McCubbin leaving lasting legacy in College of Health and Human Sciences

Jeff McCubbin

From its newest building down to its very name, Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences has seen substantial areas of growth and improvement under the tenure of outgoing Dean Jeff McCubbin.

McCubbin retires as dean on Aug. 5, and he’ll be succeeded by Lise Youngblade, head of CSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies and associate dean for strategic initiatives. McCubbin will serve as academic dean for Semester at Sea in fall 2020.

Those who’ve worked closely with him say his imprint on the college is evident in areas like private fundraising, diversity, research funding, enrollment growth, faculty hires, new advisory groups, facilities and a scholarship fund that McCubbin and his wife Debbie endowed, after it was launched in their honor by the student Dean’s Leadership Council.

Unifying the units

Barry Braun, head of the Department of Health and Exercise Science, notes that the college has a diverse group of departments and schools that range from construction management to food science and human nutrition to design and merchandising.

“He’s been able to take these eight disparate units and tried to make us feel like we’ve had a common purpose,” Braun said. “He worked hard to create a college vision and mission, while letting each unit do what they’re great at. I think what he’s done really well is set a tone for the college without micromanaging or getting his fingers in everyone’s pie. I think that’s an underappreciated part of leadership. Jeff is a stand-up, honest, principled individual.”

One of McCubbin’s first acts as dean after arriving from Oregon State University in 2011 — where he was an executive associate dean of research and graduate studies as well as a Distinguished Professor of Exercise Science — was to change the CSU college’s name. It had been the College of Applied Human Sciences, and McCubbin worked with other leaders to rename it to more closely align with its mission and growth potential.

“It was redundant because ‘human sciences’ already means ‘applied,’” McCubbin said, adding that it was important to add “health” to the name because of the growing, increasingly well-funded health field. “The name change was an important shift in how this college saw itself.”

Common thread

Plus, the health theme runs through all of the college’s units.

“You can even find links to health in construction management and design and merchandising, whether it’s related to sustainability or designing spaces that support people and their health,” McCubbin said. “Even our clothing is our ‘near environment’ and affects our health. As for the School of Education, the K-12 school system is one of the biggest branches of public health in the country, charged with the oversight of mental health and nutrition.”

The college has seen growth in its funding from the National Institutes of Health and the number of faculty members focused on health, and has revitalized the Center for Healthy Aging. After a fundraising campaign that raised $27 million just before McCubbin’s arrival, the college has raised $71 million during his eight-year tenure as dean. CHHS has renovated about 15,000 square feet and expanded its research and education space by about 80,000 square feet under McCubbin’s watch. The crown jewel of that physical expansion, the Nancy Richardson Design Center, opened in January.

“It is not often that you have the opportunity to work with someone who has the courage to dream big,” Nancy Richardson said. “Working with Jeff McCubbin has been an incredible privilege during the last five years. I am deeply grateful for his remarkable leadership to navigate the design, construction and completion of the Nancy Richardson Design Center. It is because of his forward thinking, collaboration and desire to further opportunities for students and faculty that the NRDC was built.”

Advisory groups

McCubbin created two new alumni/industry advisory groups to assist the college in advocacy, donor relations and mentorship: the Executive Leadership Council, composed of successful professionals who either graduated from the college or are in related fields, and the Emerging Leaders Council, which consists of younger alumni in their 20s and 30s who are seeing early career success and who serve as mentors to CHHS students who serve on the Dean’s Leadership Council.

The Executive Leadership Council

The members of the Executive Leadership Council

Rich Feller, an alum and professor emeritus in the School of Education, sits on the Executive Leadership Council. When that group meets, he said, McCubbin doesn’t need to be in the spotlight — he sits back and lets his staff shine.

About the McCubbin Leadership Scholarship

Story by Jessica Bennett

Jeff and Debbie McCubbin have a passion for supporting leadership activities for students. The students on the Dean’s Leadership Council were grateful for the encouragement and guidance they received and were inspired to launch the McCubbin Leadership Scholarship in honor of the couple, who later endowed the scholarship with a philanthropic gift to CSU.

Jeff and Debbie McCubbin
Jeff and Debbie McCubbin

Since joining CSU in 2011, McCubbin has made it a top priority to enable students to pursue their education and careers to their fullest potential.

Part of McCubbin’s commitment to fostering leadership skills among students is his relationship with the Dean’s Leadership Council, a student group composed of undergraduates from the college. Each year, he and Debbie host the group at their home and support the students in other ways.

“Each student on the council has had some profound moment of engagement with the McCubbins,” said Kelsey Furlong, past president of the DLC and human development and family studies graduate. “Whether it was guidance through their major, support through challenging times, or Jeff’s recommendation and willingness to provide resources, every council member had a small story about how the McCubbins’ leadership has impacted their CSU story. It is truly amazing, how Jeff and Debbie’s willingness to give so much time and support to each of us has made such a difference in our lives.”

“Debbie and I realize that the economic burden of higher education has shifted significantly to the students,” McCubbin said when asked about the new scholarship. “We want to show students that we care. I believe that the honor of receiving a scholarship is almost as valuable to the student as the financial help. A message of caring can be very supportive for our students, and Debbie and I are happy to help deliver that message.”

McCubbin is hopeful that the contribution will help motivate others to support student leaders. Students who are engaged in leadership roles learn valuable life skills to help them in the future, and the McCubbin Leadership Scholarship seeks to enable them to pursue that future.

“We hope that this endowed scholarship will continue to grow through multiple future gifts and that the students who receive the scholarship will find ways to give back as others have to them,” said McCubbin.

To learn more about the scholarship and make a gift in honor of McCubbin’s retirement, see the online giving page.

“He earns respect through his humility,” said Feller, who sat on the search committee that recruited McCubbin. “It wasn’t a simple time when he started, because he was following a legend in former Dean Nancy Hartley. But he was a student of the job; he really did his homework. And I think he had a great vision for collaborating and communicating differently.”

McCubbin with Nancy Richardson

McCubbin, left, with donor Nancy Richardson

Student focus

The McCubbin Leadership Scholarship that the McCubbins endowed started as a student-driven effort by members of the Dean’s Leadership Council, who wanted to honor the McCubbins with a scholarship in their honor.

Allegra Vazquez, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition who served on the Dean’s Leadership Council for three years as an undergraduate, said McCubbin has always prioritized students.

“He would invite students to his house and made it clear that students were important to him,” she said. “He was very instrumental in my development from my sophomore year through my senior year. Every time I stopped by his office, he asked how I was doing and knew what was going on in my life.”

And in the realm of diversity, McCubbin shepherded changes to the college’s mission statement to emphasize a commitment to inclusion and equity. In addition, he supported cluster hires, including one in the School of Education in 2015 that brought in four faculty to contribute to diversity, equity and inclusion through their research, teaching and outreach.

“It hasn’t solved all of our challenges, but it’s been an important step in recent years,” McCubbin said.

Jeff McCubbin at RDC construction site

McCubbin speaks at a beam-raising ceremony for the Nancy Richardson Design Center in March 2018.

Future plans

When asked what he’s going to do after he retires, McCubbin smiles at the notion that, for the first time in his adult life, there is no plan — other than spending more time with his five grandchildren and traveling with Debbie.

“It will be nice to not have to squeeze those things in on the weekends,” he said. “I have a next phase of my life with no path, and that feels remarkably freeing.” 

McCubbin also says the future of the college is in good hands, since Youngblade has been a trusted advisor to him in her associate dean role.

“She’s my go-to person for addressing challenges in the college,” he said. “There’s very little she doesn’t know, and I’m confident she will be a great dean.”

Braun agreed.

“Lise knows the landscape,” he said. “She’s got the skill set, the personality and the drive.”

McCubbin also said he’s stepping down at the right time.

“You should always leave a party while you’re still having fun,” he joked.

A retirement celebration for McCubbin will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 23 in the Nancy Richardson Design Center. Guests are asked to register at https://col.st/oCudM by Aug. 16.