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Mississippi College Administrator Debbie Norris Receives Higher Education Award

Dr. Debbie Norris

Mississippi College Graduate Dean Debbie Norris remains one of the shining stars in national higher education circles.

Leaders of one of America’s premier accreditation agencies applaud her expertise and decades of faithful service to her institution.

Officials with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools salute Dr. Norris as an elite school administrator. Its Commission on Colleges recently presented the Mississippi College graduate with its meritorious service award.

The honor was announced in December at the organization’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas. Founded in 1895, SACS accredits institutions in 11 Southern states and Latin America.

As the Mississippi College vice president for planning and assessment, Norris successfully oversees the institution’s lengthy re-accreditation process. It involves constant meetings, mountains of paperwork, and a steadfast determination to achieve goals.

President Lee Royce says the tribute to Debbie Norris is well-deserved for one of the brightest leaders at the Baptist-affiliated university.

“Dr. Debbie Norris is one of the Southern region’s most accomplished experts in the important complexities of interpreting and maintaining regional accreditation,” Royce said. “It is absolutely vital to the work of any university. She has led Mississippi College through multiple self-studies and accreditation visits.”

Norris brings much to the table for other universities as well. She’s consulted with many institutions on the complicated accreditation process. MC first gained SACS accreditation in 1922. Dr. Norris continues to teach graduate school classes online and has served as a mentor to generations of students.

Through her hard work, Norris offers first-class guidance as MC “seeks to strengthen our programs and fulfill our vision of being recognized as a university committed to academic excellence and the cause of Christ,” Royce said.

A Mississippi College graduate, Debbie grew up in Raymond where she was a high school cheerleader. For decades, the Mississippi native has been an energetic sparkplug to make her alma mater excel and be attractive to thousands of students.

“Her great work at MC is a prime reason our university remains on the cutting edge of institutional effectiveness and academic advancement,” says Ron Howard, vice president for academic affairs. “Those of us who had the good fortune of working with Dr. Norris over the years know how truly deserving she is of this honor by the leading regional higher education organization in the nation.”

Each year, America’s second oldest Baptist college receives strong rankings in national publications. This Fall, “U.S. News & World Report” rated MC No. 12 as a Best Value among the South’s regional universities.

Wayne VanHorn, dean of the School of Christian Studies & the Arts, appreciates Dr. Norris for her ability to handle immense challenges of the accreditation universe, from A to Z. She helps MC “navigate the often complex field of core requirements, government mandates and accrediting standards.”

MC is blessed to have Dr. Norris on its valuable administrative team, other educators say.

“Her professionalism, attention both to detail and to the big picture, plus her expertise in accreditation and assessment are all widely recognized here at the university,” says Jonathan Randle, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The meritorious service award goes to about ten of some 5,000 members annually for their work with the Georgia-based SACS Commission on Colleges. Debbie refuses to slow down after getting the recognition. Dr. Norris is focused on a fifth year interim report that Mississippi College sends to the agency in March 2018. She’s led MC through two decennial reviews with a third report to be completed in 2023.

Norris praises the solid support that Mississippi College and other institutions receive from Belle Wheelan, longtime president of the SACS Commission on Colleges. “Dr. Wheelan is an excellent leader for us. She is a professional and gives of herself to help our colleges and universities.”

The MC administrator enjoys working with Wheelan and other SACS leaders “because you can see how higher education evolves and gets better and better.”