Anthony Vizzini is settling into his new role as vice president for academic affairs at Wichita State University. Although he’s only been on the job two weeks, he’s already imagining the opportunities that lie ahead.
“My sense is there is going to be great things happening at Wichita State University in the next few years,” Vizzini says, “I definitely want to be part of that team that’s going to move Wichita State forward.”
Vizzini, 54, assumed the position July 1, left vacant by Gary Miller who became chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Since 2009, Vizzini has served as dean and professor of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Western Michigan University.
Previously, he was department head, professor and inaugural holder of the Bill and Carolyn Cobb Chair for the aerospace engineering department at Mississippi State University.
Vizzini received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He says his strong engineering background will assist him on campus as well as off, including in visits to aircraft plants in the city.
“I can talk the talk, I know what the people are doing here in the greater Wichita area, and my background in composites kind of falls right into place,” Vizzini says.
He says Liberal Arts and Sciences educators are more frequently found in academic affairs positions, but engineers are there as well.
“Engineers bring a different viewpoint but we’re all critical thinkers.”
Vizzini’s new responsibilities include hiring five deans in six of WSU’s colleges, including Health Professions, Education, Engineering, W. Frank Barton School of Business and Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“It’s tough in some sense,” he says, “because you’re trying to get a wide pool of candidates to come in and allow people to look them over, interact with them over about a day and a half, and you get to know a person and decide whether or not to extend an offer.”
Vizzini says the university is looking for the very best leadership.
“We’ll be filling those dean positions with individuals who are going to be creative and innovative and help move Wichita State forward.”
WSU is getting closer to naming a new dean for the College of Engineering, Vizzini says, with candidates coming on campus for interviews early in the fall semester.
Vizzini acknowledges how budget cuts, including the recent 1.5 percent cut made by the Kansas legislature, affect needed resources for higher education.
“Often times when you have cuts in one area, you look for other areas to make up that difference. We’re looking to expand our research capabilities. Tuition did get increased and we’re looking for friends and alums to continue their strong support of Wichita State.”
Vizzini says WSU’s new strategic plan focuses on applied learning, something that faculty will be working toward implementing this fall.
“The next step is to percolate down among the different departments within the colleges and so forth to have the individual faculty kind of voice how they are going to meet that mission.”
In his spare time, Vizzini likes to play computer games and buy and sell items on eBay. He says it’s exciting to ship items to different parts of the world.
Vizzini says he’s closed on a house in east Wichita and he looks forward to his wife joining him in a couple of weeks.
He says he’s glad he took advantage of the opportunity to become the vice president for academic affairs at Wichita State.
“You peel the onion and you keep on finding out about more and more exciting things, and it came to my realization that this is a wonderful opportunity. Great things are going to be happening and it’s a great thing to be part of that.”