CHS Welcomes New Associate Dean
On August 1, 2020, Dr. Joel Cramer assumed the position of Associate Dean of the College of Health Sciences (CHS), with a joint appointment as professor of Kinesiology.
The first things that struck Cramer upon arriving in El Paso following the nearly 1,000-mile journey from Lincoln, Nebraska with his family were the “beauty, color, and serenity” of the city and UTEP’s Bhutanese architecture. Prior to the family’s move, Cramer mentioned that he couldn’t find a single satellite image that portrayed the reality of the city’s landscape.
“Because of my love for music, my very first expectation was the images I created in my mind from listening to Marty Robbins’ 1959 classic, El Paso. When my family and I first arrived, we quickly realized how far El Paso and UTEP exceeded our musically-inspired expectations,” he said.
Aside from the distinct beauty of the El Paso desert, and perhaps more importantly, Cramer immediately noticed the strong sense of community.
“El Paso and UTEP feels welcoming, diverse, and rich with culture and tradition. The symbiotic connection between UTEP and the El Paso community is vibrant and inspiring,” he said.
UTEP’s recent designation as an R1 institution is attracting top talent from across the country, including individuals like Cramer, whose 17 years of academic experience were mostly at R1 institutions in the Big 12 and Big 10. In his most recent position in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he began to build his active, externally funded research laboratory focused on the form and function of human skeletal muscle across the lifespan. Cramer believes that UTEP’s newly earned designation, along with its distinct brand in the region, will continue to provide opportunities for the institution to progress over time.
In addition to the opportunity for growth as both an academic administrator and professional researcher, Cramer was attracted to UTEP because of its inspirational leaders, including CHS dean, Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, and its unique student population, most of whom have humble backgrounds that closely mirror his. His experiences with unequal access to health care sparked his personal and intellectual passion for health disparities and preventative health strategies.
“I grew up on a small farm in central Nebraska. I attended a two-room elementary school that educated about 10 students each year. My family did not have easily accessible health care,” he said. “As a result of my childhood, I am sensitive to health disparities and passionate about exercise and physical activity as a preventative health and recovery strategy.”
Cramer noted several unique strengths among students that the College of Health Sciences (CHS) can capitalize on to ensure their success in higher education.
“UTEP students seem to better understand and appreciate the value of higher education. Their passion for earning a degree and making a better life for not just themselves, but their families and their community, is contagious and inspiring,” he said. “I would personally feel safer knowing that we did everything we could to support the accessibility of a UTEP education for the generations that succeed us. After all, these students are the future of our health and well-being.”
As associate dean, Cramer is part of a leadership team at the UTEP College of Health Sciences that engages in an open-door policy, something that is particularly important in the current educational climate amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Cramer encouraged students to prioritize their education, following all established safety guidelines, so that they can contribute to solutions for this and other future health challenges.
“Make health a priority and learn about health sciences so that we (you) are better prepared to deal with societal, health-related barriers in the future,” he said. “Whether our future health barriers are viruses or disparities, or obesity or disabilities, become educated in health sciences so that you become an agent of change in our world.”Go Miners!