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USC Sumter Dean Michael Sonntag stepping down as campus leader

Michael SonntagSumter, S.C. – Michael Sonntag, campus dean of University of South Carolina Sumter, has announced he will be stepping down as dean, effective June 30, 2024, following a decade leading the institution. USC Sumter is one of four regional Palmetto College campuses – including USC Lancaster, USC Salkehatchie and USC Union – and Palmetto College Columbia in the University of South Carolina System.

“Serving as USC Sumter campus dean for the past decade has been a privilege,” said Sonntag. “I am proud of the work we have accomplished in building our campus, student body, academic programs, community outreach and academic offerings,” said Sonntag.

“We thank Dean Sonntag for his service to USC Sumter, our Shaw Air Force Base location and the surrounding communities,” said USC Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins. “His leadership has been an invaluable asset to an institution that is responsible for bringing an affordable, accessible and flexible higher education to South Carolinians across the region and the state.”

“Many positive changes have occurred at USC Sumter during his tenure as campus dean, including enrollment growth and student success, improved facilities, new academic and athletic offerings, and community outreach and partnerships,” Elkins continued.

During his tenure as USC Sumter campus dean, Sonntag oversaw an 89% increase in enrollment from the Fall 2014 semester to the Fall 2023 semester, representing the highest enrollment in the history of USC Sumter.  These enrollment gains have concurrently brought improvements in the financial standing and security of the university. He and his team started the first Early College program among Palmetto College campuses and greatly expanded dual enrollment offerings to over 1,000 high school students in 2023.

To meet needs expressed by area leaders, the campus brought two new bachelor’s degree programs in nursing and teacher education, through a partnership with USC Aiken. The university received an approximately $1.5 million federal grant to begin a new Upward Bound program and has successfully received renewed grant funding for its highly successful TRIO Student Support program.

In cooperation with the Sumter Partnership of the USC Educational Foundation, the university has raised over $5.8 million in donations across the last 10 years in support of student scholarships, faculty and staff professional development, program development, and campus improvements. With support from the Sumter County Legislative Delegation, USC Sumter received funding to renovate the Science Building, to renovate Nettles Auditorium and Gymnasium, to create a new softball playing field and to address deferred maintenance issues going back years. Planning is already underway, and funding has been secured, to build an addition to the Nettles Gym, as well as to build a new facility in downtown Sumter in partnership with SCETV.

USC Sumter has added 13 new athletic teams during Sonntag’s tenure and added the first eSports varsity team at a state university in South Carolina. USC Sumter consistently maintains one of the highest graduation and success rates among all South Carolina two-year institutions and is consistently ranked in the top five best community colleges in the Palmetto state by

Prior to his 2014 arrival as USC Sumter campus dean, Sonntag served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and as a psychology faculty member, department chair and director of assessment and planning at Lander University. He holds the academic rank of professor of psychology at USC Sumter.

Sonntag will join the USC Palmetto College central leadership team as executive director of institutional research, assessment and analytics on July 1, 2024, taking on a similar role as a recently retired employee who was responsible for Palmetto College’s planning, assessment and student success.

Eric Reisenauer, associate dean of academic and student affairs at USC Sumter, will serve as interim campus dean until a national search for permanent dean is conducted and a new campus dean has been hired. He has served in his present role since 2013, and he has been on the faculty of USC Sumter since 1997. He holds the academic rank of professor of history at USC Sumter.

“Much of the work begun under Dean Sonntag’s tenure will continue under Interim Dean Reisenauer’s tenure, including a continued focus on enrollment and student success, campus and facility improvements and a strong town-gown relationship,” said Elkins.

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