Diversity Woman

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Rodney D. Bennett

President, The University of Southern Mississippi



Rodney D. Bennett took office as the 10th President of The University of Southern Mississippi on April 1, 2013. His selection made history, as he became the first African-American president of a predominantly white higher education institution in the state of Mississippi.

Appointed to the presidency by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, Dr. Bennett is charged with serving as both the chief executive officer and principal educational officer of The University of Southern Mississippi, a comprehensive doctoral and research-driven university that serves students on campuses in south Mississippi and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The President must also shape the University’s educational policy and academic standards in cooperation with the State Commissioner of Higher Education.

As President, Dr. Bennett immediately made student success the top institutional priority. His commitment to student enrollment, retention, progression, and graduation permeate the University’s campuses and teaching and research sites. Under his leadership, the University has invested in new faculty positions and has worked to increase access to quality education and research programs to serve the needs of the state of Mississippi and beyond.

The University’s Center for Undergraduate Research affords students meaningful research opportunities, and as proven leaders in innovation, faculty and students conduct transformative research that translates into real-world solutions. As one of only 34 institutions in the nation accredited in art, dance, music and theatre, the University is also a haven for creativity and artistic expression.

Previously, Dr. Bennett was the Vice President for Student Affairs at the University of Georgia. He holds a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration from Tennessee State University in Nashville, as well as a Specialist in Education degree, a Master of Education degree in Educational Administration, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.

Dr. Bennett’s wife, Temple, is a member of The Links, Inc., an international women’s social and public service organization founded on the principles of friendship and service, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She holds a Master of Business Education degree and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Middle Tennessee State University. The couple has two teenage daughters.

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