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USC Sumter names Sonntag dean

Staff Report
Published Jan. 20, 2014

Michael Sonntag has been named dean of the University of South Carolina, Sumter, effective Feb. 1.

Sonntag has nearly 20 years of higher education experience that includes serving as chief academic officer at the University of Maine at Presque Isle since 2007.

Michael Sonntag. (Photo provided)
Michael Sonntag. (Photo provided)
His appointment was announced Friday by Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins, who says it was Sonntag’s academic leadership, coupled with his demonstrated successes in campus and community relations that led to his selection.

“His many successes at both UMPI and Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., emphasize his leadership strengths in faculty and campus relations, accountability, strategic planning, external relationship building and securing resources,” Elkins said.

Palmetto College comprises the university’s four regional campuses at Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Union and Sumter, as well as online bachelor’s degree programs.

“An educated workforce is essential to having a strong economy in South Carolina. Palmetto College is working to expand access to higher education to the state’s citizens, and USC Sumter is playing a vital role in realizing that mission in Sumter and the surrounding region,” Elkins says.

Sonntag, 46, said it was Palmetto College’s access mission and community focus that attracted him to the USC Sumter dean’s position.

“As a first-generation or ‘first-in-family’ college student, I am attracted to the access mission of regional campuses. The fact that USC Sumter focuses on serving the constituents of a particular area — literally ‘meeting them where they are’ — is very appealing to me,” Sonntag said.

Sonntag started his academic career wanting to teach and conduct research in children’s cognitive development. Within a few years of joining Lander’s faculty in 1996, he was selected for leadership positions, serving as the university’s director of assessment and planning and as chairman of the psychology department. He also served as president of the S.C. Psychological Association in 2006-2007 before being named vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

While serving UMPI’s vice president for academic affairs, he also served as the acting executive director at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, a magnet high school for academically gifted students, in 2010.

A native of Sheridan, Texas, Sonntag earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Baylor University, a master’s degree in clinical psychology and a doctoral degree in experimental psychology, with an emphasis in developmental psychology, from the University of Arkansas.

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