OPINION: Welcome, Interim Chancellor Sparks

Posted on Jan 29 2019 - 5:50am by Levi Bevis

The University of Mississippi is in an era of change. From new campus buildings like the Student Union, to emerging academic programs such as the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics and more, few aspects of our campus community are static. Adding to the dynamism, we also have a significant change in the senior leadership in the Lyceum: an interim chancellor.

Larry Sparks has been named Interim Chancellor of the University of Mississippi following the resignation of Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter last week. File photo by Xinyi Song

Hailing from our very own Oxford, Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks graduated from the School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi. After receiving his MBA from Mississippi College, he worked in a number of positions around the state before coming back to our university in 1997. He served as the Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance immediately prior to his selection as interim chancellor.

His experience, credentials and personal connection to the university make him a wonderful fit for this position. He has also established expectations for himself and the university during his time as interim chancellor via a letter to the Ole Miss community. In this letter, he outlined his commitment to advancing the interests of students, faculty and staff, positioning the university for a successful transition and encouraging students from across the nation and world to join our campus community.

In addition to his experience and stated commitment to creating a better and brighter university, Sparks also brings numerous valuable skills and perspectives that will benefit our university. Serving as chancellor is a difficult task at any university, but it is an especially challenging position at the University of Mississippi. An individual in this position must be aware of our current campus climate, be knowledgeable of our long and often dark history and develop a sound plan to enhance educational opportunities for current and future students. In addition, someone in this role must demonstrate a dynamic ability to quickly and effectively address any issues that arise, and our interim chancellor has the qualifications to make him well-suited to accomplish these tasks.

Interim Chancellor Sparks and our university face significant challenges during this time of transitional leadership. It is vital, therefore, that we welcome him into this difficult role and work to support the advancement of our beloved university and community. We can each play a role in providing more opportunities for everyone by speaking up about campus problems and engaging in meaningful discussion with university leadership regarding potential solutions. In return, we look to the university leadership to listen to our concerns and support us in this time of change.

The torch of leadership has been passed to Interim Chancellor Sparks, and I, for one, am optimistic that he will do his best to push our university to greater heights. While we must hold him to the standard he has set for this transitional administration, we also must take action in our own circles, organizations and personal communities to ensure this standard is met. As world-renowned author J.K. Rowling said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

Levi Bevis is a senior Public Policy Leadership major from Florence, Alabama.