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Released January 7, 2004


HATTIESBURG - The lifeblood of any research university is its faculty, and The University of Southern Mississippi is looking forward to a healthy infusion next fall.

A record 112 faculty searches among all academic colleges and teaching sites within the university has already been approved, according to Hattiesburg Provost Dr. Tim Hudson. Southern Miss filled 44 tenure-track faculty positions last year.

"The searches demonstrate a commitment to the vitality of the university's intellectual atmosphere and the quality of its instructional and research programs," Hudson said. "Our students deserve to be taught by the best and to have greater access to a talented faculty." Hudson added that stopping the erosion in the number of faculty members due to the current statewide budget crunch was "critical to that goal."

Working with the academic deans and the budget office and using the dividend from last year's college reorganization, which reallocated almost $2 million from administrative areas to the classroom, the university was able to direct approximately $4.8 million toward the salaries needed to fill these positions.

The majority of the searches will be for tenure-eligible faculty to replace current vacancies or impending retirements. In addition, multiple new positions have been created.

"As a new dean at Southern Miss, I am highly impressed with the commitment of this administration to make faculty salaries and positions its major priority," said Dr. Rex Gandy, dean of the College of Science and Technology. "The hiring process has been handled in a highly efficient and professional manner, and I look forward to hiring many world class faculty for my college, to the ultimate benefit of the students at Southern Miss."

Jason Asbury, a first semester graduate student in sports administration, said he thinks the contributions of the departing faculty should not be overlooked. "But, new faculty do provide an exciting opportunity for new ideas to be brought to the university," Asbury added.

Starting the new searches early in the academic season should be a boon for Southern Miss, said Dr. Stan Kuczaj, chair of the Department of Psychology.

"Given that we are competing with hundreds of other universities to hire future stars, it is imperative that we begin these searches as early as possible," Kuczaj said. "Otherwise, we stand to lose some of the best candidates to other 'early bird' universities."

According to Dr. Charles Bolton, chair of the Department of History, "Faculty searches are one of the most important things we do as a department."

"After all," he said, "these are the people who will be our colleagues for years to come. Even more important, hiring new faculty gives us an opportunity to replenish our ranks with new graduates from top graduate programs around the country. They bring original research insights about our discipline and fresh strategies about the craft of teaching, both essential to the life of a research institution."

Hudson said he anticipates the search will attract "the most talented and highly qualified group of new faculty in the history of Southern Miss."

"This should be good news for students, faculty, staff, friends and supporters. It is also good news for the economy of South Mississippi, as this next generation of faculty will move to our communities from across the United States and the world," Hudson said.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM