Rodney Bennett, who has served as president of the University of Southern Mississippi since 2013, announced that he will step down from his post at the end of his contract in June 2023. He is the first African American to serve as president of one of the state’s five predominantly White public universities.
“My intention is to begin exploring other professional opportunities later this spring, and I wanted to be transparent with each of you about my plans for the future,” President Bennett said in a statement to the university community.
Before being named president of the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Bennett served as vice president for student affairs at the University of Georgia in Athens. He previously was dean of students and interim provost for institutional diversity at the University of Georgia. Earlier in his career, Dr. Bennett was dean of students at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
Just three days after Dr. Bennett had been named the 10th president of the University of Southern Mississippi, a devastating tornado struck the university’s campus in Hattiesburg. Dr. Bennett received high marks for his efforts during the recovery process.
Speaking of his time at the university, Dr. Bennett said “I have learned a great deal — I have grown a great deal — and I have worked with and mentored outstanding individuals, who I am confident will continue to have a positive impact on higher education. The University of Southern Mississippi will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will always be excited to hear about the good things I know are still on the horizon for this institution.”
President Bennett holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and a doctorate in educational administration from Tennessee State University in Nashville.