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Released March 17, 2004

SOUTHERN MISS ON THE GULF COAST CONVERTS CONFERENCE CENTER
TO INSTRUCTIONAL SPACE

LONG BEACH -- The University of Southern Mississippi on the Gulf Coast will position itself for the growing educational needs of its customers by expanding instructional space at its Long Beach campus.

"We're preparing to meet the rapid growth needs of the Gulf Coast," said Ken Malone, chief operating officer of Southern Miss Gulf Coast.

By adapting existing space currently used by the Gulf Park Conference Center in Hardy Hall, Southern Miss will gain approximately 50 offices and 15,000 square feet of instructional space. Current contracts slated through the summer will be honored by the Gulf Park Conference Center.

By creating offices in the 52,000-square foot Hardy Hall, other space on campus will then be freed for classroom use.

The process will also facilitate the hiring of 24 additional faculty members on the Coast, a combination of existing and new positions recently approved by the university.

In closing the conference center, 10 university employees associated with that operation have been notified that their old positions will end as of July 31. Malone said the university will work on an individual basis with these employees to assist them in finding other employment before the end of July. He has also asked the Southern Miss Placement Service to assist these employees in seeking other university positions or outside employment.

"The conference center has been operating at less than 20 percent capacity for several years," Malone said. "When we started it in the 70s, it made money, but now with the casinos and expanded convention housing available, it makes more sense to concentrate our efforts on our primary mission as an institution - education."

Dr. Jay Grimes, provost of Southern Miss on the Gulf Coast, said the opportunity to immediately house growing academic programs as the needs arise will help Southern Miss become the educational institution of choice for the people of South Mississippi.

"It's an exciting environment today as we deliver education through new and more innovative methods," Grimes said. "This campus is moving forward to provide facilities to meet the needs of its students in a responsive manner."

Conversion of the building will be approached in stages as funds become available, Malone said. The first stage of the process will involve cleaning out the building beginning in August and installing a new ventilation system which is expected to take one year to complete.

Conferences will still be hosted at the Gulf Park campus using large meeting facilities in the new Advanced Education Center and library buildings. The Advanced Education Center boasts a 500-seat auditorium and, along with the new library, features multimedia-equipped classrooms accommodating groups from 12 to 60.

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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM

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