The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning announced on Thursday, Feb. 7 the unanimous decision to name Dr. Rodney Bennett as the 10th president of the University of Southern Mississippi.
Bennett has a wealth of experience in higher education and is currently serving as Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Georgia in Athens.
"I hope the Southern Miss family will join the Board of Trustees in welcoming Dr. Bennett to our great university," said Trustee Ed Blakeslee, president of the Board of Trustees. "The university needs a leader who understands the most critical issues facing higher education today and has the experience and skills necessary to address all facets of the university's mission, including education, research and service. Dr. Bennett's experience and his commitment to students demonstrate that he the right person to lead the university at this time."
As Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Georgia, Bennett has been actively involved in all facets of student life, from improving facilities to creating service learning opportunities and celebrating the spirit of diversity on campus. He has helped raise funds to enhance student life on campus and improved communications with faculty, staff, students and parents on the Athens campus and three UGA extended campuses.
Bennett serves as Chair of the UGA Athletic Association NCAA Recertification process, including the institutional self-study. In addition, he was a member of the on-site committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, reviewing compliance areas related to student life and student affairs.
"I am humbled and honored that the Board of Trustees has selected me to lead this great university," said Bennett. "The University of Southern Mississippi has a rich history as an excellent research institution and a leader in the Gulf South region."
"I look forward to working with all members of the USM family to build on its history and provide opportunities for all students. I also look forward to working with leaders throughout South Mississippi to help both the university and the region to thrive."
Bennett holds a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Administration from Tennessee State University in Nashville, a Specialist in Education Degree and a Master of Education Degree in Educational Administration from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communication from Middle Tennessee State.
Earlier today, Dr. Bennett met with campus constituency groups on a visit to the Hattiesburg campus, following a visit to the Gulf Park campus yesterday. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members were able to pose questions to Bennett to share their thoughts and concerns with him. Attendees were able to provide feedback to the Board of Trustees.
This feedback was reviewed during the Board Meeting on campus prior to the news conference to name Bennett as the new Southern Miss president.