Cantrell Hits Ground Running as New Associate VP, Dean of Students

Sirena Cantrell wants University of Southern Mississippi (USM) students to use their education to succeed personally, professionally and in service to their communities – and support their alma mater by sharing their example of success with those who follow them.

And she’s excited about being a part of that process as USM’s new Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, officially starting Oct. 1.

“To see a person transition from what they were as a student to a successful graduate, and then give back to the institution by sharing their positive experiences about USM with others, that’s a great motivation for me in my work here,” Cantrell said.

Cantrell started at the university Oct. 1, bringing extensive experience in higher education, most recently as dean of students at Mississippi University for Women. At USM, Cantrell will oversee the Dean of Students office; Office of Disability Accommodations; Student Counseling Services; Student Health Services; Center for Military Veterans, Service Members, and Families; and Student Support and Outreach.

“I’m looking forward to meeting and working with our students, getting to learn about the campus culture, and attending the various events where they gather,” Cantrell said. “My door will always be open to them.

USM Student Government Association President Michael Matrick said Cantrell is a “perfect fit” for the position.

“She is genuinely and completely invested in our students’ best interests, wants to make herself known to them and that they see her as a resource,” Matrick said

Cantrell says she’s also passionate about the issue of mental health and plans to focus closely on this area, including work with USM’s CARES (Campus Action Referral and Evaluation System) team and Student Counseling Services.

“We see it in the news every day about mental health issues taking a toll on people across the country and around the world, as well as on college campuses,” Cantrell said. “We have to take care of our people here at USM – students, faculty and staff – and I want to make sure we’re doing that.”


Written by University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) is a comprehensive public research institution delivering transformative programs on campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, at teaching and research sites in central and southern Mississippi, as well as online. Founded in 1910, USM is one of only 130 universities in the nation to earn the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s "R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” designation, and its robust research enterprise includes experts in ocean science and engineering, polymer science and engineering, and sport venue safety and security, among others. USM is also one of only 40 institutions in the nation accredited in theatre, art and design, dance and music. As an economic driver, USM generates an annual economic impact of more than $600 million across the state. USM welcomes a diverse student body of approximately 15,000, representing 71 countries, all 50 states, and every county in Mississippi. USM students have collected four Truman Scholarships and 36 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, while also leading Mississippi with 24 Goldwater Scholarships, an honor that recognizes the next generation of great research scientists. Home to the Golden Eagles, USM competes in 17 Division I sports sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). For more information, visit


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