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Clinical Faculty Dr. Leanne Skehan: A Faculty Q&A

Dr. Leanne Skehan joined Southern New Hampshire University as an adjunct instructor in 2015 and then as a clinical faculty member in the online master of public health program in 2021. She has earned an MBA and a master of public health, as well as a doctorate in clinical nutrition. Recently she answered questions about her professional background, how she connects with students and more.

Please tell us a bit about your professional background.  

I have been working in careers related to public health for the past 24 years. My career started in Maine working for the Women, Infant & Children Nutrition Program (WIC) program as a nutrition manager. My next professional position focused on grant writing and policy work. My last job, before coming to SNHU full time, was at a health insurance company. I was the manager of population health and wellness.

Finally, I have been in higher education for just over 12 years teaching courses in public health, wellness and nutrition.

What first drew you to higher education?  

I love learning and have spent a good part of my adult life earning various degrees and had the opportunity to work with many influential professors. I wanted to be that same person who could influence the next generation of learners and be a positive force in their educational journeys.

What aspects of your own education have been particularly influential in shaping your professional life in academia? 

Most of my education has taken place in an online platform so I have experience in knowing what worked for me as a student in regards to connecting with my peers and professors in a virtual space. This helps me today to understand how to connect with my students virtually, so they feel connected to me and the program I teach in.

How do you continue to learn and evolve as a leader in higher education? 

I continue to learn and evolve as a leader by participating in learning opportunities at SNHU and externally. I recently participated in a mentoring program here at SNHU and learned so much from my mentor

What do you feel is unique about the faculty, students and programs you oversee?  

Many of the students in our program are new to online learning and public health. As a program, we have created many opportunities for students to engage with their peers and faculty outside of the classroom. We hold live chats on a regular basis that includes discussing a public health issue, learning about careers in public health, and a research and journal club.

Can you think of a particularly impactful or eye-opening moment as a faculty member? 

The most impactful moments for me are when former students of mine still reach out to me during their time in the program for advice or to share something about their career.

How have you found ways to effectively connect with students? 

In one of the courses I teach, we hold live chats three times per term. Many of our students entering the program have limited to no public health experience. Students in this introductory course typically require more mentoring throughout the term.

Over the last year, faculty, consisting of one full-time and two adjunct faculty members, have led three live chat sessions for students each term. These sessions include students from all three sections. Students get to interact with more peers, and they have the benefit of getting insight on the course work from multiple faculty members!

Our sessions are recorded and posted the next day in the course announcements for students who are unable to attend. In the live sessions we have had a range of 7-38 students attend and the recordings get close to 100 views each.

Faculty have noticed higher-quality project submissions and in general, students seem more comfortable reaching out and asking questions.

What advice do you have for new and current students? 

The advice I would offer to new and current student is to never hesitate to reach out to your professor with questions. I would dispel the myth that we are too busy for student questions.

When it comes to the future of education, particularly for programs in public health, what’s on your mind?

I think it will be important that we stay well informed of the ever-evolving needs of the public health profession and ensure we are offering students the skills, tools and resources they need to be successful in the field.

Why is education important to you and the world at large? 

Education is important to me because I am inquisitive, and it allows me to continue to expand my knowledge base and gain new perspectives on the happenings in the world and on topics I am interested in.

Education is important because it helps to keep you current with updated or changing information so we can be knowledgeable human beings. Education helps with making informed decisions, self-care, and with making a difference in the world. 

Beyond work, what’s something you’re passionate about or really enjoy doing? 

Outside of work, I enjoy and have a deep love for running and running competitively in half-marathons. I not only run for time in races, but I also run races based on location and the scenery I will see on foot.

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Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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