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Health Is Happening Everywhere at AU

By Patty Housman

Photo of Dean Peter Starr, speaker Tom Rath, and Dean Stacey Snelling by Jeff Watts.

Photo of Dean Peter Starr, speaker Tom Rath, and Dean Stacey Snelling by Jeff Watts.

The College of Arts and Sciences has established a new home for health studies at AU, the Department of Health Studies, to foster collaborative scholarship and research in a field that touches every school and member of the university community. 

On October 21, 50 guests gathered to celebrate the official launch of the new Department of Health Studies. The reception at Katzen Arts Center brought together representatives of the many interdisciplinary arms of health studies across the campus.  

“We are creating a culture of health at American University,” said Stacey Snelling, who serves as both inaugural chair of the Department of Health Studies and the dean of the School of Education. “We are also working to make a real difference in health in the community beyond AU: the Washington area, the national landscape, and the global landscape.” 


New Autonomous Units 

Until this academic year, the Department of Health Studies and the School of Education were part of the same unit—the School of Education, Teaching, and Health. The growth of their respective programs led the university to elevate them into autonomous units.  

“Splitting health studies and education is a testament to how well these two schools have done for themselves. Now we have two units that are both ready to stand on their own and thrive on their own,” said Peter Starr, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a milestone for the study of education and health across the university.”

The Department of Health Studies already has close to 400 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate degree programs. “Our students are passionate and committed to changing the face of what health means for all individuals,” said Snelling, “not only individuals in large organizations, but also individuals who need assistance to be empowered in their communities to improve health practices.”  


Health is Happening Everywhere 

“Health is Happening Everywhere at AU” is the unofficial motto of the new Department of Health Studies, and the attendees at the reception represented health studies, education, math and statistics, history, biology, psychology, human resources, student life, and many other units across the university.  

Snelling spoke about the work of forming the new department. “We have recruited a very talented group of faculty—scholars, practitioners, and educators—who study the compelling health issues of today,” she said. 

Snelling also addressed how health studies uniquely crosses schools and disciplines. “Beyond our health studies faculty are other faculty within the College that contribute significantly to preparing students in public health and health promotion. And even beyond our College, the entire university faculty who do work in global health and heath policy. We have the unique opportunity to work across the all the boundaries and all the units within the whole university, creating a culture of health for all.” 


 A New Department, New Goals 

The mission of the Department of Health Studies is to educate future leaders in the health professions who are dedicated to improving lives around the world. By consolidating the College’s programs in public health, health promotion, and nutrition education into a single department, AU hopes to strengthen its commitment to excellent scholarly research and its fulfillment in public service. 

“We want this new department to facilitate student and faculty research across the university in areas where health is already vibrant,” said Starr. 


Guest Tom Rath: Are You Fully Charged? 

The honored guest at the launch celebration was six-time New York Times bestselling author and filmmaker Tom Rath, whose new documentary Are You Fully Charged? will be shown at AU on November 16. The film explores key elements of energizing one’s work and life through interviews with world’s leading social scientists. Rath also serves as a senior scientist for Gallup, where he previously spent thirteen years leading the organization's work on employee engagement, strengths, leadership, and well-being. 

When Rath set out to produce Are You Fully Charged?, he said he wanted to highlight how academic research could address national and global problems about poor health and low levels of well-being. “Yet a lot of that work is not making it to the translational place where it meets someone who has a need in their lives and changes their behavior.”  

Rath congratulated the new Department of Health Studies and praised its work over many years to translate health research and train leaders to help organizations around the globe make a real difference in health. “I can’t imagine any more powerful mission than what you’re working on here today,” he said.  


For More Information 

Visit the Department of Health Studies website.