Top Faculty Honoree Barbara Schell of Athens, Ga., Keynotes Brenau University Academic Year Opening

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Dr. Barbara Schell, Brenau University

GAINESVILLE, GA (08/30/2012)(readMedia)-- Barbara A. Schell of Athens, Ga., the associate dean of the College of Health & Science and director of School of Occupational Therapy, opened the 2012-13 academic year at Brenau University 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 doctoral degree-granting coeducational 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. Of course, at the convocation, they were already standing – doing the Hokey-Pokey with her.

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 in 1995 and founded the university's occupational therapy program. She presided over the department's phenomenal growth into a nationally ranked program and last year became the founding director when Brenau elevated OT 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.

She earned a B.S. in occupational therapy at the University of Florida and an M.S. in business management from the University of South Florida.

She has also served in a number of leadership positions in the American Occupational Therapy Association. She has made more than 100 presentations at local, regional and national meetings. She has written numerous publications related to occupational therapy management, professional development and clinical reasoning, and she has served on the editorial boards of both the American Journal of Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy in Health Care. Schell is co-editor (with her husband, John) of Clinical and Professional Reasoning in Occupational Therapy. She is also co-editor of the 10th and 11th editions of Willard & Spackman's Occupational Therapy, and the lead editor for the 12th edition of the seminal text, which is currently in development.

In punctuating her point that sometimes people have to do things they do not want to do, she confessed to students that she is currently in the process of "editing a glossary."

"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."


ABOUT BRENAU – Founded in 1878, Brenau University currently enrolls about 2,800 students in graduate and undergraduate programs on campuses and online. The main campus of the Georgia-based liberal arts institution, which includes the Brenau Women's College, is in Gainesville with other campuses in Augusta, Kings Bay and in two metro Atlanta locations, Norcross and Fairburn. Brenau's 2011 ranking as one of the top 15-best higher education values in the Southeast by U.S. News & World Report marks the university's sixth consecutive year in that position for the magazine's America's Best Colleges guidebook. In 2012 Brenau online programs scored high in national rankings by U.S. News, including a #9 in the nation "Honor Roll" listing for graduate degree tracks in Brenau's College of Education. Brenau University also was granted "Honor Roll" status among the 2012 listings of the great colleges and universities to work for by The Chronicle of Higher Education and one of the best universities in the Southeast by The Princeton Review. Brenau's extraordinary learning environment also was highlighted among the Colleges of Distinction.