Dr. Pola Jakacki

Dear Friends of the Karnes Center for Gifted Studies,


After 41 years of dedicated service to The University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Frances A. Karnes, Professor Emeritus, has retired.   Dr. Karnes created the Karnes Center for Gifted Studies over 35 years ago.  Her impact on the field of education, the State of Mississippi, Hattiesburg, and USM is immeasurable.  Thousands of students have attended Career Exploration for Girls Conference, and Saturday Gifted, Summer Gifted, Academically Talented, and Leadership Programs.   Many parents and teachers have attended the Parenting Gifted Children Conference and Day of Sharing for Teachers of the Gifted. 


I have the privilege of being appointed the Interim Director and would like to introduce myself to you.  In 2005, after five years teaching, I became aware of an excellent Masters of Gifted Education program at The University of Southern Mississippi.  I came to the Hattiesburg campus from south Florida in 2005 for three exciting summers of courses and practicum to earn my master’s degree.  I was hired by Dr. Karnes as teacher for the programs. Then, I moved to Mississippi to be a full time graduate student and earn a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Administration.  In 2011, I began working as program supervisor and worked closely with Dr. Karnes as my mentor and guide. 


I feel honored to have this position.  I am excited about this role and plan to bring new ideas and my innovational leadership style to the Center in order to continue the tradition of excellence that Dr. Karnes began in 1979.


I have over 13 years K-12 classroom teaching experience in Wisconsin, Florida, and Mississippi and have worked in the fields of Gifted Education, Special Education, Social Studies, and English as Second Language.  Recently, I began teaching in higher education here at USM and serve as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Educational Leadership and School Counseling and Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education.


Besides being a passionate educator, I am also a mother and wife.  In my free time, I spend time with my family and friends, go to the beach, watch movies, hike, cook, bake, and travel.  I have traveled around the United States, Mexico, Canada, England, Russia, France, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, Austria, Germany, and Poland, where I also lived for a semester.  I dream of traveling to Brazil, South Africa, India and Australia.  I believe my life and work experiences will help lead the Center in our globally interdependent world. Some immediate goals are to increase enrollment, expand the Saturday Program to the Long Beach campus, add Robotics and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses, and collaborate with schools, communities, teachers, and families to enhance learning. I look forward to serving you in my role as Interim Director.


Thank you for your continued support of gifted education. 




Pola Jakacki, Ph.D