Delta State launches Writing Skills Initiative

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Delta State University’s Academic Council recently approved a new platform to increase writing skills on campus that replaces the current Writing Proficiency Requirement for graduation.

The new Writing Skills Initiative focuses on enhancing academic writing experiences and expectations in writing across all disciplines. It will take effect in the Fall 2018 semester.

Through the initiative, academic departments have developed, increased and identified discipline-specific requirements that seek to increase students’ writing skills at the collegiate level in each major.

Development and enhancement of writing skills is a shared responsibility of the two required composition courses in the General Education program and upper-division, enhanced writing courses.

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Charles McAdams, said an emphasis on writing within disciplines will enhance academic standards, rather than relying on a barrier exam that data show did not achieve intended results.

“Writing skills are an important element in the education of Delta State students,” said McAdams. “We are committed to helping our students develop into proficient writers in their discipline. Several faculty committees have studied how to improve the previous Writing Proficiency Requirement, and the new Writing Skills Initiative is the result of that study. Numerous universities across the country have used a similar model for many years with very positive results.”

Academic Council indicated that English Composition I and II courses should provide a foundation for college-level writing, focusing on grammar and mechanics of writing — while the writing-enhanced courses within majors are designed to expand the written communication skills of students, within the context of the student’s chosen major.

Each major will identify two upper-division (300 or 400 level) required courses.

Dr. Beverly Moon, dean of Graduate & Continuing Studies and Research, is excited to improve student writing across the board.

“We are thrilled that our faculty have embraced the idea of directly impacting their students’ writing abilities within the individual disciplines,” said Moon. “The writing products that come out of upper-level courses will showcase our students’ abilities to move into the workplace or on to professional schools.”

The courses selected will be reviewed by the appropriate dean and reported to the provost. The assessment of writing skills in the two writing-enhanced courses will count for at least 20 percent of a student’s final grade.

Dr. David Breaux, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also agreed that the initiative would better prepare students for the job market.

“When talking to potential employers about what they believe our students need to be successful, they always mention the need for them to have good written communication skills,” said Breaux. “Requiring each of our degree programs to incorporate enhanced writing requirements into at least two of their upper-level courses, will afford students opportunities to hone their writing skills within the context of their chosen academic majors. This will hopefully make them more competitive on the job market and a better employee.”

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TFA Graduate Fellows celebrate progress

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Pictured, left to right: Jeremiah Smith, Boyce Upholt, Sarah Brown and Jon Delperdang.


The Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program at Delta State hosted “Connect & Celebrate” at the Delta Music Institute April 14. The event’s purpose was to honor and celebrate the inaugural graduating cohort from the two-year TFA Graduate Fellows Program. The graduating group, Cohort 1, consists of eight TFA fellows from around the state of Mississippi.

The program is a two-year fellowship funded by the Hearin Foundation, with the goal of retaining TFA alumni in Mississippi. Each year since 2016, the program has identified a select group of 8-12 TFA alumni who desire to continue their careers in Mississippi.

During the fellowship, participants pursue a graduate degree at Delta State, while also working to design and develop a social entrepreneurship project. Through the project, fellows work to find solutions to some of the toughest challenges facing the state.

During the Connect & Celebrate event, four of the graduating fellows from the inaugural group shared stories from their two-year journey. Speakers included:
-Jon Delperdang, director of Greenville Renaissance Scholars
-Boyce Upholt, author of “Between The Levees”
-Sarah Brown, author of “Student Data Journal”
-Jeremiah Smith, founder and director of Rosedale Freedom Project

Other graduating fellows include: James Forte, who assisted with Clarksdale Collegiate Public School Charter School; Javier Peraza, who founded Jackson Kids Code; Jena Howie, who founded Magnolia Coin; and Kandace Stevenson, who has focused on serving Greenville, Mississippi.

Fellows in Cohort 2 closed the event with a conversation about their project goals as they begin their second year as fellows. Guests were then encouraged to connect with fellows and share resources, connections, and work to establish a support system in Mississippi.

Fellows in Cohort 2 include: Lucas Rapasarda, Kaitlyn Barton, AK Suggs, MK Honeycutt, Alexis Williams, Latasha Capers, Charlotte Arrowsmith, Catie Denham, Leigh Hill, JJ Townsend, and Sean Brown.

“The TFA Graduate Fellows Program would like to extend a huge thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate the fellows and this amazing journey they’re on to make Mississippi a greater place to live,” said Harrison Wood, program coordinator. “This was truly a special event. We were able to honor and celebrate our first cohort’s growth and accomplishments, while also actively working to provide resources and support as Cohort 2 starts their second year in the fall of 2018.”

For more information on the program and service opportunities, visit, or find the program on Instagram @tfafellows and Facebook. The program is funded through a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. The principal goal of the foundation is to contribute to the overall economic advancement of the state of Mississippi by making funds available to four-year colleges and universities and graduate professional schools located in the state.

Jazz Ensemble students receive scholarships

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Pictured, left to right: Dr. Bret Pimentel, Chris Samuels, Dylan Swain, Kevin Wilson, Jordan Holland and Rogers Varner.


Four members of the Delta State Jazz Ensemble recently received scholarships for their musical contributions, academic achievements, and service to the ensemble.

The recipients were: Jordan Holland (baritone saxophonist and junior computer information systems major from Grenada), Chris Samuels (drummer and sophomore entertainment industry studies major from New Orleans, Louisiana), Dylan Swain (lead trumpet player and junior music major from Crystal Springs), and Kevin Wilson (tuba player and senior entertainment industry studies major from Clinton).

The annual scholarships are made possible by funds raised at the Jazz Ensemble’s Big Band Bash, an evening of classic big band swing music, dining and dancing held at the Cleveland Country Club.

The Big Band Bash was created by Rogers Varner, a community participant in the ensemble’s saxophone section. In 2011, Varner received the Department of Music’s Philanthropy Award for his ongoing work organizing the event.

The scholarships were announced at the ensemble’s spring concert on April 17, and certificates were awarded by Varner and ensemble director Dr. Bret Pimentel, associate professor of music.

Interested parties may contribute to the scholarship fund through the university foundation:

Spring 2018 McNair Research Scholars

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The Spring 2018 cohort of McNair Scholars (left to right): Bobby Foster, Kevin Sodachanh, Nicholas Walters, Laketha Covington, Bria Goodson, Ashley Griffin, Porsche Chambers, Dakota Conway, Stevena King, Joelle Dick, Johvan Hill-Dick, Syed Mohammed Amannudin and Audrey Gonzalez. Missing from the picture are Khyla Grant and Abigail Hynum.



Delta State’s Office of Graduate and Continuing Studies and the McNair Research Scholars program are proud to announce the inaugural Spring 2018 cohort of McNair Scholars.

The prestigious program prepares undergraduate students for the pursuit of a doctoral degree and provides a summer research stipend of up to $2,800 per student.

The McNair Scholars Program is one of eight TRiO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The program supports undergraduate students across the university who come from low-income, first-generation and underrepresented backgrounds. Eligible participants plan to pursue doctoral degrees.

Each student is paired with a faculty mentor in his or her respective college with similar research interests. The student and mentor work together throughout the year so the student can gain research experience and develop academic skills and strategies to prepare them for success in higher education.

The Spring 2018 cohort includes the following scholars:

Bobby Foster
Kevin Sodachanh
Nicholas Walters
Laketha Covington
Bria Goodson
Ashley Griffin
Porsche Chambers
Dakota Conway
Stevena King
Joelle Dick
Johvan Hill-Dick
Syed Mohammed Amannudin
Audrey Gonzalez
Khyla Grant
Abigail Hynum

“We are excited to have such a great inaugural group of McNair Scholars,” said Wendolyn Stevens, program director. “The Scholars have already started identifying and committed research for this summer. We have confirmations for internships at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland; University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi; and at the Coastal Marine Education and Research Academy in Clearwater, Florida. I am looking forward to see the results of their Summer Research Experiences.”

Learn more about the program at

Statesman Emerald Awards of Excellence winners

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The Office of Student Affairs at Delta State recently hosted the second annual Lady Statesman Emerald Awards of Excellence at the the 2018 Women’s Conference.

The conference, along with the annual Men’s Conference, was instituted by Dr. Vernell Bennett, vice president for Student Affairs.

This year’s Lady Statesman Emerald Award of Excellence winners, which recognized female students, faculty and staff, included:

  • Top Student Leader – Michaella Wheatley
  • Top International Student – Marwa Cherraf
  • Most Spirited – Kaitlyn Bryant
  • Top Resident Assistant – Katherine White
  • Most Talented – Elizabeth Wickliffe
  • Top Residence Hall Manager – Candace Ball
  • Top Student Organization President – Porsche Chambers
  • Top Fan – Rachel Stephens
  • Community Service Award – Taylor Johnson
  • Top Panhellenic Council Sorority – Delta Delta Delta Sorority
  • Top National Pan-Hellenic Council Sorority – Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
  • College of Educations & Human Sciences Undergraduate Scholar – Etta Kathryn Jennings
  • College of Education & Human Sciences Graduate Scholar – Elizabetta Zengaro
  • College of Education & Human Sciences Doctoral Scholar – Barbara Boschert
  • College of Business & Aviation Scholar – Mara Clara Belisario
  • College of Arts & Sciences Scholar – Rebecca Hamilton
  • Robert E. Smith School of Nursing Scholar – Skylar Kuehn


  • Top Women’s Basketball Scholar – Aspriona Gilbert
  • Top Cheer Scholar – Porsha Gatson
  • Top Women’s Cross Country Scholar – Sarah Mumme
  • Top Women’s Soccer Scholar – Cath Thomson
  • Top Softball Scholar – Taylor Johnson
  • Top Swim/Dive Scholar – Hailey Leonard
  • Top Women’s Tennis Scholar – Charlotte le Flohic

* Top Administrator – Dr. Vernell Bennett
* Top Director Award – Julie Jackson
* Top Faculty Award – Dr. Tomeka Harbin
* Top Female Staff – Tarnisha Smith

The Women’s Conference is hosted each spring and the Men’s Conference is held each fall. The Emerald Awards of Excellence are held for both conferences. Students submit nominations in person and online. Each conference features keynote speakers, plenary sessions, workshops, a luncheon, a community service project and social events.