College of Arts and Sciences


DMI students to present on Russia exchange

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Delta Music Institute, International | No Comments

Join the Delta Music Institute and Quality Enhancement Plan for a public event Wednesday night with a discussion about the DMI’s groundbreaking international exchange in Russia last May and June.

The event, “You Can Get There From Here,” is free and open to the public Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in DMI Studio A on the campus of Delta State.

DMI students, and participating faculty and staff, will share stories, music and photography from their exchange trip to Perm State University and Moscow.

The trip, “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” utilized music as a universal language to explore the cultures, histories and heritages of the Mississippi Delta and Perm Krai regions, both situated along historic rivers.

The program was backed by the U.S. Department of State and allowed students and faculty from Perm State to visit Delta State in 2014.

“Most of our students are from small towns in a largely rural state,” said Tricia Walker, DMI director. “Traveling to another country and interacting with the culture there offered a unique way for our students to broaden their perspective on the world outside of Delta State and Mississippi.”

Walker added that the event would shed light on international exchange opportunities available at Delta State.

“I hope our students will come to the presentation to see what is possible for them through international travel opportunities,” she said. “They can ‘get there from here.’ In addition, the students and community will be treated to some music created by Delta State and Perm State students, as well as some stunning photography of the Perm Krai region by university photographer Rory Doyle.”

Learn more about the group’s trip to Russia at

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza was recently elected to the executive board of the Mississippi Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

Reza joins statewide wildlife board

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Students | No Comments

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, was recently elected as an executive board member of the Mississippi Chapter of the Wildlife Society.

Chartered in 1973, the MCWS is comprised of wildlife professionals and students. The organization’s goal is to promote excellence in wildlife stewardship through science and education. Hunters, private corporations, landowners and wildlife enthusiasts are among the many who support the wildlife conservation efforts across the state.

The election happened during the society’s annual conference in Jackson, Miss. on Sept. 24-25. As an elected board member, Reza will serve on the board for the 2015-16 session.

Reza said he was honored to be elected and will continue to boost wildlife education at Delta State.

“Our state and federal agencies, universities, and wildlife biologists are all determined to keep Mississippi beautiful and our wildlife bountiful,” he said. “Having our students involved in such a professional group helps them become better prepared and motived to be a dedicated steward of wildlife.”

The MCWS has over 100 professional members, most of whom are employed through state, federal or non-government agencies, as well as academic institutions. In addition to the professional members, the organization has several active student chapters.

Reza coordinates the Wildlife Management program at Delta State under the realm of environmental sciences.

A native of Bangladesh, Reza came to Delta State with a distinguished résumé. For his master’s degree he studied Bengal tigers in his homeland, where the tigers are commonly known as ‘man-eaters.’ He also coordinated the Bengal tiger conservation project working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and wrote a book on tiger ecology.

Reza and his wife, Selina, moved to the United States so he could obtain his doctorate at Texas Tech University, where he graduated in 2010 with a degree in wildlife science. He received his postdoctoral training with USGS Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research unit working on a climate change project.

Additionally, he has extensive experience in leading study abroad programs with wildlife research projects in multiple counties abroad.

For more information about Wildlife Management at Delta State, contact Reza at 662-846-4242 or

Members of the 2015-16 Fighting Okra Records: (front, left to right) Gregory Braggs, Keith Johnson, Tyler Young, Kelsey Collins, Lindsey Anna Pardue, Mic Hargrove, Chace Holland and Jessica Wishard. Back row: (l to r) Reed Smith, Brennan Barham, Austin Rausa, Will Marshall, Dalton Shipley, Justin Boatman, Jacob Lifsey, Starlin Browning and Lane Fitzgerald. Missing from the picture is Chelsea Young.

Fighting Okra Records back for another round

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Community, Delta Music Institute, Students | No Comments

Fighting Okra Records, a student-run record label at Delta State University, will continue its operations during the 2015-16 academic year with a new staff of entertainment industry studies students.

The label is housed in the DMI Entertainment Industry Program and is the combined outcome of students enrolled in the Record Label Practicum course at the DMI. Building on the success of last year’s Fighting Okra release with artist Justin Boatman, this year’s staff is looking forward to an exciting new year.

Students staffing the label are assigned responsibilities within departments, using a real world record company model. These departments include the areas of business and finance, sales and marketing, artist and repertoire, and art and production.

“One of the main challenges for students in this type of practicum course is dealing with all the unexpected changes that happen in a project like this over the course of a year,” said director Tricia Walker. “Learning to manage those changes will be beneficial in the real world.”

This year, FOR is launching a new campaign in hopes of building a larger group of supporters. The label is setting up a competition that will showcase the musical ability of students around campus. Unlike previous years, they will be allowing students from the entire campus to audition to be the next spotlight artist for the 2015-16 school year.

Students who are interested will be required to submit a video link of two of their performances. Upon submission, selected students will move on to the second round via notification by the label. In the second round, students will be required to perform in front of the members of the label, after which the label will hand select the final contenders. The third and final round will give the label a chance to interview each contestant before making the final selection.

The mission of FOR is to provide a practical, real world music industry experience to the students and to provide a variety of independent artists with professional quality music industry services in an effort to expose their name in recordings to the broadest possible audience.

The Delta Music Institute is an independent center of study under the College of Arts & Sciences at Delta State University. The focus of the DMI is to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, creative and business areas of the music and entertainment industry. For more information, contact the DMI at 662-846-4579 or


Art faculty exhibit at Northwest

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

Art faculty from Delta State recently visited the Northwest Mississippi Community College Art Gallery for the opening reception of the Delta State University Art Faculty Exhibit, which features their work. The exhibition will be on display until Sept. 25.

Pictured in front row, left to right: Natalie Carroll, assistant professor of graphic design; and Amy Cannestra, assistant professor of art and graphic design. Back row (l to r): Ron Koehler, art department chair, sculpture, printmaking; Ky Johnston, associate professor of ceramics and printmaking; Michaela Merryday, associate professor of fiber; and Mollie Rushing, art instructor and fiber. Photo by Julie Bauer.


Students, professor present at international botanical conference

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

Global warming and fossil pollen and spores from northern New Mexico were the focus of two technical posters presented by Dr. Nina L. Baghai-Riding, professor of biological sciences, and several environmental science students at the International Botanical Society of America Conference in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 25-31, 2015.

More than 1,550 scientists and educators attended the conference.

The presentation on palynomorphs (fossil pollen and spores) was co-authored by Dr. Carol Hotton at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Kendal Davis (a current Delta State environmental science student) and Taylor Davidson (a former environmental science student). The presentation examined palynomorphs that represented the southern limits of the Jurassic Morrison Formation. The Morrison Formation extends over much of the Western Interior, from central New Mexico into Montana and equivalent units in Canada, and it is well known for its large tetrapod dinosaurs.

Davis took most of the palynological images and received raved reviews. Baghai-Riding has been working on the plants that made up the Morrison landscapes since 2007, and her previous work has focused on sites in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

The second poster presentation focused on global warming and was prepared by students Emily Bodin, Megan Clark, Shawnee Gundry, Ashley Mrozinski, Tyler Toole and Tara Willingham. The idea arose from students enrolled in Baghai-Riding’s BIO 415, Materials and Methods in Environmental Science. The students wanted to know if leaf stomata density is correlated to the increase of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere. This concept has been reported in numerous scientific publications.

Students selected three tree species (red maple, Bradford pear and water oak) that occur in the Bolivar County and used specimens from the Delta State University herbarium in answering their question. During the Spring 2015 semester, the students assembled a poster on the research for the conference. The poster was favorably viewed by many scientists at the conference, and congratulations were given to the university for the high quality of the work.CO2-Stomata-Study-FINAL-cs3

Abstract submission for both posters can be viewed by going to the Botanical Society of America website:

Baghai-Riding also served as a PLANTS Grant mentor at the Botanical Society of America conference. She was recognized as the longest serving mentor, and she has participated in this service for the past six years (

The PLANTS Grant program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Botanical Society of America and helps to bring talented and diverse undergraduates to the meeting. Two Delta State students have received this grant in past years: John Lemoine and Barbara Putnam.

This year 15 undergraduates had all of their expenses paid at the conference. Each student had to attend at least three presentations per day as well as attend various social activities and field trips. Baghai-Riding was chosen to mentor Alicia Butko for Widener University in Pennsylvania. Butko shared many of Baghai-Riding’s interests including teaching effectiveness and the use of herbarium collections and will be applying to graduate school this coming year.