Calvin University Selects School of Health Dean
Calvin University has appointed Adejoke Bolanle Ayoola as the founding dean of its School of Health.
Ayoola stood out among the high-caliber candidates reviewed by the search committee—a team that included Provost Noah Toly and representatives from each department and program in the School of Health.
Ayoola is nationally and globally recognized as an experienced practitioner, educator, researcher, and administrator. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria, and she earned her Ph.D. from Michigan State University. Ayoola has been a member of Calvin’s faculty since 2007, contributing to both the nursing and public health programs and recently chairing the nursing department.
“Dr. Ayoola not only met but also clearly excelled in the critical leadership requirements established by the committee,” said Toly. “She has a vibrant Christian faith, possesses a deep understanding of the Reformed tradition, models a prayerful life, and demonstrates a commitment to joyful integration of faith and learning.”
Ayoola’s academic influence runs deep, as she has contributed to her field with research in the areas of community-based nursing and maternal and infant health. Since completing her Ph.D., Ayoola has earned several awards and distinctions recognizing her accomplishments in the health field.
Notably, from 2012-2015, Ayoola served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty scholar. The program, involving intensive leadership training, was created to inspire the next generation of national leaders in academic nursing. Five years later, Ayoola was inducted into the 2020 Class of Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing.
Ayoola is a member of the American Association of Nurses, the Honors Society of Nursing, Sigma International, and the Midwest Nursing Research Society. She currently also serves as a reviewer, an associate editor, or as part of the editorial board of 12 scholarly publications.
For Ayoola, the field of health has always been a passion, and it is a passion rooted in her faith, she said: “I am motivated to act when I see people or members of my community hurting—physically, emotionally, and spiritually— and when the vulnerable population experience health challenges. I see health as an important part of what God wants for us.”
Ayoola said she believes that God equipped her with the skills needed for this position, not only through her academic experiences but also through her community work such as leading the African Ladies Fellowship of the African Resource Center in Grand Rapids, Mich., and serving as an elder in her home church, Brookside CRC.
“Dr. Ayoola is deeply committed to the mission and vision of Calvin University,” said Kerrie Berends, kinesiology department cochair and professor, and a member of the search committee.
Ayoola has demonstrated this commitment by playing an integral role at Calvin, participating herself in a search committee for the dean of the School of Business, founding H.E.A.L.T.H. Camp at the university, and serving on the task force that articulated a vision for Calvin’s university structure—to name just a few contributions during her 15 years of service. Former advisees, research assistants, and research fellows recognize Ayoola for her commitment to their learning and postgraduate success.
Ayoola said this next vocational step has been confirmed by God’s guidance through prayer. She also believes her vocation includes preparing others well for work in the field.
“My vision is also for the experience in the School of Health to be transformative and for our future health professionals to be well-prepared in their calling to serve as great advocates for their patients,” she said.
As of July 1, Ayoola now leads the school, serving approximately 600 undergraduate and more than 75 graduate students studying directly in health-related programs, as well as dozens of other students in preprofessional tracks.
While the School of Health is already involved in many community partnerships and collaborative scholarship programs, colleagues say that with Ayoola at the helm it is poised to broaden its impact.
“Dr. Ayoola has prioritized interprofessional collaboration among our departments, West Michigan communities, and globally,” said Berends. “It’s exciting and energizing to anticipate the impact that faculty and students will have as we expand our reach.”
Ayoola is ready for the challenge, she said: “I love creatively designing new programs in collaboration with people and in response to identified needs. The idea of serving as a founding dean of the School of Health is exciting because it will provide me with opportunities to work with stakeholders to shape the School of Health’s programs.”