Martha Dunagin Saunders
University Leader. Mom. Adventurer.
Martha Dunagin Saunders is an American professor and academic official. A native of Mississippi, she earned her B.A. in French from The University of Southern Mississippi; her M.A. in journalism from the University of Georgia; and her Ph.D. in communication theory and research from The Florida State University. Saunders has served as the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the ninth president of The University of Southern Mississippi. She was the first woman ever elected to the presidential position at USM. During her tenure at USM, a research university with six teaching/research campuses, the University enjoyed record enrollment, all-time high fundraising and increased national recognition. She oversaw $255 million in building projects in five years. Saunders distinguished herself as a fierce advocate for USM's position as a premier research university in the state of Mississippi. She retired from USM in 2012 .In 2013, she agreed to serve as Provost at the University of West Florida, where she had begun her academic career.
She became UWF's sixth president in January 2017 (her third university presidency).
Her training and experience in the field of communication have led to numerous publications on crisis communication and public relations; widely anthologized published speeches; and two Silver Anvil awards, the Public Relations Society of America’s highest national honor. She is a 2011 national winner of the Stevie Award for Women in Business and a Fulbright Scholar, U.S.- France International EducationAdministrators Program.
Dr. Saunders is married to Joseph Bailey, who retired from the telecommunications industry in 2005. Together they have reared 7 children who, in her words, "turned out pretty good."