Dr. Daniel Czech, the Dean of the College of Health Sciences at Eastern Kentucky University, has cultivated an impressive career in education. Holding a Ph.D. in Performance Psychology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Daniel possesses expertise in various areas. His research encompasses emotional intelligence in workplaces, applies positive psychology in leadership roles, explores strategies for health behavior change in a post-pandemic world, and enhances training in psychological skills within performance contexts.
Notably, he has authored over 90 peer-reviewed articles, written 4 books, and contributed to 9 book chapters. Additionally, he has presented his work at more than 120 peer-reviewed conferences worldwide, earning accolades such as the College Researcher of the Year and First-Year Professor of the Year awards.
Daniel’s educational journey intertwines with his role as an ambassador for Major League Baseball, spanning two decades from 1996. During this time, he made substantial contributions to sports development and conducted performance psychology clinics in 58 countries. As a certified mental performance consultant emeritus, he played a pivotal role in assisting professional athletes in the National Football League, Professional Golf Association, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball. Today, he extends his expertise to Fortune 500 companies, offering insights into essential psychological skills and the power of positive emotions within workplace dynamics.
A Visionary Leader Guided by Family Values
Before we delve into the profound impact of Dr. Czech on health sciences education, it is crucial to understand the core principles and values that shape his leadership approach. As he explains, “My role models are still my parents, Rick and Donna Czech. Their approach to life, their discipline, work ethic, character, and emotional intelligence have been instrumental to me as a leader.” Their ability to effortlessly connect with people and their embodiment of love and grace in their interactions have left an indelible mark on him. Interestingly, his Trust, Optimism, Belongingness, and Serving Others mentality draws its roots from his parents’ behavior, aligning seamlessly with principles from the field of performance psychology.
The College of Health Sciences: Fostering Excellence in Health Sciences Education
Now, let’s explore how Dr. Czech’s profound commitment to leadership and education manifests within the College of Health Sciences (CHS). The College, affectionately known as TEAM CHS, is deeply rooted in its TOBS values—Trust, Optimism, Belongingness, and Serving Others. These values are not mere words on paper; they serve as the foundation guiding every student interaction. Rather than considering students an inconvenience, the college regards them as the primary motivation for its daily endeavors. With TOBS as its foundation, the College of Health Sciences approaches its educational mission with unwavering dedication and purpose, boasting distinct features:
- National Accreditation: Most of their programs hold national accreditation.
- Strong Faculty Presence: The college is renowned for its faculty’s caring and supporting ways of interacting with health science students.
- Exceptional Faculty: The faculty comprises distinguished individuals known for their national and international recognition in research, teaching, and clinical practice.
At the heart of their educational philosophy lies the concept of PRAXIS. Their objective extends beyond the imparting of knowledge; it encompasses equipping students with the skills and insights necessary to apply that knowledge in practical settings. They aim to prepare students to navigate the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.
The college offers an impressive array of healthcare programs that cover a wide spectrum, including nursing, advanced practice nursing, occupational therapy, environmental and public health, medical lab sciences, healthcare administration, exercise science, outdoor recreation, and more. They also broaden their educational reach through online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and online Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) programs, ensuring accessibility to a broader audience.
The College of Health Sciences takes pride in cultivating an environment that seamlessly integrates real-world practice, hands-on healthcare experience, and cutting-edge scholarship. This dynamic setting is thoughtfully designed to empower students, enabling them to achieve their professional aspirations within the realm of health sciences.
Above all, the institution’s commitment to student success, as emphasized by Daniel, is not merely a catchphrase; it constitutes the institution’s core mission. Many of their students are first-generation, and witnessing these students successfully earn their degrees fills the institution with immense pride and joy. Every program within the college is firmly grounded in practical application, ensuring that graduates possess both the knowledge and the professional skills essential to excel in their chosen fields.
At EKU, student success isn’t just a lofty goal; it’s a shared commitment propelling the institution forward. As Daniel puts it, “Moreover, we embrace STUDENT SUCCESS AS OUR PURPOSE. All programs within CHS are applied and focus on assuring that students have the knowledge and professional skills needed to thrive as professionals.”
Enhancing Healthcare Education Responsibilities
In his leadership role, Daniel actively oversees crucial responsibilities and takes pride in significant career achievements. Under his guidance, the team has swiftly adapted to a cultural shift within the college, resulting in impressive outcomes. They have wholeheartedly embraced the TOBS process, leading to optimal results. In a relatively short period, the entire team has achieved remarkable success. Here are some of the noteworthy accomplishments from the past year:
1. Warsaw, Poland Transcultural Philanthropy Project
2. Establishment of the Medical Explorers Academy in collaboration with Baptist Health Richmond Hospital
3. The New College Center for Retention Progression and Graduation (RPG) made a significant impact. Study sessions, leadership seminars, social gatherings, and identity formation have contributed to a substantial increase in our retention rates over the last year.
4. Achieving a 100% NCLEX pass rate in BS and AAS nursing programs.
5. The CHS Lead Bridge program has played a key role in improving the math scores of incoming CHS students.
6. Significant increases in Contracts and Grants funding (from $90,000 in 2022 to $2.5 million in 2023).
7. Substantial growth in the number of donors (from 103 to 298 in one year), accompanied by the development of a new leadership board comprising 14 individuals.
8. Eight CHS students had the opportunity to present their research at Harvard University’s National Undergraduate Research Conference.
9. CHS has increased overall health science enrollment with an innovative enrollment management plan
The Dean’s Triangle: A Proficient Team for a Bright Future
Daniel places immense trust in his team, firmly believing in their capacity to excel in their respective roles. Therefore, he introduces his associate deans and outlines their areas of responsibility.
They adhere to a Dean’s Leadership Triangle approach, with Dr. Mike Ballard and Dr. Michelyn Bhandari assuming pivotal roles. Daniel highly values their contributions and relies on their expertise. His confidence in their abilities remains steadfast, and their strengths shape their specific responsibilities. Beyond their professional connections, they share a collegial and amicable rapport. This sense of psychological safety encourages open communication, cultivating a workplace culture characterized by growth, enjoyment, and camaraderie.
While ultimate responsibility rests with Daniel, he views Dr. Ballard and Dr. Bhandari not merely as Associate Deans but as Deans in their own right.
Dr. Ballard’s focus encompasses retention, progression, graduation, enrollment management, part-time faculty assignments/contracts, and faculty evaluations, including promotion and tenure. Conversely, Dr. Bhandari oversees resource development, which includes grants/contracts and donor relations, along with matters related to faculty and staff appreciation, curriculum, and the legal aspects of Team CHS.
Daniel remarks, “Our entire dean’s staff is very special.” He takes a moment to recognize the collective contributions of his dean’s staff, with a particular emphasis on the outstanding efforts of the Administrative Support team, Tammy Hogue and Heather Pusey, as well as the very talented Chairs, Learning Specialists, Advisors, and all faculty members. Together, they infuse daily routines with enthusiasm, levity, and a steadfast commitment to TOBS values, rendering Team CHS a unique and harmonious community.
The Role of Parents in Children’s Education
Daniel consistently demonstrates concern for students and their learning. Consequently, he shares insights about the role of parents in their child’s education, highlighting the top three mistakes parents commonly make:
- Over-Involvement in Son’s or Daughter’s Life: Daniel encourages parents to strike a balance between active involvement and allowing their child the space to grow independently.
- Comparing Daughter or Son to Others: It is the belief at the institution that each student possesses unique strengths. By reinforcing the individual journey, parents can assist their sons and daughters in finding enjoyment and success throughout their college experience.
- Not Addressing Mental Health: Transparent discussions about mental health can help students prioritize their well-being and set themselves up for a fulfilling college experience.
Spotting Current and Future Trends in the Education Industry
The Dean’s Triangle, consisting of Mike, Michelyn, and Daniel, is committed to recognizing, promoting, and appreciating faculty and staff, ensuring that their contributions receive wider recognition. Currently, their primary focus is on enhancing faculty and staff appreciation and impact. They acknowledge that faculty burnout is not the primary concern; instead, the emphasis lies on ensuring that the work of academics yields meaningful results. They firmly believe that when faculty and staff feel valued and impactful, it enhances the quality of education for students. To achieve this, they cultivate a culture of “positive gossip” within their college, celebrating each other’s accomplishments.
Furthermore, fostering a culture of psychological safety is a paramount priority within the College of Health Sciences (CHS) at EKU. Psychological safety, characterized by trust and a sense of belonging, cultivates joy, empathy, and optimism in the workplace—a cornerstone of Team CHS.
Looking ahead to 2024 and beyond, their vision for education revolves around promoting emotionally intelligent principles in all interactions, whether within departments, colleges, or various university offices. They believe that infusing psychological safety, TOBS, empathy, joy, and breaking down silos will bring about positive transformation in universities.
They underscore the power of individual faculty and staff members adopting this mindset, leading to a cultural shift. EKU is already experiencing this transformation, with a cohesive environment fostered by Provost Dr. Sara Zeigler and President McFaddin, who epitomize an open and supportive leadership style. This anti-silo mentality is shaping the future of education at EKU, one step at a time. President McFaddin’s accessibility and responsiveness further emphasize the significance of strong leadership in driving positive change.
Striking a Balance Between Professional and Personal World
Daniel has discovered the equilibrium required to excel in his leadership role while nurturing his personal well-being and building meaningful connections with loved ones.
In the past, he followed a pattern of prioritizing the needs of others over his own. “I am a recovering “starving baker” where I would help others before helping myself,” admits Daniel. However, lessons from past mistakes have reshaped his perspective. He has come to realize that to effectively serve others, it is essential to prioritize his own growth and well-being.
Outside of his professional life, Daniel derives fulfillment from many activities. These include cherishing moments with friends and family, taking pride in his son’s achievements in college baseball, and sharing cultural experiences such as concerts, movies, and plays with his daughter. He remains committed to daily aerobic and anaerobic exercise, engages in reading, finds solace in attending church, and enjoys the rejuvenation that travel brings. Finally, he is dedicated to simplifying life by decluttering his mental and physical spaces.
Advice for Aspiring Leaders in the Educational Field
Daniel learned the importance of diligently working on his character from a wise sage. He believes that character consists of:
- Self-discipline: This entails consistently doing what is right, even when you do not feel like it.
- Core values: Living in alignment with moral principles that guide one’s actions.
- A sense of identity: Cultivating a realistic self-image based on individual strengths and capabilities.
- Emotional security: Developing the capacity to maintain emotional stability even in challenging situations.
Moreover, he adds, “Since I am not perfect at all with this, I have accountability mentors who keep me in check. With this process, positive fruit has bloomed accordingly.”
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