May 27, 2019  

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Southern Miss Educational Leadership Programs Earn Continuing Accreditation

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The Department of Educational Leadership and School Counseling at The University of Southern Mississippi received continued National Recognition for its programs in Educational Administration through the Educational Leadership Constituent Council (ELCC) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

These programs, headquartered in the College of Education and Psychology, prepare principals and superintendents for leadership roles across the state and nation.

“Southern Miss has been actively engaged in the field of education for over 100 years,” said Dr. Ann P. Blackwell, dean of the college. “We remain committed to effectively educating our state’s education leaders, and National Recognition for our Educational Administration programs affirms the quality of the programs we deliver.”

Assistant to the Dean for Accreditation Elizabeth Giddens, said national recognition and accreditation gives the public assurance that the department’s programs meet the highest national and state standards for academic excellence.

“To receive continued recognition at the national level requires a rigorous review by a panel of experts and a detailed report to the specialized professional association,” Giddens said.

The news is not a surprise to faculty, students, alumni and professionals associated with the department.

“Our programs have long been recognized at the national level for their quality. Continued national recognition means we are preparing school leaders the way society needs us to: based on national standards,” said Dr. Thelma J. Roberson, chair of the department. “We are proud that so many of our graduates remain in Mississippi and are making a positive difference for the children in our state.”

Charish Pierce and Lori Wilcher, doctoral students in program, say they’re getting the training they need to advance not only their personal career and academic goals, but those of the students they serve.

"The Educational Leadership Program at USM is preparing me for the challenges and tasks I enjoy facing everyday as a school counselor,” Pierce said. “I am learning valuable leadership and diplomacy skills as well as the history behind what makes a successful school leader. The high quality academic classes, supportive professors, and rigorous internship experience provide the key elements to administrative success."

"The program is providing me with remarkable educational knowledge and priceless in-the-field educational experiences that will allow me to obtain a position in the field of educational administration,” Wilcher said. “This degree will allow me the humbling privilege to impact the lives of both students and fellow educators through advocacy, research, education, and leadership."

Dr. Chuck Benigno, superintendent of the Laurel (Miss.) School District and adjunct faculty for the University, says he is continually impressed by the quality of students in Southern Miss’ educator leadership programs.

“These educators bring a wealth of experience to the program and this creates an environment that is rich with collaboration,” Benigno said. “Most importantly, they push the envelope in the area of educational research in a way that leads to real-world educational reforms that can impact school districts across the country."

Dr. Cherie Labat, principal of Bay Waveland Middle School in Bay St. Louis, Miss. and a Southern Miss alumna, said graduates of the programs in the department are “turn-key ready professionals prepared to work in the ever-changing educational environment.”

“They make data-driven decisions and are knowledgeable of best practices,” she said.

Dr. Paul A. Tisdale is a former superintendent and educator in the state of Mississippi for more than 35 years who now serves as a city councilman in Biloxi, Miss. Tisdale says the programs are oriented toward developing an effective education workforce for the 21st century.

“The mentoring experience in the program is practical. Learning theory-based information can be helpful, but gaining skills you can use as you enter the workforce is essential,” Tisdale said. “These Southern Miss graduates are much better prepared. They have solid interpersonal skills, can build relationships, emphasize, support and help teachers, and they’re ready for work in administration on day one.”

The department’s courses are offered in a variety of formats in an effort to accommodate schedules of working adults, with courses available on the Gulf Coast and Hattiesburg campuses. The department offers degrees at the masters, specialist and doctoral levels, and welcomes non-degree seeking students looking for courses for professional growth or wishing to take courses to meet educator licensure renewal requirements.

In addition to the programs in Educational Administration, the department offers a masters degree for school guidance counselors.

The University of Southern Mississippi was founded as a normal college in 1910 to train teachers. Now a Carnegie-classified research university with more than 180 degree programs, Southern serves students on campuses in Hattiesburg, Long Beach, and online. The Department of Educational Leadership and School Counseling offers Masters, Specialists, and Doctoral degrees in Educational Administration, and a Masters degree in School Counseling.  

For more information about the department, visit or call 601.266.4579.