Students bundle trees for annual Bolivar County tree giveaway

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In celebration of Arbor Day each year, the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Bolivar County gives away young sapling trees to local residents as a public resource.

Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding’s environmental science classes have been helping NRCS with this effort for the past 12 years.

On Feb. 8, Teressa Oakes with the NRCS in Cleveland, brought 600 sawtooth oak sapling trees to Delta State. Oakes explained the history of the event to students as they helped prepare the trees for distribution. Class members placed two saplings into small plastic bags, squeezed out the air to help keep the roots moist, and wrapped tape around the base of each bag.

Earlier in the week, bald cypress and crepe myrtle saplings were prepared by the Bolivar County Master Gardeners. All of the tree saplings were given out at the Bolivar County Agriculture Building on Feb. 9.

Oakes thanked the students and is already making plans for their help with the 2019 Arbor Day event.

Contact Baghai-Riding at to learn more about the environmental science program at Delta State University.

Mississippi Public Universities provide research, education to advance energy, forestry sectors

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Mississippi’s natural resources help build and power our communities by providing lumber and abundant energy at an affordable cost. In fact, in its 2016 Global Petroleum Survey, the Fraser Institute ranked Mississippi eighth among the most attractive jurisdictions for upstream petroleum investment.

Protecting these resources and utilizing them in the most efficient and effective manner requires research and education. Mississippi Public Universities are stepping up to the plate to provide both.

The College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University provides the only 4-year degree programs in forestry, natural resource and environmental conservation, sustainable bioproducts, and wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture. The award-winning student body includes the MSU student chapter of the Society of American Foresters, a professional student organization that has been ranked in the top three nationally for the last 18 years. Other student organizations that continually receive top ratings include the MSU student chapter of The Wildlife Society, Ducks Unlimited Bulldog Chapter, the number one collegiate chapter in the state for the last four years, and one of the top ranked Bass Fishing Clubs in the nation.

Students in the College of Forest Resources conduct research and participate in professional experience. Each year, MSU students are selected to participate in the William A. Demmer Scholars Program, a program that provides internships and work with federal agencies and non-governmental organizations that focus on natural resources. The College of Forest Resources alumni serve throughout the nation as heads of corporations and leaders in state and federal government agencies. Tony Tooke, the new U.S. Forest Chief is an alumnus of the MSU College of Forest Resources.

Offering one of a few hands-on field experiences for students, the College of Forest Resources has over 23,619 of forestland in the MSU Bulldog Forest for teaching, research and demonstration. This land is located in 28 properties throughout the state of Mississippi.

The Forest and Wildlife Research Center is the research arm of the College of Forest Resources. The Forest and Wildlife Research Center (FWRC) expands through research the fundamental and applied knowledge upon which forestry, forest products and wildlife and fisheries disciplines are based.  The FWRC assists in conserving, developing and utilizing the forest, forest products, wildlife and fisheries resources of Mississippi and the world. The FWRC is the only natural resources research program in the state of Mississippi and serves as the research arm for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.  Mississippi’s forest and forest products industries are a $12.79 billion dollar industry. Timber is the second largest commodity in the state.  Providing relevant and timely research to address the needs of landowners, biologists and industry is a priority within the Forest and Wildlife Research Center. Research funding in the FWRC supports 47 scientists working on an average of 300 projects annually.

In forestry, scientists have expanded forest-based industry through the development of forest inventory software. FWRC scientists were the first in the nation to develop a comprehensive, spatially-explicit inventory of forest resources in the state. A forest products/bio-energy mill location and decision support system based on county-level forest inventory and geo-spatial information has been developed and used by numerous industries desiring to locate to Mississippi. Mississippi is rich in natural resources and companies choose to locate to the state based on the availability of these abundant resources.

Mississippi is ranked as one of the top five places in the U.S. for biomass by Forbes magazine. Scientists continue to expand the software to include socio-economic factors, growth and drain estimates, ownership patterns and a transportation network.  The Department of Forestry conducts research to sustainably manage and utilize forest resources.  This includes developing new practices to expand the growth of timber resources. The department actively works with the Mississippi Forestry Commission, U.S. Forest Service, forest industry, and other universities to reduce risk of insect, disease, and natural disasters. The department also studies the effect of timberlands on carbon sequestration, water quality, alternative plantings, and wildlife habitat.

In wildlife and fisheries, scientists are tackling the growing human-wildlife conflict and economic impact of wildlife damage. In the U.S., wild pigs are non-native, invasive pests that pose a significant threat to agriculture, forestry, ecosystems, watersheds, native plant and animal communities and human health. Economic impacts of wild hog damage in the U.S. have been estimated at $1.5 billion/year. Wild pigs are host to at least 7 economically important livestock diseases and vectors of 9 zoonotic diseases of human health concern. Research is ongoing to quantify rate of range expansion, economic impacts and effective control methods to educate landowners, natural resource professionals and policymakers on the negative impact of wild pigs and inform local, state and national policy.

As the research arm of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, FWRC scientists monitor the state’s wildlife and fisheries populations. As issues arise, scientists offer solutions to sustain populations or in some cases, scientists recommend changes in hunting to deter some invasive species. The goal of FWRC scientists is to manage wildlife and fishery resources for the betterment of the state, region and nation.  Scientists in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture have an international reputation for expertise on a variety of game species including white-tailed deer, turkey and bobwhite quail. Research is also conducted on game and nongame species; ecology; wildlife diseases; endangered species conservation; ecological restoration; invasive species management; habitat reclamation, restoration, and management; conservation education; human dimensions; geospatial technologies in wildlife and fisheries sciences; landscape ecology; and wildlife and fish recreation.

In sustainable bioproducts, scientists are finding new uses for wood resources including small-diameter wood from first thinnings of pine plantations. From environmental mats to composite lumber, scientists are finding new uses for wood which expand its service life and improve economic opportunities for Mississippi landowners.  FWRC scientists are leaders in the development of bio-fuel from wood products. The FWRC is working to develop a marketable transportation fuel from blends of upgraded bio-oil and petroleum fuels.  Scientists are working on a southern yellow pine strength and stiffness project to increase the use of southern yellow pine in building construction. Scientists are also working on the use of timber in large construction projects and southern climatic stresses on these products.

At the University of Mississippi Field Station, faculty members conduct a broad range of studies related to Mississippi’s forests and wetlands, from the potential healing properties of plants to turkey behavior, fish growth and reproduction, controlling invasive insect species and mitigating pesticide run-off from farm fields. The 740-acre facility includes wetlands, grasslands and closed-canopy forests. The forested stands are mixtures of shortleaf pine and oaks with loblolly pine, sweetgum, red maple, winged elms and black gum. An aviary for study of wild turkeys is located in a remote area. More than 200 experimental ponds provide opportunities for controlled experiments and large-scale projects.

Jackson State University and the University of Mississippi are two members of a consortium of four universities recently awarded a National Science Foundation EPSCoR Track II grant. Jackson State serves as the lead institution for the four-year project, with the University of Delaware and the University of Wyoming rounding out the four participating universities. The project seeks novel and cost-effective approaches to mitigate climate change, improve energy efficiency and reduce pollutants in water and air, which are among the most significant challenges facing the world.

Delta State University encourages stewardship through the student chapter of The Wildlife Society, an international organization serving wildlife professionals in all areas of wildlife conservation and resource management that was founded in 1937. With a goal of excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education, Dr. Ali Reza, advisor for the Environmental Science Wildlife Management Concentration, and students in the Environmental Science/Wildlife major worked to establish a student chapter of the society on the campus in Cleveland. The DSU student chapter of the Wildlife Society was approved on April 26, 2013 by the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society.

Video on the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University:

More information on the University of Mississippi Field Station:

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

University institutes campus-wide Capstone Project program

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Delta State University recently announced a new program developed through a university-wide visioning process to promote academic excellence and student success at the institution.

The initiative, called the Capstone Project, aims to increase student learning by providing a Capstone experience for every student in every degree program. Departments across campus have identified a Capstone experience for each of its major programs.

The projects provide students the formal opportunity to connect major themes from their discipline and apply them to their field of study. The desired outcome of the program is that every student will have a capstone experience in their major program to promote reflection and synthesis of key concepts within their major.

“I’m very pleased with the university’s new and revised Capstone Project requirement for every major and every graduate,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge.

LaForge said this new feature would distinguish Delta State in two major ways. First, it underscores and enhances the academic rigor and reputation of the university and its programs. Secondly, it gives Delta State graduates a competitive advantage, including the substantive experience from doing the project, in addition to what they’re able to put on their résumé and discuss in interviews.

“This should make our graduates more competitive for jobs in the marketplace, but also for positions in graduate and professional school,” added LaForge. “The Capstone requirement adds an academic ‘halo’ over our students’ performance and degree that should help them advance in their chosen careers.”

Dr. Charles McAdams, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said the program would strengthen the overall learning experience at Delta State.

“Another step in Delta State’s commitment to providing the best academic experiences possible is making sure that every degree program has a Capstone experience,” said McAdams. “Experiencing a curriculum can sometimes leave students wondering how all the information they are learning, and skills they are developing, will help them in the next phase of their professional life.”

“Capstone projects are designed to help students synthesize what they have learned to ensure they have achieved the outcomes of their degree,” added McAdams. “Many programs, such as teacher education programs, nursing and social work, have traditionally had field experiences at the end of their program. We have expanded this effort so that now every degree program has some type of Capstone experience within their curriculum.”

McAdams said not many universities have taken this extra step, but Delta State remains committed to providing the most meaningful curriculum possible.

Dr. Leslie Griffin, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, said the projects should boost the overall academic experience for students.

“I think the saying that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ applies here,” said Griffin. “That is, increasingly, employers and the world-at-large expect graduates to bring understanding of all the nuances of their specialization to bear on the workplace and in life experiences. Capstone courses help learners to contemplate, analyze and synthesize their learning experiences in a manner that achieves this level of understanding and operation, with an eye on outcomes.”

“In the realm of professional practice in education, counseling, and other related fields, Capstone projects ensure that learners bring the skills, knowledge and dispositions they have developed in their programs to bear on the real world through their work in the professional setting — P-12 schools, counseling centers, medical facilities, others, dependent upon the area of specialization.”

Dr. Dave Breaux, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, echoed Griffin’s praise for the initiative.

“Providing students the opportunity to engage in a Capstone experience will allow them to synthesize and integrate material encountered throughout their program of study,” said Breaux. “It should provide a platform for them to demonstrate mastery of the material within their respective disciplines, and give them a leg up on the job market.”

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University to celebrate $3 million pledge from Gertrude C. Ford Foundation

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Delta State University will host a special grant announcement ceremony in honor of The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, a longtime Delta State supporter that recently provided one of the largest gifts in the university’s history.

University supporters are welcomed to the ceremony March 1 at 2:30 p.m. on the second floor of Ewing Hall.

Gertrude Castellow Ford

The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, based in Jackson, Mississippi, recently pledged $3 million to the university to support the Center for Teaching and Learning at Delta State.

The foundation, founded in 1991 by Gertrude Castellow Ford, gives to educational and philanthropy projects primarily relating to higher education, children and youth services, and also health and human service organizations.

Thanks to the foundation’s commitment, the Center for Teaching and Learning at Delta State will be funded over the next several years. And in Ford’s honor, the center will be named the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning. The facility provides Delta State with an opportunity to support the faculty in their efforts to improve student success.

John Lewis, a board member for the foundation, said the funding would go a long way in developing quality faculty at Delta State.

“Our investment here is really on the faculty level at Delta State,” said Lewis. “We can build buildings, and we can do a lot of things — but at a school, especially Delta State, the attraction is the faculty. The faculty is what makes the school go. I, along with my fellow board members Cheryle Sims and Gayle Papa, think the individual attention to the faculty makes this a worthwhile investment for us.”

Delta State University President William N. LaForge said the foundation’s support would make a significant long-term impact at the university.

“The gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in support of our Center for Teaching and Learning is a gift that will continue giving,” said LaForge. “It has transformational value because it’s going to help support a very important function at Delta State that will affect our students, potentially forever.”

“This donation is a major statement by a major foundation, of support for and confidence in Delta State,” he added. “We are very grateful for that. They are going to see their good work in action here. The $3 million gift will serve the purpose of making sure we can continue this great program on campus.”

Dr. Gray Kane, director of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning, said the center is an essential facility to improve overall learning at Delta State.

“The Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning is a hub for faculty development at Delta State,” said Kane. “It promotes a culture of self-development, collaboration and innovation in support of student success. The center provides faculty and chairs with resources, facilitated conversations, workshops, programs, networking opportunities, and individual consultations centered on topics such as online, hybrid, and face-to-face teaching, advising, mentoring, leadership, curriculum mapping, assessment and scholarship.”

“The faculty are experts in their disciplines, but outside the College of Education, very few have studied teaching, mentoring, course design, curriculum design or other facets of their profession,” added Kane. “This gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation will fund opportunities to interconnect the faculty for knowledge transfers, collaborations, and innovations that can lead to student success both inside and beyond the classroom.”

For more information on the center, visit

To learn more about the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, visit

The public grant announcement ceremony on March 1 will celebrate one of the most significant pledges in the university’s history. Delta State supporters are welcome to the ceremony and to view The Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning.

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Dabney appointed to Registrar and Director of Institutional Research and Planning

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Effective Feb. 1, Delta State University announced the appointment of Emily Dabney as the Registrar and Director of Institutional Research and Planning.

Previously, Dabney served as the director of Institutional Research and Planning for two and a half years, and she will continue to direct the department in addition to her new Registrar role.

“I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to serve the university in the position of Registrar,” said Dabney.

“My immediate goal is to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can, while still fulfilling my Institutional Research duties,” added Dabney. “My longer-term goals include working with the great staff of the Registrar’s office to leverage my experience in making the registration and graduation experience smoother for students, faculty and staff.”

Dr. Charles McAdams, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Dabney has demonstrated great technical skill and finesse in increasing the accuracy of a broad array of institutional data for internal and external use.

“She is also adept at identifying best practices and structural improvements that will serve us well as we seek to bring greater capacity and efficiencies to the Registrar’s Office,” said McAdams. “Coupled with her ability to work positively with others, I am confident she will serve Delta State well as both Registrar and Director of Institutional Research and Planning.”

Additionally, Dabney is an attorney and practiced law for several years before moving into the field of litigation technology. In that field, she was the production and project manager and a consultant for a company that designed and produced databases for the management of large, complex litigation cases. Her largest case there exceed 900,000 documents and records.

Dabney received her Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Mississippi State University and a Juris Doctor degree from Washington and Lee University.

For more information on the Registrar’s Office at Delta State, visit