- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The College Board named Mississippi University for Women President Jim Borsig as Mississippi’s new higher education commissioner Thursday, bypassing a more extensive search.

Meeting in closed session, trustees chose Borsig to succeed Commissioner Hank Bounds, who is leaving in April to become president of the University of Nebraska.

“We know he’s the right man to lead the university system,” said Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo, president of the board of trustees.

Before becoming president of MUW in 2012, Borsig was the College Board’s assistant commissioner for governmental relations, making the move something of a homecoming. Maximizing state dollars and keeping friendly relations with lawmakers are among top priorities for the leader of Mississippi’s eight public universities.

“I’m leaving a job that I love to serve a system that I truly believe in,” Borsig said. “And I think the role of the system and the good work that’s been done makes this system of higher education one of the strongest levers that the state of Mississippi has for positive change going forward.”

Borsig, 58, will start work April 15. Patterson said the board is likely to grant him a four-year contract with a starting annual salary of $358,000. Patterson said the board will announce plans to search for a new MUW president “promptly.”

Patterson said the board decided to skip naming an interim commissioner and an extensive search so it could bring a successor aboard before Bounds leaves. Under a 2013 board policy, members can choose a new commissioner or university president without using the traditional process of open advertisement for applicants and interview committees.

“Having a permanent commissioner in place rather than an interim during a long search process would help to continue the momentum that’s been developed with Commissioner Bounds at the helm,” Patterson said.

Choosing now also meant that Patterson and three other board members whose terms end in May got to vote on a permanent commissioner. Patterson said that did not influence his decision. He also said Gov. Phil Bryant had not tried to influence the process. Bryant has come under fire for intervention in the search for a new executive director of the Community College Board.

A Jackson native, Borsig holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a doctorate in public policy and administration from Mississippi State University.

Borsig was named as the 14th president of MUW after a national search, taking over the 2,700-student institution following a period of tumult that included Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposal to merge it with Mississippi State University and a divorce and reunion with the university’s former alumnae association.

“As best I can tell, he’s done a credible job at the W leading them through some trying times,” said Senate University and Colleges Committee Chairman John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, who knew Borsig when he worked in that city.

MUW Faculty Senate President Royal Toy praised Borsig’s efforts to enhance the university’s image and student recruitment, while making sure faculty, alumni and others share in decisions.

“I think he’s set an aggressive way of looking at the future,” Toy said.

Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday that he would be “well satisfied” if Borsig was named.

“Dr. Borsig is someone that I have known for 20 years,” Bryant told The Associated Press. “He is doing a great job at the W, but I think he is well-qualified for the position of commissioner.”

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