The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning sealed its courtship of Dr. Rodney Bennett with a deal Thursday to make him the next president of the University of Southern Mississippi.
The hiring of the University of Georgia education executive won unanimous approval from the board. The announcement of Bennett’s selection came on the second day of his visit to the Hattiesburg campus.
Bennett currently serves as VP for Student Affairs at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Trstee Ed Blakeslee, president of the Board of Trustees, said Bennett “understands the most critical issues facing higher education today and has the experience and skills necessary to address all facets of the university’s mission, including education, research and service. Dr. Bennett’s experience and his commitment to students demonstrate that he the right person to lead the university at this time.”
At UGA, Bennett has been involved in all facets of student life, from improving facilities to creating service learning opportunities and fostering diversity on campus. He has helped raise funds to enhance student life on campus and improved communications with faculty, staff, students and parents on the Athens campus and three UGA extended campuses, .
Bennett chairs the UGA Athletic Association NCAA Recertification 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, the Institutions of Higher Learning said in a press statement.
Bennett said he is “humbled and honored” that the board selected him to replace Martha Saunders, who resigned in late April to return to teaching at USM.
“I look forward to working with all members of the USM family to build on its history and provide opportunities for all students,” Bennett said in the press statement. “ 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 in Nashville, a Specialist in Education Degree and a Master of Education Degree in Educational Administration from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Mass Communications.