Members of the State Institutions of Higher Learning search committee charged with finding a new president for The University of Southern Mississippi heard comments Wednesday from its various stakeholders during listening sessions held in Hattiesburg and on the Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.
The sessions focused on the qualities and qualifications Southern Miss stakeholders believe the next institutional executive officer should possess. Each session was open to the public, but focused on the interests of specific constituency groups.
Robin Robinson, chair of the IHL search committee and a Southern Miss alumna, said she felt the sessions were a productive way for the committee to gain insight into the kind of person university stakeholders want to see become the institution’s 10th president. Robinson said the committee hopes to have a preferred candidate by early February.
“We had great participation,” she said of the sessions. “Those attending were ready to talk about what the next president needed to do and be. They want someone to come here and stay, and have not only a vision but a plan for the university that can be implemented.”
Dr. Gerry Cadenhead Fletcher, dean emeritus of the Southern Miss College of Nursing, said she was more hopeful after attending Wednesday’s listening sessions in Hattiesburg that the board committee can find a president “who is an outstanding visionary leader that will move the university forward.”
“I thought the comments made were very sincere, and the opinions expressed were varied. That’s an important part of this search process,” she said.
Dr. James Pat Smith, professor of history at Southern Miss Gulf Coast, said he’s glad the board is taking time to listen to university faculty and staff, as well as its other constituents as it moves forward in identifying a candidate to be the institution’s next leader. “This (search) is a big part of our lives and we hope they’ll do a good job, and listening is the start of a good job,” he said.
Smith believes it would benefit the university greatly if the next president has multi-campus experience. “You need someone who is comfortable with that dynamic and who is willing to delegate and evolve appropriate decision-making locally,” he said.