The University of South Alabama’s newest provost and executive vice president will focus on increasing student enrollment at the nearly 60-year-old institution.
Mobile Native and USA graduate Andi Kent, Ph.D. plans to increase the number of students choosing to become Jaguars in a number of ways, from focusing more attention on the Mobile area, working with community colleges throughout the state and working to recruit active military, veterans and their families to the school.
“I think one of the major focuses should be increasing our enrollment,” she said. “I hope to be able to look at that.”
Kent said the school has done a good job in the past at looking at local students, but more could be done to sell students on the campus, its amenities and the educational opportunities.
“I think part of it is they don’t know what we have to offer,” she said.
In the fall, USA will introduce a heroes scholarship program, aimed at active military and veterans, Kent said. The recruitment of defense personnel is important at USA because the institution is within a 180-mile radius of several military installations, she said.
With USA a year away from celebrating six decades as an institution, Kent said the school needs to focus on recruiting legacy students, or those whose parents or grandparents attended the school.
“We’re almost 60 years old as an institution and we need to focus on that,” she said. “Those potential students live all over the country now. We need to show them what we have to offer.”
Increasing enrollment, which has dipped a bit recently, she said, will help strengthen the school and provide even better opportunities for research and education.
The need to focus on higher enrollment also comes just a few years away from an expected decline in high school graduates due to lower birth rates. Kent said the state will see an increase in the number of graduates in the next few years before ultimately seeing a decline.
“We know that’s coming,” she said.
In her position, Kent said she’s excited about recent economic development announcements, specifically from Airbus. The growth in manufacturing jobs gives USA the responsibility to prepare graduates for future jobs.
Kent has been with the college for 18 years, after working as a teacher in Mobile County for a decade. She received a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Mobile. She received both a master’s and doctoral degrees from USA in early childhood education and instructional design, respectively.
“I absolutely love the University of South Alabama,” Kent said. “I’m passionate not only about the success of the institution, but also about what it means for the community, the state of Alabama and globally.”
Kent has previously held positions at the school as dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, as well as associate dean, director of field services and interim director of graduate studies in the college.
Most recently, Kent served as interim provost in 2020 and was named interim executive vice president by USA President Jo Bonner, upon his arrival earlier this year.
“Dr. Kent is the right person, at the right time, to help lead our university as we begin this exciting new chapter with the goal of becoming the Flagship of the Gulf Coast,” Bonner said in a statement. “Dr. Kent has been a vigorous advocate for public education and she is one of South’s biggest supporters. She also has had proven success in teaching and research and has shown an authentic commitment to service.”
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