Meet Our People:
Senior Professor Vincent Wrice
Dr. Vincent Wrice is Senior Professor of Computer Science/Information Systems. He consistently earns praise from students who appreciate his lively and engaging classes. In the early 1990s he worked as a Senior Systems Analyst at the College, but took a leave in 1993 to pursue a law degree at Rutgers. He has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree from the University of Phoenix along with his juris doctorate from Rutgers University. He has been a professor at Union for the past 15 years. He is also an evaluator for the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and has conducted a site visit at the College of South Maryland. He is scheduled for a site visit this year at North Hampton Community College in Pennsylvania.
Q: So what’s the story of you leaving your IT job at Union back in ’93 to go study at Rutgers to be a lawyer?
A: I was thirty years old at the time, and I was kind of goaded into it by my friends. They felt I had the aptitude to be a lawyer.
Q: Whaddaya mean by “aptitude”?
A: I had an ability to persuade people into sharing my way of thinking, into seeing my side of things—which is something my wife hates. I won’t get into an argument I’m going to lose. I tend to point out flaws in an opponent’s argument, and that’s something an effective attorney does.
Q: OK, but it had to be a bit risky just to drop everything and go to law school basically on a dare. And getting into Rutgers’ Law isn’t all that easy.
A: I applied in the Fall of 1992 and got accepted in May 1993. Even though I wasn't traditionally old at 30, compared to everybody else I was the old guy. Rutgers is more of a scholarly law school than some other law schools where maybe the whole focus is helping students prepare to pass the Bar (exam). But to be in law school, you have to love this stuff or else you don’t make it.
Q: But you made it in three years.
A: I graduated in 1996.
Q: To do what?
A: Originally, I was interested in doing something on the public side—prosecution or defense. But while I was at Rutgers I really got interested in graduating to become an agent—a talent agent or sports agent. But to get into the business as a sports agent, one absolute qualification was playing college sports—which is something I wish I knew beforehand.
Q: But what about becoming a talent agent?
A: I wound up spending time (in Los Angeles) at Paramount and William Morris, and found out that you’re not going to get into that business without someone paying your bills because what they had was entry level. You basically start as a receptionist. Beyond that, though, I did an internship my last semester (at Rutgers) with CBS News. I also had an internship in the New York City Office of Oversight and Investigation.
Q: So then how did you wind up coming back to Union?
A: After law school, while preparing for the Bar, I took a few temporary jobs. I investigated the financial industry and found that banking really wasn’t for me. People without even a college degree were talking to me as if I were some kind of “plebe.” But then (in 1998-99), I had an opportunity to try teaching. It was at Middlesex Community College, in noncredit for people who really wanted to learn and needed to learn. The students were unemployed, on welfare, disabled. It’s a great program.
Q: It’s what we do at Union in our Center for Economic & Workforce Development.
A: I really liked it. The experience taught me how to engage students in an inter-active learning environment. I found out how important it is to perform in a classroom to keep students engaged. You have to entertain.
Q: And then in 2000 you brought your talents back to Union, but now as a faculty member.
A: I actually applied for a systems analyst job but jumped at the opportunity to teach computer science.
Q: Your students are glad you jumped.
A: What I say to students is, “Anything you want to learn, I will teach you.” Is there a problem on the job, or in another class? Learning objectives become meaningful and achievable when students can personally relate to what’s being taught. For example, students in a Statistics class may want to come to my class to learn how to create a histogram. Or some need to learn all of the different multimedia associated with Powerpoint. Yesterday in class, students were talking about the universe. Who are we in relation to the universe? I used that discussion as a segue to coding simulations. The tools our students need goes beyond what’s in any textbook. We need to get in touch with students as individuals, as each semester brings different students with different goals and aspirations.
Q: So what else is there on the horizon for an IT guy who’s also a lawyer?
A: I’m interested in patent law, but my real passion is here at Union. I love the classroom and will never leave it.