Executive Leadership

Ken Styron sitting at his desk

Dr. Ken Styron

President

Dr. Ken Styron has utilized decades of experience in higher education, business and technology to advance Columbia Southern University. Since joining the university in 2002, Dr. Styron has overseen critical areas of influence including information technology, instructional design, marketing and outreach.

One of his proudest accomplishments was developing Omega in 2008. Omega is a custom student information software that remains integral to university operations today. He also oversaw the rebranding and creation of a new university logo and marketing initiative for CSU’s 25th year anniversary in 2018. He established the integration of Quality Matters guidelines into CSU’s course design process, resulting in more than 70 QM certified courses to date, as well as the Blackboard Catalyst Exemplary Awards from 2017 to 2021.

Dr. Styron was appointed as president in May 2018. During this time, he has leveraged his diverse professional background and expertise in the areas of technology and development to expand CSU’s mission with a unique perspective built on servant leadership and guided by innovation. He uses a student-centered approach to provide the best quality services and education to CSU’s students.

Dr. Styron’s tenure with CSU is a testament to his leadership style and his personal mantra “Always think one step ahead.” Always thinking ahead, he uses data in all areas of his decision‐making, specifically those tied to the institution’s strategic plan. He couples his knack for predicting what’s next with an emphasis on relationship building to lead the university. To that end, Dr. Styron led the charge to achieve Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) candidacy in December 2021.

Dr. Styron holds a Bachelor of Science in information science from the University of South Alabama, an MBA from CSU, and a Doctor of Business Administration from Capella University. He serves on the Mobile Area Council Boy Scouts of America Board, a role that allows him to contribute to the development of tomorrow’s leaders and give back to his community.

Dr. Janell Gibson

Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Dr. Janell Gibson joined Columbia Southern University in 2018 as the university’s vice provost of academic and student affairs. She transitioned into the role of provost and chief academic officer in 2020.

Dr. Gibson has 20 years of higher education experience with an emphasis in online education, institutional and programmatic accreditation, program development, student success and retention. She has extensive experience teaching behavioral science courses and has held various leadership positions at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Parker University in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Gibson believes in a student-centered approach with an emphasis on collaborative learning and exceptional service.

Dr. Gibson holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia, a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Nova Southeastern University, and a Ph.D. in conflict analysis and resolution with concentrations in global and community conflict from Nova Southeastern University.

Close up of Janell Gibson
Close up of Pat Troup

Pat Troup

Chief Financial Officer

Pat Troup joined the Columbia Southern University team in February 2008. A certified public accountant, Troup’s tenure includes decades of experience in the areas of accounting, information technology and supply chain management. Serving as the university’s chief financial officer, he currently oversees the departments of accounting and finance, financial aid, student accounts and bookstore operations.

Before joining CSU, Mr. Troup headed up the financial operations for the book publishing and home sales units of Southern Progress Corporation. Prior to that role, he spent 10 years at Standard Furniture Manufacturing, where he held a variety of management roles. Mr. Troup began his career as an auditor with Deloitte & Touche, LLP.

Mr. Troup holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of South Alabama and a Master of Business Administration from Louisiana State University Shreveport. He is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Alabama Society of CPAs. Mr. Troup formerly served as the president and chairman of the board for the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo and was a member of the Mobile Jaycees.

Scott Oswald

Chief Information Officer

Scott Oswald serves as the chief information officer for Columbia Southern University. Capitalizing on more than 20 years of information technology experience in the corporate sector, Scott brings expansive knowledge and expertise to the role. Founded upon his tenure as a software engineer, Scott’s leadership style focuses on end-user experience, reliability and scalability.

Scott previously served as the vice president of information technology, where he supervised the university’s software development, integration, hardware, network infrastructure and technical support. Scott holds a Bachelor Science in mathematics with a minor in computer science from Troy University.

Close up of Scott Oswald
Dale Leatherwood - Chief Marketing Officer

Dale Leatherwood

Chief Marketing Officer

Dale Leatherwood serves as chief marketing officer for Columbia Southern University, joining in June 2022. In this role, he oversees a division that includes marketing, corporate outreach and community & alumni relations. With more than 24 years of marketing and executive experience in training and higher education, Dale brings an expansive knowledge and expertise to his current role.

Before joining Columbia Southern University, Dale was the vice president of brand, public relations and communications for American Public Education, Inc. (APEI), a publicly traded higher education company, and was vice president of marketing for Rasmussen University before its acquisition by APEI. During his extensive career, Dale has been a marketing executive for colleges and higher-education focused marketing agencies, and has developed and led two online college campuses. In addition, he has served as a consultant with several universities on marketing and distance-learning initiatives while co-founding an education concierge firm serving working professionals seeking an online degree.

Dale earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing from Coker University and an MBA with a marketing concentration from Regis University.

Institutional Leadership

Close up of Rick Cooper

Rick Cooper

Vice President, Business Development and Military Initiatives

Rick Cooper serves as the vice president of business development & military initiatives at CSU. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration at CSU in 2002. He manages educational representatives responsible for developing relationships within the military and corporate arena including attending education fairs, base visits and conferences.

He retired from the U.S. Navy in 1998 with a background in aviation and career counseling and worked for DeVry University as an educational representative before joining CSU.

Close up of Craig Taylor

Craig Taylor

Associate Vice President of Finance

Craig Taylor joined CSU in June of 2010 and currently serves as the associate vice president of finance for Columbia Southern University. He brings more than 17 years of experience in accounting and financial reporting and analysis. Craig holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of South Alabama. He is a certified public accountant and a charted global management accountant. He is also a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Alabama Society of CPAs.

Caroline Walters

Vice President of University Relations

Caroline Walters serves as vice president of university relations overseeing corporate outreach, corporate relations, community relations and student and alumni engagement at Columbia Southern University.

Caroline comes to CSU with over 16 years of experience in higher education. She began her career at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, MS where she served in various roles within staff, faculty and administration then served eight years as vice president of advancement, guiding the JCJC Foundation Inc. and JCJC alumni affairs through a time of extraordinary growth. In 2014, Caroline was hired as vice president of advancement for Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College where she led not only the foundation and alumni affairs but also marketing, the college archives and recruiting efforts for the college.

Caroline holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Mississippi State University.

Close up of Ed Witherington

Ed Witherington

Associate Vice President of Business Intelligence

Ed Witherington Jr. joined Columbia Southern University in April of 2010. He currently serves as the university’s associate vice president of business intelligence. Ed brings more than 18 years of experience in operations management, analysis and programming to the CSU leadership team.

Ed holds a Bachelor of Science in commercial banking from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama.

Close up of Charles Mims

Charles Mims

Associate Vice President of Information Technology

Charles Mims joined CSU in 2008 and currently serves as the associate vice president of information technology. With nearly two decades of IT experience, Charles has led teams across varied roles including infrastructure, database administration, communication and cyber security. Prior to joining CSU, he spent five years in the commercial software sector where he worked heavily with cellular and radio communication, law enforcement and cloud platforms. Charles served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed to Iraq in 2005. With this background in radio communication and cryptography, he is experienced in leading 24x7 mission critical operations.

Charles holds a bachelor’s from the University of West Florida, and holds many industry certifications including ISC2 CISSP, VMware® Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified IT Professional and multiple Dell EMC certifications.

Academic Leadership

Close up of Lee Barnett

Dr. Lee Barnett

Vice Provost of Student Affairs

Dr. Lee Barnett joined Columbia Southern University in May 2019 as the dean and assistant provost for student affairs. In his current role as vice provost of student affairs, he oversees the Student Support Center, Success Center, Office of Student Resolution and Conduct, and Career Services. During his 15-year tenure, Dr. Barnett has also served as a college president, provost, dean and professor. Dr. Barnett has served in various leadership roles within the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education and as a board member for the Alabama chapter of National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Dr. Barnett holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Belmont University, two master’s degrees in religious studies and youth ministry and a D.Min. in leadership from Liberty University. He also holds an Ed.S. and Ph.D. in adult education from Auburn University. A lifelong scholar across multiple disciplines, Dr. Barnett has authored several publications.

Close up of Elwin jones

Dr. Elwin Jones

Dean, College of Business and Assistant Provost

Elwin Jones joined CSU in 2008 as an adjunct faculty member and served as chair of undergraduate business, dean of faculty services, and the interim dean of the College of Business. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of West Florida, a master’s degree in business administration from Capella University, and a doctorate in business administration and organizational leadership from Northcentral University.

With more than 25 years of leadership experience with Walmart Stores, Inc., Elwin brings a vast knowledge of business and leadership practices to CSU. He is a member of the Southern Management Association, American Conference of Academic Deans, current board president of Milk and Honey Ministries in Pensacola, Fla., leads leadership classes in Brazil, and is active at Heritage Baptist Church in Cantonment, Fla. Elwin has served on the board of directors of the Better Business Bureau of Northwest Florida, a past board president of the First Tee of Northwest Florida, and United Way of Escambia County Distribution Committee.

Close up of Misti Kill

Dr. Misti Kill

Vice Provost of Academic Affairs
Dean, College of Safety and Emergency Services

Since joining CSU in 2012, Misti Kill, Ph.D., has served the university in multiple capacities, including faculty, academic program director and assistant provost. She currently resides as the vice provost of academic affairs and dean for the College of Safety and Emergency Services. In addition to her decade of experience in higher education, Dr. Kill has engaged as a faculty reviewer for the American Council on Education (ACE) and been active in the safety field for several years. She also is engaged with the International Association of Emergency Managers, having served as a member of its diversity committee, and as commissioner of its scholarship committee.

A graduate from North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead, she earned degrees in criminal justice and sociology. She obtained her doctorate in emergency management.

Sonya Kopp

Vice Provost, Institutional Effectiveness, Planning and Compliance

Sonya Kopp is the vice provost of institutional effectiveness, planning, and compliance at Columbia Southern University. She has more than 25 years of experience in K-12 education, private language academies, higher education, and corporate communications. She began her CSU career in 2010 and has served in a variety of roles within the university, including assistant provost, SACSCOC accreditation; assistant provost, curriculum planning and accreditation; director, curriculum planning; assistant director, academic advising services; team manager, academic advising services; and academic advisor.

Sonya holds a Master of Education in secondary Spanish education from the University of South Alabama and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish/international trade from Auburn University. She is a doctoral candidate in higher education leadership at the University of South Alabama.

Close up of Joe Manjone

Dr. Joe Manjone

Assistant Provost of Special Programs

A longtime member of the CSU family, he has served as president of Waldorf University from 2009-2011 and as CSU provost. Manjone holds a bachelor’s degree in math, a master’s degree in sports administration from Penn State, and a doctorate in sports administration from the University of Georgia. He has been a long time sports official and was inducted into the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Hall of Fame in 2013. He is a current member and former chair of the National Federation Soccer Rules Committee. In 2009, Manjone was also awarded the Vietnam medal for promoting education in Vietnam. Dr. Manjone served director of continuing education and of sport, travel and tourism at the University of Alabama- Huntsville, regional sports director for the U.S. Army in Europe, and in academic and sports administrator positions with Penn State, Frostburg State University, Shepherd University, and Lander University.

Close up of Sonya Rogers

Dr. Sonya Rogers

Dean, College of Arts and Sciences and Assistant Provost

Dr. Sonya Rogers, assistant provost and dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, joined Columbia Southern University in 2009. Rogers previously served as the chair for CSU’s College of Business, as well as the lead and academic program director for its MBA and organizational leadership programs. Rogers has written several leadership courses for CSU, as well as served on various academic committees within the university. Her professional experience includes serving more than 20 years as a supervisor in organizational management, and marketing and public relations. She has counseled, coached and taught at various businesses and universities. She has led undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership, English, communication, psychology and team building. Rogers is a published newspaper columnist and an author of case studies, journal articles and children's books. She holds a doctorate in organizational leadership, a master’s certification in counseling, a master’s in education, and a bachelor’s in psychology and human services. She is Quality Matters certified.