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New Provost Keith Elder Begins Mississippi College Leadership Duties in July

Dr. Keith Elder becomes MC's new provost and executive vice president this summer.
Dr. Keith Elder becomes MC's new provost and executive vice president this summer.

Keith Elder embraces opportunities to advance Mississippi College’s “solid foundation” as the university’s new provost and executive vice president.

It’s a leadership role the distinguished Alabama educator begins July 1.

The key administrative position is one Dr. Elder seeks to carry out while working closely with faculty, staff and students.

“Specifically, we will work collaboratively to improve student success in areas such as academic readiness, graduation rates, and permanent placement for jobs,” he says. That is true as well for students applying to graduate and professional schools.

“Mississippi College will continue to foster an environment for students that promotes academic excellence and a clear commitment to the cause of Christ.”

The founding dean of Samford University’s School of Public Health since 2016, Dr. Elder succeeds Interim Provost Debbie Norris.

In recent months, he’s stayed in touch with President Blake Thompson and other leaders as Mississippi College addressed the COVID-19 pandemic. Institutions worldwide face challenges for months to come.

It’s an important task for Mississippi College leaders as the Christian university welcomes back students for traditional classes and activities in August.

“We will actively engage in processes that safeguard the health of students, faculty, staff and the greater MC community,” Dr. Elder said.

From President Thompson to faculty, staff, students, and alumni, the Blue & Gold family warmly welcomes the new leader.

“Dr. Elder is sure to bring a newness to our work,” says Dr. Norris, who also serves as the Graduate School dean.

“Although he is coming to us from Samford University, a peer institution, his experience is broad-based, having worked at both public and private institutions,” she said. “He comes from outside Mississippi College, but is very familiar with our work.”

MC Law Dean Patricia Bennett is excited Dr. Elder will soon join the leadership team. “He is positioned to supervise, mentor and communicate to maximize our team’s success and have a positive impact on the greater campus community.”

Other MC officials agree.

“His career thus far, with advancement in multiple academic leadership positions, is indicative of his dedication and commitment to his calling,” says Jonathan Randle, dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “His commitment to his faith, too, manifests itself in his leadership style; he strikes me as a listening leader.”

Dr. Elder plans to explore academic initiatives. That includes ways “to improve faculty success in terms of classroom effectiveness, promotion, tenure and professional impact.”

Before joining Samford, Elder served three years as chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy at Saint Louis University. He’s a University of Alabama-Birmingham graduate. Dr. Elder completed his doctoral training at the University of Maryland Baltimore County where he was a recipient of a National Institutes of Health Minority-Pre-doctoral fellowship.

When announcing his appointment in February, President Thompson commended the Alabama educator. “We value Dr. Elder’s successful experience as a higher education administrator and as an accomplished teacher and researcher.”

Student Government Association President Michael Washington, Jr. says Keith Elder’s valuable experience is a wonderful fit. “I think he will contribute a great deal at MC because of his background.”

In his new role, Dr. Elder plans to serve the broader Clinton community. It won’t be all work, and no play. He plans to attend many MC Choctaws athletic events. “I might even suit up for noon pick-up basketball games.”

Family is a big priority for Dr. Elder. He and his wife, Keshia, have two children, Hannah and Owen. His faith is important as well. Dr. Elder is the founder of a longstanding men’s Bible study at Birmingham’s Sixth Avenue Baptist Church. He plans to visit several Mississippi churches during the interim period as his family gets situated in the Magnolia State.