Dean named for health, human sciences

Douglas Robert Keskula, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Allied Health Sciences at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, Ga., is the next dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences at Western Carolina University.

WCU Provost Angi Brenton announced on Wednesday, April 24, the appointment of Keskula, which is effective July 1, pending approval of the appointment by the WCU Board of Trustees and the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

“Dr. Keskula garnered broad support among the faculty and staff of the College of Health and Human Sciences during his interview,” Brenton said. “They found that his long and broad experience in an academic health center, his collaborative and inclusive leadership style, and his vision for the future prepared him well to be dean. I am convinced Doug will be a great coalition builder – in the college, throughout WCU and with our external partners. I look forward to working with him as dean.”

Douglas Keskula

Douglas Keskula

Keskula has held his current position at Georgia Regents University, formerly the Medical College of Georgia, since 2009. He fills a vacancy created by the departure last summer of Linda Seestedt-Stanford, founding dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences, who left WCU to become vice president of health sciences at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va.

“My family and I are really excited about coming to this area and being a part of the Western Carolina family,” Keskula said. “This university and the College of Health and Human Sciences are a great opportunity and a great fit.”

In his role as associate dean at GRU, Keskula has been responsible for the development of new and expanded programs, student and faculty recruitment, curricula revisions, programmatic accreditation, distance learning and the integration of educational technology in the classroom.

The GRU College of Allied Health Sciences enrolls more than 500 students, awarding graduate and undergraduate degrees in 11 programs housed within eight departments. Graduate programs within the college are physical therapy, occupational therapy, physician assistant, public health, clinical laboratory sciences and medical illustration. Undergraduate programs consist of respiratory therapy, dental hygiene, health management and informatics, and medical imaging and radiologic sciences.

Keskula served as the college’s acting dean in 2011 and as chair of the Department of Physical Therapy from 2001 until 2009. He previously served as a member of the physical therapy faculty at the Medical College of Georgia since 1993.

At WCU, Keskula will lead a college housed in the university’s new $46 million Health and Human Sciences Building. The four-story, 160,000-square-foot facility nestled into a mountainside opened in the fall to more than 1,500 students, faculty and staff.

The facility brings under one roof programs in nursing, physical therapy, communication sciences and disorders, social work, athletic training, emergency medical care, environmental health, nutrition and dietetics, and recreational therapy – programs previously located in four buildings.

The new structure is the first to be constructed on 344 acres across N.C. Highway 107 from the main campus acquired by WCU as part of the Millennial Initiative, a comprehensive regional economic development strategy that involves private industry and government partners.

The facility is expected to become the hub of a new health sciences cluster, which will expand partnership opportunities with private clinics and other health care providers to enhance hands-on student learning and foster collaborative research and development of scientific and technological innovations with potential commercial applications.

Marie Huff, associate dean of the college and a professor of social work, has been serving at interim dean of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences since the departure of Seestedt-Stanford.

“I want to offer special thanks to Dr. Huff, who twice has served as interim dean of this college,” Brenton said. “Marie has done a superb job of opening a new building and setting the foundation for interdepartmental programs and joint ventures with community partners.”

The appointment of Keskula concludes a national search for the dean of health and human sciences by a committee chaired by James Zhang, dean of the Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology. Committee members are Billy Ogletree, head of the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders; Jessica Graning, assistant professor of physical therapy; Judy LeRoy Robinson, assistant professor of social work; Lisa Lefler, director of the Culturally Based Cherokee Health Program; Peg Connolly, associate professor of recreational therapy; Shawn Collins, assistant professor of nurse anesthesia; Alyson Totten, director of the Office of Educational Affairs for Mission Health System; and Vickie Bradley, deputy health officer for the Health and Medical Division with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Anne Aldrich, executive assistant to the provost, provided staff assistance.