The new school year always brings in a crowd of new faces, and among then this year is the new dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. James Wyche.
Wyche, who officially joined the University on Aug. 15, 2001, comes to Miami after a 14-year career at Brown University.
“I think Miami has enormous potential,” said Wyche. “It fit my need to go into something where there was a need for change and a combination of resources available.”
He counts the dynamic nature of the school and the presence of President Donna Shalala as some of the key reasons for his move to Miami. He has known Shalala since 1981 and said that they vowed to try to work together again when she returned to education.
Wyche has a number of major goals in mind for the year ahead and beyond.
“Miami has a historical opportunity to become a cultural crossroads that bridges the Americas. This is the time for Miami to position itself globally,” he said.
English Department Chair Dr. Peter Bellis said that he had only worked with Wyche personally on a few occasions, usually in meetings with the chairs of other departments, but that the new dean seemed open to change and supportive of new ideas.
“He’s only been at the University for about a month, so he hasn’t had a chance to do much yet, but he is definitely setting a new tone for the college,” Bellis said.
Wyche hopes to implement curricular changes in the college that will help recruit new students to Miami.
“It is clear to me that we need to rethink intellectual boundaries,” he said. “We have a need to respond, to bring in new, young, dynamic scholars, to drive new initiatives and make an impact on the college’s character and academic principles.”
Wyche said he hopes to draw in new students through support of interdisciplinary studies and promotion of research opportunities for students, especially opportunities to be involved in research projects abroad.
“Students should be able to get out, sample and experiment on issues that really matter,” he said.
One of Wyche’s major projects for the year is an effort to increase grants. By increasing grants submitted to the school, he hopes to be able to increase the amount available to the faculty. He hopes to set up a full-time office for grants that will work in collaboration with the fundraising department.
Wyche said he also hopes to see a sharing agreement put into effect that would put a portion of the funds generated by grant work back into the pocket of the faculty that worked on it.
He also wants to promote a better relationship between the University, especially the College of Arts and Sciences, and its nearest neighbors.
“I want to expand community involvement so that the University is seen as a community-minded institution,” he said.
Despite his recent arrival, Wyche has several new initiatives that are in various stages of implementation. He has already put a program into effect with the help of the University’s Internet Technology Committee that offers free internet access to all faculty. The access is nationwide so that faculty will have access to resources as they travel.
It’s hard to tell at this point just how the new dean will affect the average student in the College of Arts and Sciences. Student opinions of the Arts and Sciences program seem generally positive, and many look at the new dean as an opportunity for further improvement.
“I haven’t noticed any significant changes in the College of Arts and Sciences, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My experience in Arts and Sciences has been only positive,” said sophomore Stephanie Soricelli.
According to junior Becky Fromm, some changes in the school were definitely necessary, and the arrival of Wyche seems a promising opportunity for improvements to be made.
Senior Laurel Smith approves of the Arts and Sciences program and sees his coming as an opportunity for even more improvement.
“It’s way too early in the new dean’s term to even feel the waves of change in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dean Deutsch was quite capable,” said Smith. “I just hope that things continue to run smoothly or even more effectively with the appointment of Dean Wyche.”