OXFORD, Miss. – Retired University of Mississippi administrator Bonnie Buntin is the recipient of the School of Education’s 2013 Alumna of the Year Award.
Buntin, who retired as dean of the university’s DeSoto Center in 2011, was selected for the award in honor of her more-than-30-year career in public education, both as a speech pathologist and preschool coordinator in the DeSoto County public school system and as a UM administrator. She was honored during the school’s annual awards ceremony May 10 at The Inn at Ole Miss.
“I’m so surprised and honored by this,” Buntin said. “The quality of my education at Ole Miss was excellent and the School of Education always supported me as a graduate student and as an administrator.”
Looking back at her tenure at UM, the Southaven resident said she is most proud of the spike in undergraduate and graduate-level graduation seen at the regional campus in the fields of education, business, social work and more.
During her leadership from 1996 to 2011, the center went from offering only a few classes to providing more than 11 degree programs with an enrollment of more than 1,000 students. In 2005, she was promoted from director of the campus to dean.
“I’m a school speech pathologist who became a college administrator,” Buntin said. “I became interested in higher education when I was finishing my Ph.D. I saw a huge population in DeSoto County that Ole Miss could help. There were teaching assistants who wanted to become full teachers. There were adults who needed to earn a degree while working and raising a family.
“It’s a luxury to go straight from high school to being a full-time college student.”
Buntin credits the surge in graduation and enrollment during her administration to increased full-time faculty at the campus and collaborative programs such as the 2+2 program with Northwest Mississippi Community College, which sets recipients of associate degrees from the college on track to obtain a bachelor’s degree in education or other fields from UM in just two years.
“Dr. Buntin’s leadership as dean of the DeSoto Center was a huge asset to helping expand the School of Education’s reach and impacting educators and students in North Mississippi,” said UM education Dean David Rock. “She understood the importance of making education accessible and what that could mean for a community. We are excited to honor her for her outstanding career in education.”
Buntin holds a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology from UM, a master’s degree in speech pathology from the University of Memphis, as well as an educational specialist and doctorate in educational leadership, both from UM. During her career, she held leadership positions in DeSoto County on the Baptist Memorial Hospital Community Advisory Board, the Southaven Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Entergy Mississippi’s Northern Region Advisory Council.