Chris Nesmith has been named dean of the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie. He previously served as associate provost and dean of Extended University, a division of Palmetto College housed on USC’s Columbia campus, and he has served as interim dean of the Walterboro and Allendale campuses since Jan. 1. USC Salkehatchie is one of four Regional Palmetto Colleges – including USC Lancaster, USC Salkehatchie and USC Sumter – in the University of South Carolina System.
His appointment was announced on Wednesday, March 13, by Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins, who says that Nesmith’s record of academic leadership and growing relationship with Salkehatchie’s campuses and communities demonstrate that he is a perfect fit.
“Dr. Nesmith has a vision of leading USC Salkehatchie to greater heights, building on past successes while also initiating creative and innovative efforts,” Elkins says. “His many successes as associate provost, dean of Extended University and interim dean at USC Salkehatchie, emphasize his leadership strengths in student, faculty and campus relations, external relationship building, accountability, strategic planning, and securing resources. His inclusive and open leadership style will be a strong asset for the Walterboro and Allendale campuses and the communities that those campuses serve. We are delighted to have him as a member of the Palmetto College leadership team in a new capacity, providing leadership for USC Salkehatchie.”
“I am elated to be the be the next dean at USC Salkehatchie,” said Nesmith. “Since coming here as interim dean I have been very impressed with the students, the faculty, the staff and the people I have met throughout our service area. I’ve received such a warm welcome at both campuses, and have seen first-hand how important USC Salkehatchie is to our region. I am eager to continue working with everyone here to build on that legacy and to accomplish even more at Salk for our students and the communities that we serve.”
Nesmith was unanimously recommended for the position by a 13-member search committee representing a cross-section of stakeholders from USC Salkehatchie’s five-county service area and led by USC Salkehatchie alumna Paula Harper Bethea.
“To a person, the search committee expressed their excitement and confidence that Dr. Nesmith is exactly the person needed to lead Salkehatchie over the next years,” said Bethea, who also serves as USC’s chief advancement officer. “Salkehatchie is the life-blood of the counties it serves, and those counties look to the dean for inspiring and loyal friendship. In Dr. Chris Nesmith, they see and appreciate such a leader.”
The importance of an education at a two-year campus in the counties served by USC Salkehatchie is not lost on Nesmith.
“I started college at a small, two-year campus in a very small town, and the transformative power of education that I experienced there is what led me to eventually pursue graduate school, and then to decide to transition from teaching to administration,” he said.
Nesmith comes to this new role at USC Salkehatchie with progressive experience and accomplishments that make him a good fit for the position. He began working and teaching at the University of South Carolina in 2003, and joined a precursor of USC Palmetto College in 2008 as director of the Evening Program. Nesmith’s most recent roles with Palmetto College were as associate provost, dean of Extended University and associate professor. He also taught as an assistant English professor at Longwood University.
In these capacities at USC Nesmith was instrumental in the successful launch of Palmetto College in 2013. His responsibilities included oversight of the Liberal Studies and Organizational Leadership bachelor’s degree programs that are offered at the Regional Palmetto Colleges and online. His administrative responsibilities also included the USC Fort Jackson Program. In support of that program and its students he helped to secure funding to establish the Robert V. Phillips Palmetto College Military Endowed Scholarship Fund, which offers “last-dollar” scholarships to allow soldiers to bridge tuition gaps. Most recently, he led the team that created the new Palmetto College Transfer Center in Lexington, S.C., in 2018, and shepherded it through the process of approvals from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC), the S.C. Commission on Higher Education (CHE) and the USC Board of Trustees.
A Mississippi native, Nesmith earned a Ph.D., master’s and bachelor’s degrees in English from the University of South Carolina, University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of Mississippi, respectively. He also earned an associate degree from Copiah-Lincoln Community College. He has been married for 27 years to Melanie Culpepper, after the two met in graduate school. She recently retired after a 20-year career with Delta Airlines.
Nesmith’s tenure as dean of USC Salkehatchie officially begins April 1.