Olsson Tackles Health Professions
That would be on the football field, where Roy H. Olsson Jr. has spent many hours as a player and coach. Olsson, 57, joined GVSU in July and replaces Jane Toot, who has returned to teaching after 13 years as dean and director of the college.
“I was here only a few days before I got season (football) tickets,” said Olsson, an offensive and defensive lineman while attending community college.
Olsson’s interest in sports led him to pursue therapeutic recreation, a health profession that was new at the time.
“I gravitated toward that field, once I knew it existed. It was in its infancy when I came in,” he said.
The field also was — and still is, he said — in dire need of doctorate-level faculty in universities, leading him into teaching.
The son of a military man, Olsson lived around the world before his family settled in Kansas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in physical education with a concentration in recreational therapy, both from Kansas State College of Pittsburg. His doctorate in leisure studies and services came from the University of Oregon.
Olsson’s experience includes Northwest Psychiatric Hospital in Toledo, Lakeside Hospital in Memphis and Mid-Continent Hospital in Olathe, Kan. He has taught at the University of South Alabama, University of Oregon and Villa Maria College in Pennsylvania.
He was professor and chair of the Department of Public Health and Rehabilitation Services at the University of Toledo from 2001-04. Prior to joining GVSU, Olsson was dean of the School of Professional Studies at the State University of New York at Cortland. The school accounted for 2,237 students on the SUNY campus of 7,056 south of Syracuse.
At GVSU, 700 graduate and undergraduate students are enrolled in health professions programs: clinical laboratory science, health professions, occupational safety and health management, radiological and imaging sciences, therapeutic recreation, occupational therapy, physician assistant studies and physical therapy.
Olsson said that he intends to spend his first year consulting with the 50 faculty and staff members, hiring for tenure-track, visiting and adjunct positions, and mapping out a strategic plan. Growth in the health care industry is fueling strong interest and competition among prospective students, Olsson said.
Among the challenges to growth is the limited number of clinical settings for students, he said. Olsson said he has some ideas for additional concentrations to capture good students who end up with rejection letters because of high competition.
Olsson and his wife, Patricia, a former interior design store owner, live in Grandville. They have three sons and a daughter scattered from New Mexico to New York City, and two grandchildren.
— Elizabeth Slowik