Rodney D. Bennett
Rodney D. Bennett took office as the 10th President of The University of Southern Mississippi on April 1, 2013. Dr. Bennett came to Southern Miss from the University of Georgia, where he served as Vice President for Student Affairs. Dr. Bennett’s selection as President made history, as he became the first African-American president of a predominantly white higher education institution in the state of Mississippi. [News release/video announcing Dr. Bennett's hiring.]
Appointed to the presidency by the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning, Dr. Bennett is charged with serving as both the chief executive officer and principal educational officer of The University of Southern Mississippi. In general terms, the President is responsible to the Board of Trustees for every facet of institutional operations.
Specifically, the IHL Board delegates to its university presidents administrative control of the universities over which they preside. This includes responsibility for the administration of the divisions and departments of each institution and for keeping its expenditures strictly in harmony with the budget authorized by the IHL Board.
The president also must take the initiative in shaping the University's educational policy and academic standards in cooperation with the State Commissioner of Higher Education. The president has final authority over all employees. The president also is charged with the responsibility of maintaining appropriate standards of student conduct.
In the week following the Board of Trustees’ announcement, the University’s Hattiesburg campus was struck by a powerful tornado that ripped through not only Southern Miss but also the surrounding community. No lives were lost, but several buildings on campus were damaged or destroyed. Dr. Bennett is currently leading the institution’s recovery.
As Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Georgia, Dr. Bennett was actively involved in all facets of student life, from improving facilities to creating service learning opportunities and celebrating the spirit of diversity on campus. He helped raise funds to enhance student life on campus and improved communications with faculty, staff, students and parents on the Athens campus and three UGA extended campuses.
Dr. Bennett served as Chair of the UGA Athletic Association NCAA Recertification process, including the institutional self-study. In addition, he was a member of the on-site committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, reviewing compliance areas related to student life and student affairs.
Dr. Bennett holds a Doctor of Education Degree in Educational Administration from Tennessee State University in Nashville, a Specialist in Education Degree and a Master of Education Degree in Educational Administration from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communication from Middle Tennessee State.
The Office of the President has been relocated to the third floor of the Trent Lott National Center (map) while repairs are made to the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building.