Weeks after Derryl Block started at NIU, the U.S. Army’s official aerial parachute demonstration team was in town in support of the Chicago Air and Water Show. They reached out to universities with ROTC programs, including NIU, with an offer for a university official to tandem jump with the Golden Knights.
The newly appointed dean jumped at the chance, literally.
“It’s been a wild ride ever since – the whoosh of creativity of the faculty, staff and students, the variety and range of our programs, the diversity in background and outlook of our faculty, staff and students,” said Block, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS).
After serving as the college’s leader since 2012, Block begins a new adventure as she starts a professional development leave on Jan. 1. Along with plans to explore her research interests in public health workforce development, planning and evaluation of public health programs and policies, and telehealth, she will collaborate with a local health department.
NIU Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Ingram said Block has been an amazing advocate for her college, for health and human science education, and for teaching and learning at NIU.
“She is a strong leader on campus due to her depth of knowledge, her ability to connect with people and her commitment to collaboration,” Ingram said. “I wish her the best as she moves to a new role, and I know that she’ll be a valued member of the NIU family into the future.”
Block has guided CHHS which includes 23 programs – 13 having external accreditation – and over 700 external practicum sites, and provided excellent opportunities for students to learn, participate in research, and work in the community.
“Derryl is a visionary who consistently worked to facilitate advancements in the college, provided service to the university in various committee roles, and supported community efforts such as with the DeKalb Health Department,” said Beverly Henry, director for the Ph.D. program in Health Sciences, and CHHS interim dean. “Her primary goal has been success for students, faculty, staff and chairs.”
The College of Health and Human Science emphasizes experiential learning through clinical, practicum, internship, and field experiences. Linking academic programs with the local community, the College also runs the Child Development and Family Center, Physical Therapy Clinic, Speech Language-Hearing Clinic and the Couple and Family Therapy Clinic.
Block’s leadership has assisted with improving efficiencies in resource management and program synergies. While she was at the helm, reorganization led to the creation of the schools of Nursing, Interdisciplinary Health Professions and Health Studies.
In addition, Block emphasized research productivity under her leadership, increasing external funding by 300 percent. She facilitated development of online programs – three undergraduate and four graduate programs – which are especially important to working adults and place-bound students.
“Derryl brought a fresh perspective on how we could be successful with online programs that served us especially well during this time of remote learning,” Henry said.
Laurie Elish-Piper, dean, College of Education, said Block is known as a generous collaborator who is willing to share her time and expertise.
“When I came on as acting dean, Derryl always had time to share, to mentor and to be a sounding board,” Elish-Piper said. “That has continued with other new deans who have come into the fold; she is a mentor and friend to all of us.”
Elish-Piper said Block is lauded by fellow deans for her pragmatism, transparency and kindness.
“Derryl has been our glue; she brings us together,” Elish-Piper said. “She is a valued partner and we appreciate her intellect, vision and friendship.”
Block earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Maryland, a master’s in public health from John Hopkins and both a master’s and doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Prior to joining NIU, Block was a leader in nursing at the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay and served as interim dean of professional programs which included nursing, social work, business and education.
“I think that we are all sad to see her step down,” said Elish-Piper. “We are grateful for her leadership and collaboration and we wish her well on the next chapter.”
Henry shared the sentiment.
“While we will miss her in the dean role, I know she will continue to make contributions to students in academic programs and research,” Henry said. “I’ve enjoyed working with her and look forward to what the next year will bring.”
Block looks forward to returning to NIU after her leave.
“It’s a wonderful college and I’m so proud of how we’ve handled teaching-learning during this pandemic,” Block said.
Learn more about the College of Health and Human Sciences.