HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WKRG) – Dr. Joe Paul will serve as the 11th president of The University of Southern Mississippi after being confirmed by the board of trustees.

Paul is a USM alumn and was named interim president earlier this year. He was previously the vice president for student affairs from 1993 until retirement in 2015 and a faculty in USM’s College of Education and Psychology.

“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 Bay St. Louis native earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and political science in 1975, a master’s degree in communication and management in 1978, both from USM, and a Ph.D. in administration of higher education from the University of Alabama in 1985.

“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 unparalleled student life and leadership experience.”

He replaces Rodney Bennett who in January announced his intention to step down after the 2022-2023 school year. The board of trustees hastened the transition, naming Paul as interim president in July.

Paul has previously been president of the United Way of Southeast Mississippi, chair for the Greater Hattiesburg Area Development Foundation and board trustee for the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System. 

Paul and his wife Meg live in Hattiesburg. They have two grown children and two grandsons.

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