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Faculty/Staff

LaForge outlines bright future at convocation

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge delivered his State of the University address Thursday during opening convocation ceremonies at the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

The address was titled “With Gratitude” and began with a thank you to faculty and staff for their continued efforts at the start of Delta State’s 93rd academic year.

“I am pleased to report that the current state of the university is positive, stable and advancing, and I am optimistic about a bright future,” said LaForge.

President LaForge said the university remains positive thanks to Delta State’s stellar people and programs.

“We embrace and promote core values such as individual worth, a healthy life style, hospitality, a strong work ethic, cultural enrichment, civility and respect for all, loyalty, ethical conduct, and accountability in all we do — for which I am profoundly grateful,” he said.

“We certainly have serious challenges, especially budget related, but we can rightfully commence our new academic year with the confidence that the ship is upright and moving in the right direction — combined with a dose of caution about the budget situation.”

LaForge was referencing major state budget cuts that have trimmed institutional funds by approximately $2.2 million in the last fiscal year. Despite these cuts, the president said the university is stable thanks to a recent recovery from years of eroding enrollment and financial woes.

According to LaForge, Delta State is advancing in response to a slate of new and bigger opportunities available on campus. Among those, he cited the remodeled Wiley Planetarium, the creation of the Dave Heflin Outdoor Recreation Lab, a major increase in the international student body, a long list of athletic achievements, a number of facility remodeling and renovation projects, major campus conferences, and a boost to recruitment and marketing efforts.

Despite the optimism, the president asked faculty and staff to remain extra cautious of the state budget cuts.

“A sad and disappointing statistic to report is that, for the first time in history, state funding is no longer Delta State’s largest source of operating revenue,” said LaForge. “This year, we will derive less revenue from the state than from tuition. Arguably, we have crossed over from being a state-supported university to a state-assisted university.”

“I am truly grateful to everyone on campus for joining our efforts to manage our way through this challenging budget time,” he added. “We will hope for, and work toward, a better budget climate for next year — but, that outcome is largely dependent on the fiscal health of the state.”

The president and his cabinet have enacted a responsible budget process, one that remains visionary and transparent, and guides the university according to strict business and ethical principles.

Like the university community as a whole, LaForge’s optimism will guide the institutional vision in the face of challenges. Delta State will remain committed to its 10 visioning principles, which LaForge outlined at last year’s convocation.

“Why shouldn’t we engage in a sense of idealism about who and what we are at Delta State?” asked LaForge. “After all, our ideas and actions make this university what it is every day. There’s no reason why we cannot apply even better ideas and actions to remaking the reality and condition of Delta State. But we must be intentional about it. It won’t just happen. I firmly believe that there is no limit to the creativity of the human mind.”

Visit www.deltastate.edu to stay updated on university news and event coverage.

Koehler honored with retrospective exhibit

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“Ron Koehler Retrospective: 45 Years of Sculpture” opens at the Fielding Wright Art Center on Aug. 31.

 

Delta State University’s Fielding Wright Art Center opens its 2017-18 season on Aug. 31 with “Ron Koehler Retrospective: 45 Years of Sculpture,” an exhibition celebrating the career of the former Department of Art chair.

An opening reception will be held Aug. 31 from 5- 7 p.m.

Koehler taught at Delta State University for 35 years and served as chair of the department for more than a decade. He retired this summer as professor and chair emeritus.

During his long and distinguished career, Koehler participated in over 500 regional, national and international exhibitions, received countless awards, and saw his work enter the permanent collections of museums and galleries across the nation.

The retrospective offers a rare opportunity to absorb the astonishing breadth of Koehler’s artistic pursuits, the subject matter that has occupied him, and the variety of media he has employed.

Koehler said that a casual visitor to the exhibit might get the impression that the work was created by more than one artist, but what connects his wide variety of work is his interest in exploration.

“Exploration of shape, form, media, color, texture, concept and genre,” said Koehler. “Exploration of technique, movement, scale, iconography, purpose and activism. Exploration of personal goals. Exploration of time and place. Exploration of fear, and exploration of the absurd.”

His explorations of a subject matter, or the possibilities of a medium, often lead him to work in a series. Another common element in Koehler’s works is his ever-present sense of humor, as seen in the “Balanced Diet” series, which consists of an assortment of cholesterol heavy food items. Examples from his famous “Brush” series, which numbers in the hundreds, will also be included in the exhibit.

“I’m not sure if I made the choice to devote my life to creating art, or if the choice was made for me long before I was born by some cosmic combustion I was never privy to,” said Koehler, looking back on his career. “What I can say for absolute certain is that art and the creation of it has defined my life in immeasurable ways. This exhibition, I hope, will document the trip thus far.”

“Ron Koehler Retrospective: 45 Years of Sculpture” will run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 21. Koehler will generously donate all proceeds from exhibit sales to the foundation of the Salley/Koehler Community College Scholarship Fund at Delta State University.

Regular gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is closed on weekends, holidays and during semester breaks.

For more information, visit the DSU Art Department’s website at http://www.deltastate.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/art/ or contact 662-846-4720. For updates and announcements of upcoming events, follow Delta State Art Department on Facebook or join our email list.

NEH funds Delta Center’s “Most Southern” workshops for ninth year

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June 2017 NEH “Most Southern Place on Earth” scholars and Delta Center staff members Lee Aylward and Dr. Rolando Herts visit the 1927 Flood Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Scott, Mississippi.

The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced $39.3 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country. Among the projects funded is The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s “Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, Culture, and History of the Mississippi Delta.” These week-long professional development workshops attract K-12 educators from across the U.S. to Delta State University and the broader region.

NEH will award nearly $190,000 to Delta State to support the summer 2018 “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. Since 2009, NEH has awarded approximately $1.5 million to Delta State to fund the workshops.

“NEH grants ensure that Americans around the country have the opportunity to engage with our shared cultural heritage,” said Jon Parrish Peede, NEH acting chairman. “From traveling exhibitions and teacher workshops to efforts to preserve local history, these projects demonstrate the power of the humanities to build connections, stimulate discovery and contribute to vibrant communities.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, said he was thrilled to receive additional NEH support.

“We are honored and grateful to receive funding from NEH for our ‘Most Southern’ workshops,” said Herts. “The workshops have developed national ambassadors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which The Delta Center manages. Our workshop participants take what they learn about the Delta’s culture and history back to their school communities. Many of them return to the Delta as educational and cultural heritage tourists, bringing family members, friends, students and colleagues with them.”

The summer of 2018 will be the ninth year that the workshops have been offered to K-12 educators, and Herts said they are in high demand among K-12 educators nationally. The workshops have produced an active alumni network boasting over 500 members.

“Our workshops yield hundreds of applications annually for just 72 slots,” said Lee Aylward, workshop co-director. “We are so very pleased that NEH continues to support these workshops. Once again, we can provide a unique professional development opportunity for master teachers who will educate students all over the country using Mississippi Delta music, culture and history. Through these workshops, we all are making a difference in the lives of these teachers and their students.”

Herts said this was an especially competitive funding year for the workshops. The NEH suspended the Landmarks of American History funding category for the summer of 2018, and all existing Landmarks workshops, if they chose to do so, had to apply under NEH’s Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers funding category. This meant more programs across the country were competing for the same grant funds.

This round of funding, NEH’s third and last for fiscal year 2017, will support vital research, education and public programs in the humanities. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $46.1 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and local humanities councils during fiscal year 2017, including the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“The Mississippi Humanities Council congratulates The Delta Center and Delta State University on this achievement,” said executive director Stuart Rockoff. “The ‘Most Southern Place on Earth’ workshops help to raise the national profile not only of the Delta region but of the entire state of Mississippi.”

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Ownby, Westmoreland and Jones to discuss “The Mississippi Encyclopedia”

By | Academics, Archives, Community, Faculty/Staff, QEP | No Comments

The DSU Quality Enhancement Plan, the Division of Social Sciences and History, and the DSU Archives Department will present a public presentation on “The Mississippi Encyclopedia” on Aug. 31 at noon in the seminar room of the Charles W. Capps, Jr. Archives & Museum.

The presentation will provide a concise compilation of people, places and events from prehistoric times through today.

Featured speakers include: Dr. Ted Ownby, professor of history and southern studies at the University of Mississippi and director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture; Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, associate professor of history at Delta State; and Emily Jones, Delta State archivist.

The trio will discuss Ownby’s most recent publication, “The Mississippi Encyclopedia,” a large collaboration that includes over 1,600 entries, 1,451 pages, and features more than 700 scholars who wrote entries on every state county, every governor and numerous musicians, writers, artists and activists.

The work is the first encyclopedia treatment of the state since 1907.

“I was excited when Dr. Ownby reached out to me in the spring about DSU hosting this event,” said Michelle Johansen, QEP coordinator. “Our campus and community will be amazed by the breadth of this book. I’m proud of the number of current and former DSU scholars who made valuable contributions to the encyclopedia.”

The volume will appeal to anyone wanting to know more about Mississippi and the people who call it home. It will be especially helpful to students, teachers and researching scholars.

The event will be followed by a book signing and reception.

Delta State represented at Botanical Society of America conference

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Delta State University’s Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science, recently attended the annual Botanical Society of America conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Botanical Society of America is one of the world’s largest scientific societies dedicated to the study of plants and serves as an umbrella organization that covers all plant specialties including conservation and ecology, historical botany, microbiological interactions, paleobotany, physiology, teaching plant science and more.

During the conference, Baghai-Riding served as a senior mentor in the Plants Grant program that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. This year, she mentored Jocelyn Navarro, an undergraduate botany student from Connecticut College.

Baghai-Riding presented a professional poster on her research titled “Implications of a palynological sample from Bowie River.” She co-authored the research with Delta State students Kendal Davis and Raven Allison, along with Dr. Brian Axsmith from the University of Southern Alabama.

Also presented was “An elemental study of regional variation in noncommercial jams and jellies,”‘ a poster co-authored by Delta State students Callie Masterson, Raven Allison, Dana Rico, William Whittington, Breana Randle, Gregory Peacock and Dr. Chuck Smithhart, and “Stomatal density and carbon dioxide leaf peel study of four woody plant species in the Mississippi Delta,” which was co-authored by Hannah Taylor, Wilsonya Mitchell, Jon’ Ayo Farquharson and Madison Zoeller.

To learn more about the environmental science program at Delta State, email Baghai-Riding at nbaghai@deltastate.edu.