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Delta State University President William N. LaForge delivered his State of the University address today during convocation ceremonies.

President outlines vision for university’s future

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge delivered his annual State of the University address during opening convocation today at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on campus.

The address was titled “A Vision of Excellence” and began with a welcome to faculty and staff at the start of Delta State’s academic calendar.

LaForge characterized the state of the university as “strong and stable.”

“We have made solid advances in several key areas of endeavor,” he said. “As the saying goes, we are trending in the right direction — onward and upward.”

The president highlighted Delta State’s continued efforts to improve and stabilize its budget situation, a second consecutive year with an enrollment increase, the first pay raises for faculty and staff in four years, and the implementation of a visioning process that will lay the groundwork for the university’s future.

A major area of focus in his speech was the budgeting challenges the institution has faced in recent years, including two unexpected mid-year budget cuts by the state in 2015-16.

“Because we have put our financial house in order through prudent budgeting and spending, we are able to absorb the recent $435,000 reduction in state support, as well as a three percent cut equating to an additional $725,000 less in state funding in our new budget, all without any reductions to programs or personnel on campus,” said LaForge.

With savings the university is realizing from outsourcing campus health services, previous program reductions, and other efficiencies, Delta State is continuing to make headway in another focus area for LaForge — pay raises for faculty and staff. Efforts will continue to bring salaries to at least minimum levels of compensation based on regional market comparisons.

In this year’s facilities and equipment budget — completely separate from Delta State’s general operational budget — the university is providing funding in the following areas:

– science building furniture and equipment
– renovation and furniture replacement in the Union
– a new power generator for Bailey Hall to back up technology services
– temperature control upgrades in Broom, Gibson-Gunn and the Union
– pre-planning and design for a new president’s home
– security camera equipment for residence halls
– a chiller upgrade
– roofing repairs on a number of buildings.

Grander scale projects that will commence this year include major renovation of the dining hall and Zeigel Hall, razing of the old president’s home, and the building of Statesmen Boulevard connecting Highway 8 to the athletic complex.

Beyond this year, LaForge also outlined the detailed visioning process that will guide Delta State to a better and brighter future.

“Our mission has been to look forward and help determine where and what Delta State should be three, five, 10 and 25 years down the road,” he said.

LaForge explained the 10 elements of priority in the visioning process:
– academic excellence and student success
– providing a student-centric focus
– establishing a solid business and financial platform
– increasing efforts in the areas of marketing and student recruitment
– pursuing new revenue and funding streams
– providing programs that encourage a lifelong Delta State experience for graduates
– complementing the academic mission with first-class intercollegiate athletic experiences
– embracing and enhancing the distinguishing factors that define Delta State
– promoting and embracing traditional core values
– embracing community engagement and programs.

“This visioning process has given us a good jump-start on our future,” said LaForge. “But to elevate our game and support our vision for the future, we will certainly need significantly more revenue than provided by the State and generated by tuition. It is very clear that we will need substantial private resources to pursue our dreams. The plans for a major fundraising campaign are already underway through the good work of the Delta State Foundation.”

“With our vision to guide us, let us continue to think and act boldly and wisely, while marshaling all the resources we can to move Delta State toward excellence,” he added. “We are off to a great start. Terrific opportunities lie ahead for us. It is now time to create the path that will guide us to our vision.”

Visit www.deltastate.edu to stay updated on university news and event coverage.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge will deliver the State of the University address Aug. 19 at 10:30 a.m. in the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

Convocation scheduled for Aug. 19

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge will deliver his State of the University convocation address on Aug. 19 at 10:30 a.m. in the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

The address will serve as a welcome to faculty, staff and the community at the start of Delta State’s academic year. Leading the event with LaForge will be Dr. Charles McAdams, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Heather Robinson, president-elect of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, will provide a community welcome.

Dr. Chris Jurgenson, president of the Faculty Senate, will provide an introduction of new faculty, followed by an introduction of new staff by Christie Rocconi, chair of the Administrative Staff Council.

As is the tradition at each Delta State convocation address, new Student Government Association officers will also be recognized.

LaForge will conclude the ceremony with his address, highlighting university achievements over the last year, along with goals and visions for Delta State’s future.

Tune into the address remotely through live stream. The link for the live stream will be available on the Delta State home page and social media platforms Friday.

Visit www.deltastate.edu to stay updated on university news and event coverage.

Caylor White Walters updates small

$18 million renovations near completion at Delta State science and math facilities

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With just a few finishing touches remaining, Delta State University’s mathematics and science facility, Caylor-White-Walters Hall, now represents one of the most state-of-the-art higher education facilities in the state.

Thanks to $18 million in capital improvement over the past few years, the building now houses top-notch equipment and laboratories for the Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Chemistry and Physics, and the Department of Mathematics within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Funding for the project came from the State of Mississippi Bureau of Buildings.

The building features laboratories for all areas of sciences including biology, chemistry, physics, DNA technology and anatomy, as well as computer labs and classrooms for mathematics curriculum. It also features a planetarium, making Delta State the only university in the state to host such a facility, and a herbarium, which is home to over 17,000 plant specimens and serves as a scientific and educational resource for researchers around the world.

Other highlights include new SMART Podium interactive displays and projectors, renovated auditoriums, a new Scanning Electron Microscope that can magnify objects 300,000 times their actual size, specialized temperature and humidity controlled rooms for animal care, new instrumentation like the 300MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrophotometer, and much more.

Overall, the changes allow for additional teaching and research space. Additionally, new classroom furniture and faculty offices have drastically improved the overall learning environment.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge is thrilled with the endless opportunities the new facilities will provide.

“This is a top quality feature of Delta Sate, and it represents part of what we do best,” said LaForge. “I am so pleased that we are finally nearing completion on this massive long-term renovation project. And we now, very clearly, have a state-of-the-art set of facilities, labs and equipment to serve our students and faculty. With these tools in place, our faculty will now have an enhanced ability to provide top-tier math and science education for our students — which will prepare them for graduate and professional schools, as well as exciting careers.”

Dr. Charles McAdams, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, echoed LaForge’s excitement.

“We look forward to having this important building renovated and updated. It is especially important in the sciences to have a facility that offers the latest laboratory facilities and equipment,” said McAdams. “Our graduates will leave here to go on to medical school, veterinary school, or dental school, or become a science teacher. To be successful in those professions, we owe it to them to provide the most robust and relevant academic experience possible. The renovation and upgrades to the facility will help us make significant strides in achieving this unending goal. I believe it is essential for a university to provide a physical learning environment that is supportive and conducive for teaching and for learning. Caylor-White-Walters is now a place where faculty and students look forward to come and discover the wonders of math and science.”

According to Dr. David Breaux, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, everyone is relieved to see work wrapping up in a building where students and teachers have had to adapt to the construction going on around them.

“With the end of the renovation process clearly in sight, faculty and students are overwhelmed with joy,” said Breaux. “And, as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, I am proud that we are able to offer our students courses in state-of-the-art classrooms and labs. No longer do students have to worry about dealing with broken or outdated furnishings and equipment, but can instead concentrate fully on mastering the material they are being taught.”

Katie Penton, a graduate student majoring in chemistry, appreciates the opportunity to work and study within the updated facility.

“I’ve been here since undergrad, so I’ve been around to see how far everything has come along,” said Penton. “It’s been really neat to see all the new labs, classrooms and equipment. The computer lab will be great with all the new software, and I really like the lab spaces. As a master’s student, I’ll be doing a lot of lab work and using a lot of equipment. Going into my thesis, it’s really good to know I’ll have access to these features and make my project the best it can be.”

One feature that is receiving extra attention is the planetarium, which will provide the perfect setting for astronomy courses, but will also set the stage for learning opportunities across campus and the community.

In addition to the new seats, carpet and other amenities, the renovation also included the installation of the dual projector Digistar 5 planetarium system from Evans and Sutherland, and the professional quality 5.1 surround-sound system from Bowen Technovation. The system not only allows users to move their view of the stars back and forth through time, but it also lets users fly through the solar system to the other planets. As a bonus, it also turns the planetarium into a 3-D digital theater.

“The astronomy classes will of course use the planetarium, but one long-term goal is to use the planetarium as an instructional tool for other subjects,” said Dr. James Gerald, assistant professor of physics. “Dr. Adam Johanson helped a student with a project this summer to build 3-D models of molecules and display them on the dome. The priority of the planetarium will be teaching astronomy, but we will also have public outreach through shows. We look forward to collaborating with other departments across campus to create new content, and watch for us to start having shows for the public this fall. This will help us broaden the educational mission of the planetarium.”

In April of 2016, the COAS established a two-year campaign to build a program called Integral Funding for Science Education, or InFuSE. The goal of InFuSE is to raise funds to support science education and research for Delta State students of all ages, and to increase the involvement of alumni and the community in science education.

“Science education, especially hands-on, is quite costly. In order to keep up with industry standards, we need to have current equipment to prepare our students to go into the workforce or to continue their educational careers through graduate education,” said Darlene Breux, Academic Affairs development officer. “Funding will also help the departments in their outreach efforts to support the community. It is necessary to be able to support summer STEM camps for K-12 students. In increasing STEM students, especially here in the Delta, it will help our community grow.”

Dr. Rose Strahan, who served as a mathematics faculty member at Delta State for over 40 years, has also kick started an effort to support mathematics students. She initiated the Rose Strahan Scholarship for Mathematics, which is used to support one deserving student in mathematics. She is also a donor to the Mathematics Fund, which provides funding to assist the department in its teaching, research and faculty development needs.

For more information on giving to InFuSE or one of the mathematics funds, visit the Delta State Foundation website at http://www.deltastategiving.org, and search for Instrumental Funding in Science Education, the Rose Strahan Scholarship for Mathematics, or the Mathematics Fund. You may also contact Darlene Breaux for assistance at dhbreaux@deltastate.edu or 662-846-4013.

Dr. Nina L. Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science, recently represented Delta State at the annual Botanical Society of America Conference held in Savannah, Georgia.

Delta State presents at Botanical Society of America Conference

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Delta State University students recently presented at the annual Botanical Society of America Conference held in Savannah, Georgia from July 30 to Aug. 3.

The Botanical Society of America is one of the world’s largest scientific societies dedicated to the study of plants and serves as an umbrella organization that covers all plant specialties including conservation and ecology, historical botany, microbiological interactions, paleobotany, physiology, teaching plant science and more.

This year, more than 1,100 scientists and educators attended the event. Dr. Nina L. Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science at Delta State, represented the university by  presenting three posters that were given at different sections. Two of the posters emphasized research accomplished by students majoring in environmental science at Delta State.

One poster, given at the paleobotany section, was titled “Paleoclimate and Taphonomic Implications of a Palynological Sample from the Bucatunna Formation.” The poster focused on palynomorphs (fossil pollen, spores and algae) from a geological unit that extends from southeastern Mississippi into Florida. The presentation was co-authored by Dr. Brian Axsmith at the University of Southern Alabama in Mobile, Alabama and Kendal Davis, a 2015 Delta State graduate in environmental science.

The second poster, given at the teaching section, was titled “Comparing tree diversity of the main campus to the golf course at Delta State University, Cleveland, Mississippi.” Seven environmental and biology students were involved in the research, including Emily Bodin, Steven Moreton, Rebekah Napier-Jameson, Megan Clark, Michael Manley, Joseph Cummins and Amanda Bishop. Most of the project was completed in Baghai-Riding’s 2014 conservation biology course.

The third poster was entitled “Digitization of Mississippi herbarium specimens aids in understanding plant diversity in the Southeast and improves K-12 education.” The poster explained how herbarium curators in the state of Mississippi are photographing and inventorying all of the plant specimens in their collections. Delta State is one of six Mississippi herbaria involved in the project and has contributed over 14,500 specimens that are available through the SERNEC Symbiota project (www.sernecportal.org).

Abstract submission for all three posters can be viewed at to the Botanical Society of America website: http://2016.botanyconference.org/engine/search/index.php?func=summary.

Baghai-Riding also served as a PLANTS Grant mentor at this year’s conference. She was recognized as the longest serving mentor, having participated in the role for the past seven years. The PLANTS Grant program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Botanical Society of America and brings talented and diverse undergraduates and recently admitted graduate students to the conference.

AACN-Gold

RESSON to host White Coat Ceremony

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Arnold P. Gold Foundation (APGF) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recently announced that 50 schools of nursing across the nation were selected to receive funding support to host White Coat Ceremonies, which emphasize the importance of providing compassionate care among health professionals. Launched in 2013, this ground-breaking collaboration between APGF and AACN was developed to promote humanistic, patient-centered care among future generations of registered nurses.

Delta State University’s Robert E. Smith School of Nursing was one of the 50 schools selected to host the ceremony and the only nursing school in Mississippi to receive this designation.

“By reaching students early in their professional formation with the message that compassion matters, our goal is to ensure that all future healthcare providers see humanism as foundational to their practice,” said Dr. Richard Levin, president and CEO of APGF. “We remain so grateful to the Elaine and Mike Adler family for their enabling support of this crucial collaboration. We are delighted to continue our collaboration with AACN this year, which expands the universe of nursing schools offering White Coat Ceremonies to 210 institutions nationwide.”

Though White Coat Ceremonies have been conducted by medical schools for more than 20 years, the APGF-AACN initiative marks the first time a coordinated effort has been developed to offer similar events at schools of nursing. Nursing joins the growing number of health professions that offer “cloaking” ceremonies, including dentistry, pharmacy, physical therapy, and physician assistants among other disciplines.

To date, 160 nursing schools in 46 states plus the District of Columbia have received financial support and guidance to offer a White Coat Ceremony, which typically consists of the recitation of an oath, an address by an eminent role model, and a reception for students and invited guests.

Students are also given a specially designed pin that serves as a visual reminder of their oath and commitment to providing high quality care. View the listing of schools selected to participate this year.

 “White Coat Ceremonies highlight the important role compassion plays in providing patient-centered care and improving health outcomes,” said Dr. Juliann Sebastian, chair of the AACN board of directors. “With health care becoming more interprofessional and team-driven, nurses, physicians and other providers must embed humanism in their practice as a way to elevate the patient care experience.”

To learn more about nursing opporunitities at Delta State’s RESSON, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/school-of-nursing.