LONG BEACH Miss.—University of Southern Mississippi President Rodney Bennett sees the university’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach as his “secret weapon” in making sure USM it remains a major player in higher education across the country.
“There aren’t many places you’d rather be in the world on a day like today than the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Bennett said in a meeting Wednesday with the Sun Herald.
“I think we can really package that experience and get momentum from the high-achieving students who can graduate in four years and stay in this area to have an impact on economic development in South Mississippi.”
Bennett, who was named the university’s 10th president in February, said though USM fights the battle of not being a flagship university in the state, his students have a unique opportunity to form personal relationships with the faculty and staff.
“We are actively engaged in the lives of our students, and that matters to families and young people,” he said. “When we write letters of recommendation, those letters are written because we know firsthand what they’re good at and how they could impact an organization.”
Bennett said the Gulf Park campus offers 30 bachelor’s degrees, 16 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees. The average age of the Gulf Park student is 30.