LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - USM leaders announced Tuesday they have filled two key positions on the academic leadership team at Gulf Park. The move means each of the university's six colleges now have a full-time administrator working in Long Beach. Before, there were only four.
Calling it an effort to better serve students, faculty and staff at the Gulf Park campus, USM filled two associate dean positions, one in the College of Education and Psychology, the other in the College of Health.
In a statement sent to the media, USM President Dr. Rodney Bennett said:
"I am excited to welcome these new members of our academic leadership team, and I look forward to the contributions they will make as we continue to provide high quality academic programs to students in the coastal region".
"I think it enhances the direct communication between the associate deans here and the deans up in Hattiesburg. So it's not a matter of what they do and what we do. It's a matter of what we both do together as part of the same university," said Ron Peresich.
Peresich is the chairman of the Gulf Coast Business Council. The group fought long and hard to establish a dual campus concept for USM. But when Dr. Bennett restructured the university, coast leaders became concerned about his commitment to the Gulf Coast.
"Dr. Bennett's been down here a lot and these recent announcements today is a further indication of how he wants the reorganization that he's in the middle of, to ensure that it includes more communication between Long Beach and Hattiesburg. So that's a very positive step," said Peresich.
Dr. Bennett took another step recently by joining the Business Council's Higher Education Committee. Peresich hopes that partnership will lead to more programs, funding, and site specific accreditation at Gulf Park.
"I think if we're able to set that stage, we'll see more and more people on the coast taking advantage of it. If that happens, the coast campus grows, Long Beach grows, and the entire university grows," he said.
"It requires a partnership between the two campuses and that's what we're engaged in building. Dr. Bennett thinks it's a good idea. We've always thought it was a good idea. It's going to take some work. It's going to take some time and effort, just like anything else you want to be successful at. But, I think it's going to happen and I'm very pleased with Dr. Bennett's response to our request," he added.
The two new associate deans are Dr. W. Jeff Hinton and Dr. Stacey Hall. They started their jobs in July.