Alumni Association Bolivar County Chapter awards $4,600 in scholarships

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Each year the Bolivar County Alumni Chapter awards scholarships to incoming Delta State freshmen from Bolivar County. The scholarship is named for former Assistant Alumni Director Liza Vaughn (‘95), who passed away in April 2012. The scholarship is funded through participation is the silent auction at the Annual Bolivar County Chapter meeting every April.

This year’s recipients are Emily Adams, Taylor Barr, Ashley Bonner, Braxton Clark, Samuel Cooper, Hannah Crick, Davis Dalton, Joe Garcia, Meagan Griffin, William Hood, Ashley Horton, Destiny McClain, Morgan Ray, Joseph Saia, Shelby Swafford, Mary Vadaley, Candace Vanhorn, Coleman Warrington, LaMonica Williams, William Woo, Layla Young, and Kellie Cummins.

Meet a few of this year’s recipients by watch thing testimonial video at

To make a donation to the Liza Vaughn Memorial Scholarship, contact the Alumni Association at (662) 846-4660 or visit

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).

Student establishes scholarship for Professor Ethan Schmidt

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The legacy of beloved Delta State University professor Ethan Schmidt, who died on campus on Sept. 14, continues to grow. Most recently Schmidt was honored with a scholarship established in his honor by one of his students, Larkin Chapman.

“As a student in Dr. Schmidt’s history classes, I immediately saw the passion he had in teaching and for his students,” said Larkin Chapman, a senior from Flora who is behind the creation of the Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship. “One of the many things I will always remember about Dr. Schmidt is how his door was always open for any student.”

Schmidt’s widow Elizabeth said the scholarship is an honor that illustrates why her husband was so well-loved by students and faculty.

“Our family is so honored that Ethan’s teaching and relationship with students and colleagues will be remembered through this scholarship,” she said. “We are excited to know that Ethan will be able to touch lives of future students through this money. We are very touched that Larkin had such a personal relationship with Ethan as a teacher and friend and knew Ethan’s passion was to help students aspire and meet their potential. We know that the money will help Delta State students for years to come even though they never got to meet Ethan.”

Delta State President William N. LaForge said the scholarship will be a gift that resonate through the lives of all of the students it assists, and it is fitting that it was created by a student.

“The establishment of the Schmidt Memorial Scholarship fund is a wonderful tribute to our beloved late colleague, Dr. Ethan Schmidt,” LaForge said. “His memory and the legacy of his good work will be perpetuated through the students who receive assistance from the fund in the years ahead. What makes this scholarship unique is that it is the first established by a current student. I salute Mr. Larkin Chapman, a senior Health, Physical Education and Recreation major from Belzoni, for his thoughtfulness and generosity in establishing this memorial scholarship for Dr. Schmidt.”

Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, assistant professor of history and personal friend of Schmidt’s, added, “Through his infectious enthusiasm and dedication to students, Ethan Schmidt made Delta State a better place. He touched the lives of so many people on campus and Larkin Chapman was obviously one of them.”

Delta State Director of Donor Relations Ann Giger said when Chapman came into the Foundation office, he was certain that a scholarship was needed to honor Schmidt.

“I wanted to establish the scholarship as a way to remember Dr. Schmidt and to give back to other students at Delta State the same enjoyment of learning that I’ve received.  I am not ashamed to say that God helped all of this to come together, and I give Him all the glory in this process,” Chapman said.

“This senior Health, Physical Education and Recreation major from Flora, Mississippi spoke numerous times of how Dr. Schmidt always made him and other students feel they mattered and how there was greatness ahead for each of them,” Giger said. “Because of Larkin’s determination, the Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship was established and will be awarded to a history major and a social science education major.”

Giger added the Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship is the first scholarship in the history of Delta State to be established by a current student

“When Larkin learned of this historical first, he was surprised as his purpose was never intended to have the focus on himself but on remembrance of Dr. Ethan Schmidt, the professor who loved his students and gave so much,” she said. “Thank you, Larkin Chapman, for your example of leadership in the establishment of the Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship and in transforming the lives of students.”

Jeffrey Farris, Delta State Director of Alumni, said the National Alumni Association applauds Larkin for his establishment of the Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a student with a transformational idea for the betterment of the university,” Farris said.

Schmidt’s fellow educators agree.

“One of my favorite quotes regarding education is from the renowned Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who once said that ‘education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,’” said Dr. David Breaux, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “From talking with students that had the privilege of taking courses with Ethan Schmidt, it is clear that he took that quote from Yates to heart. He constantly looked for creative ways to challenge students to think critically and to hone their communication skills. Therefore, I can think of no better way to memorialize Ethan, than by the scholarship established by Larkin Chapman.”

Dr. Paulette Meikel-Yaw, chair of the Division of History and Social Sciences, added, “Dr. Schmidt was an enthusiastic educator and scholar, beloved colleague and committed family man. He touched the lives of countless students, and he was a prolific leader in the Division of Social Sciences and History and in the University at large. He has left an indelible impression on the hearts of his students, colleagues and friends.”

“As Ann Giger, Director of Donor Relations at the Delta State University Foundation, notes this marks the first scholarship in the history of Delta State to be established by a current student, Larkin Chapman,” Meikel-Yaw added. “The thoughtfulness and generosity of Mr. Chapman is heartening as Dr. Schmidt’s legacy as a professor is cherished and his influence will live on in the hearts and souls of the students who will receive these scholarships.”

The Dr. Ethan Schmidt Memorial Scholarship is one-third of the way toward the Phase I goal of $10,000. Gifts can be made on line by going to  or calling 662-846-4704.

2016 Pig Pickin’ and Homecoming dates set

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The Delta State University National Alumni Association recently announced dates for 2016 Pig Pickin’ and Homecoming — two of the largest events held on campus.

The 31st annual Pig Pickin’ will be held Sept. 23-24, 2016, when the Statesmen football team hosts Shorter University. The full schedule of events will be announced at a later date.

Homecoming has been set for Oct. 14-15, 2016, and the Statesmen will face off against the University of West Florida. Throughout the weekend, the Alumni Association has a variety of activities planned. The event’s featured class is the Class of 1966, which will be celebrating 50 years since graduating from Delta State. They will also be inducted into the prestigious Golden Circle, which is a constituency group of the Alumni Association that honors alumni who graduated at least 50 years ago.

“I encourage all Delta State faithful to make plans now to attend Delta State University’s signature events in the fall of 2016,” said Jeffrey Farris, alumni director. “The Alumni Office wants to help you book your ticket back to campus to enjoy Cleveland and your alma mater.”

The Alumni Association will also host the annual Alumni Awards Gala during Homecoming to honor outstanding alumni and friends of Delta State.

More details on both events will be released at a later date. The official hashtag for Pig Pickin’ is #DSUPigPickin and for Homecoming is #DSUHC.

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).

Giving Tuesday marks launch of Delta State’s Centennial Fund

By | Alumni, Community, Faculty/Staff, General | No Comments

On Dec. 1, as part of the global “Giving Tuesday” event, Delta State will officially launch a new fundraising program. This new program, called The Centennial Fund, was motivated by a generous gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation.

“Giving Tuesday” has gained momentum in recent years as a global day dedicated to giving back, and people around the world are encouraged to come together for the common purpose of giving and celebrating generosity.

The Delta State’s Centennial Fund was started by providing each of the colleges —Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education — as well as the School of Nursing, an initial gift of $5,000. Every dollar contributed will be matched with a dollar from the Gertrude Ford Foundation gift — up to $5,000 for each academic unit. There is also an option of giving to the General Academic Fund, where every penny received goes to support important academic initiatives. You can give online at, and each Dean will receive a notice of every gift received.

Graduate participates in groundbreaking Parchman program

By | Alumni, College of Arts and Sciences, Community, Faculty/Staff, Students | No Comments

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.