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Your Gifts Make a Difference

Hear from four of our endowed faculty members on what their endowed professorships have meant for them, for both their research and their ability to help their students succeed.

For more information on how your contribution to Southern Miss can help endow a position, please visit the USM Foundation.

Dr. Monika Gehlawat

Dr. Kimberly Goodwin

Dr. Jeffrey Wiggins

Dr. Gallayanee Yaoyuneyong

Endowed Faculty Directory

Click an image to learn more about our faculty and the groundbreaking research projects that their endowed positions have made possible.


Horne Professor of Accounting (2015-present)

Paul Beck

My endowed professorship with Horne has helped me in two ways. First, it has enabled me to develop relationships with members of the firms who have provided me with insights from audit practitioners about research issues. Additionally, I have had opportunities to bring guest lecturers from the firm into my classes at USM.

Paul Beck

Professor of Accounting
Ph.D. in Business from the University of Texas at Austin

My research over the past 10 years has focused on financial reporting by Banks. A specific issue addressed is how the changes in credit loss Accounting have affected banks' provisions for credit losses. Recently, I have studied how capital ratios reported to bank regulators can be adjusted to make them more responsive to interest rate risk. Such changes will hopefully provide investors and bank depositors with greater confidence in the financial reports, so that depositor-runs such as those occurring Silicon Valley Bank are less likely to occur. 


Nina Bell Suggs Endowed Professor (2023-26)

Kelsey Bonfils

Being chosen as the Nina Bell Suggs Endowed Professor was deeply meaningful for me and signaled that my work across the domains of teaching, research, and service has benefitted the university community. Since assuming this position, I obtained a supplement to my grant through the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) which will extend that work to qualitatively examine the perspectives of participants with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders regarding the impact of sleep disturbance on their daily lives, with emphasis on their social connections. As part of this supplement, which was intended to promote excellence in mentorship regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, I am working with a group of undergraduate and graduate students to build their knowledge, expand our understanding of the impacts of sleep disturbance for those with schizophrenia, and strengthen our work in the community. 

Kelsey Bonfils

Assistant Professor of Psychology, School of Psychology
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI)

My research examines social cognition, or the mental processes that support social interaction, in people diagnosed with schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. With grant funding from the National Institute of Mental Health, the Brain and Behavioral Research Foundation, and the Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research, I investigate factors that influence social cognition, including sleep disturbance, as well as how we can positively influence social cognition through treatment to promote recovery in people with serious mental illnesses.


  • Schizophrenia Research and Treatment
  • Serious Mental Illness
  • Social Cognition
  • Sleep Disturbance


Charles Moorman Distinguished Professor in the Humanities (2023-25)

Monika Gehlawat

Since receiving the Moorman, I have been able to spend more time on my research by buying out a portion of my teaching load. As a result, I have written two chapters (half) of my book so far. I have also traveled to see several exhibitions of contemporary art that engage with literature and/or contain a linguistic component. These interdisciplinary exhibitions of contemporary art offer me a way to consider the efficacy of the novels I write about as well as to familiarize myself with the artists they describe. I have also corresponded with the writers I focus on in my research and have plans to travel to meet and interview them in person. These research trips to view art and meet with artists have helped me to hone my book's argument about the nature of aesthetic experience and its translatability in ekphrastic literature. 

Monika Gehlawat

Professor of English
Ph.D. in English, University of California, Berkeley

My research for the Moorman Professorship focuses on contemporary American ekphrastic literature, which is the topic of my current (and 2nd) monograph, tentatively titled Triptych: the Ekphrastic Mode in Teju Cole, Siri Hustvedt, and Ben Lerner. I have published peer-reviewed articles and taught both graduate and undergraduate seminars on this subject.

Ekphrasis is a formal concept originating from ancient Greek philosophy; Aristotle defined it as literature that represents other art forms, most often, visual art. Homer’s description of Achilles’ shield in The Iliad and John Keats’ poem “Ode to a Grecian Urn” are two famous examples of ekphrasis, a tradition that continues to the present day. Writers like Teju Cole, Ben Lerner, Rachel Kushner, Don DeLillo, and Siri Hustvedt, among others, are publishing novels which take as their primary concern the aesthetic experience of painting, photography, performance art, sculpture, and music. Less concerned with plot, theme, or traditional conflict, these novels foreground the experience of beholding art, so that we come to understand their characters vis-à-vis aesthetic encounters.

My working argument for this project is that these writers turn to art in order to cultivate the intersubjective sensitivity they find eroding in neoliberal capitalism. The first-person narrators of these novels often face a crisis of interpretation; as connoisseurs, they may excel in “reading” art, but often blunder when it comes to comprehending the signs they receive from other characters and responding appropriately. Gradually, their aesthetic experiences serve as a kind of conduit for intersubjective readiness; the openness these narrators feel for art guides their emotional development towards greater vulnerability and self-awareness. Qualities of perceptual intuition, deep absorption, and intellectual curiosity are initiated through aesthetic engagement, counteracting the social atomization and dulling effects of the digital image realm. 


  • Modern and Contemporary Literature
  • Aesthetic and Critical Theory
  • Art History

Parham Bridges Endowed Chair of Real Estate (2011-present)

Kimberly Goodwin

The endowed position has given me additional opportunities to network with colleagues from around the world and spend more time devoted to research projects. Those successes and connections allowed me to be elected for executive leadership in the American Real Estate Society. I served as program chair of the organization in 2020-2021, Vice President in 2021-2022, and President in 2022-2023. I have been on the editorial team of the Journal of Housing Research since 2015. I currently serve as the Publications Director for the American Real Estate Society where I oversee the editorial teams and publication strategies of all six of the organization's real estate academic journals. In 2021, I was selected by the American Real Estate Society to receive the Kinnard Young Scholar award, which is given annually to an international real estate researcher for outstanding research contributions during the first decade of their career. In 2022, I was awarded the Louis K. Brandt Research Award by the College of Business and Economic Development.

Kimberly Goodwin

Professor of Finance
Ph.D. Finance, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL M.S. Finance, George Washington University, Washington, DC

My main area of research is related to how policy and regulation impacts housing marketability. For example, I am currently working on projects related to the impacts of pet restrictions and lease limitations on housing markets. I am also active in research related to real estate investment decisions and performance.


  • Real Estate

Max and Susan Draughn Endowed Professorship in Healthcare Marketing (2015-present)

Kelli King

The Healthcare Marketing bachelor’s degree program, established through a generous grant from Max and Susan Draughn, provides a business education with a targeted focus on sales and marketing. The Healthcare Marketing student experience is enhanced with practical healthcare marketing industry experiences. The mission of the Healthcare Marketing program is to produce graduates who can compete in healthcare marketing industries, primarily medical device and pharmaceuticals, by providing an education in marketing, healthcare, science, sales, and relationship building. The Draughn endowment funds play a crucial role in the success of the program.

The Healthcare Marketing program is unique in that very few programs exist with similar curricula focusing on the specific area of marketing and sales in the healthcare industry. This program fills a gap for students interested in a career healthcare marketing. The Draughn funds allow students to not only have the crucial academic experience but ensure that they have practical industry experiences while in school. These funds provide students opportunities such as Lunch-and-Learns with industry professionals, a Healthcare Marketing Senior Dinner with a keynote speaker, professional headshot photos, and numerous other industry engagement and networking opportunities. Recent graduates of the program have been hired by companies such as Stryker, Zimmer Biomet, DePuy Synthes, Lilly, and Pfizer.

Kelli King

Assistant Teaching Professor of Marketing
Doctor of Pharmacy, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS


  • Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Sales
  • Pharmaceutical Regulations
  • Healthcare Marketing

McCarty Distinguished Professor (2010-present)

Fujun Lai

The support of this endowed position strengthens my research on smarter supply chain at USM in a sustainable manner.


Fujun Lai

Professor of Leadership, School of Leadership
Ph.D.. City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Dr. Lai’s research focuses on smarter supply chains, such as data-driven supply chains and digital transformation, especially how digital technologies empower supply chains. His work on these topics has been published in the Journal of Operations Management, Production and Operations Management, Journal of Management Information Systems, Decision Sciences, Communications of the ACM, among others.


  • Smarter Supply Chain
  • Enterprise Information System

Asbury Foundation Distinguished Professor in Nursing (August 2021-July 2024)


Marion Patti


The endowed professorship is an honor that propels Dr. Patti forward as a nurse and educator. The Asbury Foundation, along with the University's Institute for Disability Studies, made it possible for USM to partner with Edwards Street Fellowship Health Clinic (ESFHC) to bridge the gap between healthcare inequities and vulnerable members of the community. Through the partnership, patients with chronic illnesses receive the support they need to manage their conditions. Undergraduate USM nursing students gain valuable insight into health disparities by observing patients who face difficult choices, and they see firsthand how giving back positively impacts the community's health. The endowed professorship allocates resources for Dr. Patti to present research regarding vulnerable populations and the educational program at ESFHC. The Foundation's generosity has improved the overall health of the community by empowering patients to manage their disorders at home and reduce the risk of disability. The endowed professorship plays a crucial role in helping to combat t

Marion Patti

Assistant Professor of Nursing Practice
Doctor of Nursing Practice, 2019, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS

My research initially focused on the quality of life and lived experience of people with an autoimmune disorder. However, as I progressed as a nurse educator, my research focus shifted to improving nursing education through experiential learning to enhance students' overall well-being. My research aims to establish a foundation for providing quality, equitable care, especially to vulnerable populations. I am working on several studies in various stages. I am currently collecting data on the effectiveness of chronic care education at Edwards Street. I am looking to see if the distribution of appropriate supplies and arming patients with chronic care knowledge does improve the health of our community. Additionally, I am evaluating our students' perceptions of their experience serving the economically disadvantaged. Also, I am in the final stages of completing an article on utilizing simulation to impact nursing students' attitudes regarding caring for patients with disabilities.


Dr. Patti is committed to achieving diverse and equitable healthcare through experiential learning. Ongoing research initiatives echo her passion for innovation in healthcare education to include vulnerable populations and improve our community's health outcomes while considering her nursing students' lived experiences. 

  • Simulation as an experiential learning tool
  • Utilizing nursing curriculum to bridge the gap between equitable and quality care of vulnerable populations
  • Capturing lived experiences of nursing students to enhance healthcare education and community health outcomes 

Southern Society of Coating Technology Endowed Professor (2023-25)

Zhe Qiang

The Endowed Professorship from Southern Society of Coating Technology enhances research activities and infrastructure development of my group to address critical societal and environmental challenges. Through this support, our group can work on high-risk and high-rewarding projects, which hopefully can make a sustainable impact to the world. In addition, students in my group who work on these projects are collaborating with other experts on technology commercialization and establishing community partnership; the Endowment plays an instrumental role in student development to train next generation leaders.


Zhe Qiang

Assistant Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering
Ph.D. in Polymer Engineering, University of Akron, OH

My research group focuses on fundamental science and applied technology development for unleashing the power of plastics to address environmental sustainability. These research objectives are under a grand vision: Plastics and their wastes should become a critical material solution for the energy-water-environment nexus toward a sustainable future. We directly confront the challenge of plastics wastes, through a fundamental rethink to enable a plastic circular economy in which plastics never become waste or pollution.


  • Polymer Science and Engineering
  • Sustainability and Circular Economy
  • Industrial Decarbonization

Jerold J. Morgan Distinguished Professor of Accounting (2022)

Blaise M. Sonnier


Blaise M. Sonnier

Professor of Accounting
Juris Doctorate, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana Doctorate in Business Administration, Grenoble School of Management, Grenoble, France

Blaise M. Sonnier, a first generation university graduate, is a licensed Certified Public Accountant and attorney (both Louisiana). He holds a Juris Doctorate (Louisiana State University) and a Doctorate of Business Administration (Grenoble School of Management, Grenoble, France). Prior to beginning his career in academics, Dr. Sonnier practiced law for 21 years. During this time, he was a Board Certified Tax Attorney and Board Certified in Estate Planning and Administration. Prior to joining the faculty at USM, Dr. Sonnier was on the faculty at Florida International University and at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. Over his career in academics, Dr. Sonnier has published over 60 peer reviewed journal articles, including in the ATA Journal of Legal Tax Research, the Journal of Taxation, Corporate Taxation, Tax Notes, Real Estate Taxation, Taxes, and the Journal of State Taxation. He also writes a column on state and local taxation that is published quarterly in Taxes.


  • State and Local Taxation
  • Federal Income Tax
  • Federal Gift and Estate Tax

General Buford “Buff” Blount Professor in Military History

Andrew Wiest

The Blount Professorship allowed me to complete the research for this project. Perhaps most importantly, though, it allowed me to spend this semester off of teaching and devote myself to writing. The manuscript will be well over 100,000 words, which is a pretty significant task. The chief problem with writing books is finding the time to sit down and write. Instead of cramming in a few minutes writing here and there between teaching and grading, the professorship has allowed me time to devote to the craft of writing, which will speed up the publication of this book by years.

Andrew Wiest

Professor of History, School of Humanities
Ph.D. in History, The University of Illinois, Chicago

At present I am writing a book on the Mississippi National Guard and its service in Iraq in 2005. The book focuses on the experience of the 150 Engineers and their deployment to Anbar Province. The book will look at the lives of the men and women who served on that deployment, mainly through the use of oral history. I have interviewed more than 60 survivors of the tour of duty and several family members of the many men who were killed in action. the 150th was given a difficult task and succeeded against all odds. However, the National Guard is too often overlooked in such stories. This book will fill a huge gap in our history of the war in Iraq.


  • Military History
  • World War I
  • Vietnam
  • The National Guard
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom

T.W. Bennett Distinguished Professor

Jeffrey Wiggins

The T.W. Bennett Distinguished Professorship has made a profound impact on my current and future research since the designation is selected by an exclusive group of exceptional USM research faculty who have previously held this chair. Being recognized for research accomplishments by these peers demands continued research contributions to USM that exceeds traditional standards of a full professor. This acknowledgement is an honor that requires high-level research performance and leadership since the University of Southern Mississippi research community expects excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service of those who carry this title. Being recognized by my peers of research professors at USM is a privilege that is certain to inspire me to an even higher level of personal and professional standards and research productivity.

Jeffrey Wiggins

Professor of Polymer Science and Engineering
Ph.D. in Polymer Science; The University of Southern Mississippi

The majority of my group’s research programs, as well as the professional employment pathways of its graduates, remains within the aerospace community. Perpetual growth in focused, sponsored research establishes a “molecules to mechanics” advanced composite materials development platform integrating synthetic, analytical, and engineering infrastructure ranging from molecular dynamics computational modeling through pilot-scale pre-manufacturing demonstration of new-to-the-world aerospace polymers and composite materials. The collective aerospace composite materials capabilities assembled in the School of Polymer Science and Engineering and The Accelerator establishes USM as a recognized globally unique academic institution not only for advanced aerospace materials science and engineering, but also for preparation of exceptional next-generation aerospace scientists and engineers attracting our nation’s most prominent organizations to USM. 

My foundational research philosophy relies upon a simple core belief that “if I take care of my students, everything else will take care of itself”. This means to me that my primary responsibility as a research-active faculty member at USM is to prepare the most competent graduating professionals who are capable to make significant polymer science and engineering contributions to society throughout their careers. “Taking care of the students” necessitates a comprehensive professional preparation through excellence in teaching, research, service, written and oral communication, personal and professional ethics, a positive USM experience, and a global vision that prepares graduates towards meaningful pathways of opportunity that exceeds expectations. “Everything else will take care of itself” mandates positive outcomes not only for students, but also for USM and the School of Polymer Science and Engineering (SPSE) in the forms of recruitment, enrollments, progression, graduation, scholarly productivity and publication, funding, equipment, international recognition, collaboration, retention and overall organizational health. I am honored to serve USM as an active research leader within our community, grateful to teach our students inside and outside of the classroom, and to help bring global recognition of research excellence to the State of Mississippi.

My group prepares next-generation professionals for highly productive careers within our country’s most demanding science and engineering environments. For example, I have been funded since 2005 by Boeing and other leading international advanced aerospace and aeronautics polymer composite materials science and engineering companies, defense laboratories and agencies. The majority of my group’s research programs, as well as the professional employment pathways of its graduates, remains within the aerospace community which is highly demanding of excellence at all levels of research and education. We have built an advanced composite materials development platform at USM that integrates synthetic, analytical, and engineering infrastructure ranging from molecular dynamics computational modeling through pilot-scale pre-manufacturing demonstration of new-to-the-world aerospace polymers and composite materials. The collective aerospace composite materials capabilities have established USM as a recognized globally unique academic institution not only for advanced aerospace materials science and engineering, but also for preparation of exceptional next-generation aerospace scientists and engineers attracting our nation’s most prominent organizations to USM. 


Polymers with Biomedical and Personal Care Applications

Surface Modification

Antimicrobial Activity



Wright W. and Annie Rea Cross Endowed Chair in Mathematics and Undergraduate Research

Zhifu Xie

I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Cross family for their generous donations. The endowed position facilitated my travel for collaborative initiatives and provided essential support for mentoring undergraduate students in mathematical research. Each year, we recruit 6 to 10 talented undergraduates, enabling them to engage in meaningful research. Thanks to this support, students have the opportunity to attend mathematical conferences and showcase their research outcomes. Remarkably, some have even published their findings in prestigious journals. Several of these students have gone on to pursue Ph.D. degrees at top institutions such as Vanderbilt University, Notre Dame University, Michigan State University, among others.



Zhifu Xie

Professor of Mathematics
Ph.D. in Mathematics, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

My current research is focused on central configurations, which denote specific arrangements of point-mass particles for some particular properties. Investigating central configurations is crucial for comprehending the dynamic behaviors of celestial bodies, and the problem of their finiteness is an open question for mathematicians in the 21st century. A longstanding conjecture posits that there exists a unique convex central configuration for any four positive masses in a given order. In our work, we have presented a rigorous computer-assisted proof of this conjecture for four masses within a closed domain in the mass space. The proof utilizes the Krawczyk operator and the implicit function theorem, representing a crucial advancement in confirming the conjecture. Beyond celestial mechanics, my research extends to the application of differential equations in areas such as mathematical biology, encompassing models for predator-prey populations and infectious diseases.


  • Dynamical System
  • Celestial Mechanics and N-body Problem
  • Differential Equations and Applications
  • Mathematical Biology 


嘉悦大学 (Kaetsu) Distinguished Professor of International Business (2017-present)

Gallayanee Yaoyuneyong


Gallayanee Yaoyuneyong

Professor of Marketing
Ph.D. in Textiles and Consumer Sciences, Jim Moran College of Entrepreneurship (name changed in 2018), Florida State University

My current research has two focuses. First, my research thrives on collaboration, both within and beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. On one hand, I actively engage in in-discipline research, fostering strong relationships with colleagues at my university and beyond, both nationally and internationally. On the other hand, I believe in the power of cross-disciplinary research and collaborative learning. This drives me to involve my students and the wider community in my research, creating a shared space for intellectual exploration and lifelong learning.

Second, my research passion lies in exploring the future of merchandising and marketing, specifically in the area of Merchandising 2.0. This area encompasses diverse themes like young consumer marketing, online retailing, virtual and augmented reality applications, and the integration of technology such as AI in merchandising and marketing practices. I'm particularly fascinated by how cutting-edge technologies can be leveraged at all levels of business to benefit brands and optimize their strategies.


  • Classroom 2.0
    • Technology and Education
    • Educational Research
    • Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
    • Service-Learning
  • Merchandising 2.0
    • Technology and Merchandising/Marketing
    • Young Consumer Marketing
    • Online Retailing
    • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Merchandising/Marketing
    • Color Management and Communication
  • Interdisciplinary
    • Tourism Marketing/Management
    • Sport Marketing/Management

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