Parallel Experiences Prepare New Dean

Dr. Kevin Finn’s experiences as an athlete, athletic trainer, professor, department chair and associate dean have prepared him for his new role as Dean of the School of Nursing & Health Sciences and Director of Clinical Partnerships at Colby-Sawyer College. He says, “The work I have done regarding program development (at Merrimack College) allowed me to think about making the move to Colby-Sawyer. I’ve seen how to increase academic and professional programs effectively and hope to do the same here.”

Growing up in Boston, Finn attended Merrimack College and received an undergraduate degree in sports medicine. He then went on to receive his master’s degree in education from Fairfield University and began his career at his alma mater, serving as an assistant athletic trainer and lecturer.

It did not take long for Finn to realize he had a passion for teaching and made the decision to pursue academia full-time. He accepted a position as an assistant professor at Merrimack College and went to Boston University to receive his Ed.D. in Curriculum and Teaching. As he pursued his degree, he became interested in the area of research, taking a look at the importance and connection of physical activity and academic learning in children. Continuing his research, he transitioned to an associate professor with tenure and became the health sciences department chair in 2014.

Finn’s career path has had many parallels to his newfound responsibilities in his role as dean at Colby-Sawyer College. He was directly involved in growing the undergraduate programs in the Department of Health Sciences at Merrimack College. The department expanded from three programs — health sciences, exercise science and athletic training — to seven programs to also include nutrition, public health, rehabilitation sciences and nursing. The decision was then made to add graduate programs in health and wellness management, community health education, exercise and sport science, and healthcare analytics were added to the growing department. In 2017, Merrimack College made the decision to create a separate school for these programs and the School of Health Sciences was established with Finn serving as the associate dean.

By 2019, the School had increased its undergraduate student enrollment from 150 to 750 and increased the academic programs from four to 12, including five graduate programs. Driven by the large increase in student growth, the School increased from four to 22 full-time faculty during Finn’s tenure at Merrimack.

Finn had no thoughts of leaving Merrimack College until he went to a higher education management and leadership development program offered at the Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. At the conference, President Sue Stuebner led a lecture which was a summary of a case study about her time at Colby-Sawyer College. Finn was really interested in President Stuebner’s presentation, mainly because he had gone through the same process at Merrimack College. He spoke with President Stuebner after the presentation, decided to apply for the position and went through the hiring process.

Finn believes the enhanced partnership with Dartmouth Hitchcock Health (DH-H) is important for Colby-Sawyer’s future. He says, “This is a strong, deep partnership that is hugely important for both the College and the regional healthcare market. This partnership will increase our enrollment while addressing the bigger healthcare workforce development challenge around the state and country. This partnership will provide an opportunity for our students to receive a real world-class experience in health science and nursing. These opportunities to help the future of the College and the healthcare fields are what drew me to this position.”

Excited to be in his new role, Finn says the Colby-Sawyer community has been very welcoming and supportive in his first couple of months. He says, “The faculty have been very energetic, super willing and encouraging. I am looking forward to creating some new programs and partnerships within the school. I’m hoping to create more internships, clinicals, and academic programs for our students.”