Campus News

Ness to lead McBee Institute of Higher Education

Erik Ness near Meigs Hall (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

A faculty member since 2009, Ness currently serves as a professor of higher education and graduate coordinator

Erik Ness, a distinguished higher education researcher, teacher and academic leader, has been named the next director of the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia following a national search.

A member of the McBee Institute faculty since 2009, Ness currently serves as a professor of higher education and graduate coordinator. As director, he will be the chief academic and administrative officer of the institute with responsibility for its instructional, research and outreach programs. His appointment is effective July 1.

“Throughout his career at UGA, Dr. Ness has demonstrated a deep commitment to the mission of the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education and its students,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “He is widely respected in his field and has the vision to build upon the institute’s tradition of excellent leaders.”

Established in 1964, the McBee Institute works to advance higher education policy, management and leadership through innovative research, graduate education and transformative outreach programs. The institute offers three graduate programs: a doctoral program, an executive doctor of education program and a master’s program. Its graduate programs have been ranked among the top 10 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for nearly 20 consecutive years.

“I am truly honored to serve as the next director of the Louise McBee Institute of Higher Education,” said Ness. “I am grateful to former director Libby Morris, interim director Jim Hearn and many others for their leadership and service, which have made the McBee Institute a leading voice for higher education. As the McBee Institute commemorates its 60th anniversary this year, I am excited to work with our faculty, staff, students and long-standing partners on the next chapter for the institute.”

Ness teaches and conducts research on higher education politics and policy. His research primarily focuses on two areas: public policy effects, especially on students, institutions and state systems; and public policymaking process, specifically research utilization and the political dynamics associated with state-level higher education policy adoption. Based on this work, Ness developed a First-Year Odyssey  Seminar, “Research Evidence, Alternative Facts and Fake News,” that was recognized with a First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award in 2021.

As the McBee Institute’s graduate coordinator, Ness helps place graduate students in assistantship opportunities around the university in a variety of roles. The assistantships give students valuable leadership and public service experience outside of the classroom.

Before joining the UGA faculty, Ness served as an assistant professor and coordinator of the higher education management program at the University of Pittsburgh and as a policy analyst for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Ness earned his doctorate in education policy from Vanderbilt University. He received a master’s degree in comparative international education from Loyola University Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in political science from North Carolina State University.

“The McBee Institute is one of the nation’s premier destinations for the study of higher education, and Erik Ness is an excellent choice to lead the institute,” said S. Jack Hu, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “I look forward to the positive impact he will have on our students and the broader higher education community.”

Ness will succeed James C. Hearn, who has served as the McBee Institute’s interim director since July 1, 2022.

A seven-member search advisory committee chaired by Meg Amstutz, dean of the Jere W. Morehead Honors College, helped identify finalists for the position. The search was supported by the UGA Search Group.