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Featured | Health Education and Human SciencesDecember 27, 2021

Cantu Named Dean of College of Health, Education & Human Sciences

Written By: Rachel Rodemann Putman

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has selected Dr. D. Antonio “Dean” Cantu as the Dean of the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences. Cantu will begin his role Feb. 1, 2022. The search for the new head administrator has been underway since June of 2021, led by the ACES (Academic Career and Executive Search) national search firm.

“I am very pleased Dr. Cantu has chosen to come to UAFS as the inaugural dean of the College of Health, Education and Human Sciences,” said UAFS Provost Dr. Georgia Hale. “His broad experience includes leading the successful merger of multiple departments, which will be very valuable as he works with departmental leadership, faculty, and staff within this newly formed college.”

“I am honored and humbled to be selected as the inaugural Dean of the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith,” shared Cantu. “I am truly grateful for this opportunity to work together with the extremely dedicated and exceptionally talented faculty and staff in the college in providing our students with an educational experience consistent with the mission of UAFS, which will prepare them to succeed in an ever-changing world.”

Cantu said he most looks forward to working collaboratively with the leadership team, faculty, staff, community partners, and alumni. “Collaboration is essential to building upon the rich tradition of excellence in each of the college’s unique programs, and in working to provide our students with the best educational experience possible to prepare them for their respective professions that are focused on caring for the physical, mental, social, and educational needs of our communities. Indeed, the pandemic serves to remind us all of the critical importance of this charge, and just how essential these professions are in our society.”

“In addition, as a first-generation college student, I was attracted to UAFS because of its rich history – from its early twentieth-century origins as a junior college to the role it plays today as a university in the twenty-first century – in serving students from a variety of diverse backgrounds, including from underrepresented and underserved populations.”

“My parents instilled in me an indelible appreciation for the role education can play in opening the door to opportunities that might not otherwise be afforded to me. That has always been an essential part of the mission of UAFS, and I am so grateful to be part of the team that helps to provide this educational experience to students in the College of Health, Education, and Human Sciences, so they can unlock the door to opportunities that will help them to achieve their goals.”

Dr. Cantu currently serves as the Associate Dean and Director for the Department of Education, Counseling, and Leadership at Bradley University, a top-ranked private university in Peoria, Illinois, that serves nearly 6,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Over his 13 years at Bradley, Cantu oversaw strategic initiatives including the merger of two distinct academic departments into one cohesive unit and the development and implementation of a five-year departmental strategic plan. Additionally, he managed unit affairs, governance and management, climate assessment and improvement, and full evaluation and revision of departmental policies, procedures, and practices to best serve the students, faculty, and staff of his division and the university at large.

He also currently serves as a Research Fellow in the Future Institute Research Center.

In previous roles, Cantu served as dean and professor of education at Indiana University Kokomo, and director of social studies education at Ball State University. Prior to his work in education, Cantu served as an S2 Intelligence Officer for the 5/33 Armor Battalion, 194th Armored Brigade at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in the US Army.


“In each of his previous positions, Dr. Cantu has been actively engaged in building relationships with community partners to the benefit of the students, faculty, and staff,” said Hale. “Such relationships are critical to the success of the programs in College of Health, Education and Human Sciences.”

Cantu earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in 1997 from Southern Illinois University; his Ed.S. (SCCT) in Community College Teaching in 1989, his Master of Arts in History in 1984 and his Bachelor of Science in Social Science Education in 1983, all from Arkansas State University; and his Associates of Science in Social Science in 1981 from Highland Community College.

“This is a homecoming for my wife, Sandy, and me because Arkansas is where she was born and raised, where we met as college students and where we were married,” he said. 

Cantu has continually focuses on leadership development, having participated in leadership institutes at the College of William & Mary and Yale University, and regularly publishes academic research, books and textbooks, journal articles, and interactive online curriculum, serves as editor for multiple academic journals, and contributes to national conversations on education, health, and social sciences. Cantu has also presented TEDTalks in his research specialization areas, spoken on dozens of national and international panels, and hosts a podcast Future Insight.

Cantu’s wife is a special education teacher and the pair have three children: Derek, a policy analyst at The Council for State Governments, who lives in Lombard, Illinois with his wife Katherine; Dylan, an elementary teacher, who lives in Elmwood, Illinois with his wife Whittney; and Deanna, a television news producer in Peoria, Illinois. In his free time he enjoys traveling with his family (together they have visited all 50 U.S. states with their sights set on all seven continents,) and running 5k and 10k races on the weekends. Cantu is currently training to run in the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis this spring.