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College Academic Leadership

photo of Dr. Elaine Foster

Dr. Elaine Foster is the Dean, Nursing and Healthcare Programs at American Sentinel College. Previously, she was the Associate Dean for the School of Nursing at Kaplan University, overseeing the nursing program and its faculty and operations, launching new programs and managing all accreditation issues. For 27 years, Dr. Foster held various leadership roles at Southwestern Michigan College, including Dean of the School of Nursing and Human Services and Dean of academic studies. She has presented at numerous state and national conferences. In 2007, she served on a nursing legislative task force for the state of Michigan to develop a plan to reduce the shortage of nurses in the state.

Dr. Foster is a member of the National League of Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International. She is a Program Evaluator for Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. She is a past member of several state and national professional associations, including the Michigan Liberal Arts Deans organization, the National Organization of Associate Degree Nursing, the Northern Indiana Organization of Nurse Executives and the Michigan Council of Nursing Education Administrators (for which she served as president). Dr. Foster also serves on the board of trustees for the Cass County Council on Aging.

Dr. Foster holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership and administration from Andrews University, a Master of Science Nursing from Andrews University and a Bachelor of Science Nursing from the University of Michigan.

photo of Dr. Karen Whitham

Dr. Karen Whitham is the associate dean of nursing and healthcare programs at American Sentinel College. Previously, she was the assistant dean of undergraduate nursing programs and before that a member of the nursing faculty at Rasmussen College. Dr. Whitham has held various roles at Kaplan University, including Director of Pre-licensure Initiatives, practical nursing professor, clinical coordinator and adjunct online nursing professor. She worked as a staff nurse on a medical/surgical/telemetry unit at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, where she also was a clinical instructor in the College of Health Sciences.

Dr. Whitham is a Certified Nurse Educator and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the National League for Nursing and the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. She is also a Program Evaluator for the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.

Dr. Whitham holds an M.S. in higher education, teaching and learning, from Kaplan University, an MSN (leadership in healthcare systems emphasis) from Regis University, a BSN from the University of Iowa and an A.S. in nursing from Mercy College of Health Sciences. She completed a Doctor of Education in healthcare education from the College of Saint Mary.

photo of Dr. Lauren Stehling

Dr. Lauren Stehling is the Director of the Nurse Practitioner Program. She has over 16 years of experience working in nursing education in various roles. Dr. Stehling graduated from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice; holds a Masters in Nursing Education from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Stehling received a Post-Masters Certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner and is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

photo of Dr. Kris Skalsky

Dr. Kris Skalsky is the chair of Scholarship and Research and Professor at American Sentinel College. She graduated from Argosy University with a Doctorate of Education in Instructional Leadership and holds a Master’s of Science in Nursing Education from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Skalsky obtained her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the University of Toledo and her diploma in nursing from the Community Hospital School of Nursing in Springfield, OH. She began her career as a pediatric nurse and had direct care positions in the operating room and medical surgical areas. She has held leadership positions in acute and chronic dialysis facilities. Dr. Skalsky has over 20 years of experience working in nursing education. Her research interests include quantitative studies grounded in implementation science and the study of strategies that can impact math and statistical anxiety. Dr. Skalsky is a proud member of Sigma Theta Tau.

photo of Dr. Yolanda Smith

Dr. Yolanda Smith is Chair of the DNP Program at American Sentinel College. Previously, she was the Chair/Nurse Administrator of the BSN program at Oakwood University, and before that served as nursing faculty where she taught various courses in the classroom and clinical environments. She has been in the field of education for over 19 years, eight of which has been devoted to nursing education. Dr. Smith has held direct nursing positions in various areas including long-term care, rehabilitative care, care management, pain management, and ambulatory same-day surgery. Her research interests include strategies for enhancing student success where her doctoral work focused testing a model to examine the relationship between nurse educators’ intent to use and actual use of evidence-based critical thinking strategies to promote critical thinking skills in nursing students.

Dr. Smith is a member of various professional organizations including American Nurses Association, Alabama State Nurses Association, National League for Nursing, and Sigma Theta Tau International. She is also a Program Evaluator for the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Dr. Smith holds an Ed.D. specializing in Curriculum and Instruction from Andrews University, a Master of Science Nursing/Nursing Education from Andrews University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University.

photo of Dr. Brenda Helmer

Dr. Brenda Helmer is Chair of the MSN Program and an Associate Professor of Nursing at American Sentinel College. She has been a full-time faculty member since September of 2019 and an adjunct faculty member since June of 2014. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor of Nursing at the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and has served as nursing chair for two on-ground Baccalaureate programs in Kansas. Her clinical background is in community nursing, and she has taught a variety of courses, including health assessment, community health nursing, research, leadership and management, and fundamentals. Her clinical experience includes pediatrics, clinic nursing, home health, and general medical/surgical nursing in addition to her community experience as a school nurse. She is certified as an Advanced Practice Clinical Nurse Specialist in Public Health (PHCNS-BC).

Dr. Helmer is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, International Nursing Honor Society, National Association of School Nurses, School Nurse Organization of Oklahoma, and International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning.

Dr. Helmer holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice from The University of Alabama, an MSN (Public Health CNS) from the University of Missouri, and a BSN from the University of Oklahoma.

photo of Dr. Sarah Meeks

Dr. Sarah Meeks is the Chair of the RN to BSN program and an Associate Professor in Nursing at American Sentinel College. She has been a full-time faculty member since July of 2015. Previously, she was the Director of Nursing for an on-ground pre-licensure program in Iowa for seven years. Before being DON, she was a full-time nursing faculty member for the same pre-licensure program. She taught courses, lab, and clinical for PN and ADN students in fundamentals, leadership, pediatrics, medical/surgical, and professionalism and ethics. Her experience includes working in pediatrics, general surgery and in-patient dialysis. Her experience also includes office nursing and teaching clincials for LPN and RN programs.

Dr. Meeks is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, International Nursing Honor Society, Kappa Alpha Chapter.

Dr. Meeks holds a Doctorate of Nursing Practice in Educational Leadership from American Sentinel University, a MSN (Nursing Education) from Walden University, a BA in Psychology from Loras College, an AA in Nursing from Hawkeye Community College.

College Management Team

  • Brian Carlisle, Chief Information Officer
  • Loren Ellison, Vice President, Admissions Services
  • Christine Hansen, Vice President, HLI Operations
  • Tiina Hyvonen, Vice President, Marketing Operations
  • Jay Kim, Vice President, Financial Services
  • Devon Putnam, Vice President, Student Engagement
  • Michael Rickart, Vice President, Partner Engagement
  • Kristine Zewe, Senior Vice President, University Administration, People & Culture

Sentinel U™

Sentinel U™, a division of American Sentinel, provides virtual simulations and clinicals for healthcare professionals and educators.

photo of 
 Jeff Caplan

Jeffrey Caplan is the president of Sentinel U™. He has an extensive background in healthcare and healthcare IT, strategic business development, online and virtual simulation learning. Previously, Mr. Caplan was Senior Vice President of Enrollment and Retention at American Sentinel University. Prior to American Sentinel, Mr. Caplan was the Executive Vice President for a specialty healthcare media company and the Vice President of marketing and product management for a healthcare electronic exchange between hospitals and suppliers. Mr. Caplan spent his early career at DuPont, where he led a variety of businesses and functions.

Mr. Caplan holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from Rutgers University, an MBA in Business Administration and Management from Vanderbilt University-Owen Graduate School of Management, and completed the Launching New Ventures program at Harvard Business School.