CHHS Continues to Show Its Resolve – WKU News

The College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) at WKU is the largest academic college at Western Kentucky University, housing seven academic units that represent a wide variety of health and human service programs; all unique with innovative research programs and strong ties to the community. 

Although 2020 presented us with many challenges, our students, faculty, and staff have continued to persevere; our college continues to make positive strives in multiple arena’s that helps to boost our growth and that of the university. 

Living Learning Communities

This academic year, CHHS launched two new Living Learning Communities (LLCs) that are built to connect students with similar academic or social interests. We currently offer an LLC in Nursing and Exercise Science. First-year students within these majors will enroll in program-specific courses together and live on the same floor of a single residence hall. Students benefit from peer engagement, faculty mentorship, and experiential learning opportunities. For more information on LLCs at WKU, visit


The Center for Child Welfare Education and Research (CCWEAR) 

In 2019, CHHS launched the Center of Child Welfare Education and Research, an applied research center that utilizes multi-disciplinary partnerships and collaborations to improve the lives of families and children in the Commonwealth. 

Since their opening, they have been busy and are excited to announce the launch of the Kentucky Child Welfare Workforce Wellness Initiative, a Medicaid-funded project using biometric assessment technology and a mindfulness-based intervention to improve the health of child protective service workers in Kentucky. This interdisciplinary partnership involves the key contributions of Western Kentucky University’s Department of Social Work (Dr. Austin Griffiths), School of Nursing and Allied Health (Drs. Kim Link and Kara Haughtigan), Lifeskills, and the Department for Community-Based Services. 

In April of 2021, the CCWEAR will host its first annual Child Welfare Career Expo and also announce the winners of the first annual CCWEAR Student Award for Child Welfare Advocacy and the CCWEAR Community Award for Outstanding Leadership in Child Welfare. Additionally, Dr. Austin Griffiths, CCWEAR Director, has been selected to serve on the European Social Work Research Association’s Social Work Workforce Special Interest Group and will present at the 2021 ESWRA’s European Conference for Social Work in May. 


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Social Work

The Department of Social Work has also been busy this year, Dr. Austin Griffiths will be representing the United States in a network of established international scholars focused on child welfare workforce wellness called the European Social Work Research Association – Social Work Workforce Research Special Interest Group (WRSIG). Dr. Simon Funge has spearheaded the creation of a BSW Online Program approved by the Council on Social Work Education to start Fall 2021. Dr. Saundra Starks currently serves as the elected President of the Council on Social Work Education, the national accrediting body of social work. Dr. Jay Gabbard currently serves as the elected Vice-Chair of the Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society International Board for 2020 to become Chair in 2021. 


Physical Therapy

We are pleased to report that the Graduating class of 2020 in the Physical Therapy Doctoral program achieved a 100% first-time pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Examination board exam administered in July-Oct 2020. The students and faculty faced many challenges this year, but came out on TOP! We are so proud of these graduates and praise our faculty/staff for supporting them, as always!


School of Nursing and Allied Health (SoNAH)

The Nursing Program has graduated the largest class ever this past year, even during the pandemic, with a total of 320 graduates! Nursing faculty and students have been working closely with the Medical Center to administer vaccinations. The Medical Center/WKU Health Sciences Complex (MCHC) that houses our nursing and physical therapy programs has seen lots of foot traffic, servicing roughly 700-1000 people per day for vaccinations.


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South Central KY AHEC

Last fall semester, South Central KY AHEC created a new virtual program for high school students interested in exploring medical research ethics. The program, named Future Leadership Institute of Public Health or FLIP Health, connected 5 students from Warren and Hardin County in discussions and projects. This semester, AHEC has expanded another (currently) virtual program, Future Healthcare Professionals (FHP) to Hardin County, doubling the number of high school students in our health career exploration programs!

In January 2021, the WKU CPR Training Center more than doubled in size when the Paducah CPR Training Center closed, and more than 170 Paducah CPR instructors joined the WKU CPR Training Center and the Hilltopper family. The merge insured that western Kentucky can still get quality American Heart Association CPR training. The WKU CPR Training Center sends a warm Hilltopper welcome to the new instructors. 


Public Health (PH)

The Department of Public Health has several initiatives that engage students and faculty alike. Many WKU Public Health graduates are working within the Commonwealth and across the nation as Environmental & Occupational Health and Safety professionals and as Data Scientists. Both rapidly growing professions, especially given the current state of the global pandemic. Our graduates are represented in a number of organizations including Amazon and the U.S. Department of Defense. 

The Environmental Health Science program within the Public Health Department was awarded the CDC/ National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Training Project Grant that directly impacted students at WKU. 

Two projects are underway and scheduled to launch in Summer 2021 in partnership with the Kentucky Emergency Management for Community Preparedness. 

The department has strengthened and secured several partnerships throughout the commonwealth. Working with the Green River Firefighters Association and the University of Louisville, we’ve conducted community-based research to reduce firefighters’ exposures to carcinogens and other hazards. They also have ongoing collaborations with Stormwater Utilities and SKYCYC to strengthen the Environmental Health Science workforce. 


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Applied Human Sciences

The Hospitality Management and Dietetics Program received accreditation approval this past Fall for the combined Dietetic Internship & Master of Business Administration program. The hybrid 12-month program was developed by Program Director Ann Embry, in coordination with faculty from the Gordon Ford College of Business and will start in Summer 2021. For additional information, please visit

Child Studies faculty, within the Family and Consumer Sciences program, led by Dr. Babb, have worked hard to develop and strengthen our Child Studies Advisory Board. This board comprised of experts in our community, is an amazing asset to the program and focuses its efforts on children and families. They have lent us support, encouragement, and provide a wealth of resources to the program.   

We applaud all of the graduates, students, faculty, and staff that make up the College of Health and Human Services for their resilience and dedication through what could easily be called the hardest and most challenging academic year we’ve faced. We will continue to grow, adapt and push the boundaries to always come out on TOP! Thank you CHHS for all that you do! Go TOPS!



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