Q & A with Dr. Jim Ciesla

Dean of Health and Human Services: "This is an exciting time to be at BGSU"

By Bob Cunningham '18

Dr. James Ciesla is the new dean of the College of Health and Human Services. This past fall semester was his first at Bowling Green State University. Ciesla comes to BGSU from Northern Illinois University, where he was associate dean for research and resources in the College of Health and Human Sciences. He also was interim chair of the School of Health Studies, an administrative unit he helped establish. He joined the NIU faculty in 1994, holding positions of increasing responsibility. He was awarded the title of Distinguished Professional Engagement Professor in 2012 in recognition of the numerous, externally funded interdisciplinary partnerships he has cultivated. Ciesla has served as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health, and has received significant grant funding for his research from such entities as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Illinois Department of Health Care and Family Services. He holds a Ph.D. in health economics from the University of South Carolina, along with two master’s degrees, one in health systems management from Tulane University and another in humanities from the University of Chicago. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wofford College.

Q. Looking at your background, it looks like you have a very accomplished career thus far. What attributes do you think you bring to the role of dean of Bowling Green State University’s College of Health and Human Services, and what about BGSU interested you in the position? 

A. I spent a large part of my professional career at a university, and in a college, that is very similar to BGSU’s College of Health and Human Services. I bring familiarity and an enthusiasm for this university and college — BGSU is a place that really makes a difference in the lives of its students. Many students are the first in their family to attend college, so it is gratifying to me to work at a public university that is accessible to a broad group of people. BGSU students are serious and committed to bettering themselves, and students in this college are highly committed to careers in health and human service disciplines. My interest in BGSU stemmed from the fact that this university, and this college, are well poised to serve this kind of student.

Q. It’s no secret that health and well-being are very important in today’s society. How can HHS, and its faculty and staff, make sure BGSU’s students are prepared to make an impact in the many fields that the college offers? 

A. In a word, by engagement. We can be sure our students are prepared to make an impact in their chosen field through our engagement activities. HHS faculty and staff are highly engaged in the service delivery and professional practice communities in their disciplines. Not only do these engaged, bidirectional relationships help cultivate goodwill toward the college, but they also make opportunities for us to keep abreast of the needs of the people our students will serve and of best practices in meeting those needs.

Q. Can you talk about some of the important research our faculty is conducting and how significant the effects are on our region and beyond? 

A. This college has a faculty of serious scholars committed to high impact research. I couldn’t possibly do justice to the breadth of our research portfolio, but our researchers do work that addresses important health and social issues that include Parkinson’s disease, aphasia, substance abuse, crime prevention, juvenile justice, health care data analytics — just to name a few. Not only do our faculty make positive contributions to the academic literature in their fields, but they take the time and effort to communicate their research findings to the public by sitting for interviews — often on national media outlets — and by publishing in the popular press. HHS research is truly a reflection of BGSU’s commitment to the public good.

Q. What areas of growth do you see in HHS? 

A. As we all know, the demographics of the country and this region will continue to create career opportunities for students with academic preparation in the disciplines represented in this college. Growth potential for our programs abounds. The emerging strategic alliance with Mercy College will create many opportunities for BGSU students interested in health care and human services disciplines. is an exciting time to be at BGSU.

Q. Now that you’ve been here for a semester, what is your impression of BGSU?

A. I am delighted to be here at BGSU. I have been impressed by the depth and breadth of the goodwill people have for BGSU and for this college. I encounter friends, supporters, alumni, parents of our students, current students, prospective students — and many others including regular folks I bump into off campus — who have genuine affection for BGSU. It is quite remarkable.