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Academics

Penton awarded NASA-supported fellowship

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Katie Penton, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Natural Sciences program at Delta State, was recently awarded the prestigious Mississippi Space Grant Consortium Graduate Research Fellowship, an opportunity coordinated by the Mississippi Research Consortium and supported by NASA.

The consortium’s mission is to enhance and support aerospace science and technology efforts and activities in Mississippi, as well as promote a strong science, mathematics and technology base at pre-college, undergraduate and graduate levels in the region’s educational institutions.

Penton, a native of Southaven, said she was thrilled to receive the fellowship. She has been working closely with Dr. Sharon Hamilton, professor of chemistry at Delta State, while researching polymer chemistry.

The fellowship is for the 2017-18 academic year in the amount of $20,000.

Penton’s fellowship will focus 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. She will also work with local teachers to reinforce the subjects they are teaching within her lessons.

“I am very grateful to be one of only eight recipients of this fellowship throughout the state,” said Penton. “In my proposal, I stressed how underrepresented the STEM fields are in the Delta, and given the opportunity, I wished to go into local schools to introduce and hopefully inspire students to pursue this area of study. I first got really invested in chemistry in high school, and I would love to ignite that spark in someone here in Cleveland.”

Hamilton said Penton is particularly worthy of the fellowship.

“Katie is an extremely hard worker who has significantly contributed to the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Delta State,” said Hamilton. “The chemistry faculty at DSU are always looking for ways to improve our majors’ education —whether that be through exposing them to summer research experiences, bringing in speakers to the department, or helping them find ways to fund their research.”

“Katie’s fellowship signifies that the research being done at Delta State is and can be just as significant as the quality of research being done at the larger schools in the state,” added Hamilton.

Her work with Hamilton has concentrated on developing a drug-loaded fiber mat that can be used in wound healing applications.

“Katie’s research in my lab has focused on developing wound healing materials,” said Hamilton. “Think of it as creating bandages that can help you heal more effectively. This is an area of great interest to NASA. Our efforts address NASA’s need for medical treatments that will allow space flight illnesses, particularly smaller wounds, to be treated with a minimum of infrastructure support and to keep crew members in good health.”

Penton’s lab research continued through the summer break, while at the same time, she mentored a student from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. She also presented the results of her research at the 2017 Summer Student Science Symposium sponsored by the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, and the MS INBRE Symposium.

Learn more about Department of Chemistry and Physics at Delta State at http://www.deltastate.edu/artsandsciences/chemistry-and-physics.

Social work conference slated for Oct. 5-6

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The 46th annual Alabama-Mississippi Social Work Education Conference will take place at Delta State University on Oct. 5-6.

The opening ceremony for the event kicks off at 8 a.m. on Oct. 5 in the Jacob Conference Center in Ewing Hall.

Attendees are asked to register in advance at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/46th-annual-alabama-mississippi-social-work-education-conference-registration-32440965802. Anyone wanting to enhance their knowledge of social work is invited to register.

Keynoting the affair is Dr. William Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs and a Delta State alumnus.

This year’s theme is “Social Work Marching Together: Yes We Can … No We Won’t.”

“We invite you to come and share in this educational experience with social work educators, students and professionals from both Alabama and Mississippi,” said Cora Jackson, interim chair of the Department of Social Work at Delta State. “This is the first time in 10 years that Delta State has hosted the event, and we hope participants will enjoy our beautiful campus and enjoy the culture of the Delta as they enhance their knowledge and skills.”

Jackson said the conference will provide faculty with the opportunity to obtain up to 26 continuing education units.

“It will also allow us to develop and strengthen collaborations with other undergraduate social work programs throughout the region as we share our unique perspectives on social work and social work education,” she said.

The conference will also feature a red carpet event open to all attendees at GRAMMY Museum ® Mississippi on Oct. 5. The event encourages camaraderie among colleagues as well as the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the museum. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided. The attire for the evening is semi-formal or Sunday’s best.

From 1969-1971, social work faculty from Southern states met four times a year as part of a faculty development project of the Southern Regional Education Board. When the project ended, faculty from Alabama and Mississippi schools decided to form a conference so they could further the bonds they had developed. The conference has continued ever since.

Objectives of the conference are: to promote transfer of information among schools providing social welfare education courses in the states of Alabama and Mississippi; to provide a forum for issues and problems of regional importance for the two states; and to enable individual schools and faculty members to be sensitive and responsive to the changing demands of social work education.

The first three conferences were hosted by the University of Alabama, and starting in 1975 the conference was rotated among social work programs in the two states.

Today, representatives from all 27-CSWE accredited social work programs in Alabama and Mississippi, as well as programs from surrounding states, participate in the annual conference. Many of these programs bring their students who participate in programming and seek out employment and further educational opportunities.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/almssocialworkedconference.

TFA Graduate Fellows complete retreat

By | Academics, Community, Continuing Education, Graduate and Continuing Studies, Students, Teach for America | No Comments

Delta State University’s Graduate and Continuing Studies department recently completed its second annual immersion retreat for the Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program.

The program is a collaboration between Teach For America and Delta State University, offering 20 Teach For America alumni support while working to launch and run a social entrepreneurship project in the Mississippi communities they serve, while also completing a graduate degree program of their interest.

This year’s cohort includes: AK Suggs, Alexis Williams, Catie Denham, Charlotte Arrowsmith, JJ Townsend, Kaitlyn Barton, Latasha Capers, Leigh Hill, Lucas Rapisarda, MK Honeycutt, and Sean Brown.

The retreat offered the fellows the opportunity to refine their leadership skills while also being introduced to entrepreneurial perspectives when tackling social problems. Additionally, the cohort was required to disconnect from their day-to-day stresses and devote all their energy for four days to the retreat. The cohort had the privilege of staying at a cabin directly on the Mississippi River which allowed for stunning sights and sounds, refreshing walks and a beautiful setting to collaborate.

Participants focused on the expansion of their proposed social venture projects through vision setting, customer discovery, probes and prototypes. Spud Marshall served as the facilitator for the retreat. Marshall is the chief catalyst for co.space, an international network of homes for change-makers that launched in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also the co-founder of New Leaf, a nonprofit social innovation incubator in State College.

“We offered the cohort tangible tools for them to use by providing a framework and space to plan out the implementation and design of their projects,” said program coordinator Harrison Wood. “Our retreat was an incredible success. They became more than simply a group of TFA alumni, but rather, a group that will continue to intentionally support and collaborate with one another as they make steps towards change in Mississippi over the next two years.”

The group also visited with Ben Lewis and Amanda Johnson, who are both leading social enterprises in Clarksdale. The trip provided fellows an opportunity to visualize and learn from entrepreneurs who have pursued ventures positioned in a rural area. Wrapping up their visit to Clarksdale, the cohort canoed the Mississippi River with John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company, fostering a team-building experience for the participants.

To complete the fellowship, each participant will focus on social entrepreneurship, while simultaneously completing a graduate degree at Delta State. The cohort will regularly convene to share experiences in a collaborative environment, allowing participants to develop goals.

“We’re delighted that our alumni have an opportunity to further invest their talents and demonstrate their devotion to Mississippi and the Delta in this structured, creative way,” said Teach For America’s Ron Nurnberg. “It’s been terrific for me to see this opportunity move from dream, to discussion, to planning, to unfurling. I’m eager to see this potential unleashed and improving the quality of life for all of us.”

The project 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.

For more information on the program, visit www.tfafellows.com.

Reza leads field course in Bangladesh

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Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, associate professor of biology at Delta State, recently returned from leading another international field course in his homeland of Bangladesh.

The two-week tropical field biology study abroad course, which took place in July, was in partnership with the Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), an NGO that works tirelessly to conserve Bangladesh’s imperiled wildlife.

“This was a special opportunity for students to get direct access to one of the most diverse environments in the world — the jungles of Lawachara National Park,” said Reza. “Students were provided with some of the best résumé-boosting conservation field experience you could imagine.”

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza

Open to university students around the world, the curriculum focused on biology, natural resources management, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, management, veterinary sciences and related fields.

Thanks to the partnership with CCA, course fees directly contributed to the conservation of the endangered flora and fauna of Bangladesh.

Reza also led a shorter-term outdoor adventure education workshop from July 13-16 open to local participants. The workshop was sponsored by Delta State University, the DSU Quality Enhancement Plan and the CCA. Participants learned about environmental policies and issues, research and study practices, and wildlife photography techniques.

A group of 45 students from local universities participated in the workshop and received a certificate issued by Delta State and CCA. Reza was joined by a team of experts to manage the large group of students. Colleagues included: Ceasar Shahirar Rahman, CEO of CCA; Dr. Kamrul Hasan, professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University; Scott Trageser, director of CCA; Dr. Samia Saif, biologist of BCAS; and Tania Khan, a freelance naturalist.

Reza said hands-on field courses often help students get recognized in the scientific field.

“You have a great chance of getting your name on a scientific publication by making a range extension, or even discovering a new species,” he said. “Our 2014 and 2015 trips recognized multiple potentially new species and made several range extensions. In 2016, our group discovered a new species of a Takydromus lizard.”

During his trip to Bangladesh, Reza also organized two seminars at Jahangirnagar University and Independent University of Bangladesh, where he discussed the environmental policy issues related to U.S. and Bangladesh perspectives. Both seminars had high attendance and wide covered by the local media.

At the end of the trip, Reza participated in a live — online as well as on a local television — panel discussion on river conservation and aquatic biodiversity in Bangladesh. The small country, slightly bigger than the state Mississippi, has more than 700 major rivers.

“Many of them have issues related to pollution, encroachment, building unplanned dams, etc.,” said Reza. “During the panel discussions, experts and managers discussed ways to mitigate the issues.”

Reza, who also serves as Delta State’s international partnership liaison, is planning to offer another field course in December. For more information about fieldwork and other opportunities with Delta State’ environmental science program, contact Reza at areza@deltastate.edu.

LaForge outlines bright future at convocation

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge delivered his State of the University address Thursday during opening convocation ceremonies at the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

The address was titled “With Gratitude” and began with a thank you to faculty and staff for their continued efforts at the start of Delta State’s 93rd academic year.

“I am pleased to report that the current state of the university is positive, stable and advancing, and I am optimistic about a bright future,” said LaForge.

President LaForge said the university remains positive thanks to Delta State’s stellar people and programs.

“We embrace and promote core values such as individual worth, a healthy life style, hospitality, a strong work ethic, cultural enrichment, civility and respect for all, loyalty, ethical conduct, and accountability in all we do — for which I am profoundly grateful,” he said.

“We certainly have serious challenges, especially budget related, but we can rightfully commence our new academic year with the confidence that the ship is upright and moving in the right direction — combined with a dose of caution about the budget situation.”

LaForge was referencing major state budget cuts that have trimmed institutional funds by approximately $2.2 million in the last fiscal year. Despite these cuts, the president said the university is stable thanks to a recent recovery from years of eroding enrollment and financial woes.

According to LaForge, Delta State is advancing in response to a slate of new and bigger opportunities available on campus. Among those, he cited the remodeled Wiley Planetarium, the creation of the Dave Heflin Outdoor Recreation Lab, a major increase in the international student body, a long list of athletic achievements, a number of facility remodeling and renovation projects, major campus conferences, and a boost to recruitment and marketing efforts.

Despite the optimism, the president asked faculty and staff to remain extra cautious of the state budget cuts.

“A sad and disappointing statistic to report is that, for the first time in history, state funding is no longer Delta State’s largest source of operating revenue,” said LaForge. “This year, we will derive less revenue from the state than from tuition. Arguably, we have crossed over from being a state-supported university to a state-assisted university.”

“I am truly grateful to everyone on campus for joining our efforts to manage our way through this challenging budget time,” he added. “We will hope for, and work toward, a better budget climate for next year — but, that outcome is largely dependent on the fiscal health of the state.”

The president and his cabinet have enacted a responsible budget process, one that remains visionary and transparent, and guides the university according to strict business and ethical principles.

Like the university community as a whole, LaForge’s optimism will guide the institutional vision in the face of challenges. Delta State will remain committed to its 10 visioning principles, which LaForge outlined at last year’s convocation.

“Why shouldn’t we engage in a sense of idealism about who and what we are at Delta State?” asked LaForge. “After all, our ideas and actions make this university what it is every day. There’s no reason why we cannot apply even better ideas and actions to remaking the reality and condition of Delta State. But we must be intentional about it. It won’t just happen. I firmly believe that there is no limit to the creativity of the human mind.”

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