By Mary Fiess (September 18, 2007)
Joan Wick-Pelletier: College of Arts and Sciences "on a Great Trajectory"
It was, for sure, a labor of love for Wick-Pelletier, a trained soprano. But it was also an example of how much she values the broad range of programs that constitute the College of Arts and Sciences and make it such a vibrant core of life at the University at Albany.
UAlbany "had the sense to put the arts and sciences together," she noted when she arrived in September 2002. In the time since, she says, the college has made significant strides, tapping the range and richness of programs put together within its purview, as well as programs beyond its purview.
In just the past year, the college launched three new undergraduate majors: journalism, globalization studies, and documentary studies. Over the last few years, the college has developed new forensic programs on the undergraduate and master's levels. Through a series of "cluster" hires, the college has expanded UAlbany's capabilities in life sciences research.
These are just a few of the accomplishments in which Wick-Pelletier takes pride. At the end of August, she stepped down after five years at the helm of the College of Arts and Sciences.
"I love the people in the college and what we have been able to accomplish together. The college is on a great trajectory," said Wick-Pelletier.
"Joan has made tremendous contributions in her five years at UAlbany," said Officer in Charge Susan Herbst.
A search for a new dean is under way, and Edelgard Wulfert, a professor in the Department of Psychology, is serving as acting dean.
A mathematician by academic training, Wick-Pelletier emphasized from the outset how the key areas encompassed by the college – humanities and the social sciences, mathematical, physical and biological sciences, and the fine and performing arts – were all critical in creating a distinctive whole.
When she arrived on campus, the Life Sciences Research Building was under construction. An important element in UAlbany's strategy to build strength in life sciences research, the facility was designed to provide space and equipment – the physical infrastructure -- essential for contemporary scientific research.
Throughout Wick-Pelletier's tenure as dean, an important priority for her was developing the intellectual infrastructure by recruiting scientists who could complement and build on UAlbany's research strengths and develop new knowledge in the life sciences.
Recruitment of new faculty was accomplished by interdisciplinary search committees. "We hired new faculty researchers to work interactively; their specific department affiliation was a secondary consideration," said Wick-Pelletier. Just recently, the college launched a new Institute of RNA Science and Technology, which involves scientists from across the campus in biology, chemistry, biophysics, and biomedical sciences in research discoveries based on the informational molecule, RNA.
"Dean Wick-Pelletier's support has been instrumental in the development of this important new initiative and direction for scientific research at the University," said Albert Millis, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences and the scientific director for life sciences.
"She has a very strong sense of the balance of all the disciplines, and she knew how the fine and performing arts help make this University a very vibrant place," said Albin Zak, chair of the Department of Music, who came to UAlbany in 2004.
Given her appreciation for the fine and performing arts, it's not surprising, says Zak, that he, J. Kevin Doolen, chair of the Department of Theatre, and JoAnne Carson, chair of the Department of Art, work together well to strengthen that dimension of life on campus. Both Zak and Doolen were hired by Wick-Pelletier and Carson was appointed chair of the Department of Art by her.
Communications was another important "theme" for Wick-Pelletier, given all the strengths across the college in history, English, documentary studies/multi-media, journalism, film studies, creative writing, and communications.
"I wanted to position us so that if a student were interested in the communications field, this campus would clearly stand out," she said. She notes that the journalism program, which officially became a major last fall and the first such major among SUNY's four University Centers, currently has more than 90 students declaring journalism as their major. A total of 630 students are enrolled in journalism courses, up from 253 students last year - all a reflection of strong student interest.
"The communications disciplines here are thriving. We have a nice critical mass," said Nancy Roberts, a professor in the departments of Communication and Journalism, who was hired in 2004 to help build the journalism curriculum into a major. "Without Joan, I don't think we'd be where we are."
"Joan recognized the potential at UAlbany in this area and she put a lot into realizing the potential. In my experience, I've found that administrators can't always look beyond the fields with which they are most familiar and develop new areas. But Joan could do that. She's very much a Renaissance person," said Roberts.
Throughout her time as dean, Wick-Pelletier also "worked effectively to engage communities far beyond the campus, through advisory boards and other regional institutions," noted Officer in Charge Herbst.
As she looks ahead, Wick-Pelletier says
she plans to be even more involved in the
community, particularly in its cultural
aspects. "Albany has become my home, and I
look forward to being able to take part in
more of the cultural life of my home," she