Dean Rodney Miller will retire at the end of the fiscal year following 19 years leading the College of Fine Arts at Wichita State University.
When Miller came to Wichita State in 2004, the College of Fine Arts consisted of the School of Music, the School of Performing Arts and the School of Art, Design and Creative Industries. When Miller addressed the faculty for the first time that fall, he recognized the strong reputation of those schools while also planning a new direction.
“I said — ‘This is a wonderful College of the Fine Arts for the 20th century. We need to be a college that is relevant in the 21st century.’”
As Wichita State tied its mission to innovation and applied learning, Miller showed that the College of Fine Arts could take an important and interdisciplinary role in that future.
Wichita State’s School of Digital Arts and the Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Arts answered Miller’s challenge. The School of Digital Arts launched in 2019, two years after the introduction of the Bachelor of Applied Arts program, and includes concentrations in acting for the digital arts, animation, audio production, filmmaking, game design and collaborative design.
The School of Digital Arts is housed at Shocker Studios, a facility that includes an animation studio, motion-capture studio, classrooms, recording studios and 2D and 3D design studios.
Enrollment in the School of Digital Arts climbed from 59 in its first semester and has skyrocketed since.
“It’s the ultimate definition of collaboration and cooperation – and applied learning,” Miller said. “The thing that I am proudest of is that the school generates close to half of our credit hours, yet close to half of the credit hours it generates are from other schools.”
“Rodney’s forward-thinking vision for the School of Digital Arts embraced digital transformation and innovation as a means to amplify the talents and creativity of students and faculty in the College of Fine Arts,” said Dr. Shirley Lefever, provost and executive vice president of Wichita State. “WSU has benefited greatly from his leadership and vision. His legacy will impact many generations to come.”
Pina Mozzani, his wife of 41 years and professor of voice, languages, articulation, distance education at Wichita State, will also retire.
A retirement celebration will be held at a date to be determined.
“The people who are in this college are a nice legacy, because the majority of them have been hired since we’ve been here,” said Miller, 70. “That’s what the college really comes down to – the people. I look back on students who have gone through and their successes, whether they’re teachers who have really established themselves in Wichita, or international stars in various field, because that’s ultimately why we’re here.”
“There’s so many things that I will miss,” Miller said. “What I will miss is seeing, on a daily basis, and working with people, on a daily basis, that I watch changing our students lives.”