James J. Winebrake

June 29, 2020

Until recently, when James J. Winebrake wanted to be alone with his thoughts, he sought nature’s peace at a nearby stream, fly rod in hand. Now, as he completes his move to Wilmington to undertake his new role as UNCW’s new provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, he looks forward to a similar kind of tranquility casting his line and lures in the surf.

“My fly rod is always in my car,” he said, adding that he is happy to trade another staple of life in upstate New York, an ice scraper, for sunglasses year-round. The other thing he never leaves home without is an optimistic outlook, and he promises that will not change.

He will tap into that upbeat approach at “a critical and exciting point in UNCW’s trajectory.” The university was reclassified as a doctoral-level university with high research activity in 2018, and Winebrake is eager to help boost support for faculty, staff and student research while maintaining UNCW’s commitment to teaching excellence.

“I think about my leadership style as being collaborative, and I tend to thrive in a team environment,” said Winebrake, who goes by “Jamie.” “I try to be the best listener I can be, and I am continually learning from my colleagues and my students. I think I am happiest when I have seen others – faculty, staff and especially students – succeed.”

He is excited about the university’s new coastal engineering bachelor’s degree program, the first of its kind in the country, and he sees extensive opportunities for expanding interdisciplinary programming, building upon the teaching and scholarship already taking place at UNCW.

“One of my passions is figuring out ways to integrate different disciplines to solve challenging problems,” said Winebrake. “Solving today’s biggest problems requires a mix of disciplines that at first may not seem to be natural partners – liberal arts, sciences, technology, business and professional fields. New collaborations offer an opportunity to create new knowledge and benefit the community at large.”

Winebrake comes to UNCW from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he served as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts for more than nine years. He holds a Ph.D. in energy management and policy from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. in technology and policy from MIT, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Lafayette College in his native Pennsylvania. His scholarly research about the environmental impacts of transportation has been recognized internationally, and he has won awards for his efforts in expanding diversity and inclusion initiatives while at RIT.

“I fell in love with the idea of being an academic when I was an undergraduate,” Winebrake explained. “It stemmed from meaningful relationships that I developed with several faculty members while at Lafayette College, which is why the faculty-student experience is so important to me. I am thrilled to be joining an institution that is committed not only to expanding its research portfolio and graduate programming, but also to serving traditional undergraduates in a very focused, student-centered environment.”

-- Tricia Vance