When Linda Bennett first came to Evansville in 2003 to interview for the post of provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern Indiana, she knew virtually nothing about the school. But she fell in love with it immediately.
A dozen years later, USI is far more widely known. The school is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, and Bennett, USI’s president since 2009, is enjoying promoting both USI’s past and its future.
Bennett earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Cincinnati. Her first teaching position was at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, in 1983. She then moved in 1996 to Northern Kentucky University as the chair of the political science department. Next, she moved to Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, in 1999 to be dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Bennett now resides in Evansville with her husband Stephen, who has two children from a previous marriage. She also has two miniature dachshunds and a cat.
City View: What was your first impression when you came to interview at USI?
Linda Bennett: It was February 2003, and I just came here to check out the place. I did not come with a lot of questions in my head. But by the time I finished the interview, I called my husband and I said, ‘If this place calls, we’re coming.’ I didn’t even tell him he needed to come visit. It was just a chemical fit. I liked the energy. I liked the down-to-earth people. I loved the tone here.
CV: Since 2003, you’ve seen a lot of changes at USI. How exciting has that been for you?
LB: I can’t think of anywhere else I’d want to be. If you think about how much of your life energy you spend on work, and then to feel as though you’ve witnessed such tremendous change in an institution of this kind, it doesn’t get any better than that.
CV: You’re a native of Cincinnati. Are you a fan of Skyline Chili?
LB: I make pots of Skyline Chili. The house will smell like it for two weeks. And whenever Stephen and I go into Cincinnati, there are certain places we have to stop: Skyline on Ludlow, LaRosa’s Pizza, and Montgomery Inn for the ribs.
CV: What about USI do you like most?
LB: I like the people. You can walk across campus here, and people meet each other’s gaze. We say ‘good morning.’ I can stop and ask students how things are going. I taught a freshman class this year, and that connection with the students is the best. The quality of the faculty and staff here is tremendous, they go above and beyond. Our varsity club volunteers adopt those student athletes. What gets me up in the morning are those people. We feel a strong sense of mission here, and I love that.
CV: If there is one goal you can envision for the future of USI, what is it?
LB: We are seeing some of it happen now. When I was provost and vice president for academic affairs, I saw the excellence here and I so wanted us to get that story out, about our academic excellence. That’s my entire goal; it’s what I am focused on. I think it is important for people to know about the quality of the academic experience.
For more information about the University of Southern Indiana, call 812-464-8600 or visit usi.edu.