Whyte gives students a voice

Amelious Whyte works to give students a line to the administration.
Chief of Staff to the Vice Provost for Student Affairs Amelious Whyte sits in his office on Monday afternoon.
March 06, 2014
Editor's Note: This is the third in a four-part series on policy and administrative aides who are working behind the scenes in government and at the University of Minnesota. Look for the last installment next Thursday.

While top University of Minnesota administrators tend to their work in Appleby Hall, Amelious Whyte has a “party” in his office, where he blasts house music and checks student emails.

As the Assistant Dean of Students and Chief of Staff of the Office for Student Affairs, Whyte, 45, spends his workdays clipping around campus, chatting with faculty members and representing the student voice in key University administrative offices.

“The joke is, I can’t really go anywhere on campus without someone knowing me,” Whyte said.

The New York City native plays a critical role in the OSA because his position focuses on the day-to-day operations and addressing students’ needs, Vice Provost of Student Affairs Danita Brown Young said.

“I have a place in my heart for people who are different, who may not feel that they are fitting in or served properly,” Whyte said.

A University alumnus, Whyte attended the University of Southern California before receiving his graduate degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. He started working in the Office of Student Affairs during his second year of graduate school in 1991. Now Whyte is pursuing a doctorate at the University in higher education.

Whyte has considered moving to higher positions at the University, but he said he has hesitations because he doesn’t want a job that doesn’t directly work with students.

“He cares very deeply. … He wants every single student here on campus to do well, and he’s very committed to that,” said Dave Golden, Boynton Health Service’s director of public health and communications.

Minnesota Student Association President Mike Schmit said Whyte always puts students’ concerns first and that when they need someone to talk to, he’s always there to listen.

Among other issues students face, Whyte helps those who are hospitalized after high-risk drinking or victims of crimes on or near the University.

“I don’t like people messing with my students,” he said.

In 2011, Whyte helped the family of a student who died after being hit by a car near Dinkytown. Whyte led an effort to help the students’ friends grieve the loss.

Situations like those are difficult to go through, he said, but he takes comfort in knowing he’s made a difference.

“That’s why I feel like the job I’m in is the job where I’m supposed to be — because it does allow me to help people,” Whyte said.

Whyte said he encourages students to speak up about issues concerning them and to take advantage of the opportunities they have while being at the University.

Former Vice Provost for Student Affairs Jerry Rinehart, who worked in the same office as Whyte for about a decade, said his listening and communication skills make Whyte a perfect person for his job.

“I’ve made two good decisions in my life: One of them was the person I married, and the other was hiring Amelious,” he said.

Whyte’s commitment to students extends beyond his office. He remains active in the University’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter after serving as an adviser for 10 years.

The fraternity’s Director of Education and University alumnus Todd Rotgers worked with Whyte in the past and said the thing that sets him apart — other than he wears a suit every day — is his ability to understand every side of an issue.

“He’s willing to take the time for any student, even if they’ve not always done the right thing,” Rotgers said.

After meeting students’ requests and listening to his share of Prince and Diana Ross tracks, Whyte said he goes home from work feeling like he’s made a difference at the University.

“People need to feel that who they’re interacting with can be trusted, that they are respectful [and] that they are professional,” Brown Young said. “So that is very critical to have a very caring and compassionate personality.” 

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