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Letter from UM Chancellor: Return of Office of University Relations, New Vice Chancellor

Dr. Jeffrey Vitter with his wife, Sharon
Dr. Jeffrey Vitter with his wife, Sharon.

Through the Flagship Forum and other stakeholder interactions over the past two months, we are engaging in important conversations about the future of the university — about key aspects we need to sustain as well as where our best opportunities exist to go from great to greater.

One of the areas coming into sharp focus is research and scholarship across the full spectrum of discovery, creative achievement, and translational research. Our recent first-ever designation as “R1: Highest Research Activity” in the Carnegie classification puts us into the top 2.5% of U.S. institutions, and it challenges us not only to maintain that designation but also to build upon it.

It is becoming equally clear that our efforts to become more successful in these areas will require a careful integration of ability, opportunity, and relationships. We must ensure that our leadership structure and organizational capacity are aligned with the journey. Thus, today I am making an organizational adjustment to benefit research and to coordinate comprehensive support activities around development and messaging.

I am reinstating the Office of University Relations within the university’s organizational structure and asking Dr. Alice Clark to assume the leadership of this area as interim vice chancellor for university relations, an existing position that is currently unfilled. Our efforts to excel will require additional resources from both public and private sources. Whether we seek federal or state funds or support from foundations and individuals, our success will depend, in part, upon our ability to engage a wide array of partners in a coordinated and strategic way. A robust and multidimensional university relations effort will be essential to our success.

We will not refill the position of chief communications officer being vacated later this year by Mr. Tom Eppes in the Office of University Communications.

To fill Dr. Clark’s former role, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Morris Stocks has named Dr. Josh Gladden to serve as interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, effective immediately, to focus on the full spectrum of research activities. We will conduct a national search for a permanent vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

In her new role as interim vice chancellor for university relations, Dr. Clark will report directly to me as chancellor. Her charge will be to “stand up” the Office of University Relations and assure strategic coordination of its important functions of communications, development, federal relations, university events, and economic development. The appointment will take effect immediately with the goal of full transition by May 31 of this year.

University Relations is a well-recognized best practice on university campuses and, in fact, played a crucial role in the success of the University of Mississippi during the time Dr. Gloria Kellum served as vice chancellor for university relations. I believe a more comprehensive and strategic coordination among communications, fundraising, and stakeholder engagement will promote even greater synergies and success.

Dr. Clark brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this area, gleaned from years of working closely with public and private partners to advocate for investment in research and scholarly activity. In addition, she has a proven record with university special initiatives related to economic development and government relations. Finally, her knowledge of the university and its stakeholder base will help assure that we make decisions in a contextual and thoughtful manner that respects our existing strengths while encouraging innovation and growth.

Dr. Josh Gladden is currently serving as associate vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, director of the National Center for Physical Acoustics, and associate professor of physics and astronomy. He has been principal investigator on a number of major research projects funded by the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the private sector. He also is serving in a number of national, elected leadership positions in the Acoustical Society of America, the American Physical Society, and on the Executive Committee of the National Spectrum Consortium, as well as director of the international Physical Acoustics Summer School.

Thank you for our interactions to date. I am highly energized by our goal to enhance achievement across the full spectrum of research and creative achievement. I look forward to the coming components of the Flagship Forum and encourage you to continue the dialogue about our future. Remember, every voice counts.

Jeffrey S. Vitter,

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