Messages from the President - 2023

March 9, 2023

Dear USA Faculty and Staff,

In recognition of the dedication of our USA employees, each quarter the University recognizes the exceptional efforts of one University general staff employee for the Employee of the Quarter award.

I am pleased to announce that Danielle L. Miller, IACUC/IBC Administrator in Research Compliance and Assurance, has been selected as USA Employee of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2023. Her nomination reads, in part: “Danielle makes research happen on campus as she reviews every animal research and biosafety protocol that is required at South. Additionally, she is the primary person to ensure South is compliant in research. She is an excellent liaison for her office. Danielle is always pleasant to interact with, extremely prompt in responding to emails, and is continuously helping faculty navigate the online compliance system to make sure their research programs run smoothly. We would not run efficiently without Danielle’s dedication and service.”

In recognition of Danielle’s commitment to excellence, the presentation of this award took place at the Board of Trustees meeting on March 3, 2023. Congratulations, Danielle!

Jo Bonner

March 1, 2023

Faculty, staff and students,

Soon after becoming your president last January, I hosted a series of listening sessions throughout campus as an opportunity to learn more about our great University, and to hear directly from you about what’s working and where we have opportunities for growth and improvement.

While I’m always available to anyone from our community – just stop me on campus or email – we’ve begun a limited series of “Town Hall Meetings” as a follow-up at each of our colleges and schools that will run through early May.

In each case, I’ll meet with administrators, Faculty Senate leadership, faculty and staff. Joining me will be our Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Andi Kent as well as Dr. John Marymont, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Whiddon College of Medicine, and Owen Bailey, CEO of USA Health and senior associate vice president for medical affairs.

Individual colleges and schools will be communicating with their communities about location and logistics. I look forward to this opportunity to hear – and learn – directly from you.

During these visits, I am pleased to be able to spread the good news about our many recent successes. As you know, we have all been focused on recruitment and retention, and those efforts are yielding results.

From fall to spring of this year, our first-year student retention rate topped 90 percent, highlighting both student resilience and the purposeful work of our faculty and staff to get them to the graduation finish line. At the same time, while it is still early, first-year student enrollment for fall 2023 looks promising. Applications are up from this time last year, and that positive momentum is reflected in student housing requests.

While it will take longer to see if early indicators result in increased first-year student enrollment, we should all be encouraged. If you know someone who would be interested in attending South, you can pass along their information through a new web portal, and we will be sure to let them know why they should choose the Flagship of the Gulf Coast.

To be clear, there is great interest right now in our University. I hear it when I’m on our Jag Athletics buses picking up high school students for VIP tours, and I heard it – loudly! – on the streets of downtown Mobile just last week.

That’s when SGA President Camille Bonura and I, along with America’s favorite mascots, SouthPaw and Miss Pawla, joined the Jaguar Marching Band in leading the Infant Mystics parade. The band sounded fantastic, as usual, and we had fun tossing beads from the Presidential Golf Cart and hopping off it to hand out SouthPaw Mardi Gras buttons to the crowd. Our Prowlers even got in on the fun by leading the Tableau at the IM’s Ball.

Speaking of those buttons, a student finally made me make good on my promise to buy a drink for anyone who collects a full set of presidential buttons! I’ve seen Riki Nguyen at least a dozen times at events over the last year as he sought out the latest pin, or collected ones he already had to trade for those he didn’t. He recently stopped by the office with a full set and collected his Coca-Cola.

Riki is a big reason we have an ROTC button. A member of our Army ROTC Jaguar Battalion, Riki emailed last year suggesting we design one. Thank you, Riki, for your service, and congratulations! (At least a few new buttons will be released this spring, so if you think you have a complete set, that’s about to change.)

I’d like to close this letter by mentioning two of the many events I attended in February.

On Feb. 14, I was at the unveiling of a new Mother/Baby Unit at USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital. The 20-suite unit is designed to promote comfort and bonding for families and their newborns. USA Health is the area’s leader in births, and it now has the finest postpartum facilities in our region.

Two days later, I had the good fortune of being invited to the annual Soul Food Luncheon hosted by our Multicultural Leadership Center. The Student Center ballroom was filled with energy and purpose. To witness the love, encouragement and sense of community demonstrated by our students at one of our major events for Black History Month was, indeed, good for the soul.

As we head into the spring months – a season that will bring new growth and opportunities – I look forward to seeing you on our beautiful campus and at our hospitals and clinics. Go Jags!

Jo Bonner