Taylor’s academic leadership team recently announced their decision to hire Karen Elsea as the university’s first dean of Nursing and Daniel Darko as the next dean for Global Engagement.
Both positions had over a dozen applicants and required multiple months of discernment.
The process to find a dean of Nursing began in November 2022, through the external search firm Faith Search Partners. After Faith Search Partners recommended seven semi-finalists for the role, the university invited three of these candidates to campus for an interview.
As provost, the responsibility of hiring individuals to fill both dean positions fell to Jewerl Maxwell, who received recommendations from multiple groups before making a final decision. Maxwell said that candidates for the dean of Nursing met with the Provost Council, Senior Leadership Team, faculty officers and faculty members from the departments of biology, kinesiology and chemistry.
Each of these groups played a role in determining which candidate was most effectively equipped to become Taylor’s inaugural dean of Nursing. Some of the desired qualities included vision and experience.
As director for the undergraduate nursing program at the University of Indianapolis, with a depth of experience and dedication, Elsea stood out in both of these areas.
“She has a very outgoing personality and (is) comfortable sharing her faith and convictions,” Dean of Sciences, Education and Social Sciences Grace Ju Miller said. “She has great ideas of involving students in service and missions. She is very innovative and energetic. She has good leadership qualities and many years of experience as nursing faculty.”
Miller was not the only one to notice Elsea’s compatibility with the new role.
“When the representatives from Parkview met Karen, they immediately suggested that she should be hired,” Maxwell said.
Elsea has served in a variety of nursing specialties, claiming experience in management, orthopedics, medical-surgical and home health. Within the world of higher education, Elsea has been involved in course and simulation development, assessment, evaluation and curriculum-development for an award-winning nursing minor in primary care.
Her 35 years of nursing experience and background in higher education are accompanied by a desire to develop a Christ-centered nursing program that prepares students to step into clinical practice. This desire, along with Elsea’s connections throughout the state of Indiana — where she has spent the entirety of her career — will benefit the university’s new nursing program.
“This is a key hire so we can build the School of Nursing,” Miller said. “There is a great need for nurses and Taylor would be providing this and especially nurses who have strong integration of faith in their training.”
As she anticipates stepping into a new position and season, Elsea is looking forward to the Christ-centered, student-focused context of Taylor University.
“I have a great respect for Taylor’s academic rigor, but most importantly I am excited to work with students that are committed to growth in their Christian walk,” Elsea said in a recent Taylor University press release. “I am excited to be joining a university where faith and education are exhibited on a daily basis in real and tangible ways.”
Elsea plans to begin her transition to Taylor in June 2023, with Darko following shortly after in August to succeed Charlie Brainer as the next dean for Global Engagement and executive director of the Spencer Centre.
The university began actively looking for a new dean for Global Engagement in January 2023. The process mirrored the search for a dean of Nursing, though candidates met with a search committee in addition to the Provost Council, Senior Leadership team, faculty officers and members of the biblical studies, Christian ministries and philosophy (BSCP) department.
The search committee, co-chaired by Provost Jewerl Maxwell and Professor of Biblical Studies Ed Meadors, included Vice President for Intercultural Leadership and Church Relations Rev. Greg Dyson, Assistant Professor of Economics Margaret Chasara, Director of International Student Programs Nate Chu and Assistant Professor of Biology Jessica Baker. The committee narrowed the candidate pool of over a dozen applicants to just six individuals. After asking the six individuals for additional information, they settled on three candidates before inviting the final two candidates to campus.
“For the Dean of Global Engagement we valued wealth of experience overseas, ideally on multiple continents, (an individual that) seeks to collaborate with faculty, and experience establishing partnerships with churches and/or universities abroad,” Maxwell said.
Like Elsea, Darko exhibited all of the qualities necessary to effectively step into the dean’s position.
Although his ministry journey began at home, partnering with Youth for Christ in Accra, Ghana, his international experience has since expanded to include Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Croatia, the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States. Darko holds a doctorate in New Testament and Early Christianity from King’s College in London — with over 50 scholarly publications speaking to his expertise in the writings of the apostle Paul. In addition to time in ministry and various levels of studies, Darko established the non-profit organization “Africa Potential,” taught at various universities and is featured regularly as a public speaker.
“He clearly has not only international experience, but experience in diverse contexts,” Maxwell said. “He has a strong theological understanding of global engagement and how to establish relationships across cultures.”
Most recently, Darko held an endowed faculty chair as the Wilson-Ockenga professor of biblical studies and a position as the director of church relations at Gordon College.
Darko’s journey to Taylor began in the late 1990s, stemming from his work with Youth for Christ and relationship with President Emeritus Jay Kessler. Though Darko applied for a position in 2009 and was unsuccessful, his desire to work at Taylor remained.
While at Taylor, Darko plans to teach part-time with the Department of Biblical Studies alongside his other responsibilities.
As the current dean for global engagement and executive director of the Spencer Centre prepares to pass the proverbial baton, Charlie Brainer looks back on his own time at Taylor with gratitude.
“I feel very grateful to have these eleven years at Taylor,” Brainer said. “I have especially enjoyed my close interactions with faculty and with students. The Lord has given me a wonderful career in international education and global engagement. In my new phase of life, I plan to continue to serve Him in a global ministry capacity.”