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The Next Ole Miss Chancellor: Alumni Discuss Characteristics of their Ideal Leader

A student checks her phone while walking past the Lyceum. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications
A student checks her phone while walking past the Lyceum. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

**Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles concerning University of Mississippi stakeholders and their opinions on which qualities the college board should prioritize in the search for the next chancellor.

Over the last few weeks, alumni, faculty, students and stakeholders have been speaking out about the qualities they believe the next leader of the University of Mississippi should possess.

Here are some of the opinions stakeholders have shared with HottyToddy.com:

Allison Buchanan, Alumna

“To be a great Chancellor, it takes a strong leader with the ability to really listen and be tuned into the present while constantly forming and pursuing a vision to make a university better. I would hope we hire someone who has a real track record of success in those areas — of moving a university or entity forward — someone who really listens, and someone with a leadership style that inspires…someone with a lot of energy and passion while also having the ability to be reflective and purposely thoughtful about matters.”

Frances Smith, Alumna

“My hope is that we can find an alum who can lead us with vision while honoring and understanding the traditions we all hold dear. Also someone who can support both academics and athletics, and who interacts with students in a meaningful way.”

Michael Cannon, Owner and CEO of Cannon Motors 

“The University of Mississippi is experiencing massive growth which is great for our community. Our next Chancellor will be tasked with continuing to embrace and exceed expectations of providing a first class education for the next generation of leaders.”

Jennifer Bryon Owen, Alumna

I would like someone who:

  1. has conviction and courage
  2. enjoys people and will work with them for the good of the University
  3. surrounds himself/herself with people of the highest caliber and will encourage them to be part of the leadership
  4. understands higher education, and preferably has impressive experience in it
  5. is a visionary
  6. is a creative problem solver
  7. knows his/her own strengths and weaknesses
  8. is comfortable with who he/she is, but also willing to grow
  9. is a leader who knows how to embrace and enhance the gifts of the faculty, staff, students and alumni to help him/her lead
  10. is genuinely interested in students and their welfare
  11. knows how to tell the Ole Miss story and seeks to improve the University’s image locally, nationally and internationally
  12. believes in the University and will invest himself/herself in it and the state


Melanie Dowell, Alumna

“I would like to start by saying I am a proud Ole Miss alumnus . I am also a very proud Mississippian. However, I find myself, on occasion, viewing our state, our people and, our progress through the same prism as the rest of the nation–through a time warp.I suppose that is due, in part, to the ease of “going with the flow”; The feeling that, while I know the widely held belief is wrong, it’s too difficult to try to change people’s stereotyped views. Well, shame on me!! It is time for all of us to stand up and be counted. Counted as accomplished Mississippians in an accomplished state from an accomplished university. Is is time for a chancellor who is of Mississippi, of Ole Miss, and of the belief that we are not the State nor the University of the 1960s. In fact, our progress is very likely well beyond most of our peer universities and peer states.We boast of athletes, politicians, business people, ministers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and artists of all political persuasions, color, gender, beliefs, and nationalities who are leaders in their fields and whom we embrace and herald as Ole Miss alums. About this there is no doubt and no argument. (See any edition of The Ole Miss Review) So, can we please move forward? Can we please have a man or woman as chancellor who bleeds red and blue? Who knows our problem is not within, but rather the lack of deserved esteem from outside our ranks? A person who will stand up for all of the good things Ole Miss has accomplished and brought to our country? the great accomplishment in the racial reconciliation? A person who will not back down or cower to the mistaken stereotypes of the rest of the country? Can we have a person who leads on behalf of the faculty, the students, the athletes, the alumni and friends of university? A person who can articulate the beauty of Ole Miss with the fervor of Frank Everett? A person who can focus the many constituencies of Ole Miss to achieve even greater heights? A person who can fashion The University to reflect an image that our graduates are so well prepared that they are ahead of their time technologically and educationally. That person is out there, he or she is homegrown, and he or she believes in the University, the city of Oxford, and in the State of Mississippi. He or she believes that The State of Mississippi is a beneficiary of the quality of students of the University of Mississippi and not the other way around.We need a Chancellor who fervently believes in the many gifts and benefits Ole Miss brings to the lives of so many and, further, that without Ole Miss, the world would be a worse place. Hire a fighter. Hire someone with a passion for Ole Miss, and for Mississippi. Hire someone with fire in their belly to show the rest of the world what an awesome, awesome place is our Ole Miss!”

Steve Rowell, Alumnus

Someone who has taught in a college classroom and held previous higher education administrative positions. Someone one that holds a terminal degree, preferably a PhD and that has been an academic dean or associate dean at some point in their career or a departmental chairperson. A person that will work to maintain academic standards and that has a strong background working in the academic world. The successful candidate must have the ability to successfully interact with the faculty.

      1. Someone who has business skills that understands and can possibly handle operations aspects like budgeting, human resources and even customer service. Someone that has governmental relations in order to procure federal or state support of academic programs and research. A person that has been successful in overseeing staff and that has the ability to form a management team.
      2. Someone that has been previously successful in raising funds.
      3. He/she must be a good listener.
      4. He/she must have diplomatic skills to handle many different views and opinions. The candidate must be able to handle the rising tide of egos involved with state government.
      5. He/she must make athletics a priority. Academics are important, but athletics has as much, if not more, to do with enrollment increases. He/she must have the ability to successfully work with Coach Freeze (and other coaches) and Ross Bjork.
      6. Someone that is willing to make themselves accessible to the student body and that they will be responsive to their needs. He or she can’t be so focused on something like fundraising that they forget about the students they are serving. Someone who walks and visits areas of campus to understand needs.
      7. Someone that has leadership skills and high values. Ethics are stressed in college, so the leader must live and profess a corresponding lifestyle. The Chancellor must be aware of what is happening in the world around him. He/she must do whatever possible to fight ignorance, bigotry, poverty, hunger, health problems and so much more. He/she needs to be a person that has done things to make the world, or the universities where they have been employed, a better place.
      8. He/she must have been a parent.
      9. He/ she must be aware of school traditions. He/she must understand that Ole Miss has a very distinct personality.

Alumni, faculty, students and other stakeholders will have a final opportunity to voice their opinions on what the next chancellor should be like at the third series of Campus Listening Sessions on Thursday, August 27, at the University of Mississippi Campus in Oxford.

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All discussions at both events will center on the qualities and qualifications stakeholders believe the next institutional executive officer should possess.

The public is asked to participate in an online listening session survey that will provide the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning with feedback on what qualities the public values in potential chancellor candidates. The survey can be found here, and it will be active until Thursday, August 27.

For more information on the search, visit the IHL website here.

HottyToddy.com staff report

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