Health Commissioner Cascarelli Prepared for Pandemic by YSU Education

As the Health Commissioner for Wayne County in Ohio, Youngstown native Nicholas Cascarelli has found himself in leadership positions throughout his career.

Key to his success is understanding servant leadership, which was shaped by his time pursuing his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership at Youngstown State University. He completed the program in the spring of 2016.

The Power of Service

The doctorate represented a personal goal for Dr. Cascarelli and enriched his ability to help those around him in his current role in the public health field. He has learned that the qualities of good leaders can carry over from different contexts.

Servant leadership was a familiar concept to Dr. Cascarelli before he attended the program, but it resonated deeply with him as he progressed through the coursework. Ensuring he can support his leadership team, staff, other agencies and his entire community underpins his work ethic.

“By tapping into that servant leadership role taught in leadership coursework, I feel like I’ve done the best that I could do, employing that type of leadership for a community that needs a lot of support,” he said.

Dr. Cascarelli is presently overseeing his community’s health during the COVID-19 pandemic. With concerns for public health elevated across the country, he must be ready to make decisions of great consequence.

“We are working on many fronts to stop the spread of the virus by enforcing the orders, as well as doing the disease investigation and the contact tracing,” he said. “As the health commissioner, I help with the planning and the coordination of all of those types of public health interventions that we’re doing throughout the pandemic.”

Learning to Lead

The ability to impact community health from a broader perspective initially attracted Dr. Cascarelli to the field of public health. Years earlier, he completed his Master of Health and Human Services, also at Youngstown State University.

Though he wasn’t approaching leadership from the perspective of the K-12 educators, he noticed the overlap with his own experience working in public health. As much as he found the coursework beneficial, there were also plenty of opportunities to gain from the insights of other students coming to the material from slightly different angles.

“Health departments are also governed by boards just like boards govern schools. So, I found a lot of common ground with school superintendents,” Dr. Cascarelli said.

Dissertation advisor Dr. Karen Larwin helped Dr. Cascarelli strengthen his skills as a researcher and ultimately as an educator, in addition to developing his ability to lead others and follow through on goals.

As an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Health Professions, Dr. CascareIli felt that the added education would also have been helpful in his limited service as a teacher of courses like Community Health Practices at YSU.

“I’ve been pretty consistently teaching in that department since 1999. And this is where Dr. Larwin was helpful for me in terms of teaching these research courses,” he said. “Because of her vast knowledge and experience of actually conducting research and research methodology, it was certainly very beneficial. I was glad to have had her [guidance] because she made me a better teacher of research.”

Shared Achievement

Dr. Cascarelli and his wife stay busy keeping up with their three kids, aged 12, 9 and 7. Completing his doctorate required teamwork and understanding, for which he remains grateful.

“My wife was very instrumental,” he said. “There were a lot of times where she almost had to act like a single parent because I was at school all day on Saturdays and spending a lot of time during the evenings and even on Sundays. So, this is as much her degree as it is mine; she had to make sacrifices, too.”

The Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from YSU is allowing Dr. Cascarelli to empower others more effectively. He believes that the knowledge he acquired in the program is universal, going beyond the realm of education.

“Leadership is leadership,” he said. “The faculty were phenomenally flexible about allowing you to input your own experiences into the concepts they were teaching.”

For a learner like Dr. Cascarelli, mastering servant leadership remains a lifelong endeavor.

Learn more about YSU’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online program.

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