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DePaul University names cancer researcher, higher education leader as dean of the College of Science and Health

Stephanie Dance-Barnes joins DePaul July 1

​​​​​CHICAGO — An expert in cancer biology and leader in higher education will serve as the next dean for ​DePaul University’s College of Science and Health. Interim Provost Salma Ghanem announced April 29 that Stephanie Dance-Barnes will join the DePaul community July 1.

Dance-Barnes currently serves as interim associate provost and dean of the University College of Lifelong Learning at Winston Salem State University in North Carolina, where she also is an associate professor of cell and molecular biology.

Stephanie Dance-Barnes
Stephanie Dance-Barnes has been named the new dean of DePaul University's College of Science and Health. She'll begin her role on July 1. (Garrett Garms/Winston Salem State University)​
With a background in cancer biology and toxicology, she has received multiple research grants and fellowships for her work to develop improved and targeted cancer therapies. She is the recipient of multiple professional and teaching awards, most recently the University of North Carolina System Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“Dr. Dance-Barnes is a champion for the liberal education approach to learning,” Ghanem said. “She recognizes the importance for students to not only be engaged in dynamic learning experiences, but also the need to be equipped with critical thinking skills that go beyond the classroom. Her extensive administrative and teaching experience combined with her passion for innovative scientific research will be a tremendous benefit for our diverse students at DePaul.”

Originally from the small town of Weeksville, North Carolina, Dance-Barnes first pursued a scientific path at Elizabeth City State University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and pre-medicine. She completed a master’s degree in biology at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. She is the first African American female to receive her doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in the area of cancer biology and toxicology.

In her current role as interim associate provost and dean, she oversees an academic unit that provides WSSU students with tools they need to succeed, including advising, TRiO student support services, STEM Learning Center, Testing and Assessment Center, as well as the first-year writing program. As a member of the provost’s senior team, she provides administrative leadership, direction and evaluation for all academic activities and faculty affairs at the university. She also has served as an active member of WSSU’s strategic planning leadership team.

Prior to becoming interim associate provost and dean in 2018, Dance-Barnes was co-chair of WSSU’s Department of Biological Sciences. During her tenure, she spearheaded the redesign of the department’s curriculum, introducing new concentrations that include cell biology, microbiology, pre-health professional, biotechnology and neuroscience. She has led a basic cancer research lab at WSSU since 2010, where she has mentored more than 30 student researchers.

“I am devoted to promoting student success,” Dance-Barnes said. “I feel very blessed to work with so many diverse students who go on to graduate and excel in professional and graduate programs.”

Dance-Barnes joined the faculty at WSSU in 2010, after completing her postdoctoral work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research focuses on characterizing the biodiversity of tumors using genomics, molecular genetics and cell biology. She has worked collaboratively with researchers at Wake Forest University Comprehensive Cancer Center to secure funding from the Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health to support underrepresented undergraduate students in cancer research. She also secured a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a program for underserved students in third through fifth grade to promote STEM careers.

“As leaders in higher education, it is imperative that we employ efforts to create positive STEM learning environments that empower students with the skills to be competitive in a global arena,” Dance-Barnes said. “One existing barrier is the number of K-12 schools experiencing a shortage of teachers, particularly in science. Developing partnerships between universities and K-12 schools is a major initiative for me.”

Dedicated to student success and inclusive excellence, Dance-Barnes created the Women in Science Program at WSSU in 2011. The program, which provides mentoring and research opportunities for women in STEM, received the 2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM award from Insight into Diversity magazine. Dance-Barnes also received the Inspiring Leaders in STEM award from Insight into Diversity magazine in 2017.

“My core values align with DePaul’s mission,” Dance-Barnes said. “I look forward to working with the faculty and staff in the College of Science and Health to continue to promote DePaul’s growth, development, innovative transformation and successes.”

DePaul’s College of Science and Health is currently led by professor Dorothy Kozlowski, an expert in traumatic brain injury, who has served as interim dean since 2018.

“I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Kozlowski for the dedication she has consistently demonstrated to the university’s mission and CSH students throughout her tenure as interim dean,” Ghanem said. “Her leadership leaves CSH poised for continued success and ready to advance science for the good of public health.”


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