Message from the President to the University Community
Dear Southern Miss Community:
My primary goal as President of The University of Southern Mississippi is to create pathways for success – not only for our students, but also for our University as a whole. As I began conversations with members of our Southern Miss family last spring, it quickly became clear that three key areas will define our collective success as we move forward:
- First, our ability to recruit and enroll bright students across the University;
- Second, our ability to retain those students and ensure student success in progressing toward graduation; and
- Third, our ability to take full advantage of the opportunity that the Gulf Park campus – our “secret weapon” – provides us to meet the needs of the coastal region.
In the spirit of shared governance, I have engaged numerous stakeholders in dialogue regarding each of these areas, including undergraduate and graduate students, deans, department chairs, faculty, staff, and other constituents. Three committees were formed to conduct reviews of undergraduate student enrollment; student success; and our dual campus system, specifically with regard to support of mission and vision, quality, and academic program selection.
Each committee concluded their work during the fall semester, and all six committee chairpersons presented their committees’ final recommendations to the Executive Cabinet for consideration during December and again as part of a day-long meeting in early January. These committee reports are available for your review at the following links:
As the reports demonstrate, several key themes emerged:
- The University of Southern Mississippi should have one consistent brand identity that promotes the University holistically but allows us to showcase unique opportunities across multiple teaching and research sites.
- Clear, consistent, and common enrollment processes should be utilized across the University to eliminate duplication of efforts and simplify admissions processes for prospective students.
- Student success must be an institutional priority and can only be effectively pursued through unifying academic and institutional goals in supporting students as they move toward degree completion.
- Some practices and processes on both campuses internally separate the two campuses and hinder our ability to move forward into the future.
- An effective organizational structure for the University must promote unity, efficiency, and maximization of resources; include consultation between campuses in making decisions; connect accountability with responsibility and authority; and clarify the chain of command in terms of role and structure.
I am committed to eliminating structural barriers to our collective success as an institution, both in Hattiesburg, on our Gulf Park campus, and at our other teaching and research sites along the Gulf Coast. After reviewing these emerging themes from committee reports and synthesizing feedback from countless other University stakeholders to whom I have listened for the past nine months, I have decided to take the following actions regarding the key areas of recruitment and enrollment; student success and progression towards degree completion; and management of a dual campus system:
- The University of Southern Mississippi recruitment and enrollment processes will be integrated to maximize use of resources and information sharing while unifying messages to prospective students.
- I have charged a team with developing an implementation plan for committee recommendations that will increase our ability to reach students effectively, ensure student success and improve graduation rates.
- Organizational changes will be made across the University that will integrate academic program management, finances, facilities, communications, campus safety and technology to allow us to be more nimble and responsive to stakeholder needs and to promote clarity, accountability, transparency and cohesiveness.
Illustrations of these organizational changes are available at the following link:
Over the coming weeks, the information available on this web page may be updated as details are finalized, titles are approved, and formal organizational charts are updated. These changes will be effective March 17, 2014, pending IHL Board approval.
As we progress through the spring semester, additional committee recommendations included in each report may also be moved towards implementation.
In recognition of the semester-long committee processes that so many of our colleagues worked through to help address these key areas, I am hosting a “thank you” reception for all three committees on Friday, Feb. 7, at 3:30 p.m., in Ballroom I of the Thad Cochran Center (map). I also invite each of you, as members of our University community, to join us at the reception in appreciation for each committee member’s dedication and service.
I remain confident that our greatest opportunities as an institution lie ahead, and I believe that these new strategies will position The University of Southern Mississippi for success as we define our way forward.
Rodney D. Bennett