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USFSP names interim top academic officer

By Claire McNeill
Dr. Olufunke Fontenot | courtesy of Georgia College

The University of South Florida St. Petersburg's interim leader has announced the school's new top academic officer.

Olufunke A. Fontenot, a criminal justice professor with experience in administration, will step in on Dec. 1 as interim regional vice chancellor of academic affairs.

She fills the role left open by Martin Tadlock when he stepped up as the university's leader in the wake of his predecessor's ouster.

Tadlock praised her effusively in an email on Tuesday, lauding her experience at regional state universities, including two historically black institutions. Fontenot has served as a campus affirmative action and equal opportunity employment officer, he said, and comes with rave reviews after on-campus interviews.

Fontenot hails from Albany State University in Georgia, where she is associate provost. Tadlock said she's on loan from Georgia State College and University, where she's worked as a professor and administrator since 2002.

She has studied at the University of Pennsylvania, Yale Law School, Cambridge University and the Nigerian Law School.

In her letter of interest to USF St. Petersburg, she wrote: "My 14 years as a professor and administrator at Georgia College, Georgia's designated public liberal arts institution, provides me with a perspective on, and experience with a transformative and integrative liberal arts education."

She touched on challenges facing U.S. higher education, including declining state funding, shifting demographics, student debt and issues surrounding student access and graduation rates.

"As a young university not yet bound by entrenched traditions," she wrote, "USFSP can bring a refreshing innovativeness and newness to addressing these challenges."