University of Southern Indiana President Linda Bennett has announced plans to retire effective June 30, 2018. She became the university’s third president in July 2009, after serving as provost and vice president for academic affairs from 2003 until her inauguration. In addition to serving as president, Bennett is a professor of political science and has taught courses in Introduction to American Politics for USI students.
In her first year as president, she led the effort to establish the university’s first strategic plan. This plan included an intentional effort to raise the academic standards, admitting students most likely to succeed at a four-year university.
In the area of academic programming, Bennett coordinated the self-study, which led to the approval of USI’s first doctoral program, Doctor of Nursing Practice, by the Higher Learning Commission. She also oversaw the expansion of the Bachelor of Science in engineering degree program with the addition of Manufacturing Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. The manufacturing engineering degree was the first of its kind in the state and one of only around 20 such programs in the country. Additionally, the Master of Business Administration has recently expanded to be available both on campus and in an entirely online format with areas of concentration that include accounting, data analytics, engineering management, healthcare administration and human resource management.
During her tenure, the university continued to see monumental growth with the addition of numerous building projects, including the Business and Engineering Center, Performance Center, Lenny and Anne Dowhie Ceramics Center, Applied Engineering Center, Griffin Center, renovation of the University Center and the USI-Burdette Trail, as well as the start of construction on the Physical Activities Center expansion and renovation and the Fuquay Welcome Center.
In 2015, Bennett launched the university’s second strategic plan, which will continue through 2020. Also under her leadership, enhanced admission processes have been implemented and the brand and image have seen updates and increased visibility across the region. Additionally, the USI Foundation led a successful Campaign USI: Elevating Excellence, a $50 million capital campaign that exceeded its goal at its conclusion in 2016.
Also, she has served with the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the national organization representing public institutions, as an advocate for qualitative and quantitative comparisons of campus environments and degree-granting practices nationwide. Bennett is a leader of the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Valley Conference Council of Presidents, past chair of the Indiana Campus Compact Board and has been a member of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities Executive Committee. Bennett has been a strong advocate in strengthening the relationship with Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center in support of nationally recognized best practice in technology transfer from the Department of Defense.
An active civic leader, Bennett has contributed to a variety of organizations such as Joshua Academy, Holly’s House, Aurora, Leadership Evansville, the Diversity Lecture Series, Southwest Indiana Network for Education, Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce, United Way, Mesker Park Zoo Planning Committee, IU School of Medicine Advisory Council, Chair of the WNIN Public Broadcasting board of directors, Deaconess Health Systems board of directors, the Red Cross, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, director of the Welborn Baptist Foundation, the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, the Mayor’s Education Roundtable and the Rotary Club of Evansville. She was recognized as the 2015 Rotary Civic Award winner. In 2016, she received the Indiana Commission for Women Torchbearer Award and Trailblazer Award and in 2017 the Boy Scouts of America Buffalo Trace Council Distinguished Citizen Award.
Bennett earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from the University of Cincinnati. She came to USI from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, where she served from 1999-2003 as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of political science. Also, from 1996-99, she was chair of the Department of Political Science and professor of political science at Northern Kentucky University. From 1983-96, she was associated with Wittenberg University. She chaired the Department of Political Science from 1994-96 and rose to the rank of professor in 1996.
The USI Board of Trustees will announce plans this fall for a national search for the next president.