LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The Vice President of the Gulf Park Campus is resigning, and the recent reorganization at USM may explain why. Dr. Frances Lucas confirmed that she is moving from administration to full-time teaching. She said her decision was mainly based on recent changes at the university.
USM Gulf Park today looks vibrant and quite different from the battered campus Lucas took over four years ago. As vice president, she guided the campus through its recovery from Hurricane Katrina. She said one of her proudest moments was celebrating the completion of five major reconstruction projects.
"We have renovated the great majority of the buildings. We have a few little projects to do, but I did what I came to do and I'm real proud of it," said Lucas.
Lucas said with recent management changes at the university by USM President Dr. Rodney Bennett, it's time to step down. Under his reorganization plan, Lucas' title and responsibilities changed.
Before, she was USM Gulf Coast Vice President and CEO. She oversaw the Long Beach campus, along with three other teaching sites on the Coast. However, in March, her title changed to USM Gulf Park Vice President, which meant she was only in charge of the Long Beach campus.
"I think a lot of people on the Coast are concerned the decision making is in Hattiesburg, but every president gets to do it his way, and so we're going to do it his way," said Lucas. "Our president has made different plans, and he prefers to have a lot of decisions made in Hattiesburg, so I think it's a good time for me to move into the faculty and do what I've always wanted to do."
News of Lucas' resignation came as a surprise to many students.
"It's disappointing because I've met her. Like you meet with her one day out of the month, and you do "Lunch with Lucas." She always listens to our opinions on different stuff, gives feedback, lets us know what's going on. It's just sad to know she's leaving," said USM senior Tehtra Patterson.
Lucas is not leaving Gulf Park. In August, she will start her new job as a full time professor in the Department of Human Capital Development.
"I'm going across the lawn. So I'm staying at Southern Miss Gulf Coast. I look forward to being a full time faculty member," said Lucas. "I've been a vice president or a president for 28 years, and I've always wanted to be a full time faculty member. The opportunity presented itself, and I'm really excited about it. It's been a wonderful ride."
While the university searches for a new leader at Gulf Park, Dr. Steve Miller from the Hattiesburg campus will oversee the Long Beach campus. Miller currently serves as the Associate Director for Training and Business Development at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security.