College of Arts and Sciences

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

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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

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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

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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.

Dr. Bret Pimentel and Dr. Kumiko Shimizu, both associate professors in the Department of Music, present a free faculty recital on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

Pimentel and Shimizu present recital

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The Delta State University Department of Music presents Dr. Bret Pimentel and Dr. Kumiko Shimizu, both associate professors of music, in a free faculty recital on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall of the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

The program will include works for woodwind instruments and piano by Carl Maria von Weber, John Corina and John Williams.

In 2009, Pimentel joined the music faculty of Delta State, where he teaches woodwind instruments. He is at home with the classical solo repertoire of all the woodwind instruments, as well as chamber and symphonic music, jazz, rock and pop.

In addition to the major modern woodwinds, he is skilled at a number of world, historical and electronic woodwinds. Pimentel’s varied career has included performances with Dave Brubeck, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the King’s Singers, the O’Jays and more. For more information visit his website at

As a collaborative pianist, Shimizu has played for several competitions, including the National Opera Association, District Metropolitan, National Association of Teachers of Singing, Mississippi Music Teachers Association and Music Teachers National Association. In addition, she has played for several opera companies, such as Eugene Opera, Lake George Opera, Rimrock Opera and more.

Her research interests include: performance of art songs that are not commonly heard in the U.S.; collaborative teaching in the voice area; and performance of world premiere.

The recital is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Department of Music at 662-846-4615.

An exhibit by artist Shara Rowley Plough opens Thursday at the Fielding Wright Art Center on the campus of Delta State.

Art gallery opening with Shara Rowley Plough

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Delta State University’s Fielding Wright Art Center begins its 2015-16 season on Thursday with an exhibition of Shara Rowley Plough’s “Pastoral Tableau.”An opening reception will be held from 5-7 p.m.

Plough is an installation and mixed media artist who has worked in Cleveland the last couple of years. Her work investigates social inequalities and consumer culture, often utilizing the materials of consumer culture itself.

Pastoral Tableau is a commentary on the pressures to consume. Advertisements hold up impossible promises on how purchasing a vast array of products will change our lives, make us more alluring, more fulfilled or more successful, and our social status is measured not by our accomplishments, but by our ability to consume. The chase for the latest must-have consumer items is represented by a life-size hunting scene consisting of a horse, pack of hunting dogs, slain fox and a fluffle of rabbits.

Horse and fox hunts are associated with the leisure activities of the affluent, and for Plough, become the ultimate symbol of success and aspirations. On the other hand, the cruelty of the hunt also stands for the cannibalistic nature of consumption.

The entire scene was painstakingly crochet from horsehair. Plough explained that the material used is an important aspect of her message, as she was interested in the contrast between an unattractive waste material – horse hair – and the beauty of the horse which comes to symbolize the different aspects of consumption.

Plough earned an MFA from the University of Arizona. Her work has been included in the Arizona Biennial, the Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts Invitational, the Meridian Museum Bi-State Art Competition, the E. E. Bass Cultural Arts Center, and has been shown at the Art Museum at the University of Memphis. The exhibit was created with the support of a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Pastoral Tableau will run from Aug. 20-Sept. 24. Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m., and Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. The gallery is closed on weekends, holidays and during semester breaks.

For more information, visit the Department of Art’s website at, or contact 662-846-4720. For updates and announcements of upcoming events, follow the department on Facebook and join the email list.