The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning completed its search for the 11th president of The University of Southern Mississippi by voting to name Dr. Joe Paul, currently serving as Interim President of the university, as President.
“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.”
A Southern Miss alumnus, Dr. Paul previously served the university as an administrator in student affairs for more than 40 years. Before becoming vice president for student affairs in February 1993, he held a variety of positions, including assistant director of student activities, assistant vice president and dean of student development. He also held faculty rank in USM’s College of Education and Psychology.
“Dr. Paul is well-known to the campus community and truly needs no introduction. 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,” said Trustee Tom Duff, co-chair of the Board Search Committee. “The personalized experience students receive at the university are 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.”
In addition to the in-person Listening Sessions held on the campuses, the Board also issued an online survey to allow as many students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members to participate as possible.
“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, Dr. Paul has 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 help to push the University’s $150 million capital campaign closer to its goal three years prior to 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 Dr. 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.”
Between his retirement from the university in 2015 and being named Interim President earlier this year, Dr. Paul held part time positions with the University Foundation as a fund raiser (2015-2016), as Citizen Service Coordinator for the City of Hattiesburg (2017-2020), as an Executive Coach for the Horne Business Advisor Group (2016-2020), and as an executive coach and strategic advisor for the Blue Hen Consulting Agency.
Beyond his work at Southern Miss, Paul has presented seminars and training in management and leadership for business, industry, and education. 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 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, and received a master’s degree in communication and management from Southern Miss in 1978. He was inducted into the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000.
Among many civic activities Paul has served two terms as president of the United Way of Southeast Mississippi. He has served as Board Chairman for the greater Hattiesburg Area Development Foundation and as a Board Trustee for the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System. He has also been president of the Hattiesburg Area Education Foundation, on the Board of Directors for the Hattiesburg Boys and Girls Club and has been a trustee for the Hattiesburg Public School District. He is co-founder of the Hattiesburg Leadership Pinebelt program and has served on a statewide basis in leadership positions with the Mississippi Economic Council. 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.
“I believe every Southern Miss Golden Eagle enthusiastically applauds the choice of Dr. Joe Paul to lead our university for the next four years,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “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.”
“I believe the USM faculty will be pleased with the selection of Dr. Paul as our next president,” said Dr. Denis Wiesenburg, President of the USM Faculty Senate. “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. “
“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,” said Jessica Langston, Staff Council President. “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.”
“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,” said Chuck Scianna, an alumnus from Houston, Texas. “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!”
“Dr. Paul is the true embodiment of what it means to be a Golden Eagle!,” said Ashley Lankford, Student Government Association President. “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!”
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, October 27, when the Golden Eagles take on the Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana.. The announcement will be held at 3:00 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Thad Cochran Center on the USM Campus in Hattiesburg.