Miami University is looking to fill the position of associate provost and dean for undergraduate education. The new position serves as the campus leader for undergraduate education. The dean will be responsible for raising the standard for undergraduate and teaching, promoting excellence in undergraduate education and maintaining Miami’s reputation. The three finalists for the position are Jeffrey Wanko, Amy Bergerson and Daryl Maeda.
Currently serving as the Associate Provost, Jeffrey Wanko has been working at Miami since 2000. Before becoming an associate provost, Wanko worked as a professor of mathematics education at the university. He taught at Miami’s Luxembourg campus and worked as a chair of the department of teacher education.
Wanko said he is primarily interested in the position so he can continue the work he is already doing in the Provost’s office. He plans to improve the college experience for first-generation students at Miami, having been one himself.
“I want to try to think even harder about how we can help students for whom college is not necessarily part of their family experience,” Wanko said. “I want to think about how we can help students to be successful no matter where they come from.”
To do this, he plans to focus on where students often struggle, specifically looking at “high DFW” courses, where high numbers of students get Ds and Fs or withdraw from the course.
“I'm not talking about dumbing down the curriculum; I'm not talking about making it an easy class,” Wanko said. “I'm talking about [reaching] out to students who are struggling, or who we can anticipate may be struggling in courses like that so we can help ensure that they have the resources available to them and the opportunities available to them to be successful.”
Wanko also plans to expand Miami’s professional academic advising outside of the Farmer School of Business, which he said will both improve student advising and free professors from advising obligations.
“[The professional advisers are] taking a look at information that we have about students and proactively reaching out to students who we could anticipate may be experiencing some stumbling blocks or who may be taking a set of really difficult courses together where we can anticipate that this might be problematic,” Wanko said.
Overall, Wanko said he plans to create more systems within the university to accommodate students and to help them find academic success regardless of their circumstances.
Amy Bergerson currently works at the University of Utah as the director of the Office of Student Success and Empowerment and as the associate dean of undergraduate studies, along with being a professor in the Department of Student Success.
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During her time at the University of Utah, she has researched, developed and implemented changes to university education and student success.
Bergerson said she was interested in pursuing a role at a more student-oriented university like Miami. While the University of Utah has made steps toward focusing on students, Bergerson said they still aren’t a fully student-oriented university.
“I've been working for 20 years at a giant research institution that has about 30,000 undergraduate students,” Bergerson said. “The idea of working at a place [that] puts more value on the student experience, which is something that I value very much, was really really appealing to me.”
Previously, Bergerson has worked on systems to improve student enrollment and retention, including a program to encourage students to work on-campus through additional opportunities and payment. This program, Bergerson said, was able to improve student experiences, especially for first-generation students and students of color.
Bergerson also worked on providing students with consultations throughout their education to prepare them for finding work after graduation and a system called “Sage,” which analyzed student registration patterns and provided a potential schedule for them if they were unable to register for courses.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bergerson has not been able to visit Miami’s campus or interact with the student body as much as she would have liked to. Because of this, she said a large part of her initial experience at Miami would be getting acclimated to the campus and finding out what the student body is interested in academically.
“I would very much look forward to the time when I can meet folks in person, and we can see each other and feel the energy that different people bring,” Bergerson said. “A big piece of this in terms of the transition is spending a few months really listening to people gathering information and thinking carefully about what next steps might be based on what I'm learning from folks in this environment.”
Daryl Maeda has been at the University of Colorado Boulder in various positions for the past 15 years. His most recent position was associate dean for student success in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Maeda has written two books about the Asian American Social Movement in the 1960s and 1970s and is an advocate for Asian American social justice and equality. He said he is highly aware of racism that is still a part of ongoing society and intends to fight and prevent discrimination during his time at Miami.
“Equity, justice and inclusion are central to me as a researcher and academic professional,” Maeda said.
Maeda plans to create opportunities for diverse groups of students to interact with each other and believes the classroom and residence halls are good places to start. Maeda said it is important for minority students to feel safe and to be their authentic selves at Miami.
“When part of a small group on campus, it can be exhausting to always be the only one,” Maeda said. “We have to ensure that [minorities] are thriving on our campus.”
Maeda also plans to pay specific attention to students at higher risk of not graduating, using an equity-focused approach to ensure all students can make the best use of the resources around them.
Maeda said he wants Miami students to feel heard and have a voice. He intends to assign a clear, first point of contact for students to reach out to who will guide them to the proper person when they have questions, concerns, or need guidance. Maeda also plans to create a website centered around students for students to navigate the university on their own.