In his first semester on campus, Chancellor Jeff Vitter said he hopes to learn as much about the University, its needs and its accomplishments, as he can.
The Chancellor search committee unanimously selected Vitter, former provost and executive vice chancellor at The University of Kansas,as chancellor in late Oct. 2015.
On his semester-long tour, Vitter said he has observed several important facets of the University which he might help to further.
One of the greatest challenges Vitter said he faces here at the University is the continuing difficulty of securing state and national funding for higher education. Nothing is more important to the future of this state and even the world economy than education, Vitter said.
“Education is the hope of the future,” Vitter said. “It creates opportunities for people to better themselves and it breaks through stereotypes by advancing understanding at a deep level.”
Vitter said, in order for the University to continue leading in higher education, it is important to gain funding to advance programs, make learning environments more personal and provide access to the latest technology and equipment. He said the University is working hard to be as “mean and lean” as it can and as affordable as possible while still sustaining a high academic and research profile.
Vitter said he recognized diversity as “a high priority” at this University. Those who are exposed to different races, genders and international cultures, he said, will become more marketable for a global climate.
Vitter said the University and people of Mississippi are dealing with the legacy of the Confederacy and it is important to put historical buildings into context. In this way, Vitter said, students, faculty and fans understand the University’s commitment to progression and equality, but also learn from the past so graduates can “go forward as leaders of this country.”
A plaque will soon be placed in front of the Confederate statue that will put in context the history of the effigy along with the events involved, including the events surrounding the enrollment of James Meredith and the change of society, Vitter said.
Vitter said the diversity committee formed in 2013 might also look for chances to change existing campus structures as it renovates.
“We have a lot of rehabilitation to do in some buildings and that would be an opportunity to perhaps, in one case, provide a new naming opportunity,” Vitter said. “The legacy of Mississippi has thrust the University into the spotlight, and the University has chosen to be a leader and to be out there addressing the kinds of issues like Charleston, South Carolina. While we remember our past, we are always driven to be the best we can be and lead for the future, and that’s what I think this University is about— and that makes me very proud to be a part of this University.”
Vitter said he also noticed a strong research community and students with an extensive interest in innovation and impacting society.
“What surprised me most was how special the undergraduates are in advancing that academic excellence,” Vitter said. “This University has it all. It really has the whole package.”
Vitter said the caliber of creativity and impact Ole Miss students have is incredible. He said the interaction and productivity between the University’s programs, ranging from liberal arts to the professional schools, impressed and surprised him.
“That makes this university a very vibrant place where people flock to,” Vitter said.