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Southern Miss Alum Serving in Administrative Post with Phi Kappa Phi PDF Print E-mail
Friday, December 19, 2008
Contact David Tisdale - 601.266.4499   

A University of Southern Mississippi alumnus is serving in a key position and advancing one of world’s most respected international honor societies.

Jim Carlson, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in speech communication from Southern Miss in the years 1996 and 1998, respectively, is chapter relations director for Phi Kappa Phi, serving PKP chapters at universities and colleges, including at Southern Miss,  in the South Central and Midwest regions. Carlson’s duties include coordination of chapter-related activities at the national level and response to local chapter needs.

 With chapters at more than 300 select colleges and universities in North America and the Philippines, PKP is the nation's oldest, largest and most selective all-discipline honor society, with the goal of promoting academic excellence and service. It inducts more than 30,000 high-achieving students, faculty, professional staff and alumni annually and provides access to a vast and varied academic and professional network.

“Phi Kappa Phi not only recognizes academic and professional achievements, but also provides networking and training opportunities to help students transition from campus to the workforce,” Carlson said. 

Prominent PKP members include former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, renowned author John Grisham, NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among many others.

Carlson said his goals as chapter relations director include initiation of a service learning component, as well as engaging student leaders of the organization by “providing any assistance I can to help them succeed with our programs.” 

Carlson has extensive experience in academia, having worked for more than a decade as an assistant professor of speech communication at both Jones Junior College and Baton Rouge Community College.

 At Southern Miss, he was a sports writer for the school newspaper, the Student Printz and a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity as an undergraduate. He then began work on a master’s degree in speech communication while serving also serving as a graduate assistant for the university’s Office of Greek Life and teaching undergraduate courses in speech communication. 

He said his focus on academics and involvement in student organizations at Southern Miss paved his career path, and he encourages students to do the same. “You never know which organization will help you make the contacts that can help you achieve your goals,” he said.  

“My experience at Southern Miss was outstanding. When I began college, I had no idea of what to expect. But I came to know so many people who helped me become successful.” 

A chance meeting with one of those people occurred in Southern Hall his sophomore year. While attempting to change his major, he accidentally walked into the office of speech communication faculty member Dr. Keith Erickson. 

The two engaged in conversation about Carlson’s academic plans, with Erickson citing the benefits of a speech communication degree. Carlson was persuaded, and the change in his academic program led to a rewarding career as a community college professor.

 “Jim is a special individual. His kindness and genuine interest in the welfare of others make him a standout,” Erickson said. “I am proud to say I played a small part in his education. He is bound to make a major difference in his role with Phi Kappa Phi.”

 Erickson noted Carlson’s dedication to his students, both as a graduate assistant teaching courses at Southern Miss and later as a professor at Jones and at Baton Rouge. He said Carlson routinely received high praise on evaluations from his students at Southern Miss. 

“He is one of those rare individuals who genuinely cares about the progress students make. It amazed me, for example, that he routinely taught six or seven sections of oral communication at his community college,” Erickson said. “I would ask him ‘Why?’ and he would reply ‘Because I enjoy teaching. Moreover, my students need the course.’ Such dedication is rare indeed.”  

“Those few minutes with Dr. Erickson had an enormous impact on me both personally and professionally. My adviser, Dr. Susan Siltanen, and their colleague, Dr. Lawrence Hosman, gave me the motivation to strive for academic excellence and to apply for graduate school after finishing my bachelor’s degree,” he said.    

“Without the guidance of Dr. Siltanen and then dean of students Tom Shoemaker, I would have never taken the opportunity to continue my education with the graduate assistantship in the Office of Greek Life.” 

Siltanen remembers Carlson as an excellent student with a “never-met-a-stranger” demeanor. “His outgoing personality and excellent communication abilities will facilitate his success as a Phi Kappa Phi administrator," she said.  

Carlson is a 1992 graduate of Petal High School and a 2002 graduate of the Area Development Partnership’s Leaders for a New Century program. He is married to the former Jessica Abadie, a 2001 graduate of the Southern Miss School of Nursing.


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of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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