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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – University of Georgia official Rodney Bennett has been nominated to become the first black person to lead a historically white public university in Mississippi.

A selection committee named Bennett the preferred candidate to become the next president of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

Bennett is vice president for student affairs at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Mississippi’s five historically white universities have never had black leaders. The state College Board, which oversees those schools and three historically black universities, is likely to vote to confirm Bennett after a campus tour.

Higher Education Commissioner Hank Bounds says Bennett was chosen from a field of 3 candidates because of his experience managing money and large organizations.

USM has been without a permanent president since July, when Martha Saunders resigned.

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