Arts & Sciences Dean Search

Founding Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

The University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

  1. Institutional Background
  2. Hattiesburg and Southern Mississippi
  3. Mission, Vision, Values, and Strategic Goals
  4. University Leadership, Student Body, and Academic Programs
  5. Overview of the College of Arts & Sciences
  6. Responsibilities, Desired Qualities, Qualifications
  7. Measures of Success
  8. Link to Human Resources Job Posting


USM Administration Building 

Institutional Background

Founded in 1910, The University of Southern Mississippi opened its doors as a small teachers’ college. Today, the University has grown into a comprehensive doctoral and research-driven institution with a proud history and an eye on the future.

With a diverse student body of approximately 15,000 students representing 74 foreign countries, all regions of the United States, and every corner of Mississippi, the University celebrates diversity in every sense of the word.


Hattiesburg CampusHattiesburg Campus

Characterized by history and tradition, the Hattiesburg campus sits on 300 acres in the middle of the city. More than 180 buildings dot a landscape that has been transformed into a pedestrian-friendly environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. From the rustic, industrial feel of the Power House Restaurant to the ultra-modern Trent Lott Center, the campus has a character and charm all its own in the heart of an urban setting.


Gulf Coast LibraryGulf Park Campus

Surrounded by live oak trees and sitting along the waters of the Gulf of Mexico sound, the 52-acre Gulf Park campus in Long Beach provides a beautiful setting for both learning and research. Not only is it the only beachfront campus in the state, but the Gulf Park campus offers educational opportunities ranging from bachelor’s through doctoral degree programs.



As the premier research university of the Gulf South, Southern Miss takes pride in being classified as a RU/H: Research University (higher research activity) by the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching among doctorate-granting universities. The Drapeau Center for Undergraduate Research affords students meaningful research opportunities, and as a proven leader in innovation, Southern Miss is generating real-world solutions through transformative research. In fact, one of its research projects, to explore whether life can survive on Mars, was one of only two worldwide selected by NASA to be conducted on the International Space Station. Other notable research areas include the following: 


  • The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security offers solutions for the security of sports stadiums and arenas that have been identified as potential targets of terrorism.
  • The School of Polymer Science and Engineering is creating advanced materials and technologies, such as impact-resistant helmets, water-quality-sensing conductive polymers, bioinspired polymers for antibiotic and therapeutic applications, and corrosion resistant coatings, all with the capacity to improve lives. The School’s advanced composite design and production facility partners with global leaders in the aerospace industry to create high performance materials to increase performance and fuel efficiency. 
  • The School of Ocean Science and Technology encompasses over 250,000 square feet of laboratory and educational space across 5 Mississippi counties that enables research and training in aquaculture, marine toxicology, ocean sampling technologies, environmental monitoring and coastal hazards. This capacity establishes USM as a leader in marine education and research in the Gulf of Mexico and promotes economic development through partnerships with local maritime industries.
  • The Dale Center for the Study of War and Society boasts an internationally recognized faculty whose expertise ranges from sixteenth-century China and King Philip’s War through the American Civil War and Vietnam. The Center’s Dale Distinguished Lecture Series in International Security and Global Policy has brought nationally-known policy makers such as General David Petraeus, Secretary Madeline Albright, and Secretary Robert Gates to speak in Hattiesburg. 


USM School of MusicSouthern Miss is also acclaimed for its work in the creative and performing arts as one of only 36 institutions in the nation accredited in all four arts disciplines: theatre, dance, art, and music. The School of Music produces more than 300 performances each year, featuring students, faculty, and world-renowned guest artists. By hosting artists such as Plácido Domingo, Yo-Yo Ma, Sir James Galway, and Joshua Bell, the University has provided unparalleled cultural experiences to its community. The newly created School of Performing and Visual Arts is the only one of its kind in the state. It offers BA, BFA, and MFA degrees from programs that are fully accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre, National Association of Schools of Dance, and National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The Theatre and Dance departments not only produce multiple main stage and studio shows during the academic year, but also host USM’s repertory theatre company, Southern Arena Theatre, and the Hub Dance Collective concert during the summer. In the visual arts, the Southern Miss Museum of Art features international, national, and regional artists, highlighting the rich history of visual arts in the Gulf South. The university’s nationally recognized creative writing program hosts the Visiting Writers Series, which brings major writers and poets to campus each semester, such as former U.S. Poets Laureate Natasha Tretheway and Billy Collins and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Ben Lerner. The arts at Southern Miss are an invaluable cultural resource for both campus and regional communities.

Winning national scholarships is a proud tradition of Southern Miss Honors College students. In 2011, 2013 and 2014, the only Truman Scholarship winner representing a Mississippi university was from The University of Southern Mississippi. Southern Miss’ 21 Goldwater Scholars are the most awarded to any MS institution. Since 2006, Southern Miss students have collected 7 Goldwater Scholarships, 3 Truman Scholarships, 17 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, and numerous other prestigious awards.

The people of Southern Miss choose to go beyond the boundaries of its campuses and make a difference in their community. Each year, students contribute more than 100,000 hours of volunteer service. In addition, the University has been honored with the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement Classification for the many ways in which students, faculty, staff, and programs engage and enhance the people and places of South Mississippi and beyond.

Southern Miss participates at the NCAA’s Division I level in 16 sports. The Golden Eagle football team has won five Conference USA Championships and was victorious in the 2016 New Orleans Bowl. The baseball team returned to NCAA Regional play in 2016, following its win in the Conference USA Tournament. The softball team is reigning Conference USA West Division Champion, and the men’s and women’s basketball teams are regular participants in postseason play.


Hattiesburg and Southern Mississippi

Home to The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg blends a college-town atmosphere with an upscale entertainment district downtown and numerous outdoor, recreational, research, and educational opportunities provided by our location. Today, the City of Hattiesburg’s population is around 52,000, while the Hattiesburg Metropolitan Statistical Area has a population of about 150,000.
HattiesburgFarmer's Market

Saenger TheatreKnown as the Hub City because of its proximity to New Orleans; the Mississippi Gulf Coast; Mobile, Alabama; and Jackson, Mississippi; Hattiesburg was founded in 1882 and incorporated in 1884. It developed as a railroad terminus to support the lumber industry.

The University enjoys strong ties to the community.  Black-and-gold signs and merchandise are displayed in local shops and restaurants showing support for Southern Miss. Dining opportunities abound, particularly local flavors such as New Orleans-style seafood, fried catfish, and barbecue. Hattiesburg has a thriving arts community, both on and off campus, as well as plenty of venues for live music that continue a rich history of blues and rock.

The Midtown Hattiesburg district adjacent to campus has been designed as “a walkable, workable, mixed use community that connects people to living, shopping, dining, entertaining, educational, medical, cultural, and recreational venues” ( Construction on the project started in the summer of 2017, and the district is set to become a highly successful, sustainable, and thriving neighborhood. 

Some of the top-ranked school districts in the state are located in the Hattiesburg area.  For 2016-17, the Petal School District ranked #1 in Mississippi, 1 of only 15 to receive a grade of A, and the Lamar County School District ranked #7, also receiving an A grade.  Oak Grove High School in Lamar County is ranked 6th best in the state, and Petal High School is ranked 9th best.  

The Saenger Theater, one of seven that operated in the South, dates to 1929 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The 1,000-seat venue is a downtown fixture and the home to local and regional productions.  Hattiesburg is also home to the African-American Military History Museum, housed in a Black USO Club from World War II, one of only a few still surviving in the country.  The museum focuses on the crucial role African-Americans played in all of the nation’s conflicts.

Other local events:

  • HubFest, the city’s signature arts and heritage festival
  • Historic Mobile Street Festival, with gospel, blues, barbecue, and arts and crafts
  • Festival South, the state’s only multiweek, multigenre music festival
  • twice-a-year art walks at galleries and shops downtown, plus food and music
  • candlelit Victorian Christmas, with caroling, a tour of homes, and carriage rides in a historic downtown neighborhood 

Southern Mississippi lies in the Gulf Coastal Plain (GCP), the world’s most recently recognized biodiversity hotspot, according to Conservation International. Within the GCP, Hattiesburg is in the largest remaining unimpeded river system (Pascagoula River basin) in the continental U.S. and adjacent to some of the largest remaining clusters of the endangered longleaf pine ecosystem. Southern Miss has a long history of using these abundant natural resources to lead the region in ecological and conservation research.

The University’s Lake Thoreau Environmental Center, located several miles west of campus on the 131-acre Eubanks Preserve, offers opportunities for research,Longleaf Trace teaching, and outreach.  Collaborations with local organizations resulted in over 12 miles of trails.  In 2013, the Natural Sciences Collections building was completed at the Center and houses classroom space and the Southern Miss Herbarium and Ichthyology Collection.  Today the Center is home to many educational and recreational activities for all ages and represents a critical site for environment research. 

The Longleaf Trace is a 41-mile stretch of reclaimed railroad tracks that serves as a walking, jogging, biking, and equestrian trail. Parking and access to the trace are on the north edge of the Southern Miss campus, near the new Century Park residence halls.

Kamper Park and Zoo, just a mile from campus, is a 40-acre park that houses a 12-acre zoological garden. With exhibits dedicated to areas such as South America and the African Veldt, Kamper Park and Zoo is home to everything from prairie dogs to zebras to howler monkeys. The zoo also houses a variety of exotic birds, American alligators, and the tiger boardwalk exhibit. In addition, zoogoers can enjoy a peaceful train ride or a trip around the carousel, or shop in the gift shop or concession stand.

Paul B. Johnson State Park, 20 minutes south of Hattiesburg, offers vacation cabins, a nature trail, and fishing, boating, and swimming at Geiger Lake. It’s also the place to be for a spectacular Fourth of July fireworks display. Eight other state lakes are nearby in South Mississippi, including Lake Perry in the Desoto National Forest. DeSoto offers camping, hiking, canoeing, fishing, golfing, and more. It is home to the state’s only national scenic river, Black Creek.

Nearby Camp Shelby is another key member of the community. The camp, just south of town, is the largest National Guard training base east of the Mississippi River and has trained thousands of service personnel before their deployment oversees.  Many active-duty service members live in the area, as does a large community of veterans.  This active and engaged community is served by the University’s Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families.

The city has been recognized by numerous publications and rankings as a retirement destination because of the area's amenities, low cost of living, and strong health care services, with two hospitals and a multispecialty clinic.

For more information about Hattiesburg, Mississippi, visit the Chamber of Commerce at



Research Training at Southern MissThe University of Southern Mississippi is a community of engaged citizens, operating as a public, student-centered, doctorate-granting research university serving Mississippi, the nation, and the world. The University is dedicated to scholarship and learning, integrating students at all levels in the creation and application of knowledge through excellence in teaching, research, creative activities, outreach, and service. The University nurtures student success by providing distinctive and competitive educational programs embedded in a welcoming environment, preparing a diverse student population to embark on meaningful life endeavors.  



The University of Southern Mississippi aspires to be a model student-centered public research university that prepares students to thrive in a global society by providing high-quality programs and transformative experiences in a community distinguished by inclusiveness.



 The mission of the institution is supported by the following values:

  • research and instructional excellence focused on student success at all teaching sites and through campus-based and distance education
  • student engagement that fosters personal growth, professional development, and a lifelong commitment to wellness
  • an inclusive community that embraces the diversity of people and ideas
  • institutional governance that respects academic freedom and faculty inclusion
  • a campus culture characterized by warmth and mutually supportive connections among students, faculty, staff, and alumni
  • an approach to academics, research, and personal conduct based on integrity and civility
  • an evolving curriculum that fosters lifelong curiosity and critical thinking
  • community participation that promotes social responsibility and citizenship.


Institutional Strategic Goals 

  • support student success to foster retention, progression, and graduation
  • promote teaching, research, and creative excellence
  • strategically expand undergraduate and graduate enrollment
  • strengthen economic and community partnerships
  • invest in faculty and staff to maximize their potential
  • promote a culture of inclusiveness of people and ideas
  • enhance physical, technological, and financial infrastructure to support the University’s mission, vision, and values
  • improve efficiency and effectiveness of institutional processes and systems


University Leadership

Rodney D. Bennett serves as the chief executive officer and principal educational officer of The University of Southern Mississippi. Under his leadership, the University has invested in new faculty positions, expanded coastal operations, and worked to increase access to quality education and research programs to serve the needs of the state of Mississippi and beyond.

President Bennett’s vision is for The University of Southern Mississippi to become the model for public higher education across the country. Moving forward, his key institutional priorities include improving quality across the board while ensuring student success, expanding enrollment strategies, enhancing academic instruction, fostering greater focus on research, bolstering economic and community partnerships, and maximizing human potential.

Steven R. Moser is the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi.

The provost is charged with the oversight of the University of Southern Mississippi’s graduate and undergraduate academic programs as well as curriculum development, program assessment, and university accreditation. He is also responsible for leading the formulation and implementation of university-wide academic affairs policies related to faculty hiring, retention, tenure, promotion, and development. Since his appointment, Provost Moser has overseen the restructuring of admission and retention programming at the university, and in 2016 he began a campus-wide dialogue to restructure academic units under the Plan for Academic Reorganization: Vision 2020.


Student Body and Academic Programs

The University of Southern Mississippi has a total undergraduate enrollment of about 12,000, with a gender distribution of 36 percent male students and 64 percent female students. 

USM Students

About 27 percent of the students live in college-owned, -operated or -affiliated housing, and 73 percent of students live off campus.  Graduate enrollment is about 3,000 students.

The student-faculty ratio at The University of Southern Mississippi is 17:1, and 43.8 percent of its classes run with fewer than 20 students. The University maintains a tradition of success in both academics and athletics, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in more than 180 programs through the newly formed College of Arts & Sciences and three professional colleges: the College of Business and Economic Development, College of Education and Human Sciences, and College of Nursing and Health Professions. 

As the state’s only dual-campus university, Southern Miss serves students on campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, in addition to teaching and research sites throughout south Mississippi, including the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs and the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, and through its online offerings.

Students at Southern Miss are afforded international experience through study-abroad programs in 20 countries, such as the Environmental Geography program in Costa Rica, the Business and Culture program in Japan, the History and Social Work program in Cuba, and the popular British Studies program in London.

The University is home to the sixth-oldest acceptance-based Honors College in the nation, along with nationally recognized programs in the arts, history, English, polymer science, ocean science, and business.


An Overview of the College of Arts & Sciences

The University is currently engaged in a transformative academic reorganization. The Plan for Academic Reorganization 2020 arose from the commitment of Academic Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi to enhance the distinctiveness of academic programs and to create a sustainable model for academic programming. The plan that has emerged is a combination of many different proposed themes identified through the Academic Leadership Council review process, all while remaining sensitive to the myriad institutional challenges Southern Miss faces.

ConcordeBeginning on July 1, 2018, Arts & Sciences will become the largest college at The University of Southern Mississippi.  It will operate at the heart of the university’s mission to educate students and create knowledge in the humanities, social sciences, mathematical and natural sciences, and engineering as well as in its well-known programs in the arts, polymers, and ocean science. The faculty in the new college are among Southern Miss’s most celebrated for their teaching and research.

Home to 13 schools and 110 academic programs, A&S provides education in fundamentals to every undergraduate student at Southern Miss and builds foundations for advanced study in every field. Its faculty integrates innovative research with exceptional teaching and outreach, thereby providing paths to understanding the past, solving the problems of today, and imagining the possibilities of tomorrow.

A&S will be central to undergraduate and graduate education at The University of Southern Mississippi, teaching 85% of general education credit hours and almost half of all undergraduate credit hours.  The College will also produce most of the doctoral degrees at the institution and house more than a dozen teacher licensure programs or emphases.

View the complete Plan for Academic Reorganization


Responsibilities of the Position

Reporting to the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, the Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences will plan, develop, and coordinate all administrative and academic proceedings for a wide range of programs and services that enhance the quality of faculty and student academic life in the college. The Dean will also engage in strategic planning and implementation to align the college with the Academic Master Plan and the University’s Strategic Plan and ensure all initiatives are consistent with the mission and vision of the Office of the Provost and The University of Southern Mississippi. The Dean will lead more than 500 faculty and staff and oversee a $35 million operating budget. 

A&S Academic Programs Collage 

Desired Qualities and Capacities of the Dean

  • a distinguished record of scholarship and academic achievement
  • a strong commitment to the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, and engineering and the capacity for working across disciplines and professions to enhance learning throughout the University
  • an understanding of and respect for the accreditation process of diverse disciplines
  • a history of innovative and effective leadership in a consultative and collaborative academic environment
  • significant experience in recruiting, retaining, and nurturing faculty, including a well-developed ability to gauge academic quality and an appreciation for the vital importance of hiring and promotion decisions in creating and sustaining excellence in the University
  • knowledge and entrepreneurship in envisioning, managing, and facilitating access to the internal and external sources of funding necessary to build and sustain excellence in research and educational programs
  • an aptitude and enthusiasm for fundraising to support the College’s mission
  • a well-developed sense of how to allocate resources to fulfill the priorities of the College’s and University’s strategic plans
  • a deft hand in managing procedural details and facilitating shared governance with a spirit of openness and generosity of understanding
  • a commitment to working in partnership with University leadership, including the President, the Provost, Vice Presidents, Vice and Associate Provosts, and the other academic Deans
  • resilience, thoughtfulness in speech, responsiveness, and fair-mindedness. 


Required Qualifications

The ideal candidate will have:

  • an earned doctorate or terminal degree, a record of distinguished scholarly accomplishment, and a strong commitment to research or creative activity, teaching, and service in a field appropriate for appointment as a full professor in one of the departments or schools of the College of Arts & Sciences
  • a demonstrated track record of administrative experience and academic leadership, and a portfolio of professional successes
  • strong and proven capabilities in complex organizational management including strategic planning, financial stewardship, budget creation, resource allocation, human resource management, risk management, and related decision-making
  • the proven ability to work collaboratively with leaders across organizations
  • exemplary interpersonal and communication skills
  • impeccable integrity, sense of professionalism, and sound judgment.

Science Students in the LabEducation

Academic credentials that merit appointment as a full professor in one of the academic departments or programs in the College of Arts & Sciences.



The University of Southern Mississippi will provide a competitive compensation and benefits package appropriate for a position of this scope, stature, and level of responsibility.



Likely Opportunities, Priorities, and Challenges of the Position

As the founding Dean of the new College of Arts & Sciences, the successful candidate will have the opportunity to work with faculty and staff to chart the course of the new College, establish its culture, and identify its priorities.


Measures of Success for the Position

The following items will define the success of the Dean of Arts & Sciences throughout the first year of employment:

  • establish a high profile at Southern Miss and actively engage in dialogue and public relations with a broad group of constituents to build awareness of the new College of Arts & Sciences
  • complete an appropriate assessment of the college’s mission, services, structure, and staffing
  • connect with key stakeholders and be visible in the local community in order to ensure the University continues to play an important role in the Hattiesburg and regional communities
  • foster among stakeholders a common understanding of the role that the Dean and his or her academic leadership team should play in achieving the University’s priorities and supporting the institutional mission
  • develop a level of trust among faculty and staff across the college
  • ensure that responsibilities have been delegated to the appropriate academic leaders who will be held accountable for outcomes.

Link to Human Resources Job Posting

Please visit to view the job posting and apply for the position.