Evan Robinson, RPh, PhD, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions (SPAHP), recently completed his first semester with the University. Robinson, who comes to Creighton after serving as dean of the Western New England University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Springfield, Massachusetts, was announced as dean in June and began in his role Aug. 19.
Here, Robinson reflects on his first semester with Creighton and speaks about his priorities moving forward. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell us, generally, how your first semester has been?
My experiences since I’ve started have been great and everybody has been fantastic. There’s been a learning curve, but one of the things that’s been wonderful is that Creighton has met or exceeded my expectations in every facet. Over the coming months I intend to continue my listening tour and to learn about the school and the University as best I can. Are there things that need to be addressed, yes. But every school can say that. I am just excited about being able to work with the faculty, staff, administration, students and alumni to work on what those needs are.
What were your expectations, and what are some ways in which Creighton has exceeded them?
Creighton (as a whole) and the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions have a great reputation. I knew that coming in, but I’ve also enjoyed learning about other things people are doing, learning about the ways in which SPAHP engages in teaching, learning and assessment as well as integrates with the rest of the University in interprofessional education, linked with resources like CIPER (Center for Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research).
Another piece that’s fundamental and valuable is there are very few private institutions around the country that have the unique corpus of health professions programs that Creighton has. Pharmacy, along with PT (physical therapy), OT (occupational therapy), nursing, medicine, dentistry and PA (physician assistant) — I think that amazing breadth of health professional education programming allows for a wealth of interprofessional education activities and collaborative care.
What were your priorities coming into this position?
Priority No. 1 was to come in and have a listening tour and get a sense of what’s going on. One of the things you learn being a dean somewhere is that being a dean in one place is being a dean in one place. So what I wanted to do is a significant deep dive, listening to everyone, and I’m only partway through that.
It’s not just learning the school, but also the University and its respective professional communities. We are one part of a much bigger entity, and as a result, this is an opportunity for me to figure out how SPAHP fits into the University mission and values or how we could fit in. Given how complex SPAHP and the University are, it would be foolish for me to walk in the door and act on assumptions without knowing the facts.
How do you see your role changing moving forward, particularly in regards to Creighton’s Phoenix expansion?
(Note: The 180,000-square-foot Creighton University Health Sciences – Phoenix Campus is set to open in 2021 and will accommodate students enrolled in several Creighton health sciences programs, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy and the physician assistant program).
It will impact the role because we’ll have learners in a different place. But remember that pharmacy has had the Distance Pathway program for a number of years. Occupational Therapy has had distance programs in partnership with the University of Alaska Anchorage and Regis University in Denver, Colorado. We’ve been doing non-Omaha-based learning and assessment for a while now.
Yes, the Phoenix model is new, and yes, this is a new approach that will come with excitement as much as some trepidation.
Looking at Creighton Omaha and Creighton Phoenix, a topic of discussion for a number of us has been ‘How do we ensure that the mission and values that’s associated with Creighton becomes part of the social fabric and milieu for Phoenix?’ And as an administrator looking at new program development, that ties in a bit with my thought process. We want to ensure that the students who go (to Phoenix) get the same true Creighton experience that we do here.
What are the primary goals of SPAHP moving forward?
Great question and I am not sure at this point. The purpose of the listening tour is to spend the time with the individuals who understand the school and its needs best and to move forward from there. That being said, one goal I do have it trying to find strategies to address the issue of student debt.