Ben Burnett named 10th president of William Carey University
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Ben Burnett is William Carey University’s next president. He said just hearing those words makes him feel an array of emotions.
“Blessed, excited, nervous, doesn’t seem real,” Burnett explained.
However, there’s no doubt that on Aug. 16, Burnett will take the reins as the 10th president of William Carey University.
His path to the presidency started with a passion for music. He said his love for music turned into studying music education and later teaching high school band for 11 years at Oak Grove in Lamar County. He said it was around that time he felt a deeper calling.
"It was about teaching and being involved in the lives of young people," Burnett said.
He became Oak Grove Middle School’s principal, then Lamar County Superintendent of Education for two terms. While serving as superintendent, he took an adjunct professor position at William Carey.
His next role came in 2013, when William Carey’s President, Tommy King, reached out.
“With the opportunity to interview for the dean of education position, where I was already established as a professor... Just made sense,” Burnett said.
For the last eight years, Burnett said the department of education created big successes for the university and the state. One success is the Alternate Route Program, which is helping more people become the teachers Mississippi desperately needs.
“None of that we could have done without Dr. King,” Burnett said. “To be a dean of education under a president who was also a retired principal and a former assistant superintendent. Dr. King spent 28 years in K-12 just like I did.”
For the last two and a half years, Burnett’s held the title of Executive Vice President of William Carey. He said those duties prepared him for what’s next and the goals he has in mind as president. He explained the most significant challenge he faces right now.
“We have over 30,000 alumni, but we are not engaging our alumni,” Burnett said. “We are going to be contacting our alumni because nobody is a better recruiter than a happy graduate of a university.”
Burnett dreams of the day that more happy graduates mean William Carey University is no longer a hidden gem but a powerhouse known throughout the country.
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