Photo of University Hall

View Profile Page

Faculty/Staff Login:

Joseph Donnelly

Professor, Public Health

BS, Southern Illinois University
MS, Southern Illinois University
PHD, Southern Illinois University
Download vCard


Joseph Donnelly, Ph.D., Professor of Public Health/School Health Education is recognized nationally and internationally in the area of adolescent risk avoidance, with particular emphasis in the areas of Alcohol, Tobacco/Vaping, and Other Drugs(ATOD). Over the years, additional specializations have developed in the domains of emotional and mental well-being, self-esteem, and Youth Mental Health First Aid.

Over the past thirty years, Dr. Donnelly has been awarded several million dollars through federal and state funding to strengthen adolescent health behaviors throughout New Jersey. Aside from training classroom teachers how to effectively implement health programs in their respective classrooms, Dr. Donnelly has delivered a range of health-oriented programs to parents of adolescents, conducted presentations for adolescents of various age groups, and shared his expertise at professional events. In addition to instructing an undergraduate course for future Health/Physical Educators titled, “Drug Education in the Schools”, Dr. Donnelly instructs graduate/undergraduate students in “Teaching of Health”, where students explore practical strategies of how to effectively engage students in the classroom. Dr. Donnelly’s underlying focus reflects adolescent risk avoidance, harm reduction/health realization, and primary prevention. As such, his passion for instructing a graduate course titled, “Bio-Medical, Psycho-Social Perspectives On Drugs” embodies many of the messages students are needing within the respective disciplines of education, intervention, and treatment.

Dr. Donnelly’s instructional style is based on the underlying message of “applied” knowledge, skill building, and how best to connect with students to turn learning into actionable outcomes. Dr. Donnelly has often said, “It’s not how much you know, but what you are able to apply that really makes the difference”. Dr. Donnelly has conducted nationwide and statewide presentations addressing the influence of social media on adolescent health. Recognizing the significance of students' real-time engagement while incorporating methods, subjects, and platforms of learning is essential for establishing a strong connection between knowledge, learning, and the eventual implementation of practical strategies. When Dr. Donnelly is instructing “Teaching of Health” to approximately 20 future health/Physical Educators, he often asks them to count how many students are in the classroom. Often times, students confidently respond "twenty". Dr. Donnelly will then inform the group that their answer is incorrect - he sees over 200,000 students in the classroom since each of these future teachers will be teaching approximately 10,000 students throughout their teaching career. This is one example that Dr. Donnelly uses to reinforce the impact future health educators have on the overall health & well-being of adolescents.

At the state level, Dr. Donnelly served on the NJ Dept. of Education Committee in the 2020 Health/Physical Education Standards. Having a voice to shape the framework of what is required to be taught K-12 is critical, and has served as an educational opportunity in exploring these H/PE Standards with future Health Educators.

Dr. Donnelly holds a Ph.D. in Community Health Education from Southern Illinois University (S.I.U. at Carbondale), and a M.S. from SIUC in health Service and Administration. Since completing his Ph.D., Dr. Donnelly has published two textbooks, “Health Counseling: Application and Theory & Mental Health: Self-Esteem and Emotional Well-being”. Additionally, he has published over fifty peer-reviewed publications and conducted over one hundred presentations at a variety of annual health-related conferences. Dr. Donnelly recently published two international articles in the area of adolescent health; one focuses on the implications of Cannabis use (2022) and the other highlights the importance of Opioid Education (2023). Both pieces center around adolescents and how school health educators can incorporate this knowledge in the context of school health education.

Dr. Donnelly has achieved a remarkable collection of accolades and accomplishments during his educational pursuits and professional career, despite being blind. Rather than using this challenge as an excuse, Dr. Donnelly urges students to acknowledge their own limitations while also fully tapping into their potential. This approach involves concentrating on how we can maximize the opportunities available to us while striving to assist others in achieving success.


My research interests are in the areas of school health education, adolescent risk avoidance, Alcohol, Tobacco/Vaping, and Other Drugs (ATOD), and Emotional/Mental Health & Well-Being with a special emphasis on mental health First Aid and how underlying self-esteem impacts health-related decision making. My focus within all such domains emphasizes infrastructural support systems such as applied knowledge, practical solutions, and skill-building strategies to support healthier behaviors and lifelong success.