Dr. Jaimie Hebert is the only finalist for the job of Georgia Southern University president, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia announced Wednesday.
Hebert, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, was the last of five candidates who visited the Georgia Southern campus for three days each, Feb. 28 to March 11. They were invited by the campus-based Presidential Search and Screen Committee after interviews with eight to 12 applicants in the vicinity of the Atlanta airport in mid-February.
Board of Regents Chair Kessel Stelling Jr. and University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby made the finalist announcement, according to brief statements emailed a few minutes apart by the regents’ office and Georgia Southern.
“The Board of Regents is expected to name the next president of Georgia Southern University at a future meeting,” the announcement noted.
The Special Regents’ Search Committee recommended Hebert to the Board of Regents, and the full board chose him as finalist.
“Only the full Board can name the finalist,” Vice Chancellor Charles Sutlive explained in an email.
Regent Lori Durden of Statesboro chairs the Special Regents’ Search Committee, while Dr. Stephen Vives, a professor who also chairs Georgia Southern’s biology department, headed the campus committee.
During his public forum on the GSU campus March 10, Hebert talked about his upbringing and the opportunities a university education brought him.
“I want you to understand that I understand, on a very personal level, just how transformative a public, comprehensive institution can be, not only to individuals but to entire families in our society,” Hebert said.
His last name, a fairly common one in southern Louisiana, where he grew up, is of French origin and is pronounced like “A-Bear.”
Hebert’s father, one of 14 brothers and sisters, was raised by an older brother after their father died, and became the first person on either side of Hebert’s family to graduate from high school.
Hebert’s father went on to what is now the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, became a math teacher and then helped younger siblings go to Lafayette for their college educations.
When Hebert received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate there, all in statistics, he brought to 11 the total number of degrees his family had received from Louisiana-Lafayette.
Also previously an assistant professor at Appalachian State University, Hebert taught statistics at Sam Houston State as an assistant professor, and then an associate professor, then was promoted to full professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. From 2005 until 2011, Hebert was dean of SHSU’s College of Arts and Sciences. He has been provost and vice president for academic affairs since 2011.
When asked about his leadership style, Hebert said he believes in trust and deep communication, getting to know not just what people say, but why they say it.
“I believe that everyone I work with should have a sense of humor, and I believe I should always have a sense of humor,” he said during the forum here.
But he spoke seriously of the shared responsibilities of academic professionals working at universities.
“An educated citizenry with skills to perpetuate the advancement of our society, the keepers of humanity and civility, socially responsible, these are the promises we give back to society as products of our institutions,” Hebert said.
Well on schedule, the search was intended to put a new president in place by July 1 after Dr. Brooks Keel’s departure last July as the 12th president of Georgia Southern and its predecessor colleges. Keel is now president of Augusta University, previously Georgia Regents University, and Dr. Jean Bartels, previously GSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, remains Georgia Southern’s interim president.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.