Penn State has recognized the executive director of the Master of Health Administration program as the recipient of an award given to faculty members for their leadership that benefits graduate students.
Chris Calkins is the 2022 recipient of the Graduate School Alumni Society Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award. Calkins is a teaching professor in the College of Health and Human Development and has led the Master of Health Administration program that is offered both in residence at University Park and online through Penn State World Campus.
Calkins became the founding director of the online Master of Health Administration program, which serves working professionals in health care, in 2012. He hired faculty and staff, co-authored the program design, and recruited the first cohort of graduate students. It was the first online graduate program in the College of Health and Human Development and among the first MHA programs offered online in The Big Ten.
In 2015, Calkins assumed leadership of the residential MHA program and has led both programs since. Under Calkins’ leadership, nominators said, the program has graduated more than 100 students, all securing residencies and 93% securing jobs in health care within 90 days of graduating. Student diversity also increased under Calkins.
Among notable improvements to the program, Calkins reconstituted the Board of Visitors, which invites professionals to review aspects of the program and ensure the curriculum remains cutting-edge and industry-relevant.
“Calkins’ vision is evident in every aspect of the program: recruiting, student advising, community outreach, program accreditation, and faculty and staff development,” a nominator said.
Calkins’ impact has been felt beyond Penn State. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he organized meetings with leaders of MHA programs across the United States and Canada to share ideas on how best to address challenges brought on by the pandemic.
“This award is intended to recognize faculty members for exemplary leadership benefiting graduate students and faculty,” a nominator said. “Calkins has demonstrated exactly the kind of exemplary leadership the award seeks to recognize. He’s a valued colleague to his peers, professional role model to our students, and a continuing goodwill ambassador and connector to Penn State MHA alumni.”
A former student said Calkins’ mentorship is also invaluable. The young mother and working professional was finishing her degree and wondering what the next steps for her career might be.
“He connected me with his own personal contacts — women who had great career success in health care to listen to me and provide advice that was relatable for me,” a former student said. “He creates loyalty in his students such that when he calls upon you to help you do not feel burdened. You want to help.”
The 49-credit online MHA curriculum has been designed for mid-career health care professionals who want to learn about the fundamentals of management and health services. The curriculum emphasizes competencies in ethical leadership, critical thinking, and communications, and a broad understanding of the U.S. health care system.
Calkins also oversaw the process that led to the online MHA program's first national accreditation in 2021 through the Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education after a rigorous review of its student success rates, curriculum, and faculty.
Previously, the program was built on the curriculum, experience, and excellence of the CAHME–accredited residential MHA program that is offered at the Penn State University Park campus. The leaders of the online program took this opportunity to apply for its own accreditation to show the quality of the degree program.
Learn more about the Master of Health Administration that is offered online through Penn State World Campus.