Homer Coffman serves as Chief Information Officer at The University of Southern Mississippi. Before coming to Southern Miss he also served in the Marine Corps, worked as a company president and a college dean. Coffman took a few moments recently to reflect on his current responsibilities and outside interests in a question-and-answer format.
Q:What is your hometown and educational background?
A:I am from Ocean Springs, Miss. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1974. While in the Marines, I was selected for the officer candidate program. This program allowed me to attend and graduate with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Southern Miss in 1978. Over the years I have worked as a college dean, naval commander, entrepreneur and company president.
Q:How did you end up at Southern Miss in your current position?
A:I was selected from a national search done by the university, and it was a perfect opportunity to return home.
Q:As Chief Information Officer for the university, how many people do you supervise?
A:The iTech department has about 94 employees, not counting students.
Q:How would you describe your role at the university?
A: As Chief Information Officer at Southern Miss, my responsibility is to provide leadership and to serve as the focal point for achieving a shared vision throughout the university concerning how we leverage information technology to achieve our mission and goals. This is accomplished through collaboration with students, faculty and staff to develop and maintain a strategic plan for governance of information technology guided by the university’s Strategic Plan.
Q:What are you biggest challenges in this position?
A:The biggest challenge is change. We have a saying in iTech that the only constant in technology is “change.” We work in a very dynamic profession that requires a new direction or policy daily.
Q:Do you have serious concerns about someone hacking into the university’s system?
A:Vigilance is a word that comes to mind. Data security is a huge issue in our modern society.
Q:Do you think iTech professionals get an unfair rap as maybe being nerdy?
A:Not sure about that, but in our world it is cool to be nerdy. The nerd population is growing fast!
Q:What is your favorite part about working at Southern Miss?
A:The students for sure. I love walking around campus and just talking to students. They are the reason we are here.
Q:What is one thing people might not know about you that they would find surprising?
A:That I am a retired Navy commander. On April 18, 1988 I participated in one of the largest naval battles since World War II. I was stationed on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) as part of Destroyer Squadron Nine during Operation Praying Mantis.