instruction results in enhanced student learning and seamless transition into the workforce. Experiential learning can take on a number of forms, one of which is the collaborative study abroad experience. Currently, WKU is ranked 19th in the nation among master’s institutions for the total number of study abroad students , and notably, the College of Health and Human Services’ students comprised 14.5% of the total university education abroad enrollment for the 2014-2015 academic year. WKU’s national ranking serves to show WKU’s commitment and prioritization of education abroad, and the results of developing strategic, international partnerships.

WKU’s vision and motto is to be A Leading American University with International Reach. Since arriving back to WKU, I have been so impressed with how WKU has placed a priority on the globalization of education and how they are actively cultivating international partners so that our students become productive, engaged, and socially responsible citizen-leaders of a global society. We know that preparing our students for success in the international marketplace requires our focus on fostering global awareness and international collaboration during our students’ formative years. Here in the CHHS, we want to increase our global network for our students, so as to provide our students with experiences that will create more cultural awareness, allow them to be change agents, and prepare them for greater success after graduation.

The Office of Study Abroad and Global Learning serves the WKU community by engaging students, faculty, and staff in diverse, educational, and cultural experiences through faculty-led, exchange, consortia, and other study abroad opportunities. Additionally, WKU has students in more than 40 countries around the world through partnerships with the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad and the Kentucky Institute for International Studies.

Dr. Bormann led the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA) trip in Winter 2015-16 to Ireland and the United Kingdom. Students compared health care systems to those in the US.
Dr. Bormann led the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA) trip in Winter 2015-16 to Ireland and the United Kingdom. Students compared health care systems to those in the US.

This summer has given way to a wonderful opportunity for both the CHHS and WKU, as I will be traveling abroad to engage the headship of a new international partnership with the University of Haifa. The University of Haifa (UH), located in Mount Carmel, Israel, is the leading University in Israel in the fields of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Welfare and Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Education and Management. I will be visiting UH, July 17-23rd, meeting with their administrators, staff and students to create a new Global Health Summer Program between UH and WKU. Students will acquire new skills in leadership and new knowledge of global public health. This program will ultimately develop life-long relationships with colleagues from around the world and will help develop a future generation of individuals who will lead health systems around the world. I am very excited for this new partnership with UH, as it will expand our network of international partners and provide our students with a unique socio-cultural lens to study aspects of healthcare systems in an atmosphere of tolerance and multiculturalism.

When I worked previously at the University of Georgia (UGA), the department where I served as Department Head had a similar program that was created between UGA and UH. I wanted to do my best to replicate that program in creating a relationship between WKU and UH, with a focus on a summer program in global health at UH. My goal for this program is that our students will have direct participation in global health research, and be able to collaborate their research in vital international projects.

Our CHHS International Liaison Officer, Dr. Ron Ramsing, who is involved in teaching study abroad courses on ecotourism, service learning and outdoor recreation through programs in Belize, Costa Rica and Ecuador, has personally gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of each host country he visits. Each trip has a lasting impact on both the students and faculty alike, “This global understanding and perspective informs my teaching and service as well as the research projects I explore. I am more sensitive and aware of the geopolitics that invariably impact our domestic and international students at WKU.”

Dr. Ramsing goes on to state the benefits of student participation in study abroad opportunities, “While the immediate benefit for students who study abroad is self-evident, the long-term gains are significant too. The international experiences impact the types of classes students take upon their return, their interaction with domestic and international students, and occasionally the focus and/or redirection of their studies – students return inspired. These international experiences also help our students live and interact successfully in an ever expanding multicultural environment of the US. I regularly hear from alumni who indicate their international experiences give them an advantage over others when pursuing promotions in the workplace – employers seek students who have honed global competence. Students who have studied abroad create goodwill, are ambassadors of WKU, and typically look at the world through a slight different lens – the global experience leaves an indelible mark on who they are as a person.”   

As I embark upon this journey next week, I look forward to the seeing the active collaboration between the UH and WKU that will lead to further experiential learning opportunities for our students. I encourage you to follow me on this journey, Twitter handle: @NealeChumbler as I showcase the work and partnerships that we are building abroad!





For more information on our study abroad opportunities at WKU, please visit: http://www.wku.edu/studyabroad/

CHHS Celebrates the End of a Successful Year and Plans for a Busy Summer

Dean Chumbler congratulates a CHHS student at Commencement
Dean Chumbler Congratulates a CHHS Graduate at Commencement

Wow! The 2015-16 Academic Year just concluded and what a great year it was for CHHS. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was so pleased to share the floor with President Ransdell and shaking hands and handing out diplomas to approximately 775 2016 Spring Semester graduates (doctoral, master’s, bachelor’s and associate degree recipients). In all, we had a total of 880 students who graduated this semester or will graduate this summer. I was also so pleased to see so many of the faculty from CHHS who participated in either the graduate student or undergraduate student ceremonies.

Dean Chumbler with CHHS KRS Sport and Rec Administration Master's Program Graduate, Damarius Gibson
Dean Chumbler with CHHS KRS Sport and Rec Administration Master’s Program Graduate, Damarius Gibson

As this Academic Year has winded down, I wanted to highlight a few key achievements that have not already been announced on my blog. Our strategic planning is in full swing and ongoing. We have a draft of the plan and I will continue to work with many faculty and staff in CHHS over the summer to tailor it to the needs of our college. Moreover, I partnered with so many hard working faculty and staff where we developed first ever CHHS guidelines for travel. This important activity was performed to ensure enhanced access for more CHHS faculty and staff to obtain necessary travel to not only disseminate their research findings but also the necessary continuing education skills.

We are also in the midst of re-examining our Tenure and Promotion Guidelines. Associate Deans Danita Kelly and Vijay Golla are co-chairing a committee with four additional Full Professors in CHHS. With reference to teaching effectiveness, research impact and comprehensive service (to the respective department, college, university, profession and community), this committee will develop and inform me on salient criteria of what constitutes excellence in research, teaching, and service. These standards will be employed as new benchmarks for Assistant Professors on their journey to promotion to Associate Professors, as well as Associate Professors proceeding on to promotion to Full Professors.

Our Doctor of Physical Therapy Program (DPT) recently received some spectacular news. On May 4, 2016, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) considered the materials submitted by our DPT program. CAPTE granted accreditation for a period of five years. This is a momentous time for the program with not only obtaining this prestigious accreditation, but also the fact that we graduated our first class of 30 DPT students. Further, the DPT program will transition from a program to its own separate academic department effective July 1st with Dr. Harvey Wallmann as our Department Head. I am so proud of the DPT faculty and staff for their hard work!

This summer, we will launch our inaugural CHHS Annual Magazine: CHHS IMPACT: Engage. Serve. Collaborate. Learn. CHHS is making an impact in Southcentral Kentucky and it is imperative that we inform friends of CHHS and our university community. Our magazine will be mailed out and electronically distributed in July, and will showcase some of our key achievements and success stories conducted by our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Until next time – I hope each of you will have a safe and enjoyable start to the summer!


CHHS Research Reflection

I just completed my first full year as Dean of the College of Health & Human Services (CHHS). This year has been a great year with so many rewarding experiences. We have a good college with exciting endeavors ongoing for our students. These successful events would not be possible without the dedication of our staff and faculty.  Many accomplishments have led to important, new discoveries and the dissemination of new knowledge in the form of applied research. Over this past year, research within CHHS has received a revitalization of its goals and purpose. Dr. Vijay Golla, from the department of Public Health, has been appointed as the Associate Dean for Research for CHHS, beginning in August 2015.

In the fall of 2015, a new CHHS Research Committee was formed and the first CHHS research forum was conducted in November 2015. Faculty and Professional staff were made aware of various research incentives in CHHS, and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the distribution of indirects, faculty incentive program (FIP), and spending grant monies. These SOPs were developed and voted in by the CHHS Research Committee. CHHS also conducted two writing days in the fall of 2015 and three in spring 2016 to encourage faculty to set aside a dedicated time slot for writing and manuscript completion without interruption. These writing days were held at the Medical Center Health Sciences Complex.

Drs. Colin Farrell and Vijay Golla prepare their presentation for the "Research Methods" workshop.
Drs. Colin Farrell and Vijay Golla prepare their presentation for the “Research Methods” workshop.

CHHS is committed to increasing its research profile within the university and the region. As part of this effort, a new series of workshops on “research methods” has been developed. The first workshop was held on March 30, 2016 with a focus on “developing research questions”. The purpose of these workshops is to encourage and enable faculty to refresh their research skills and focus on accurate methodology and measurements as part of their research design. CHHS Faculty and Student Research will be showcased in the first three weeks of April 2016 through poster and podium presentations of current research endeavors.

A new research initiative by the university resulted in the creation of the Quick Turn Around Grant (QTAG) program which made available small amounts of research funding (up to $3000) for faculty to utilize for completion of a study, small pilot funding, critical travel needs for research, etc. CHHS has funded five QTAG applications so far and is currently reviewing additional applications. With regards to extramural funding, CHHS has submitted 30 grant/ contract applications to a tune of $1,389,469.00 so far this academic year. CHHS faculty were also very active pursuing internal grant funding opportunities. Five faculty were awarded Faculty Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) grants in fall 2015. In the spring of 2016, CHHS faculty submitted 12 applications to the WKU’s Research and Creative Activities Program (RCAP) to obtain seed monies for research initiatives as a stepping stone for building their research and advancing the disciplines of Health and Human Services into the future.

CHHS strives to achieve a balance in faculty work load—between teaching, research, and service. The college is determined to provide an excellent opportunity for faculty to improve their research skills and collaborations as we move forward. More information on CHHS Research can be found at http://wku.edu/chhsresearch/index.php


CHHS Strategic Planning: Phase 2

“I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower

This transformative mission statement set the stage for the second phase of our strategic plan (I discussed the first phase of the plan in my previous blog post – click HERE). And, as indicative of this quote from President Eisenhower, the act of planning is more useful than the plan that emerges from the process because if the incorrect methods are employed, the plan will be ineffective.

At the beginning of the fall semester, I met with the Dean’s Internal Advisory Committee (an ad-hoc committee whose purpose is to advise me on college-related initiatives) regarding our next steps. We decided to build on these innovative and informative approaches and to structure a second retreat to provide an opportunity for all CHHS faculty and staff to be involved and encouraged to verbalize their ideas. During the holiday break, I took some time to reflect on themes that should guide our strategic plan. In my time here, I noticed several ways in which CHHS has the opportunity for growth and collaboration. In large part, these themes were derived from my conversations with members of the CHHS community and Dean’s Internal Advisory Committee over the last several months.

These themes include:

  • Interprofessional Education, including pedagogy and research
  • Applied Research Teams across the following themes: 1) health (e.g., environmental, occupational, personal) and wellness (e.g., student and employee); 2) rural health;  and 3) Health and Human Service Outcomes
  • Service Learning
  • International Education, research and service learning
  • Teaching Effectiveness
  • Tenure and Promotion
  • Student Retention and Recruitment
  • Staff Development
  • Media and Marketing

The Dr. Dan Pesut facilitates the Open Space Technology Work Daysecond phase of the strategic planning process was a one-day retreat held on January 14th. Once again, Dr. Dan Pesut served as our facilitator. The themes above served as a guide but were not mutually exclusive. CHHS faculty and staff, along with a few CHHS stakeholders and CHHS students attended the all-day workday.At the beginning of the day, all were asked if there was any topic in which they would like to be a convener. I expressed that all CHHS employees played a role in creating the future, not fixing the past. If there were any topics in which any were passionate, they were able to bring those ideas to the table and could volunteer to lead a discussion on those ideas during the smaller group sessions. I asked each of the attendees to think of the following five questions prior to the retreat:

  1. What are some topics/issues that support the greater good of the college?
  2. How will your department contribute to the realization of that greater good?
  3. What should be the future goals of CHHS?
  4. What is your contribution as an individual?
  5. Who else in the college do you want to work with and how will you cross boundaries to support the greater good of the college?

This time the major method Dan employed was Open Space Technology (OST). OST enables self-organizing groups of all sizes deal with incredibly complex issues in a very short period of time. OST is an effective, economical, fast and easily-repeatable strategy for organizing meetings of between 5 and 1,000 participants and is characterized by the following mechanisms:

  1. Enables a group to design its own agenda around passionate issues and responsible action plans.
  2. Acknowledges work, wisdom, and expertise of all involved.
  3. Enables you to move from one session to another at will.
  4. Supports action planning during, and beyond the meeting.
  5. Enables connection with others in the group.
  6. Gives opportunity for meaningful conversations.
  7. Provides a summary of each session for beyond the meeting.

The retreat was a success. One employee had the following positive sentiments:

2016.01.13_ chhs open space technology _lemon-90“I have never felt so much energy from the faculty and staff!  The open format also allowed me to meet and network with people who share my interests and get a feel for future areas of collaboration and research. This was particularly valuable to me as a junior member of the faculty. I just wanted to say “thanks!” – Janice Carter Smith, Communication Sciences and Disorders

High quality is present in CHHS. Students and faculty are often acknowledged for their successes, but the staff in CHHS forms the organization’s backbone and allows students and faculty to pursue knowledge. I was so pleased to see staff integrated into the agenda and I truly appreciate the remarkable job the staff members do for CHHS.2016.01.13_ chhs open space technology _lemon-129

So many notes and ideas were put forward. I am currently working with the Dean’s Internal Advisory Committee and will form a coordinating council that will distill the voluminous data that was collected from this great day.  As we collectively develop our academic plan that aims to advance practice, instruction, research, and service of health and human services in CHHS, it is imperative that our vision aligns with the larger institutional vision. IMG_0542It is my intent to support departments in the development of strategic plans that build on our strengths and align with the University’s vision and mission and provides direction for what CHHS can do over the next 2-3 years to position ourselves to be leaders in the field through our unique strengths, team based interests, individual, collaborative, and collective efforts.



CHHS Strategic Planning: Phase I

With nearly 250 faculty members and staff and over 5,000 students, the College of Health and Human Services’ (CHHS) expertise extends across so many areas of allied health and human service disciplines. CHHS cannot be all things to all people. Therefore, focus is vital to achieve impact as CHHS moves forward.

Shortly after my arrival to WKU, I put plans together to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, students, and constituents to develop a strategic plan for CHHS. A strategic plan develops a series of goals and a time line for achieving them; it integrates the strategies and the tactics that are most likely to accomplish the goals and then stages them across a time line[1]. A nimble strategic plan is imperative as CHHS transitions into the next phase of development. For purposes of communication, fundraising, and allocation of scarce resources, it is essential that we identify high-priority focus areas that deserve special attention, where additional resources could help us accelerate an even more significant positive impact upon allied health and human service providing professions, and where our impact could be transformative. These areas should be cross-cutting, interdisciplinary, and they should have the potential for inclusion of all units within CHHS.

Across this academic year, our strategic plan will consist of two stages. My blog today will focus on the first stage.

In the first phase of our strategic planning process, we held a one day retreat on August 11, 2015 that included the CHHS Administrative Council (Department Heads, Institute Directors, Associate Deans, Assistant to the Dean, Senior Development Officer, and myself). Our facilitator was Dr. Dan Pesut, Professor of Nursing in the Population Health and Systems Cooperative Unit and is the Director of the Katharine Densford International Center for Nursing Leadership at the University of Minnesota. Dan introduced us to some key materials that set the stage for our strategic planning processes not only in August, but throughout the year. He introduced us to strengths and values-based leadership (so that core strengths can be extrapolated and values identified), the Primes© (describes user friendly universal patterns of high performance, for example change vs. transformation), and the principles of liberating structures (rules governing how we choose to relate to others), including one important component of it: eco-cycle planning. Eco-cycle planning invites a leader to focus on creative destruction and renewal in addition to typical themes regarding growth or efficiency. The Administrative Council retreat day was very productive and informative. Dan worked with the group on several strategic planning exercises. I tasked each Department Head and School Director to initiate dialogue and discussion within their units regarding what each wants to create and contribute to the overall vision of CHHS. The information developed in each department will inform the overall CHHS strategic plan.

CHHS Administrative Council Retreat
CHHS Administrative Council Retreat

At the end of the CHHS Administrative Council retreat, we developed a values statement that will assist in the overall development of the strategic plan: Collectively, we are challenged to be human change agents by creating a community of scholars dedicated to the education of next generation health and human services practitioners who are committed to enhancing the quality of life and health where people live, work, and play.

[1] Conboy K. 2014. Establishing and implementing your vision: Strategic planning in academic affairs. Pp. 149-154 in The Resource Handbook for Academic Deans (3rd edition). Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.