HATTIESBURG – Earlier this year, some faculty members at the University of Southern Mississippi publicly questioned the credentials of Dr. Angeline “Angie” Dvorak, 44, former CEO of the Mississippi Technology Alliance, whom Southern Miss president Shelby Thames handpicked as vice president for research and economic development in 2002.
At question was whether or not Dvorak, an attorney with master`s degrees in English and English education, and a doctorate in English, was a tenured associate professor at the University of Kentucky (UK), even though her role at Southern Miss does not require tenure. Between the time she presided over Ashland Community College (now Ashland Community and Technical College), which is part of the UK system, and joined Southern Miss, changes were made in the way professors are tenured in the UK system. The bottom line: Dvorak represented herself correctly, but those findings were not as widely publicized.
On March 5, Thames suspended without pay tenured professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer, who led the unauthorized investigation. They were allegedly charged with dishonesty, insubordination and misusing university-owned computer equipment and telephones. A hearing on the matter is scheduled April 28-29 on the Southern Miss campus in Hattiesburg.
During the last few months, Dvorak has publicly defended her position but has remained mum to the press about details surrounding the investigation. Dvorak spoke freely to the Mississippi Business Journal about the matter.
Mississippi Business Journal: I understand that you have an affidavit signed by the vice chancellor of the University of Kentucky showing proof that you have tenure. Why hasn`t this matter been put to rest?
Angie Dvorak: I don`t have an answer for that. As the information unfolds in the coming weeks, it will be clear that the issue of my tenure status and my relationship to the University of Kentucky are not really at the heart of the controversy. When the goal is to discredit someone, and to take out an administration, then all of that is not a priority. It`s been shown over and over again it was not a priority.
MBJ: I understand tenure wasn`t even a requirement for your position. Is the brouhaha about the tenure issue coming from university professors who perhaps resented a non-Southern Miss, tenured professor making recommendations on whether they are granted tenure?
AD: Yes, I think it prompted concern because I do not have tenure at Southern Miss. I have not asked for tenure. My role in the promotion and tenure review is predominantly to report and evaluate research and research-related activities as it applies to promotion and tenure. Two provosts and I review promotion and tenure packets. The reason that someone in my position is consulted in that process with the academic leadership – the provosts – is to give information and assess research and research-related activities.
MBJ: What would you like to see as a result of the April 28-29 hearings, and, regardless of the outcome, where do you see Southern Miss moving after this hearing?
AD: The future opportunities for this university are tremendous. And this university is bigger and stronger and better than any controversy about any individual or individuals at any point in time.
We have a group of faculty very committed to the university that you don`t hear from. They are working very hard behind the scenes, being very productive, and the university will move forward. In learning from this situation, I think you`ll continue to see new and improved ways to communicate, and we`ll move forward to accomplish more positive goals. I truly believe that`s what will happen.
MBJ: The Southern Miss faculty must come to you to help them attract research funds. How has the tension on campus hampered your ability to do your job?
AD: I have seen no hindrance to working with the faculty on a daily basis and doing my job. Interestingly, even some of the most vocal faculty members who have been quoted in the newspapers are people who we work very hard for every day in our congressional priorities, in our federal funding, to help do whatever we can to drive resources and opportunities to their research. I’m committed to not letting any personal issues hinder me from doing my job. The vast majority of faculty wants to get their work and research done. They’re not as involved in the tensions and controversy.
MBJ: How will this matter affect the proposed Innovation and Commercialization Park, which will house a variety of research-intensive projects with commercial viability, and has already attracted companies like Fountain View, Calif.-based Hybrid Plastics Inc., a pioneer in nanotechnology materials used for products from space-vehicle coatings to earthly packaging, and a similar company, Maxdem Inc., of San Dimas, Calif.?
AD: The Innovation and Commercialization Park is moving forward as
planned, and has already generated quite a bit of interest. I have applications on my desk from 14 companies that want to be part of this project. It will be a great private/public partnership.
MBJ: Many professors have questioned Dr. Thames’ hiring your husband, but Mark`s credentials are impeccable. Can you tell us how his hiring came about?
AD: The gentleman who held the position of director of the human resources department for Southern Miss decided to return to graduate school. When he did, the job opening was posted, and Mark applied for the position. He went through the same interview process as everyone else. The university was looking for someone who was a practicing attorney, which Mark is. He graduated from Troy State University and earned a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. With his education and experience, the job was a good fit, and he was hired.
MBJ: Have you considered resigning?
AD: Absolutely not. I love Southern Miss.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.