University of Southern Mississippi Provost Denis Wiesenburg announced to the faculty that he decided to step down from his administrative position as provost and vice president of academic affairs.
Wiesenburg’s term will end on June 30, and he will return to his faculty position as professor in the Department of Marine Science. He previously served as the vice president for research for two years before becoming the interim provost and then accepting the role of full-time provost in November 2011.
University President Rodney Bennett sent an email to the students, informing them of the decision and the changes to come.
“I have accepted Dr. Wiesenburg’s resignation and thank him for his service not only to academic affairs, but also to the university as a whole,” Bennett said. “I wish him well as he continues to contribute to our university community.”
Wiesenburg explained that former university president Martha Saunders had once compared being an academic administrator to riding a bull in a rodeo.
“You get bumped and banged, and the goal is to hold on until the buzzer sounds,” he said. “Being a provost is a lot like that. You reach a point where the eight seconds is up and you’re ready to get off the bull and do something else.”
Wiesenburg also mentioned his excitement about the new developments in the marine science department with new expanding research and the addition of the new ship the Point Sur, which docked in Gulfport on Friday, according to WDAM.
“It was really an opportunity for me to step back and return to be part of a group that I really enjoy being part of,” he said.
The role of the provost is often misunderstood or unknown among the students.
According to Wiesenburg, the provost has the overall responsibility for academic affairs.
“I’m the one that’s responsible to make sure that the faculty are delivering quality academic programs,” he said. “The faculty are the ones delivering the courses and the programs so that the students can get an education that they will use for a lifetime.”
Some of Wiesenburg’s accomplishments as provost include the creation of Mississippi’s first Center for Undergraduate Research, development of a Student Success Initiative to advance student retention and success and the establishment of faculty-facilitated teaching forums.
He was particularly passionate about the teaching forums, which are a series of faculty-led programs that allow professors to exchange ideas and techniques for more effective education.
“The interaction between faculty in the audience is really rewarding, heartwarming even,” he said. “We see the faculty who know best practices sharing with other faculty, which makes us a better institution.”
After June, Wiesenburg looks forward to having a short, six-week break for the first time since his time in graduate school before beginning the next fall as a professor.
“I’m going to do a lot of gardening,” he said. “We have a great backyard that I haven’t had time to work on.”
The search for the new provost has begun, with Bennett announcing his intention to conduct a nation-wide search through an executive search firm.
“My goal is to have a new provost on campus when we return from the holidays in January, and I am planning to appoint a member of the university community to serve in this capacity on an interim basis beginning July 1,” Bennett said in his letter to the students.
Upon his departure, Wiesenburg wanted the student body to know of his support for the students.
“I hope the students have felt that we put them first in the past three years,” Wiesenburg said. “My interest has always been in trying to make sure that we took care of the students inside and outside of the classroom.”