USM President Dr. Shelby Thames renewed the Univeristy's commitment to the Gulf Coast on Thursday. Thames and other University Dignitaries held a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Eagle's Roost. It's a place for the students and faculty to take a break, relax and grab something to eat. The faculty got their own place to re-group and get ready for their classes, as well. The Eagle's Roost is part of USM's post-Katrina home at their Interim location in Gulfport. Collectively, the modular units are known as Eagle Village. Clean up on the Long Beach campus continues... and its future remains uncertain. Air conditioning units are parked where cars used to be. And workers, instead of students, walk the grounds of the USM Gulf Park Campus. University President Dr. Shelby Thames says the sign of repair and recovery are here.
Thames says,"Southern Mississippi is committed to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I've said that repeatedly, and I want to re-emphasize that to the audience that we are here to stay."
But the question remains, where. Where will the campus be permanently located?
"I do not know. That is a decision that will be made by the board of trustees, and I'm confident they'll make the right decision," says Thames.
The board has not set a date to discuss the future of USM Gulf Coast. Still, Thames is optimistic.
"We're getting back to some degree of normalacy, and that, to me, is a very good sign," Thames says.
Southern Miss continues to grow at its Interim location in Gulfport, and Southern Miss Provost, Jay Grimes is delightfully amazed at the progress.
"The reconstrution at this site has been phenomenal. Within six weeks, to think that we were back up and running...that our faculty had a place to teach, and our students had a place to learn, to me is just incomprehensible," Grimes says.
There are about 30 classrooms in the Interim location, and 18-hundred students are enrolled at USM Gulf Coast this semester. That's about 75 percent of the pre-Katrina number, and while no one's sure exactly whether the coast campus will rebuild or relocate... Dr. Thames is sure of one thing.