Karen Abraham, Ph.D., who has served as Shenandoah University’s interim provost since June 2023, has been selected as SU’s new chief academic officer in a permanent capacity following a highly competitive national search. Dr. Abraham begins her role as university provost on Jan. 12.
Abraham, who joined Shenandoah as a faculty member in 2001, previously was the dean of the School of Health Professions before assuming the role of interim provost on June 8. Cameron McCoy, Ph.D., served as SU’s provost for two years starting in 2021.
I’m humbled and honored by the opportunity to serve as the provost of Shenandoah University. I look forward to working collaboratively with all members of the SU community to support, sustain, and enhance transformative teaching and learning and student success. I firmly believe that Shenandoah University is well positioned to continue to recruit, retain, and develop outstanding faculty, staff and students, and be a place of excellence and innovation well into the future.”
Karen Abraham, Ph.D.
Abraham has held numerous leadership roles in her 23 years at Shenandoah. From 2008 to 2015, she was the director of the Division of Physical Therapy, and she became Shenandoah’s first Academic Fellow within the provost’s office. She also stepped in as interim dean of the School of Health Professions in 2017 before assuming the role permanently in January 2018.
Under Abraham’s leadership, the School of Health Professions expanded to include Doctor of Occupational Therapy and Doctor of Medical Science programs, future-forward certificates, and new and developing divisions in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and Nutrition and Dietetics. The university’s health professions programs feature undergraduate early assurance options in several disciplines and close relationships with the university’s undergraduate pre-health programming offered in the College of Arts & Sciences. Under her leadership, the School of Health Professions also partnered extensively with Shenandoah Conservatory to offer opportunities for vocal performance majors to extend their understanding of vocal tract anatomy through experiences in the cadaver lab; additionally, the two schools have combined the health care and artistic expertise of their faculty to offer graduate certificates in performing arts medicine and performing arts health and fitness.
As interim provost, Abraham led Shenandoah faculty into a 2023-24 academic year that saw record enrollment for the university and the debut of many new programs, including a Bachelor of Science in Engineering; 3-year Bachelor of Arts in Music; 3-year Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Commercial Music; Bachelor of Business Administration, Aviation Studies Concentration; Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry; an online option for the Master of Voice Pedagogy (CCM and Classical); Master of Science in Health Sciences; and Doctor of Medical Science.
Dr. Abraham has proven herself to be an extraordinary leader since arriving at Shenandoah in 2001. I’m confident that she will lead SU academics with a collaborative spirit to continue to make our university a special place to learn and to teach.”
Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D., Shenandoah University president
Shenandoah received nearly 100 applications for the provost position, and Zoom interviews were conducted with 10 of those applicants. The search committee’s top three choices were invited to main campus for a round of on-site interviews and presentations. Associate Provost of Academic Affairs Amy Sarch, Ph.D., and Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Lydia Maynard, Ph.D., co-chaired the search committee and had this to say about Abraham’s selection:
After an exhaustive and inclusive process with diverse perspectives from various stakeholders across the institution, Dr. Karen Abraham emerged as an exceptional candidate, embodying the qualities and qualifications we sought in our next provost. Her vision for academic excellence, commitment to fostering an inclusive environment and track record of impactful leadership resonated deeply with the committee. We are confident that Dr. Abraham will inspire our academic community, steer us toward greater achievements and contribute significantly to the advancement of our institution’s mission.”
An orthopedic therapist by training, Abraham holds a special interest in women’s and pelvic health issues and has taken her expertise and compassion around the world as an ambassador for physical therapy to Haiti, India, the Philippines and Nicaragua.
She has been a member of the Academy of Pelvic Health of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) since 1996, and has served on many of the academy’s task forces and as an investigator in several grant-funded studies. She received the academy’s highest honor, the Elizabeth Noble Award, in 2015.
Abraham has completed the Education Leadership Institute Fellowship of the APTA. Additionally, she has served on the review boards of a number of professional journals and been both an associate editor and reviewer for the Journal of Women’s and Pelvic Health Physical Therapy.
Abraham holds a bachelor of science degree in physical therapy from the University of Maryland at Baltimore and a Ph.D. in anatomy and cell biology from the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.