USC Sumter gets new dean

Michael Sonntag, a Lander University veteran and chief academic officer at a Maine school, was named dean of the University of South Carolina Sumter -- a satellite two-year campus that has struggled with declining enrollment in recent years.

He starts Feb. 1.

“His many successes at both (University of Maine at Presque Isle) and Lander University, emphasize his leadership strengths in faculty and campus relations, accountability, strategic planning, external relationship building and securing resources," Palmetto College Chancellor Susan Elkins said in a statement. "His inclusive and open leadership style will be a strong asset for the campus and community."

Palmetto College includes USC’s four two-year campuses at Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Union and Sumter as well as online bachelor’s degree programs.

Enrollment at the Sumter campus has dropped more than 20 percent in the past decade to below 1,000. The student bodies at USC's three other campuses grew by 50 percent or more in that times. School officials blamed the region's sour economy for Sumter's fall off.

Sonntag, 46, said he was a first-generation college student.

“I’m really jazzed about USC Sumter’s clear commitment to serving the region through an on-ground presence, coupled with the creative solution of providing four-year degrees via distance solutions,” he said in a statement.

Sonntag was Lander’s director of assessment and planning and chaired the psychology department. He was president of the S.C. Psychological Association in 2006-07 before being named vice president for academic affairs at University of Maine at Presque Isle. While in the Pine Tree State, he also was acting executive director at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, a magnet high school.

The Sheridan, Texas, native earned a 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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