Jenni Owen '15, right, participated in the new Prison-to-College Pipeline Program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss., thanks to a connection Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, assistant professor of history, had with the program's leaders.

Graduate participates in groundbreaking Parchman program

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One recent Delta State graduate shined brightly last summer while working with imprisoned students at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman.

Jenni Owen, who completed her Liberal Studies Master of Arts in English with a focus on criminology in May of 2015, had the unique opportunity of participating in the groundbreaking Prison-to-College Pipeline Program at Parchman.

Owen became the program’s instructional associate through the help of Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, assistant professor of history at Delta State. Westmoreland put her in touch with the program’s leaders, Dr. Otis Pickett, assistant professor of history at Mississippi College, and Dr. Patrick Elliot Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American studies at the University of Mississippi.

The two professors were leading the new 10-week course on the civil rights movement to a group of students imprisoned at Parchman. During the course, students learned about a number of civil rights leaders, including Fannie Lou Hammer, who is remembered for her roots in nearby Ruleville.

The course also provided essential guidance in the rehabilitation and assimilation of imprisoned students into the general civilian population once their sentences are served.

Dr. Otis Pickett (l to r), Owen and Dr. Patrick Elliot Alexander.

Dr. Otis Pickett (left), Owen and Dr. Patrick Elliot Alexander.

“It was amazing getting to know the gentlemen in the facility,” said Owen. “Many of them had a strong passion for education, and I was grateful for the opportunity to get to know the men as individuals.

“The highlight of my experience was when I was able to work with the men one-on-one and assist them with their writing, or help tailor solutions to their specific needs,” she added. “For example, there was one student who had a hard time seeing words when reading, so I tried to write notes for him in a larger font so he could read the documents more easily.

“There was another student interested in writing poetry, so I brought Natasha Trethewey’s ‘Native Guard’ to share with him. Also, after my first session, I saw the eagerness of the men to learn, so I asked friends and family for donations and we were able to purchase a book for the gentlemen to continue reading once the course was through.”

Owen, who now works as an adjunct instructor of English at Holmes Community College in Yazoo City completed her undergraduate internship at the Stark County Sheriff’s Office in Ohio and wrote her thesis on officer communication in domestic violence situations. Thus began her interest in the criminal justice system.

When she began her studies at Delta State, she learned about bibliotherapy or therapeutic reading programs. Owen, with her criminology background, focused on how literature can help rehabilitate those who are incarcerated. This interest made her a qualified candidate to help with the Parchman program.

“The Prison-to-College program taught me to have more confidence in myself and my abilities,” said Owen. “The students were so grateful that I was there. At first I was a bit intimidated to be working with such respected professors, and was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to bring anything to the class, but by being genuinely me, I found that I could contribute and help the students.

“I also learned about some of the real struggles the students were going through. They were taking a college level class during the hottest months of the year, but they were still doing their best to complete their reading and writing assignments. The students put in so much effort to be able to participate in the class. Their dedication was amazing.”

Westmoreland said Owen’s commitment to the criminal justice system is just one of her strong points.

“Jenni has a strong commitment to helping others, and because of that, we are very proud of her work with the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program,” said Westmoreland. “As a student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, Jenni approached her work with a clear sense of mission and purpose. She wanted to integrate her passion for literature and the English language with a desire to help incarcerated people. Thanks to the wide variety of graduate courses offered in English and criminology, she was very prepared to work with the students in the pipeline program.

“She has done great work and will continue to make a positive impact on people who are too often forgotten in our society,” he added.

As the program continues to grow, Owen fully intends to remain involved.

“I’m currently planning on participating in the program at Parchman again this coming summer with Dr. Alexander and Dr. Pickett,” she said. “I look forward to assisting more with the educational aspect of the program and helping the students increase their writing skills.”

Owen said she will also help as the program plans to expand to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl under the leadership of Pickett and Dr. Stephanie R. Rolph, assistant professor of history at Millsaps College.

Schmidt Memorial Scholarship announced

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Schmidt scholarship

The Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship was announced Tuesday by Larkin Chapman (front row, third from left), a senior health, physical education and recreation major from Flora, Mississippi. This marks the first scholarship in the history of Delta State established by a current student. The annual scholarship will be awarded to two recipients, one history major and one social science education major. Chapman was joined by Schmidt’s wife, Elizabeth (left of Chapman), Delta State University President William N. LaForge, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. David Breaux, members of Alumni-Foundation, and faculty from the Division of Social Sciences and History.

















Veterans program scheduled for Homecoming

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Honoring veterans has become a tradition each year during Homecoming festivities at Delta State University. This year marks the eighth annual Veteran’s Recognition Program.

The program will be held in the Veterans Atrium of Jobe Hall on Saturday at 11 a.m. The salute will feature music by the Delta State University Chamber Singers and Delta State music faculty and students. Cleveland community members will also participate in the music.

Each military branch will be recognized, and all service songs will be performed.

Dr. James Robinson, retired Delta State history professor and 1968 graduate, helped make the dream of the Veterans Atrium become a reality. After noticing that the existing fountain in the atrium of Jobe Hall was not working and that students were not utilizing the space, he had the idea of turning the area into a tribute to veterans.

The Veterans Atrium was born in 2006 after Robinson teamed up with the Alumni and Foundation Office, under the direction of Vicki Fioranelli (director emeritus of Alumni Affairs) and the Golden Circle. It consists of a fountain and a memorial, which includes a bronze tree honoring veterans who were alumni, faculty, staff, students or friends of Delta State. There is also a bookcase which includes service records for the honored veterans.

Refreshments will be served prior to the program, and the Veterans Atrium can be viewed beginning at 10 a.m.

The official hashtag for the 2015 Homecoming is #DSUHC15. For more information, contact the Alumni Association at 662-846-4660.

To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), Tumblr (, LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1).


National Alumni Association to host Black Alumni Tailgate Reunion

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The National Alumni Association is proud to announce the Black Alumni Tailgate Reunion to be held at Statesmen Park on Saturday (Nov. 7) from noon to 4 p.m.

“Homecoming is about reconnecting with classmates to keep the history of our experiences alive. Delta State today isn’t the same as it was 10, 20 or even 40 years ago. Imagine reuniting with fellow alumni to share those experiences with each other and current students,” said Kelly Hunter, Black Alumni representative to the National Alumni Association Board. “Homecoming is also about making new connections. Together we are a valuable resource to each other. As the representative for the Black Alumni constituent group, I’m looking forward to this year’s Black Alumni Tailgate Reunion and with anticipation, the success of many future events.”

Jeffrey Farris, director of Alumni Affairs, is looking forward to the organization’s first event.

“The Alumni Office has been overwhelmed with positive interest concerning the first Black Alumni Tailgate Reunion,” said Farris. “Every black alumnus we have a good mailing address for, which totals over 5,000 recipients, received a letter inviting them back to campus for this Homecoming reunion. Thanks to our National Alumni Association board member Kelly Hunter for her hard work and dedication for continuing to grow and engage this constituency group.”

Hotdogs and hamburgers will be provided thanks to Patrick Davis State Farm Agency in Cleveland. T-shirts will be for sale for $12. To RSVP or purchase a t-shirt, visit Active Alumni members who attend the event will entered in a drawing to win a Yeti Hopper Cooler.

The official hashtag for the 2015 Homecoming is #DSUHC15. For more information, contact the Alumni Association at 662-846-4660. To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), Tumblr (, LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1).

2015 Alumnus of the Year, Lucy Janoush '78.

Janoush named Alumnus of the Year

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Each year, the Delta State University National Alumni Association recognizes alumni and friends who have brought distinction to the university at the annual Alumni Awards Gala, held during Homecoming weekend. This year’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, Lucy Richardson Janoush ‘78, will be honored during a ceremony Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on the campus of Delta State.

At the event, Janoush will also be inducted into the Delta State University Alumni Hall of Fame.

Take a look at what used to be the southeast corner of the Delta State golf course, and you’ll notice the latest of Janoush’s many civic contributions. Since 2011, Janoush has served as president of the Cleveland Music Foundation Board of Directors, the group responsible for planning, funding, constructing and operating the GRAMMY® Museum Mississippi. The $19 million-dollar facility opens in March of 2016.

The museum, Janoush explained, is a remarkable addition to the Cleveland community, the Delta and the state of Mississippi. It provides limitless cultural opportunities, attracts visitors, encourages business development, and will expand the area’s tax revenue. The museum also promises to enrich the offerings of its neighbor, Delta State University.

“I think the partnership is perfect,” Janoush said, referring to the consociation of Delta State and the GRAMMY® Museum Mississippi.

This latest project represents just one of many ways Janoush has given back to the school and community that gave her an academic foundation. She started at Delta State in 1974 and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English.

Janoush’s maternal grandmother was a Cornell University business school graduate, and her mother, Alyce Richardson, finished at Delta State with a 4.0 grade point average in business.

“Mom got the first diploma the day she had her first baby,” she said with a laugh. “She was in the hospital having my sister while my grandfather was at Delta State picking up her diploma.”

Her mother was also named Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1972.

Janoush’s father, Clarence “Rich” Richardson, served in the Marine Corps and then worked as vice president for the family’s John Deere dealership in Cleveland. He failed freshman English at Delta State three times, which generated humor within the family because two of his children – Janoush and her brother, Jimbo – earned their undergraduate degrees in English.

Although she planned to become a teacher, Janoush changed her mind during her senior year at Delta State. Instead, she applied for a Title IX fellowship offered by Mississippi State University, where she was awarded the opportunity to earn a Master’s in Public Administration – all expenses paid. The one-year program required an internship, so Janoush called her friend Bill LaForge, who at the time was a legislative assistant to U.S. Congressman David Bowen. She was invited to Washington, D.C., and that three-month internship turned into a full-time job that lasted five years.

“The first weekend I was there I met Elizabeth Taylor, and I saw the Pope,” Janoush recalled. “I thought, ‘Gee, you know, I think I can do this. This is kind of fun.’ As time went on, I really liked it.”

In 1983, Janoush returned to Cleveland to marry her long-time beau, Paul Janoush. They had two children, Will and Mary Parker. Will, 31, is now a tax attorney in Madison, and he and his wife, Andrea, have two children, Bradford, 3, and Mary Alyce, who is due for a November arrival. Mary Parker, 20, is a junior at the University of Mississippi, majoring in marketing and corporate relations.

Janoush has held multiple professional positions in the Delta, including: 10 years as human resources manager at Baxter Healthcare Corporation; three years as a planner for the South Delta Planning and Development District; and two years as human resources manager for Brandywine Foods, Inc. She also worked for the family’s business, Jantran Inc.

She was executive vice president of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce and Industrial Development Foundation from 1986-1991. Along with having served on the Chamber’s board of directors for 24 years, and still counting, she was president for the 1994-95 term and served on dozens of committees. In 1996 and 2012, Janoush received the prestigious President’s Award. She was also honored with the Kossman Award for outstanding volunteer service in 1997.

Tucked in among her family, professional and civic lives, lies Janoush’s strong commitment to volunteer work. She was a member of the Cleveland-Bolivar County United Way Board of Directors from 1987-2013 and served as that group’s campaign chairman, vice president, and president. Since 1991, she has been a member of the Bolivar County Literacy Council Board of Directors. Additionally, she was on the board of directors for Bolivar Medical Center for five years, was president of the Crosstie Arts Council, and held leadership roles within the Junior Auxiliary of Cleveland.

She was named Junior Auxiliary’s “Charity Ball Queen” in 2010, a distinction that recognizes community leaders for outstanding community service. Janoush has also been a member of the First Presbyterian Church her entire life, and has served as a church elder since 2012.

Janoush is quick to credit Delta State for building a foundation upon which she’s built her life, career and civic record. Not only did she benefit from the academics, but she also got her leadership start by serving as secretary/treasurer in the student government and as president of Kappa Delta Sorority.

When asked about the Delta State professor who most influenced her, Janoush named Dr. Mariah Butler.

“She was the teacher everyone dreaded because she was very hard,” she said. “She was a great teacher, and she taught me how to study. She gave pop quizzes all the time, and some of those questions came from the footnotes. Dr. Butler made sure you got the whole picture.”

Looking back, Janoush cites the small class size and close-knit atmosphere of Delta State as major positives.

“PhD’s were teaching us freshman and sophomore English,” she said. “My freshman composition class was taught by the chairman of the English department, Dr. O.F. White. We weren’t being taught by teacher assistants who had their own class loads to worry about.”

Currently, Janoush converses and works with business people, politicians, entertainers and civic leaders from across the nation and world. In all of her dealings, she’s thankful for her solid academic foundation.

“Is Delta State small? Yes. Is it ranked the highest, academically, in the country? No. But there has always been a very good faculty and a good structure of learning,” said Janoush. “Students who go to Delta State and are serious about their studies can graduate and then go wherever they want to go and be whatever they want to be. They’re just as capable and competitive as students who went to bigger and more prestigious schools.”