Posted: Friday, August 31st 2012 at 10:17am
Top faculty honoree keynotes opening of Brenau academic year
GAINESVILLE - Barbara A. Schell of Athens, the associate dean of the College of Health & Science and director of School of Occupational Therapy at Brenau University, opened the 2012-13 academic year at the school by challenging students to invest themselves fully in college lives by, among other things, taking risks.
With that, Schell took a risk of her own. In full academic regalia at the formal honor convocation in historic Pearce Auditorium on the Gainesville campus, she waded into the audience and led students in an impromptu performance of "The Hokey Pokey."
It is a tradition at the 134-year-old Women's College, which is part of the 2,800-student university, for first-year students at Brenau to walk before their peers and sign the Brenau Honor Pledge. It is also a tradition for the faculty member who received the Ann Austin Johnston Outstanding Teaching Award at the previous spring's graduation ceremony, to address students in the first convocation of the following fall term. The award is made possible by Donald C. Johnston of Dublin, Ga., in honor of his wife, Ann Austin Johnston, a Brenau graduate.
Schell, who won the Ann Austin Johnston award at last May's commencement, received a standing ovation from students at both events.
With the "Hokey Pokey" routine, she was making a point: to be successful in college and life one must fully invest themselves. In other words, "Put your whole self in...."
"We all understand that learning involves risk, and that you are not perfect," Schell said. "We want to support your becoming you best self, but that means you have to do things and do them in a way that involves being honest with yourself and with others."
"Figuring out of who you are often occurs in part by what you do – sometimes we choose to do it and sometimes it is something we have to do," Schell said. "One of the really exciting things about college is that there are a lot of choices, and you can try out or 'try on' a lot of things to see if they resonate with who you are or want to be.... It is not just what you do; it is how you do it. That, in time, becomes who you are."
"You have to do things – and do them in a way that involves being honest with yourself and with others. It also involves how others see you and how you see yourself – and creating a coherent 'match' between these things is a process of seeking and maintaining integrity."
Schell joined the Brenau faculty in 1995, when the university's occupational therapy program was in its infancy, presided over the department's growth into a nationally ranked program and last year became the founding director when Brenau elevated it from a "department" to the School of Occupational Therapy. She is spearheading Brenau's efforts to establish a doctorate in the discipline.
Previously she served as an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, as a clinical instructor at both the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Missouri, and as a teaching assistant at the University of Georgia, where she earned a Ph.D. in adult education.
In her career, Schell also has worked as a clinician, manager, administrator and consultant, including a stint as a staff therapist at the Tampa, Fla., Veterans Administration Hospital.
"I can tell you that editing a glossary is something that I do not want to do," she said, "and I hope I never have to do it again."
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