USM community shares thoughts on new university president with IHL

An online listening session was held to gain input from stakeholders on the qualities and qualifications they believe the next President should possess.
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 6:21 PM CDT
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LONG BEACH, Miss. (WLOX) - The University of Southern Mississippi needs a president, and the IHL is responsible for making that decision in the future.

Listening sessions were held at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach Tuesday.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi. Members listened to stakeholders discuss what they believe the next president should possess.

“We need to find someone who understands business relationships,” said one speaker. “If you look at the successful colleges out there, they have almost a CEO running it. They’re making relationships in the business world, the governmental world.”

Rodney Bennett was the first Black president of the predominantly white university, and during his tenure he worked to grow enrollment and raised wages for the lowest-paid workers on campus multiple times.

He stepped down over the summer. Retired administrator Joe Paul was named interim president. Since Bennett’s departure, there has been increasing support from USM supporters for Paul.

“There has to be a relationship,” a speaker said. “The genuine nature of the president has to be there. I am a huge proponent of Dr. Paul.”

“Y’all have said this university is so critical to South Mississippi and the Gulf Coast,” added another speaker. “These areas can not afford even one bad year. We must have a president who sees the great things we have to offer and be willing to go out and preach those great things to the world.”

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