New Jackson State University President Announces Leadership Team

Recently appointed JSU President Thompson shares his goals for the Mississippi HBCU.

Jackson State University x Dr. Marcus Thompson
Dr. Marcus L. Thompson, president of Jackson State University.

On November 27th, 2023, Dr. Marcus L. Thompson began his tenure as President of Jackson State University after being officially appointed two weeks prior. Beginning his first spring semester at Jackson State University, President Thompson, Ph.D., announced six top appointments to his cabinet and senior leadership team.

“I’ve had the pleasure to observe and work with these talented individuals during various seasons of my career, and I am excited about the professional acumen and tenacity they will bring to their respective roles,” said Thompson.

“Jackson State University is tasked with cultivating our scholars into leaders who will impact our global society.”

New JSU Appointments:

Kylon Alford-Windfield, Vice President of Enrollment Management

As VP of Enrollment Management, Kylon Alford-Windfield provides leadership and support in advancing the overall enrollment goals of the university and overseeing the departments of admission, financial aid, and recruiting.

He is a dedicated member of the National Advisory Committee for the College Board’s annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities Conference, where he actively contributes to the broader dialogue shaping the future of education.

Alla Jeanae Frank; Special Assistant to the President and Chief Transformation Officer

As Special Assistant to the President and Chief Transformation Officer, Alla Jeanae Frank is responsible for providing strategic leadership and support for the President’s initiatives and priorities, working closely with other senior administrators and promoting the administration of university programming, policies, and procedures. 

She is currently a doctoral candidate in the executive Ph.D. program in urban higher education at Jackson State University. An advocate for community outreach and advancing sustainability, she currently serves as vice president on the Board of Directors for the National Environmental Outreach, Inc. (NEO).

Van Gillespie, J.D., Chief of Staff

As Chief of Staff, Van Gillespie, J.D. is responsible for providing strategic leadership and support for the president’s initiatives and priorities, serving as the lead support person in the day-to-day operation of the President’s Office. Gillespie joined Jackson State University after serving for more than 20 years in various roles at the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL).

Gillespie’s 25+ year higher education career includes work on university and university system legal, finance, real estate and facilities, academic affairs, student affairs, communications, risk management and legislative issues

Onetta Starling Whitley, J.D., General Counsel

As General Counsel, Onetta Starling Whitley manages the efficient operation of the Division of General Counsel and serves as the University’s lead in‐house attorney. Whitley formerly served as deputy attorney general for the State of Mississippi, where she was the first woman and second African American to hold the position. 

She served as deputy for Attorneys General Mike Moore and Jim Hood.  In addition to being a member of the management team, she served as chief of the office’s State Government Licensing and Regulatory Division providing legal representation, including but not limited to, general counsel and advice, representing agency staff in administrative hearings related to licensure, employee discipline and equal opportunity employment compliance. 

ConSandra McNeil, Ph.D., Interim Vice President of Research and Economic Development

As Interim Vice President of Research and Economic Development, ConSandra McNeil, Ph.D. oversees Research, Sponsored Programs, Research Compliance, Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Federal Relations and JSU Global. McNeil is an action-oriented researcher, grant writer and scholar whose work brings together scholarship, engagement, and community.

Most recently, she served Jackson State University as assistant provost, focusing on research engagement; activity director of the Institute for Social Justice & Race Relations; and professor of sociology.  From 2018-2020, she served as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow with the National Science Foundation. 

Mitchell Shears, Ed.D., returns to the role of Executive Director of Title III.

As Executive Director of Title III, Mitchell Shears, Ed.D., serves as the chief liaison to the University leadership, the University community, and the United States Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education.

He oversees Title III federal funds granted to JSU through the Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Program, Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act Program, and Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions (HBGI) Programs. Shears joined Jackson State University in 2017 and has served as associate vice president for Student Success since 2019.

President Thompson, who brings over 20 years of leadership experience, outlined student safety on campus and leadership as two of his priorities to help the university grow and succeed. A concern that has plagued the campus since the October 2023 shooting that resulted in the death of one of its students, Jaylen Burns.

“I am proud to serve as the 13th president of Jackson State University. My time at Jackson State University certainly played a pivotal role in my life. I look forward to enhancing that experience for the next generation of tigers, who walk these hallowed halls. And I’m proud to stand on the shoulders of every president who has come before me.”

Thomas said of his appointments: “Their success begins with the work of our talented faculty, staff, and administrators. Combined with the knowledge and passion of my existing cabinet members, this is the genesis of an incredible dream team to execute a strong pathway to success for JSU’s future.”