Top Psychology Leader Motivated by Dixon's Challenge

by Clem Boyd, Communications Content Manager

He has responsibility for 120,000 practicing psychologists throughout the United States, but neither Freud, Jung or Skinner was his greatest motivator. No, that distinction belongs to former Cedarville University president Dr. Paul Dixon.

This spring, Cedarville alumnus, Dr. Jared Skillings was named chief of professional practice of the American Psychological Association (APA). He is responsible for oversight of all practicing psychologists nationwide.

Skillings, who graduated in 1999, formerly served as chief of psychology for Spectrum Health System in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a $5.7 billion enterprise with more than 26,000 employees, 12 hospitals and 180 outpatient service locations. In that role, Skillings led behavioral health strategy, program and talent development, clinical access, quality and safety, financial management, and system integration.

In his new role with the APA, Skillings moves from mental health services provider to a leader and advocate for the profession. “I’ll work with the federal government to improve legislation for mental health, for example, increasing access,” he noted. “We will also work with the psychologists themselves to help them improve their quality of care and to be even more aware of scientific studies that would help them provide better care. All of this involves communication and messaging — to the psychologists, to the government, to insurance companies and health centers, and to the public.”

As he approaches this new position of national influence, Skillings said the words of former Cedarville president, Dr. Paul Dixon, have been crucial. “He would always say, ‘In everything you do, it should have quality stamped all over it,.’” said Skillings. “ My wife is a teacher and a Cedarville grad. She uses that as a mantra in her teaching, and I’ve kept that in mind also. Make sure you’re putting your best effort into your work. That has permeated my own interest in influencing mental health at the national level. That really came right from Dr. Dixon.”

According to Skillings, Cedarville University was pivotal in developing him into the person and professional he is today. “The professors were clearly caring and the other students were too, so I felt a sense of community in a way I really didn’t during my high school experience,” he said. “I felt like they were cheering me on and really wanted me to succeed.”

On the academic side, Skillings found that he was exceptionally well prepared for graduate school. “I felt like I had more mastery of the material than my classmates who had attended big-name schools,” he said. “I think that speaks volumes about the professors -- their individual attention, their own mastery of the material, and Cedarville’s focus on teaching.”

The teaching of instructors such as Dr. Charles Dolph, senior professor of psychology and a licensed psychologist who served as Skillings academic advisor, connected psychology to real life. “My professors thought about people holistically as spiritual beings, not just medical and psychological case studies, but as whole people,” he said. “They wanted us to think, ‘How does this textbook chapter connect with people? How does this connect with you, where you really are? How does this impact the real world?’”

“I’m really pleased to have this new job opportunity,” Skillings concluded. “I am grateful for the work of my predecessors. And now I have the opportunity to envision the future of the practice of professional psychology — how to provide the right care for the right people at the right time.”

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,963 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings, and leading student satisfaction ratings. For more information about the University, visit www.cedarville.edu.