DOWAGIAC — A new era is starting at Southwestern Michigan College and it has a distinct southern flavor. New college president and Louisiana native Joseph Odenwald has already set down roots in the area in the two years he’s been here, including frying catfish each fall at freshman orientation.

The SMC Board of Trustees in October chose Odenwald, then the vice president of student services, to be the college’s eighth president. He was chosen from a field of four internal candidates. Longtime President David Mathews retired at the end of December after 18 years as president.