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Alumni gather in D.C. and Atlanta

By | Alumni | No Comments

The 28th annual Mississippi on the Mall and 9th annual Mississippi in the Park recently allowed Delta State alumni and fellow Mississippians to celebrate their home state by visiting with alumni staff and vendors.

On June 16, Mississippi Society of Washington, D.C. hosted the annual Mississippi on the Mall event at the Henry Bacon Ball Field beside the Lincoln Memorial. This year’s event included Simmons’ Mississippi Farm-Raised Catfish, fellowship and live music featuring the Brian Farley Band. Delta State University President, William N. LaForge; Assistant Alumni Director, Amanda Robinson; and National Alumni Association President, Sayward Fortner ’04, represented Delta State. The university has 25 alumni living in Washington, D.C., but also invited guests from the greater area.

“Mississippi on the Mall presented a wonderful opportunity to connect with alumni and friends in Washington, D.C.,” said Robinson. “It’s important our institution is represented alongside the other institutions of higher learning in the state of Mississippi.”

See more photos from the event at

The Mississippi Society of Georgia hosted the Mississippi in the Park event in Atlanta on June 22-23. Mississippians occupied a special section of the crowd at the Atlanta Braves baseball game at SunTrust Park. Guests also gathered at Chastain Park in Buckhead to enjoy Penn’s catfish and chicken, live music featuring The Shufflejunkies, and fellowship with Mississippi universities alumni associations.

Additionally, the society presented a $1,000 scholarship for a Class of 2018 Georgia high school senior to attend a four-year Mississippi institution in the fall of 2018.

“The Mississippi Society of Georgia volunteers are a joy to work with,” said Jeffrey Farris, director of alumni affairs. “Special thank you to alums BJ Abraham ‘64, Toni Jernigan ‘66 and Bob White ‘73, who volunteer on the planning committee.”

Farris and Robinson represented the university at the event.

View photos from the Atlanta event at

The Greater Jackson Alumni Chapter will hold its meeting on July 19 at the Jackson Yacht Club. The DeSoto County Alumni Chapter will meet on Aug. 4 at the Bank Plus Training Center in Southaven. On Aug. 7, the Leflore County/Greenwood Alumni Chapter will meet.

To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1). Save the date for this year’s Pig Pickin’ (Sept. 21–22) and Homecoming (Nov. 9-10).

Delta Center hosts Robertson Scholars’ Community Summer internship program

By | Community, Delta Center, Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area | No Comments
Summer 2018 Robertson Scholar interns gather in front of the W.C. Handy Blues Trail Marker on the grounds of the Bolivar County Courthouse, downtown Cleveland.


Before working with The Delta Center at Delta State University, Lawton Ives had never heard of koolickles.

“It’s a reddish sweet and sour pickle made with Kool Aid and lots of sugar,” said Ives, a rising sophomore from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “We have made lots of them for The Most Southern Place on Earth Institute for teachers who come here to learn about Delta food, music and culture.”

For more than 10 years, The Delta Center has hosted summer interns from the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program at Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“I am learning so much about how the Delta has influenced the nation and the world,” said Jake Sheridan, a rising sophomore from Duke University interning with The Delta Center. “The Blues, the Civil Rights Movement, slavery and the cotton industry, these stories and so much more are all right here.”

The Delta Center recently held a Robertson Scholars dinner at Mississippi Grounds in Cleveland. Interns and their mentors attended from various Delta community sites including Delta Arts Alliance, Delta Music Institute, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, St. Gabriel’s Mercy Center, and Sunflower County Freedom Project.

Members of the Robertson Scholars administrative leadership team traveled from North Carolina to attend as well, while conducting Mississippi Delta site visits.

“We call it Community Summer,” said Allen Chan, executive director of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. “It is a critical social interaction and character building experience for our students. It provides them with a greater understanding of social justice issues that communities are facing throughout the South and the nation.”

“The Delta Center continues to be an excellent lead partner for our Mississippi Delta program,” said Vicki Stocking, director of summer programs for Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. “The Delta Center’s strong connections with organizations and people here in Cleveland and the surrounding area make this a life-changing educational community service experience for our students every year.”

Robertson Scholars with members of The Delta Center team (left to right) Shelia Winters, Jake Sheridan, Dr. Rolando Herts, Lee Aylward, Lawton Ives and Sarah Hicks.

Through a generous $24 million gift from Julian Robertson, a 1955 graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, and his wife, Josie, the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program provides a full tuition four-year scholarship to Duke and UNC Chapel Hill freshmen. Serving as a Community Summer volunteer intern is one of the requirements of receiving the scholarship.

“We have loved hosting the Robertson Scholar interns for several years now,” said Lee Aylward, program associate for education and community outreach at The Delta Center. “They learn the importance of giving their time and talents toward improving social conditions in the Mississippi Delta. In turn, organizations increase their capacity to offer community service programs to Delta residents and visitors every summer. It truly is a win-win.”

“Through this partnership, The Delta Center helps to place these very bright student interns with several organizations that are doing important educational and cultural development work in the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center.

Ten Robertson Scholars have been assigned to volunteer in the Mississippi Delta this summer. Their names are listed below by their Delta community organization placements along with their university affiliations and hometowns:

Delta Arts Alliance
Kyle Ryan (Duke), Kennebunkport, ME
Allayne Thomas (Duke), Raleigh, NC

Delta Center for Culture and Learning
Lawton Ives (UNC), Chapel Hill, NC
Jake Sheridan (Duke), Charlotte, NC

Delta Music Institute
Warner Lamar (UNC), Nashville TN

St. Gabriel’s Mercy Center
Rahi Patel (UNC), Waxhaw, NC
Antonia Young (Duke), Auckland, New Zealand

Sunflower County Freedom Project
Liza Becker (Duke), Elkins Park, PA
Adam Enggasser (UNC), Greenville, SC
Naraya Price (UNC), Poughkeepsie, NY

Community Summer places Robertson Scholars in other parts of the South including Edgecombe County, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Whitesburg, Kentucky.

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program was created in the year 2000 by Julian and Josie Robertson. The program invests in young leaders who strive to make transformational contributions to society. To learn more, visit

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit

LaForge hosts fifth annual Mayors’ Summit

By | Community, President | No Comments

Mayors from across the Mississippi Delta gathered at Delta State University on June 19 for the fifth annual Delta Mayors’ Summit hosted by Delta State President William N. LaForge.

The university invited local mayors to engage in discussion about campus and community activities, and to continue forging collaborations and partnerships in the region.

This year’s meeting focused on the Local Government Leadership Institute’s (LGLI) inaugural year of training sessions. Dr. Temika Simmons, director of LGLI, along with LaForge and President Mark Keenum of Mississippi State University, recognized those in attendance who participated in the inaugural training sessions.

Mayors were given the opportunity to discuss popular themes from the first year of training, and they offered suggestions on additional topics to be discussed in year two.

The platform also included an overall campus update and a summary of university initiatives, including updates on campus projects and a tuition increase.

LaForge was pleased to build on the success of previous summits, a conference he instituted after becoming president in 2013.

“The fifth annual Mayors’ Summit was another success for Delta State in engaging and collaborating with the mayors in the Delta,” said LaForge. “We discussed some issues vital to all of us who call the Delta home, and we also set the stage for additional program content for the Local Government Leadership Institute. I am grateful to the mayors of the Delta for coming to campus to participate in our summit, and I look forward to working with them throughout the coming year.”

Desiree Norwood, recently elected mayor of Sunflower, was thankful to take part in the program.

“This summit is certainly beneficial, especially for newly-elected officials,” said Norwood. “It’s a learning process for new mayors, and Delta State University has created this program to help with that — to teach us about issues and concerns. We can use this program to find resources for our towns, but it’s also an opportunity to network with other municipalities.”

Just prior to the summit, Delta State hosted a press conference marking the completion of year one of the LGLI.

Delta State launched the LGLI program last year in partnership with the John C. Stennis Institute of Government & Community Development at Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Municipal League, with support from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and Casey Family Programs. Initial programming kicked off in November of 2017.

The LGLI assists and supports local officials of the Mississippi Delta in addressing governance challenges by providing activities, basic training, and helpful tools to run their municipalities effectively and efficiently.

Follow all Delta State University news at

Penton presents research at national symposium

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Students | No Comments

Delta State University student Katie Penton recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to present her research to a national audience at the National IDeA Symposium on Biomedical Research Excellence (NISBRE) in late June.

NISBRE is a biennial symposium aimed at showcasing the biomedical research conducted by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Institutional Development Awards (IDeA) program. The conference is attended by all 23 IDeA funded states and Puerto Rico.

Penton conducts her research in the lab of Delta State’s Dr. Sharon Hamilton, assistant professor of chemistry. She was invited to present her work as a part of Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE).

“Through attending NISBRE I was able to network and meet other researchers,” said Penton. “These new contacts gave great advice and encouragement towards my scientific aspirations.”

While at NISBRE, students are able to explore scientific sessions, collaborate with researchers in various fields and build their professional network.

“We are very excited to be able to offer opportunities for our undergraduate students to present their research to a national audience,”said Dr. Mohamed Elasri, director of INBRE. “I enjoyed seeing our students in action. They presented their research, networked with scientists from all over the nation, and most importantly represented Mississippi well.” said Dr. Mohamed Elasri.

Penton said presenting research to a national audience is especially beneficial for students as they are able to work on presentation skills and get advice that can be useful in future research or career development.

“I was also able to gain new insight into some aspects of my research that I’ll be implementing in the coming weeks,” added Penton.

INBRE is a statewide program that is supported by an award from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences. Its mission is to enhance the biomedical foundation in Mississippi and to reach out to Mississippians in order to improve health throughout the state. INBRE seeks to engage talented researchers and students in biomedical research projects that will increase the state’s research competitiveness as well as impact the health of citizens.

For more information about INBRE, visit

Learn more about Delta State’s Department of Chemistry and Physics at

Chemistry department working on summer research

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Students | No Comments
Pictured (left to right): Dr. Sharon Hamilton, Katie Penton, Madison Parkerson and Michael Neal.


Madison Parkerson, a student at Washington School in Greenville, Mississippi, has been doing summer research in the lab of Dr. Sharon Hamilton, assistant professor of chemistry at Delta State University.

Parkerson has also been working under the guidance of Katie Penton, a Delta State student in the Master of Science in natural science program.

This is the third summer Hamilton has hosted high school students in her research lab.

“I believe providing this opportunity to high-schoolers is an important part of what I do as an educator,” said Hamilton. “It is so important to inspire the next generation of scientists, and giving students a chance to have a hands-on learning experience while they are still in high school can afford them that inspiration.”

In total, the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Delta State has hosted four summer research high school students over the last three years. Three of these students have worked under Hamilton and one worked with Dr. Adam Johanson, planetarium director and assistant professor of physics.

“As chair of the department, I’ve been happy to support Dr. Hamilton in her efforts to sponsor high school students conducting summer research in her laboratory,” said Dr. Joseph Bentley. “Madison has been a delight to have around the department, and she took the initiative to contact me about doing research with us over the summer. She has proven to be a stellar research student and we are very happy to have her here.”

The connection was made between Parkerson and Penton through Penton’s outreach work that is part of her NASA Graduate Fellowship. At the end of the summer, Penton will graduate with her master’s degree, and she will be pursuing a doctorate at Vanderbilt University in the Department of Chemistry.

Penton received the prestigious NASA fellowship in 2017. The program focuses on two aspects — her innovative research at Delta State, and her K-12 STEM education outreach plan to visit Mississippi Delta schools and share demonstrations of science, particularly chemistry demonstrations.

Hamilton also has two chemistry undergraduate students conducting research this summer. Ashley Bonner, senior chemistry major, and Michael Neal, McNair Scholar and junior chemistry/biology major, are both conducting Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) sponsored research in the lab. It is anticipated that the results of their research will be presented at conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.

INBRE is a network of colleges and universities, designed to build a biomedical research infrastructure in Mississippi. Its mission is to reach out to Mississippians in order to improve health throughout the state and to engage talented researchers and students in biomedical research projects that will increase the state’s research competitiveness, as well as impact the health of citizens of Mississippi.

Hamilton’s research is supported by INBRE and funded by an Institutional Development Award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant number P20GM103476.

Learn more about Delta State’s Department of Chemistry and Physics at