Q&A with JWU Provost Kyle McInnis, Sc.D.


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Kyle McInnis, Sc.D., joined Johnson & Wales University last year as the university’s new chief academic officer. He brings a breadth of experience in higher education, research, funding and corporate engagement. Most recently, McInnis served as vice president for graduate, research, and learning innovations at Merrimack College, where he was a faculty member since 2011; and from 1991 to 2011, he taught at UMass. His career includes appointments as an adjunct research scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Cancer Center, Boston University Medical Center, and Boston Children’s Hospital, where his interdisciplinary work focused on reducing health inequities in underserved communities.

Headshot of Provost Kyle McInnis
Provost Kyle McInnis, Sc.D.
It was crystal clear that students come first at JWU. Provost Kyle McInnis, Sc.D.

What attracted you to Johnson & Wales University?

Right off the bat, it was crystal clear that students come first at JWU. That’s the most important thing for any institution. And as I got to know the university more, I was attracted to the diverse portfolio of academic programs across a variety of professional disciplines supported by interdisciplinary experiences and grounded in foundational liberal studies. I also was impressed by the strong emphasis on career readiness and student support services that included the role of faculty as mentors.

Tell us about your institutional priorities: How do you envision JWU a decade from now?

My priorities focus on three main areas: student success, academic excellence and innovation. In terms of student success, my team and I are going to build out and create distinctive opportunities that support and enrich students’ learning experience. This is happening in myriad ways — from options for students interested in pursuing honors experiences and faculty-mentored directed projects to academic tutoring and recitation sections in the sciences.

In terms of academic excellence, we have a fantastic portfolio of academic programs across six colleges and online. The priority is to stay on the cutting-edge to create innovative degree and non-degree programs that will be important for careers and skills in emerging areas. For example, such interdisciplinary programs as our new cannabis entrepreneurship degree that spans the Arts & Sciences and Business colleges. We will also continue to build and grow programs in the health fields, including a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics and a bachelor’s in exercise and sports science. This emphasis on health-related studies is complementary to our expertise in culinary arts, nutrition and food.

And when we think about innovation, we’re focused on developing centers of excellence that will help JWU students and faculty lead on issues related to food insecurity, health disparities and social inequities. JWU’s always been an entrepreneurial institution and we have a tremendous opportunity to build on that tradition to help incubate new ideas for the industries we serve and bring them to scale.

How might the culinary and hospitality programming shift in response to evolving industry needs?

JWU was well-positioned to pivot during the pandemic because of its entrepreneurial DNA. We are tailoring partnerships and programming to ensure we are future-focused as those industries recover. The university will broaden its expertise in food systems, food sustainability and food design with our new College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT). This will be an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates expertise across the various colleges, including Engineering & Design and Health & Wellness. We will also develop studies around food insecurity, health disparity and social inequality. We will enhance our existing hospitality partnerships — such as the one with TD Garden / Boston Bruins / Delaware North — and forge new collaborations. The university will educate future employees who can innovate and problem-solve hospitality industry needs.

What were some of your proudest accomplishments at Merrimack College and how does that innovation translate to JWU?

As a vice-president and former dean, I hired and cultivated faculty who were rising stars and attracted others who were well-established. I’m excited to lead that effort at JWU, too, because students and faculty together become the future of the institution. I also participated in successful fundraising and capitol campaigns that created resources to support academic priorities, such as building new laboratories using the latest technologies (incorporating virtual reality to teach anatomy, for example). Other times it involved research grants to impact communities by partnering with local school districts and organizations.

What are your plans for elevating the faculty, both in terms of hires and professional development?

We will continue to hire talented scholars who will demonstrate excellence in the classroom and make meaningful contributions in their fields of study. Cultivating faculty scholarship will be a priority that will create exciting opportunities for students to work alongside faculty on projects that prepare them for their chosen careers.