Faculty focus: Jean Keller helps underserved

Jean Keller (Photo by Michael Clements)Working to provide underrepresented students with guidance and opportunities has been a top priority for Jean Keller, professor of kinesiology and health promotion.

Since joining the UNT faculty in 1989, Keller has served in many leadership roles — as UNT's interim vice president for community engagement, UNT Dallas provost and deputy vice chancellor for transition and for 15 years as College of Education dean. In 2016, she was honored with the UNT Foundation Community Engagement Award. But it's one of her most recent projects of which she is proudest.

Through the Allied Health Pathways E3: Exposure, Experience and Excellence (AHPE3) program, funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Keller and the program team are supporting more than 300 African American and Latino students who are pursuing allied health careers. The students are particularly focused on audiology, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology.

"In these professions, overall, less than 1 to 3 percent of the therapists practicing mirror the actual population," Keller says. "The field is heavily dominated by Caucasian women, and by introducing more diversity, there is less margin for health disparities among the individuals seeking treatment."

Through the program, students majoring in kinesiology with a focus in allied health, receive academic advising support and assistance applying to graduate programs. To date, 18 Hispanic and African American males are advancing to earn their Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees, to become licensed therapists and work to address health disparity issues in the North Texas region.

Keller also serves as a leader with the North Texas Regional P-16 Council, which drives student success from early childhood to careers in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties.

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