Shawnté Elbert hired as Dean of Health and Wellness

Cassandra Hays, Scene Editor

Correction 1/10/19: Elbert was officially hired as the Associate Dean of Health and Wellness.


CWU has hired a Dean of Health and Wellness, a new position at the university. The position was established to meet the needs of the growing student population at CWU.

About Shawnté Elbert

Shawnté Elbert is 36 years old and grew up in Salem, North Carolina. She is a first generation college student who graduated from East Carolina University alongside her twin sister with a degree in health education and promotion. She has a husband and three kids, including a 19-year-old stepdaughter, a 7-year-old son, and an 8-month-old son. Elbert’s hobbies include reading, listening to music and dancing. She also spends much of her free time working on her dissertation. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Education in Education Leadership and Management at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida. She has a long background in public health and wellness, and is excited to take on the position of Dean of Health and Wellness here at CWU.

Elbert’s Goals as Dean of Health and Wellness

Elbert came to CWU after holding the position of Director of Health and Wellness at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) for over three years. Her experience in this position, as well as her passion for wellness, makes people confident that she will be a good fit for CWU.

I’m excited that Shawnté is here,” Marissa Howatt, Director of Wellness and Health Promotion, said. “I feel encouraged that the university wants to prioritize this area of health and well being for students.”

Howatt added that she is glad that CWU hired someone with a background in wellness and prevention. She noted that statistics suggest a significant and growing need for health and wellness programs among students.

Heather Stewart

“Universities need to expand beyond the classroom experience to have the best opportunities for students that are enrolled,” Howatt said.

Elbert understands this need. Part of her job is to integrate the four divisions of health and wellness at CWU: recreation, counseling, medical, and the Wellness Center. Her goal is to “drive health and wellness cohesively with an integrated approach.” In the first few weeks as Dean of Health and Wellness, Elbert aims to get to know the people involved in the different divisions and their perspective on wellness. Elbert hopes to hold focus groups made up of both faculty and students in order to understand how to best approach the subject of health and wellness as it pertains to CWU.

From there, Elbert will develop a model for the campus on what health and wellness should look like from orientation until graduation. She noted that this model needs to be sustainable and relevant to CWU’s specific needs. She also added that every department, as well as students and faculty, needs to be on board for the model to work, something she aims to accomplish through the focus groups.

Elbert also wants to involve community partners with something she refers to as “wrap around care.”

“The goal is to make sure everyone is really working cohesively to help students thrive,” Elbert said.

This means that there will be a seamless transition to off-campus providers when it comes to health services that the university does not provide, such as dieticians, chiropractors, and medical services.

Elbert strives to embody wellness on multiple levels.

“[I want to] make sure people understand wellness is not just health related, it is about various dimensions because we are multidimensional beings,” Elbert said. “It’s not just about clinical and prevention methods, it’s about every dimension that makes us who we are.”

Bailey Kinker, Vice President of Clubs and Organizations, was part of the hiring committee for the new position. She notes that wellness is a part of everything that students do.

“If a student isn’t doing well in class you can usually draw it back to health and wellness,” Kinker said. “Health and wellness is something that can kind of be pushed under the rug, especially with the culture on college campuses. [Elbert] is going to be someone that can bring that to the forefront.”

Moving to Ellensburg

Elbert moved to Ellensburg from Indiana over winter break after getting hired.

“I’m excited to be here,” Elbert said. “The first two weeks I’ve been in Ellensburg have been amazing. This is a dream, to be honest.”

She says that people are genuinely welcoming and helpful, which is helping her adjust quickly to the new environment.

“It’s been so refreshing to be here,” Elbert said.

She said out of the four campuses she has been a part of, CWU stands out the most due to the people she has encountered. Coworkers have baked cookies for her, offered to help her move, and made sure she knew her way around campus. According to Elbert, this kind of hospitality is not the norm.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things [about CWU] from everyone I’ve talked to since I’ve been here, so that makes it even more exciting,” Elbert added.

She remarks that CWU has a different energy than other campuses she has been to.

“People are authentically excited about this campus and its growth,” Elbert said. “I’m confident that Central Washington is where [me and my family] need to be. It’s a hidden gem.”

Elbert says one of the reasons for her success is her ability to visualize long term goals, adding “you can’t be what you can’t see.”

She goes on to talk about how her goals changed after graduating college, which led her to where she is today.

“I’ve watched my career unfold,” Elbert said. “These positions didn’t exist when I came out of undergrad. I wanted to be a health educator, and the ultimate goal was to be a director.”

When administrator jobs such as Dean of Health and Wellness started to become more prevalent, Elbert realized that she could strive to achieve more than she previously thought was possible. She created vision boards and improved her skills until she was qualified for these positions. She wanted to lead the way so that people like her could follow in her footsteps and realize that anything is possible with hard work.


Becoming a Role Model

Elbert talked about what it was like to work in a field where she was a minority and how it motivates her success.

“No one looked like me,” Elbert said. In a profession with very few women and people of color, Elbert wanted to be someone that people like her could look up to. She aims to be a role model and is proud to be one of the first women of color to hold such a high position at a university.

“I’m excited to bring another dimension to Central Washington’s campus,” Elbert said.

She added that she is humbled by her success and owes it to the people that she surrounds herself with.

“It’s so important to visualize where you want to be and to have people around you that push you, motivate you, and appreciate what you bring to the table,” Elbert said.

Elbert is excited to connect with students on campus because it is what motivates her most.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how I will keep that connection with students as a senior administrator,” Elbert said. “It’s going to be different.”

At a larger urban university such as IUPUI, Elbert did not always get the chance to connect with as many students as she wanted to. A smaller campus like CWU will give her the opportunity to connect with students on a more personal level.

“That type of connection is something you don’t get at a larger institution,” Elbert said, adding that she looks forward to being part of a smaller university. and can’t wait to get started as the new Dean of Health and Wellness at CWU.