After nearly a year, USC Aiken’s Dr. Jeff Priest can remove the “interim” part of his title as the university’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Priest has been appointed to the position permanently after serving as the dean of the School of Education since 2001.

He is formally replacing Dr. Suzanne Ozment as the executive vice chancellor, who left in 2012 for an administrative position at the University of Montevello in Alabama. Since taking the interim position, Priest has worked with Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan, who joined the campus administration in July 2012. He said he has enjoyed the opportunity to work with faculty and staff in a new capacity.

“It’s been a great experience working with the new chancellor, who has come in with a lot of good ideas,” Priest said. “I’ve learned a lot from her, and her mentoring has been a tremendous help for me.”

Earlier, he served as the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center director and has been a professor in the Department of Biology and Geology.

Dr. Deidre Martin, the associate vice chancellor for advancement, said she is delighted to continue working with Priest in his current position. They have been colleagues since Priest’s affiliation with Ruth Patrick.

“He is one of the hardest-working individuals I know,” Martin said. “Jeff’s passion for this university and for educating our students runs very deep. He brings a depth of knowledge about the university and will be a great blend with Dr. Jordan’s excitement and enthusiasm for the future.”

As the executive vice chancellor, Priest is coordinating all the academic programs, including curriculum. Through Jordan’s leadership, he said, USCA has introduced a visioning process­ — reaching out to the community, students, faculty and staff about the university’s strengths and what needs to be done for the future.

Seven task forces are looking at a variety of issues. One key effort will explore how to retain more students by helping them progress and move on to graduation.

“We have a wonderful institution here that provides a high-quality education,” said Priest. “We have students from all over the world who graduate and go on to do great things. But we still want to get the word out more than it currently is.”