Leadership Transitions: Celestina Barbosa-Leiker

Celestina Barbosa-Leiker, executive vice chancellor for WSU Spokane and professor in the College of Nursing, has announced she has accepted the position of Dean of the College of Health and Human Development at California State University- Fullerton. Her appointment will begin July 1. 

“Dr. Barbosa-Leiker is an outstanding researcher, leader, colleague and mentor. Her commitment to collaboration and research excellence has resulted in continuous growth for health sciences research at WSU,” said Daryll DeWald, executive vice president for WSU Health Sciences and chancellor of WSU Spokane. “We wish her the very best in her professional journey.” 

Barbosa-Leiker received her Master’s degree and Ph.D. in psychology from WSU and has served as director of the Ph.D. program and later as associate dean for research in the College of Nursing. Under her leadership, the college jumped in rank among U.S. nursing schools for NIH‑funded research.  

In 2019, Barbosa-Leiker was appointed as the vice chancellor for research for WSU Spokane. In this position, she worked closely with deans and associate deans of research in nursing, pharmacy, and medicine to expand the research capacity of the WSU Spokane campus and the research footprint of WSU Health Sciences statewide. In 2023, Barbosa-Leiker was appointed executive vice chancellor for WSU Spokane, expanding her responsibilities to include academic and faculty affairs. 

Barbosa-Leiker is regarded as one of the nation’s leading experts in women with substance use disorders, having published over 125 peer-reviewed articles and secured over $50 million in funding. Her research has demonstrated gender differences in the measurement of opioid withdrawal, relapse while in treatment, and predictors of relapse. She is currently the research team leader for a state-supported pilot project to examine health outcomes at Maddie’s Place, a newly opened, Spokane-based transitional care nursery that provides care and support for drug-exposed babies and mothers.  

In 2022, Barbosa-Leiker received the Samuel H. Smith Leadership Award from the Washington State University Association for Faculty Women for her leadership in higher education. She has served as a board member for the Washington State Academy of Sciences and was recently named a Notable Woman in STEM by the statewide nonprofit Washington STEM.  

“WSU has been my home for more than 20 years,” said Barbosa-Leiker. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities I had to grow into leadership positions and offer my voice to crucial initiatives while here at WSU.”  

“Once a Coug, always a Coug; I will always be part of the Coug family. Thank you to my wonderful colleagues, mentors, and friends. Vamos Cougs!”