Charting A Thriving New Course
By Jack Criss • Photography by Kevin Bain/University of Mississippi Digital Imaging Services
Three years into his tenure, University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce says the state’s flagship university is on a roll with momentum building across academics, athletics, research, and fund-raising.
“We’re incredibly positive about everything that is taking place on campus right now,” says Boyce, who became the school’s 18th leader in October of 2019.
Even as enrollment in higher education nationally has declined over the past couple of years, the University of Mississippi is attracting increased enrollment that defies the broader trend.
“This fall marked the University’s largest freshman class ever, right at almost 4,500 students,” notes Boyce on just one of the landmarks that he looks to achieve in the 2022-23 school year. “We’re up twenty-six percent from last year’s freshman class, and much of that is due to some new recruiting strategies we implemented. Of course, getting the young people here in person on the campus of the nation’s most beautiful university, and seeing for themselves what we have to offer, gives us a huge advantage. And credit also must be given to our outstanding student ambassadors,” says Boyce. “There are, of course, space and housing challenges with such dramatic increases, but those are good problems to have in today’s higher education environment.”
Chancellor Boyce also touts the talented and dedicated faculty at Ole Miss who, he says, shone especially bright during the pandemic.
“Our faculty transitioned into helping our students during massive upheavals and transitions in matters that were nothing short of heroic,” he enthuses. “And they did all of this in record time without missing a beat. This faculty also must be given credit for our present graduation rate over sixty-eight percent, which is an all-time University high. That number will get higher though, I assure you, and we are always working toward that goal.
“Our enhancement of research capacity and capabilities is also being led and fueled by our faculty,” says Boyce. “We are currently pressing forward on interdisciplinary research in a major way and have well over 100 faculty members involved in such research and shared projects. That was not always the case, here or anywhere else–specific fields were too often working on their own and unaware of other disciplines. But, the problems facing the world today are much more sophisticated and too complicated to be solved without cooperation. We need solutions that cut across all disciplines. So, we now have faculty members working together to engage each other and students from various fields of studies – including undergraduates – to find answers to our most pressing issues today.”
Construction is nearing the halfway mark on the largest single building project in the history of the Oxford campus – the 202,000 square-foot, $180 million Jim and Thomas Duff Center for Science and Technology Innovation.
“It will be located across All-American Drive from Vaught Hemingway Stadium and serve as our hub for STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) education,” says Boyce. “We are hoping to open the Center in approximately a year and half, and wee believe it will be the finest teaching center for STEM education in all of America when it opens.”
Boyce says that the Patterson School of Accountancy (tops among Southeastern Conference institutions and Number Eight in the nation) has continued its historically strong growth as a national leader in the discipline. The University is in the planning stages of building a new facility to house that school. “We also have other Schools that are doing extremely well,” adds Boyce, “better than most have ever done in the history of the University.”
While noting that the University of Mississippi is on very sound fiscal footing, Boyce says he appreciates the steps taken by the state legislature in helping Mississippi colleges and universities during its last session.
“We received an increase in state funding this year, and that additional funding was used to raise faculty and staff salaries, as well as in other areas where the money was put to good use,” says Boyce. “This allowed us to be more competitive with our fellow Southeastern Conference peers, which is crucial.”
Among other recent University highlights Boyce notes is the creation of the National Center for Cannabis Research and Education.
“We’ve long been a leader in cannabis research,” he says, “but the Center will foster new scientific research, data analysis, education and training on the health effects of cannabis which, as we all know, is a growing field of study.”.
The University is nearly a year into its Now & Ever campaign, the largest fundraising campaign ever undertaken by a Mississippi university with a goal of $1.5 billion.
“In the year that ended June 30, we raised just over $150 million, and we’re on track to set a new record for academic fundraising in Mississippi with the total goal,” Boyce says. “More non-restricted monies are coming in for our academic programs, and I can’t tell you how exciting that is for us here.”
In the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings of colleges and universities, Ole Miss stands 40th in the nation among public universities as a “best value,” placing the school in the top six percent of all public universities in the nation.
“That’s an incredible ranking,” says Boyce. adding that financial support from the state enables the university to keep tuition more affordable for Mississippi residents. “And, students from outside of the state not only bring their unique talents and worldviews to our campus, but also revenue that’s crucial for the University and for Mississippi.”
Ole Miss students have made substantial contributions in public service, says Boyce, whether raising more than $225,000 for Children’s Hospital through the “RebelTHON” to the large number of Truman Scholars who are chosen from a natonal pool of candidates for their commitment to public service.
“These young scholars and scholar-athletes are the true backbone of this University,” says Boyce, before noting with pride the third-overall selection of Ole Miss basketball standout Shakira Austin in the 2022 WNBA draft.
Ole Miss recently hosted a Week of Commemoration to mark the 60th anniversary of the University’s integration by James Meredith with a series of events, commemorations and several other activities culminating with their October 1 Homecoming football game against Kentucky. Other campus events will continue throughout the academic year.
“It’s amazing how far we’ve come in those sixty years,” says Boyce.