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Lee County Educator Takes Lead at UM’s Tupelo, Booneville Campuses

Leigh Anne Newton of Saltillo will take the lead this month as director of the University of Mississippi's Tupelo campus. Newton brings 26 years of education experience as an educator and administrator in Lee County, Miss.

Leigh Anne Newton Newton's experiences as a parent of college students, a college faculty member, and as a previous graduate student who worked full-time while completing her degree, have helped Newton understands the value of a college degree as well as the needs of traditional and non-traditional college students. Her tenure with UM-Tupelo begins on April 15th.

TUPELO, Miss. ­­­— Leigh Anne Newton, a Tupelo native and faculty member at the University of Mississippi-Tupelo, is helping the university continue its commitment to workforce development in the region as the new director of its Booneville and Tupelo regional campuses.

Newton takes over the leadership of these important regional arms of the University on April 15, bringing a renewed vision and commitment to serving their communities. A life-long resident of north Mississippi, Newton has served 26 years as a teacher and administrator for the Lee County School District.

“North Mississippi is my home, and I want to see this area continue to grow through businesses, industries, and educational opportunities,” she said. “We are fortunate to have strong K-12 school systems, community colleges, and universities right here.

“I want to work to ensure everyone knows about and can take advantage of these opportunities our students have right here close to home.”

UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce said he is looking forward to UM continuing an important and leading presence in communities around the state through it’s regional campuses.

“Leigh Anne Newton’s leadership and longtime dedication to the area will elevate the impact of the Booneville and Tupelo regional campuses as we remain focused on increasing opportunities and access to higher education for the citizens of Mississippi.” 

A two-time teacher of the year in Lee County, Newton moved into district leadership as director of student services in 2014. She was promoted to chief academic officer in 2015.

Ryan Niemeyer, UM assistant provost for regional education, touted Newton’s record in leadership, team building, strategic planning, and community engagement.

“Dr. Newton brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our team, and her deep ties to the Tupelo and Booneville communities will be a tremendous asset as we look to the future educational needs of these areas,” he said.

During her tenure with the school district, Newton has been a part of innovative partnerships between education and industry to develop a stronger workforce for northeast Mississippi.

“Strong and thriving Ole Miss-Tupelo and Ole Miss-Booneville campuses benefit our entire region and the state.”

- Leigh Ann Newton

One of these programs created the unmanned aerial systems, or drone, career exploration program for high school students at the Lee County Career and Technical Education Center. The program is housed at “The Hive,” the Tupelo Community Development Foundation’s technology and business incubator.

UAS manufacturer Hush Aerospace operates a manufacturing facility that hires many students from the training program.

Newton says one of her goals in her new role will be to establish more business, industry, and community partnerships that can benefit students and the area workforce.

“We want to provide specific workforce training that leads our students into a job with local industries and companies,” she said. “When Itawamba Community College, Northeast Community College, and UM-Tupelo students are successful and have a career path in place, keeping our students in north Mississippi is a win for everyone.”

“Our industries will have an educated workforce, our students continue to make their community stronger, and our economy is positively impacted.”

Ole Miss has been offering academic courses in Tupelo since 1972, when the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, approved the establishment of off-campus centers. The Tupelo campus opened in east Tupelo during the spring of 1974 and moved to the corner of Eason Boulevard and Highway 6 in 1975.

In September of 2000, the Advanced Education Center, home of UM-Tupelo, opened in partnership with ICC and the nursing program of Mississippi University for Women.

Since then, thousands of Tupelo area residents have completed associate’s degrees at ICC and walked across the hall to complete bachelor’s and master’s level degrees through Ole Miss, all without leaving Lee County.

The university has partnered with Northeast to offer bachelor’s degree programs on the Booneville campus since 2005.

“Regional campuses like UM-Tupelo and UM-Booneville can give specific support to nontraditional students who have many outside responsibilities that make continuing education possible no matter what stage of life a student may be in,” Newton said.

“We want to continue offering flexible scheduling and personalized support to both traditional and nontraditional students throughout each step of their academic career.”

Jackson State University 1982 baseball team Pictured with her family (L to R) UM Senior Anthropology Major Wes; Leigh Anne; Regan-an 8th grade teacher at Plantersville Middle School; and her husband Brian Newton, the IT Director of Lee County Schools.

“A college degree opens doors of opportunities that some may not even know exist,” she said. “Paying for college and other expenses can be trying, but completing your degree will bring dividends through a higher salary and opportunities to advance in your career.”

As a parent of college students, Newton said that she recognized the importance of academic advisors, caring faculty, and career mentors.

“Sometimes the paperwork can be overwhelming, responsibilities can be overwhelming, and there are more questions than answers,” Newton said. “But having a support system to navigate the challenges of college is vital during the completion of a degree, and as a parent, that is the biggest comfort, knowing someone is helping to navigate the journey.”

“I’m excited to now be a part of this enriching service that the University of Mississippi offers to my neighbors and community.”