Bennett becomes new Southern Miss president

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Thursday, Dr. Rodney Bennett transitioned from the preferred candidate to the new president of the University of Southern Mississippi. The Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning announced the unanimous and historic decision Thursday afternoon.

"I'm so happy that my dream has come true in Hattiesburg, Mississippi at the University of Southern Mississippi," said Bennett.

Once the formalities were over, Bennett said he wasn't sure when his first day on the job will be, but he made clear his first order of business.

"The first focus is going to be to hire a chief financial officer. Once the new chief financial officer is on board, we will start to look at faculty salaries and after faculty salaries we will begin to look at how we grow the student enrollment," said Bennett.

As the new president, Bennett says he will not hesitate to do what it takes to make USM a stable, vital and vibrant organization.

"I'm not going to be hesitant at all to cut programs, or to do what we need to do to get the enterprise back on stable footing. The approach to that is going to be the extent to which I involve members of the university community, and that really speaks to shared governance," explained Bennett.

When asked about being the first African American president of a majority white  institution in the Magnolia State Bennett had this to say.

"What really matters is what you are able to deliver on not some of, what I would determine as, the superficial things that sometimes hold us back as a community," said Bennett.

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