Principal Corps

The University of Mississippi


Tom Burnham, Ed.D.

Interim Director, Principal Corps

After more than 30 years in public education—including serving twice as Mississippi state superintendent of education and as superintendent in Biloxi and Hendersonville, NC—Tom Burnham currently serves as the interim director of the Principal Corps. He is the program’s primary administrator and teaches courses on leadership and organizational management.



Dennis Bunch, Ed.D.

Coordinator of Educational Leadership

Associate Professor

With more than 25 years experience in public education, Dennis Bunch has been a teacher, coach, principal and superintendent in school districts in Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. He previously served as director of the Tennessee Academy for School Leaders while earning his doctorate at Vanderbilt University.



Jill Cabrera, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

In August 2017, Jill Cabrera joined the UM educational leadership faculty. She has served as an associate professor for six years since completing her Ph.D. at UM. Dr. Cabrera also has 17 years of experience in public education as a classroom teacher and administrator in Texas.



Mary Ann Connell, J.D., LL.M.

Adjunct Professor, University Attorney Emerita

Mary Ann Connell teaches school law in the Principal Corps. She is a past president of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, past president of the Mississippi Council of School Board Attorneys and a fellow of the The Mississippi Bar Foundation.



Doug Davis, Ph.D.

Director of Doctoral Programs in Educational Leadership

Associate Professor

A former history teacher and administrator in Louisiana, Doug Davis is an expert in teacher assessment and professional development. He has published work in many academic journals and has presented research on leadership and educational philosophy at more than 50 national conferences. Davis also serves as director of doctoral programs in educational leadership.



Susan McClelland, Ph.D.

Chair of Teacher Education


Susan McClelland became the Principal Corps’ first director in 2009 and supervised four successful cohorts. A former English teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, she currently serves as chair of the UM Department of Teacher Education.



 Ryan Niemeyer, Ph.D.

Chair of Leadership & Counselor Education

Associate Professor

Ryan Niemeyer serves as chair of the Department of Leadership & Counselor Education and as director of the UM Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. He previously served as the co-director of the Mississippi Teacher Corps and has served as a teacher and administrator in both public and private schools. His research interests include educational law and policy issues.



Mark Deschaine, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Mark E. Deschaine has joined the University of Mississippi’s School of Education, Department of Leadership and Counselor Education as an associate professor of educational leadership.

Prior to his 2019 appointment at the University of Mississippi, Deschaine was an associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, College of Education and Human Services at Central Michigan University. Deschaine has previously worked in K12 as a building level Principal, Teacher Consultant for Students with Autism, special education teacher, and a paraprofessional.

Deschaine did his doctoral studies at Western Michigan University, earning a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in educational leadership, and obtaining K-12 principal, as well as Central Office credentials.