University of Southern Mississippi names Dr. Joe Paul as president

The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning voted to appoint Dr. Joe Paul as...
The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning voted to appoint Dr. Joe Paul as the 11th president of the University of Southern Mississippi. Paul is currently serving as interim president of the university.(University of Southern Mississippi)
Published: Oct. 24, 2022 at 5:07 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Joe Paul, Ph.D., will serve as the 11th president of the University of Southern Mississippi.

The decision came after the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning completed its search for the new institution president and voted to appoint Paul, who is currently serving as interim president of the university.

“During the Listening Sessions held on the campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, the campus community spoke clearly and passionately about why Dr. Joe Paul is unquestionably the right person to fill the role on a permanent basis,” said Trustee Gee Ogletree, co-chair of the Board Search Committee. “I have known and witnessed Dr. Paul’s exceptional contributions to the university for over four decades.

“I recognize Dr. Paul’s energy, relationships, affection and years of service to Southern Miss have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the right person to guide the University into its next chapter of leadership and excellence in teaching, service and research in the state and nation.”

Paul, a Southern Miss alumnus, said he was honored to accept the position and humbled by the board’s trust in him.

“I am honored and humbled to accept this appointment from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees to become the 11th president of our beloved University of Southern Mississippi,” said Dr. Paul. “The entire board and Commissioner Rankins have shown great support for me and for Southern Miss.

“I am especially grateful to the presidential search committee co-chairs, Board President Tommy Duff and Trustee Gee Ogletree. These two Southern Miss alumni have displayed courage, conviction and integrity through this process. They love Southern Miss as I do, and they share a vision of the potential this institution has to positively impact our region, state and beyond.”

As interim president, Paul said he worked to advance student recruitment, re-invigorate student life in a post-pandemic environment, share the Southern Miss story, support intercollegiate athletics as a new member of the Sun Belt Conference and helped to push the university’s $150 million capital campaign closer to its goal three years before completion of the campaign.

“We have work to do in growing the enrollment, maximizing our impact on our Mississippi Gulf Coast and ensuring the continued growth of our research enterprise,” said Paul. “I am also deeply committed to creating an unapparelled student life and leadership experience. A spirit of shared governance will be front and center for me.

“I want to assure all that I will attack these next four years with the energy and urgency with which I have approached these first four months. We will chase audacious goals with passion and persistence. Our Southern Miss grit will prevail.”

Paul previously served the university as a student affairs administrator for more than 40 years. He became the vice president of student affairs in February 1993 after holding various positions, including assistant director of student activities, assistant vice president and dean of student development. Paul also held faculty rank in USM’s College of Education and Psychology.

Between his retirement from the university in 2015 and being named Interim President earlier this year, Paul held part-time positions with the University Foundation as a fundraiser, as a citizen service coordinator for the City of Hattiesburg, as an executive coach for the Horne Business Advisor Group and as an executive coach and strategic advisor for the Blue Hen Consulting Agency.

“Dr. Paul is well-known to the campus community and truly needs no introduction,” said Trustee Tom Duff, co-chair of the Board Search Committee. “At the Listening Sessions, scores of Southern Miss alumni and students described the way Dr. Paul keeps the needs of the students first and foremost and gives each one the support needed for them to soar.

“The personalized experience students receive at the university (is) one of the many attributes that make The University of Southern Mississippi special. Dr. Paul is the best person to build on these strengths and help the university reach the next level of success.”

Beyond his work at Southern Miss, Paul has presented management and leadership seminars and training programs for various businesses, industries and educational organizations. In addition, he was a senior consultant with The Atlanta Consulting Group, a Fortune Top 50 management consulting firm. Clients Paul has worked with include UPS, RJR Nabisco, Ohio-Edison, Stennis Institute, US Navy, Accenture and Horne CPA Health care group.

Paul and his wife Meg reside in Hattiesburg, MS, and are active members of Trinity Episcopal Church. They have two grown children and two grandsons.

Being very involved in the Hattiesburg community, Paul previously served two terms as president of the United Way of Southeast Mississippi. He has also served as board chairman for the Greater Hattiesburg Area Development Foundation, as a Board Trustee for the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System, as president of the Hattiesburg Area Education Foundation, as a trustee for the Hattiesburg Public School District and as a member of the board of directors for the Hattiesburg Boys and Girls Club.

Additionally, Paul co-founded the Hattiesburg Leadership Pinebelt program and has served statewide in leadership positions with the Mississippi Economic Council.

Paul holds a Ph.D. in administration of higher education from the University of Alabama and was named the university’s Most Outstanding Doctoral Student in the Field in 1985.

The Bay St. Louis native earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science from USM in 1975, graduating magna cum laude from the University Honors College. He later received a master’s degree in communication and management from Southern Miss in 1978.

In 2000, Paul was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame.

Following the Monday, Oct. 24, announcement of Paul’s appointment, praise for the decision began to pour in from campus and community leaders. Some of the responses are below:

  • Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker: “I believe every Southern Miss Golden Eagle enthusiastically applauds the choice of Dr. Joe Paul to lead our university for the next four years. Dr. Joe Paul has Southern Miss in his soul. There is no one more trusted, capable or prepared to take on that mantle of leadership, and I appreciate the IHL Board of Trustees listening to stakeholders and making a bold, decisive pick.”
  • Denis Wiesenburg, President of the USM Faculty Senate: “I believe the USM faculty will be pleased with the selection of Dr. Paul as our next president. We told the IHL Board Search Committee that our next president should be someone who shares Dr. Paul’s vision of how a university operates. He is the type of leader who will work in true partnership with the USM faculty and staff to guide our university toward a bright future. “
  • Jessica Langston, Staff Council President: “During Dr. Paul’s time as interim president, he has been intentional in his efforts to engage staff and be inclusive of this very important group across all campuses. We are excited to support Dr. Paul during his permanent appointment as University President and look forward to collaborating with him and his leadership team to continue propelling Southern Miss forward.”
  • Chuck Scianna, an alumnus from Houston, Texas: “I believe the IHL has shown, by their selection of Dr. Joe Paul as the next president of Southern Miss, that they are in touch with the short-term and long-term needs and goals of the university. Dr. Paul possesses the qualities, experience and relationships Southern Miss needs to go forward with its R1 research designation and move to the next level. I believe this is an outstanding choice and hope all students, faculty, staff and alumni support Dr. Paul and his effort to take Southern Miss to the Top!”
  • Ashley Lankford, Student Government Association President: “Dr. Paul is the true embodiment of what it means to be a Golden Eagle! He shows each and every one of us daily what it means to serve our university and to leave it better than we found it. His support for students and passion for campus life is incredible. With that being said, we are proud to have him serve as our official president for the next four years!”

In addition to the in-person Listening Sessions held on the USM campuses, the board also issued an online survey to allow as many students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members to participate as possible.

Videos of the Listening Session and the results of the online survey are posted on the USM President Search website.

A formal announcement will take place as part of on-campus activities related to the football game on Thursday, Oct. 27, when the Golden Eagles take on the Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana. The announcement will be at 3:00 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Thad Cochran Center on the USM Campus in Hattiesburg.

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