OXFORD – Dan Jones has spent his first week or so as chancellor of the University of Mississippi fulfilling a promise he made during the selection process.
“My immediate goals are to listen a lot,” he said Thursday at his first media conference since taking over for the retired Robert Khayat on July 1.
Jones has visited with the university’s leadership team, the state’s congressional delegation, students and alumni.
One focus has been adapting the university’s budget to a down economy while recognizing the financial challenges facing Ole Miss’ main constituency.
“Every penny the expense goes up for the university is a burden on (students and their) families,” he said. “Of course, it’s a challenge for the university as well.”
Jones said a recently approved out-of-state tuition increase shouldn’t materially affect enrollment.
“When you compare not just our cost, but the value we bring to the table, we think we’re still going to be very attractive to out-of-state students,” he said.
Graduate education and science education emerged during the chancellor search process as academic areas needing improvement.
“I’m trying to spend some time focused on the Graduate School and what the needs are there,” said Jones, a physician who previously headed the university’s Medical Center campus in Jackson. “And I think everyone would be surprised if I didn’t have an interest in being sure that science moved forward on this campus.”
He’s also excited about the prospect of opening one residential college this August – offering students both housing and a built-in community – and starting construction on another planned for occupancy next fall.
“I think it’s going to create a great atmosphere. We have not been able to provide the level of student housing that we’d like in the last number of years, and this is something that Chancellor Khayat had a lot of regret about,” Jones said.
One of Jones’ most powerful impressions since taking the reins at Ole Miss has been its atmosphere.
“I’ve just been impressed with how warm the welcome has been,” he said. “There has to be some sadness about Robert Khayat’s not being here, about his retiring from the university, but people have already been so gracious and warm to me, and my wife, Lydia.”
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal