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President Joseph S. PaulJoseph S. Paul, Ph.D.


Dr. Joseph S. Paul began his service as the 11th President of The University of Southern Mississippi on November 1, 2022, after having served in the interim role since July 16th.

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 AffairsGordon C. Cannon, Ph.D.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Gordon C. Cannon serves as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). As provost, he provides oversight for all facets of academic program and enrollment management functions at all the University’s campuses and teaching sites.

With more than 40 years of experience in the areas of microbiology and biochemistry, Cannon began his career at USM within in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry after spending five years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology. He previously served as Vice President for Research for more than a decade, including serving as the executive director of the USM Research Foundation and supervising the University’s technology incubator, The Accelerator, as well as the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship. 

Cannon earned a Bachelor of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy from Clemson University. He is a Thomas Waring Bennett Distinguished Professor in the Sciences at USM and is the recipient of a Southern Miss Lifetime Achievement Award.

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.

Vice President for External AffairsChad 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 AdministrationAllyson 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.