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University Leadership

President Joseph S. Paul

Joseph S. Paul, Ph.D.


Dr. Joseph S. Paul began his service as the 11th President of The University of Southern Mississippi on Nov. 1, 2022, after serving as Interim President for four months.

A well-known Southern Miss alumnus who previously dedicated 40 years of service to his alma mater as a student affairs administrator, Dr. Paul’s priorities include advancing student recruitment, continuing to re-invigorate student life in a post-pandemic environment, aggressively sharing the Southern Miss story, supporting intercollegiate athletics as a new member of the Sun Belt Conference, and helping to push the University’s $150 million capital campaign over the top.

Dr. Paul holds a Ph.D. in administration of higher education from the University of Alabama and was named the university’s Most Outstanding Doctoral Student in the field in 1985. The Bay St. Louis native earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science from USM in 1975, graduating magna cum laude from the University Honors College, and received a master’s degree in communication and management from Southern Miss in 1978. He was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000.

Beyond his work at Southern Miss, Dr. Paul has presented seminars and training in management and leadership for business, industry and education. He was a senior consultant with The Atlanta Consulting Group, a Fortune Top 50 management consulting firm. Clients Paul has worked with include UPS, RJR Nabisco, Ohio-Edison, Stennis Institute, US Navy, Accenture and Horne CPA Health care group.

Among many civic activities Dr. Paul has served two terms as president of the United Way of Southeast Mississippi. He has served as Board Chairman for the greater Hattiesburg Area Development Foundation and as a Board Trustee for the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System. He has also been president of the Hattiesburg Area Education Foundation, on the Board of Directors for the Hattiesburg Boys and Girls Club and has been a trustee for the Hattiesburg Public School District. He is co-founder of the Hattiesburg Leadership Pinebelt program and has served on a statewide basis in leadership positions with the Mississippi Economic Council.

Dr. Paul and his wife Meg reside in Hattiesburg, MS and are active members of Trinity Episcopal Church. They have two grown children and two grandsons.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Lance Nail, Ph.D.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Lance Nail serves as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Southern Miss. In this role, Nail provides oversight for all facets of academic program and enrollment management functions at all the University’s campuses and teaching sites.

As a faculty member for 26 years and administrator for 18, Nail has improved academic and student success outcomes and elevated program rankings, as well as guided successful accreditation outcomes at every institution he has served. Nail earned his Ph.D. in Finance with a minor in Economics in 1996 from the University of Georgia. He graduated first in his class of 575 at the University of Alabama, earning his bachelor’s degree in Finance in 1989. His professional career began as a consultant for Ernst & Young, LLP National Consulting Group in 1989, and his academic career began in 1996 as a member of the faculty at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, where he became Chair of the Department of Finance, Economics, and Quantitative Methods prior to his service at USM as Dean of the College of Business. He earned tenure at USM in 2009 while serving as dean.

Among other recognition, he was awarded 10 teaching awards at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; he was selected as one of the most influential members of the San Diego business community by San Diego Business Journal; he earned an Educational Administrator of the Year award at USM; and he was recognized by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. He has also raised more than $80 million in philanthropic giving, including successful completion of the $10 million Building Better Business campaign during his time at USM.

Kristi Motter, Ph.D.

Kristi Motter, Ph.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management 

Kristi Motter serves as Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Southern Miss. In this role, she leads the University’s recruitment, enrollment and retention efforts, along with overseeing the offices of the Registrar; Student Life, Orientation and Transition Programs; Financial Aid, Undergraduate Scholarships; Student Counseling Services; Student Accessibility Services; Union Operations and Conference and Event Services; Campus Recreation; Career Services; and The Center for Military Veterans, Service Members and Families.

Motter has significant experience in student affairs, student recruitment and financial aid, having served as Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services at Southern Miss from 2004 to 2014 and as Vice President for Student Affairs at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) from 2014 through 2023.

In addition to her work on campuses, Motter has served more than 10 years as a national enrollment management consultant, providing expertise in long-term enrollment management projects at both four-year public institutions and community colleges. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and a master’s degree in Adult Education, both from Northwestern State University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Southern Miss.

Vice President for External Affairs

Chad Driskell

Vice President for External Affairs

Chad Driskell serves as vice president for external affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). In this role, he oversees the University’s governmental and external relations, which includes the USM Foundation and Southern Miss Alumni Association.

Driskell began his career in external affairs with the Mississippi Gaming Commission and then with the Mississippi Bankers Association. He later returned to his alma mater, USM, as an executive assistant to the president, in which he managed all outside political and regulatory relationships. 

Driskell earned a Bachelor of Science in political science from USM and a Master of Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University.

Vice President for Finance and Administration

Allyson G. Easterwood

Vice President for Finance and Administration

Allyson G. Easterwood serves as vice president for finance and administration at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). In this role, she oversees all institutional financial operations and processes, procurement and contract services, auxiliary services, human resources, business services, facilities management, and information technology.

With more than 25 years of experience in higher education finance, Easterwood has held progressively responsible administrative positions at USM, which include associate vice president for finance and controller. Prior to being named vice president, Easterwood held the position in an interim capacity. She also worked for the Mississippi State Department of Audit in the Higher Education Division.

Easterwood earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in accounting from USM and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Vice President for Research

Kelly L. Lucas, Ph.D.

Vice President for Research

Kelly L. Lucas serves as vice president for research at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). In this role, she serves as the University’s chief research officer and is responsible for leading and overseeing the University’s research enterprise.

Lucas promotes and guides USM’s vision and mission for research and economic development, creates innovative, multidisciplinary research opportunities and expands the research portfolio through partnerships with industry, government, academic partner institutions and non-profit organizations.  She serves on the board of Stronger America through Seafood, The Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.   Lucas has served the University as Associate Vice President for Research Coastal Operations, the Director of Thad Cochran Marine Aquaculture Center, and Deputy Director of the Gulf Coast Geospatial Center. Prior to re-joining USM in December 2016, Lucas served as the first Chief Scientific Officer for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources where she was responsible for ensuring the agency was using the best available science to make policy decisions.

Lucas is a Mississippi Gulf Coast native and holds a Doctoral degree in coastal science from USM, a Master of Business Administration from University of Alabama-Birmingham and a Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology from Mississippi State University. In addition, Lucas was a USM Science Fellow in the Office of Senator Thad Cochran advising on ocean and atmosphere legislation and policy. She has written and co-authored scientific publications and has been instrumental in creating industry partnerships and securing grant funding.