Dr. Suzanne McKee-Waddell’s long history of working with exceptional students makes her the clear-cut choice to serve as interim director of the Frances A. Karnes Center for Gifted Studies at The University of Southern Mississippi.
During her 30-year career McKee-Waddell has served in numerous educational roles in Mississippi. She has held various facilitator roles in the elementary, middle, and academically gifted classrooms of the state’s educational system, while also teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on the university level.
For the past three years, McKee-Waddell has taught as a professor the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education at Southern Miss. Her research and scholarly interests include literacy for the classroom of today through technology inclusion and gifted and talented students educational needs with cognitive processes.
“I am humbled and thrilled to be the new interim director of the Frances A. Karnes Center for Gifted Studies,” said McKee-Waddell. “While I adjust to this new title, I feel my three decades of teaching experience will be of enormous benefit to our Center. I have been a gifted teacher in the classroom and see the need to create educational opportunities for this special population.”
McKee-Waddell possesses a great deal of insight in the applicability of classroom strategies in content area subjects and holds Mississippi licensure in K-8 Elementary Education, Gifted K-12 and Cooperative Education.
Dr. Mary Ariail, Chair of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education, says that McKee-Waddell’s passion for gifted education and her commitment to advancing the Center made her the obvious choice as interim director.
“The two of us share a common vision for making the Center the most prominent and effective home for gifted studies in the Southeast,” said Ariail. “We will accomplish this through thoughtful planning, effective programming, ongoing research, and aggressive outreach. Dr. McKee-Waddell has already increased interest and support for the Center which is well on the way toward realizing its potential for becoming a model for supporting gifted and talented youth.”
The Center is named for longtime Southern Miss educator Frances A. Karnes, who served on the University’s faculty from 1973 until 2014 as a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education. She founded the Center for Gifted Studies in 1979 and saw the Center named in her honor in 1999.
Among her many honors and awards, Karnes was the 2003 recipient of the Mississippi Association for Gifted Children’s Award for Excellence, and she received the Distinguished University Professor designation at Southern Miss in 2010. Also in 2010, she was named to TeachTechTopia’s Top 10 Most Influential Special Education Professors and was included in the National Association of Professional Women’s Legacy registry in 2011-2012.
Since its inception, the Center’s mission has been to further the education of gifted students and those with leadership abilities through teaching, research, and service. Emphasis is also placed on these areas for those interested in the gifted: teachers, parents, administrators, psychologists, counselors, and other concerned citizens.
McKee-Waddell notes that in her advocacy position as the Center’s interim director she aims to focus on the many challenges and address significant issues in gifted education through research, curriculum development, and professional development.
“Most importantly, I hope to impact and cultivate a strong relationship with the community and state, and offer high ability challenging enrichment programs to our students,” she said.
McKee-Waddell and her husband, Jerry, have one child. Their daughter, Whitney Waddell Bounds, and husband Adam reside in Hattiesburg. The Waddell’s have two grandchildren -- Wilkes Waddell Bounds and James Baylor Bounds.