As dean of Capella University’s School of Public Service Leadership, Charlyn Hilliman, PhD, MPA, oversees studies in a wide number of areas, including social work, criminal justice, emergency management, and public administration.

That’s a lot to cover, but surprisingly Hilliman has background in nearly all those disciplines.

“I pretty much have a degree in everything related to my school, except emergency management,” she says with a laugh. “There wasn’t a program for emergency management when I was in school, but later on, while working in health care I did get experience in business planning and continuity, which are related.”


Bridging the Gap

Hilliman joined Capella as a research faculty member in 2006. She had taught in other settings and even online, but she was particularly drawn to Capella because of its students. “I was excited about working with the population that Capella serves,” she says. “The university bridges the gap for people who might not otherwise be able to seek higher education.”

Hilliman says she knows the challenges of juggling work and learning. A native New Yorker, she enrolled in college right after high school, left to join the Air Force, and then returned a few years later to finish her undergraduate degree in computer information systems. She went on to earn advanced degrees in public administration and criminal justice.

Her degrees all come from traditional bricks-and-mortar institutions, but Hilliman says that if online learning had been possible at the time, she would have likely stayed in the Air Force and worked on her degree simultaneously. And if online learning had been available to her as a graduate school option, Hilliman says, she most likely would’ve taken advantage of it.

“I was working and parenting,” she explains. “It took me five years to complete my graduate coursework because I could only take one class at a time. I didn’t have babysitters, which would have allowed me to take multiple classes at once. I definitely know what a difference online education would have made in my life if I had that opportunity.”


Change and Innovation

Hilliman has taught courses at Capella ranging from Race and Culture in Criminal Justice to Fundamentals in Research Methods. In early 2017, she took on the responsibilities of dean, overseeing curriculum development and accreditation, making sure Capella’s offerings align with professional standards, and planning for future enrollment and faculty coverage.

“Capella is a good environment for me,” she says. “Coming from an IT background, I thrive on innovation and change. I’m constantly looking for the best ways to do or improve something. Capella is focused on doing exactly that with education.”


Learn more about Capella’s online criminal justice, emergency management, public administration, and social work programs.