MEMPHIS — Christian Brothers University has named Dr. James W. McGuffee to fill the position of Dean of the School of Sciences, one of the four major academic schools that comprise the University. McGuffee comes to CBU from Northern Kentucky University, where he served as chair of the Computer Science department in the NKU College of Informatics from 2013 to 2016. He fills the position following the 19-year tenure of Dr. Johnny Holmes, who retired as dean to return to the classroom as a professor of natural science and physics.
“Dr. McGuffee’s vision for science education meshes with culture of the School of Sciences, fostered by his predecessor, of grounding science education on the highest quality instruction and individualized attention to our students,” says Dr. Paul Haught, vice president for academics at CBU. “McGuffee also appreciates CBU’s outstanding reputation in STEM education, and he will be a passionate advocate for our programs to the many community stakeholders we have in academia, business, education, and health care.”
As a child in rural northeast Louisiana, McGuffee loved to ask questions and was fascinated with anything electronic. Thus, it was no surprise to his parents that after graduating with his high school diploma as part of the first graduating class of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (at the age of 14), he majored in computer science. He earned a BS degree from Louisiana Tech University in 1989 and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in 1994. His dissertation research was in the field of supercompilers (the transformation of serial code into parallel form without human intervention).
After completing his doctoral degree, McGuffee spent six years developing his teaching skills at two different community colleges. He joined the faculty at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX in 2000, where he not only taught computer science classes but also mentored students in undergraduate projects and research and took on increasingly complex administrative responsibilities. As an institution with roots in the Congregation of the Holy Cross (a charism within the Catholic tradition), McGuffee says that St. Edward’s provided a vibrant backdrop for him to cultivate a mission-driven approach to teaching, one that he hopes to continue in his role at CBU.
“Part of our faith is that there are those who are underserved in education, and education shouldn’t just be for a privileged class,” he says. “I love that I get to work with the Christian Brothers in that mission of having access to all”
McGuffee says that he is eager to support CBU students as they receive an excellent education and explore what it means to be a scientist, as well as looking forward to joining the faculty of the CBU School of Sciences and working together in shared mission with the De La Salle Christian Brothers.
In addition to a wide-spanning academic career and numerous publications in academic and scientific journals, McGuffee enjoys spending time with his wife Lynn and their two sons, and says that his favorite hobbies are reading and thinking and learning. He also enjoys immersing himself in science fiction media in his spare time. While he enjoys the creation of alternative worlds and storylines, McGuffee says that he gravitates to the deeper intentions and themes of science fiction:
“That to me is the glory of science fiction—to address social issues in a way that’s accessible, that people can begin to have a conversation about how do we talk to each other as humans.”
Dr. McGuffee formally assumed the deanship of the School of Sciences on July 1. The CBU School of Sciences offers undergraduate degrees in biochemistry, biology, biomedical sciences, chemistry, computer science, ecology, engineering physics, mathematics, natural science, and physics. The School also administers CBU’s RN-to-BSN Nursing Program and its Master of Physician Assistant Studies program.