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Bennett becomes first black president of major Mississippi university

Southern Miss campusDr. Rodney Bennett has been named the tenth president of the University of Southern Mississippi, making him the first African-American president of a non-historically black college in Mississippi.

The board of trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning announced the unanimous decision today.

“I am humbled and honored that the Board of Trustees has selected me to lead this great university,” said Bennett. “The University of Southern Mississippi has a rich history as an excellent research institution and a leader in the Gulf South region.

Bennett previously served as vice-president for student affairs at the University of Georgia.

“I hope the Southern Miss family will join the Board of Trustees in welcoming Dr. Bennett to our great university,” said Ed Blakeslee, president of the Board of Trustees in a released statement. “Dr. Bennett’s experience and his commitment to students demonstrate that he the right person to lead the university at this time.”

During his time at UGA, Bennett helped improve campus facilities and promoted service learning opportunities and school diversity. He also helped raise student life funds and improved communications on the Athens campus and three UGA extended campuses.

Bennett serves as Chair of the UGA Athletic Association NCAA Re-certification process, including the institutional self-study. In addition, he was a member of the on-site committee for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, reviewing compliance areas related to student life and student affairs.



“I look forward to working with all members of the USM family to build on its history and provide opportunities for all students. I also look forward to working with leaders throughout South Mississippi to help both the university and the region to thrive.”

Bennett holds a doctor of education degree in educational administration from Tennessee State University and a master of education degree in educational administration from Middle Tennessee State University, and a bachelor of science degree in mass communication from Middle Tennessee.

Earlier today, Dr. Bennett met with campus constituency groups on a visit to the Hattiesburg campus, following a visit to the Gulf Park campus yesterday. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members were able to pose questions to Bennett to share their thoughts and concerns with him. Attendees were able to provide feedback to the Board of Trustees.




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