In her nearly 10-year career at WMed, Maria Sheakley, PhD, has had a hand in shaping student experiences in several ways.
In 2013, she joined the medical school as a founding faculty member to help develop and implement the medical school’s basic science curriculum. She has spent nearly 10 years as a professor of physiology in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. In 2020, she was named assistant dean for Academic Success, overseeing the creation of a multi-faceted academic advising team, learning support and student advancement through the four-year medical degree curriculum.
Now, Dr. Sheakley has been named associate dean for Student Affairs at WMed.
“I am so honored and excited to be in this role,” Dr. Sheakley said. “I'm really excited to be able to take this next step at WMed to work more closely with students. I could not be happier.”
Dr. Sheakley replaces Dr. Peter Ziemkowski, who retired in April after 10 years as the medical school’s inaugural associate dean of Student Affairs.
Dr. Sheakley’s appointment follows years of leadership roles and active student engagement at WMed. In the department of Biomedical Sciences, she has served as a course director, physiology discipline director and chair of the department’s Appointment and Promotion Committee. She has taken on a variety of leadership roles as the department’s vice chair, chair of the Medical Student Admissions Committee, chair of the Accommodations Committee and co-chair of the Curriculum Committee for undergraduate medical education.
She has personally mentored more than a dozen students at the medical school and has been recognized by WMed students by receiving the Outstanding Basic Science Educator Award in 2016 and the Silver Apple Teaching Award in 2017. She has published more than 35 peer-reviewed publications. She is very involved with the medical education community, particularly the International Association of Medical Science Educators (IAMSE), where she has served an associate editor for the IAMSE journal “Medical Science Educator.” Dr. Sheakley also serves on the Board of Directors for IAMSE and was invited to serve as the program committee chair for the annual meeting in June 2022.
Dr. Sheakley is a graduate of the University of Akron, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She earned her PhD in Physiology from the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Kent State University.
As the assistant dean for Academic Success, Dr. Sheakley worked to ensure WMed’s students had the support they needed to be successful. She said that experience gave her a taste of working with students differently than a faculty member and made her consider the associate dean role.
“I have always been on an academic track,” Dr. Sheakley said. “I always thought I would move into a dean of curriculum role until I had this opportunity to support students one-on-one. That really changed my entire outlook on my path forward.”
In her new role, Dr. Sheakley will lead more than a dozen staff members in Student Affairs, and the medical school’s academic advising team will move under the Student Affairs umbrella as well.
“I think of Student Affairs as the heart of the medical school,” Dr. Sheakley said. “I want to make sure students continue to feel comfortable and safe coming to us. I think being able to break down some of the advising silos and bringing everybody together under the same roof will be important for communication and being able to help students from all angles, whether it be academic advising, career advising, financial aid or anything else.”
Looking ahead, Dr. Sheakley said she has two immediate goals as associate dean for Student Affairs. The first is to enhance communication with students to best meet their needs. She plans to meet with student leadership on a course-by-course basis to increase transparency and communication and to better understand what they are dealing with throughout the curriculum. For her second priority, Dr. Sheakley said she is excited to work with the advisors to further enhance career advising, particularly for third- and fourth-year students who are focused on residency and the Match.
Dr. Sheakley will retain her faculty appointment in WMed’s department of Biomedical Sciences and will continue to teach Physiology in the curriculum.
“I look forward to continuing to work with our students and discovering new ways to make their years at WMed even more fulfilling,” she said.