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Faculty/Staff

Delta State enrollment increases over five percent

By | Academics, Admissions, Faculty/Staff, IHL, President, Students | No Comments

For the fourth year in a row, Delta State University is proud to announce an increase in university enrollment.

The preliminary numbers, as of Sept. 8, were 3,035 undergraduate students and 743 graduate students, for a total enrollment of 3,778. The increase of nearly 5.5 percent was the largest increase among the state’s eight public universities this year.

According to Delta State University President William N. LaForge, the growth is due to a number of major institutional efforts.

“I am very pleased with the increase in enrollment for the fall of 2017,” said LaForge. “Early reports indicate we are up 190 students, or nearly 5.5 percent over last year. This significant uptick represents the fourth consecutive increase, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

LaForge credited six major reasons for the enrollment increase:

  • A great team of faculty and staff across campus.
  • Smarter and more targeted recruiting in high schools and community colleges. This includes doubling community college recruiters, and increasing partnerships with high schools.
  • Improved retention rates thanks to engaged faculty and programs such as the Student Success Center and First Year Seminar.
  • Signature programs that continue to attract more students, including the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing, Delta Music Institute, Health/Physical Education/Recreation, and Aviation.
  • Doubling the number of international students in the last three years.
  • Offering a competitive tuition rate with stellar academics, including capstone projects for every major — all at an unparalleled value.

“I would be remiss not to mention that we have a welcoming student environment,” added LaForge. “Students feel very welcomed here and have the total college experience. There’s a buzz on campus, and there’s excitement all around.”

Caitlyn Thompson, director of recruiting, said recruitment efforts have focused on directly communicating with potential students.

“The recruiting staff worked very hard over this past year to reach new students, and one effort that may have contributed to the enrollment increase is the E-Communication Center that was implemented last fall,” said Thompson. “Current Delta State students contacted prospective students to speak with them about topics like campus events, scholarships, admissions deadlines, application reminders and more.”

Tricia Walker, director of the Delta Music Institute, said the DMI program has experienced significant growth over the past few years.

“The sustained growth of the DMI program brought the opportunity to add a faculty member and a studio manager to our ranks in order to better serve our students,” said Walker. “We are grateful to the administration for their support of this unique program. With an incoming class of more than 30 new students this fall, the DMI will exceed 120 majors in our entertainment industry studies program. We are packed and we like it that way.”

Tim Colbert, chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said HPER is one of the fastest growing majors.

“HPER has good degree options in multiple areas that lead not just to employment, but also sustainable careers with a chance for advancement,” said Colbert. “Our faculty understand how to relate to students on a personal level and help them to deal with their issues to become successful.”

Additionally, Delta State saw another uptick this year in the number of international students. Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of the Student Success Center and International Student Services, is proud that the university has doubled its international student body since the spring of 2013.

“We love that our international student population is growing each year,” said Riddle. “International students contribute so much to campus because of their global perspectives and diverse cultures. We welcome them to Delta State and look forward to even more international students for years to come.

Follow all Delta State news at www.deltastate.edu.

King sculpture pays heartfelt tribute to Schmidt

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

Visitors to downtown Cleveland are enjoying the recent expansion of Delta State’s Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden with five new installations along Sharpe Avenue.

One sculpture holds special meaning thanks to the creative work of recent Delta State graduate Lawson King ’17, an art major originally from Indianola.

His 8-foot steel and recycled rope sculpture “Broken Arrow” stands tall in dedication to former Delta State professor Dr. Ethan Schmidt, who fatally fell victim to gun violence in 2015.

“I dedicated the piece to him because his shooting caused me to react — caused me to respond to the traumatic experience,” said King. “The more I found out about the shooting, the more I felt connected to it.”

King found many similarities to the incident after his father was killed in a shooting at the age of three. King also taught with Schmidt’s wife at a local elementary school through his participation in the Delta Arts Alliance’s artist-in-residence program.

“It was personal for me to create this piece, but I also wanted to do it for Ethan’s wife and his kids,” said King. “I wanted to show them that I was three when my father was killed, and I think I turned out alright.”

Michael Stanley, chair of the Delta State Department of Art, was thrilled with King’s dedication, noting that he was the first student/alumni to have work displayed in the sculpture garden.

“Lawson’s piece is a very powerful tribute to Dr. Ethan Schmidt because he elegantly intertwines a number of very complicated ideas into one sculpture,” said Stanley. “The broken arrow is a symbol that represents peace and also refers to Ethan’s expertise in Native American history. It’s also a direct reaction to the events that took place the day of the shooting. Instead of using an image of violence, Lawson chose an image of peace, which is much more powerful in my opinion.”

The sculpture garden has developed into an iconic element of Delta State’s campus, and it has shown growth in recent years while expanding across the university, to the grounds of GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, and downtown Cleveland.

Judson Thigpen, executive director of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, said the sculpture garden’s development continues to forge the town-gown relationship.

“The sculptures are a continuation of the Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden at Delta State into the community,” said Thigpen. “It’s an added treasure that one of the sculptures is dedicated to the life of Ethan Schmidt and the lives he touched while here.”

Stanley agreed that the expansion of the sculpture garden strengthens the partnership between the university and the city of Cleveland.

“We cannot survive without the other, and this is a wonderful display of cooperation and a great visual reminder of this unique relationship,” he said.

Public sculpture was a big reason King pursued his art degree, as he felt public art was lacking in his hometown. The facilities in the art department make it possible for students to create large-scale public works.

King said it was an incredible honor to be selected in the first group of downtown sculptures.

“It feels like such a big accomplishment for me,” he said. “It’s awesome to be included with super talented sculptors from across the country. Just to be accepted and be among them in the first round of downtown sculptures — it means a whole lot to me.”

Learn more about the Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden at http://thesculpturegardenms.com/.

University to celebrate 92nd anniversary

By | Community, Faculty/Staff, President, Students | No Comments

All campus members, friends and supporters of Delta State University are invited to a university birthday celebration Sept. 13, as the institution marks the 92nd anniversary of its opening.

The public is encouraged to visit campus for the celebration of 92 years of excellence.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge, joined by members of the Dedicated Statesmen Association, will start the ceremony at noon at Whitfield Hall, the current home of the Delta Music Institute.

The anniversary program will focus on the decade of the 1940s, which will include a brief introduction of Governor James Whitfield, the man for whom Whitfield Hall was named. The former Mississippi leader signed the bill establishing Delta State Teachers College in 1924.

The program will highlight the historic events that took place in and around Whitfield Hall, and how its renovation has given rise to the thriving entertainment industries studies program at the DMI.

The event will conclude with a light lunch for attendees.

Dr. James Robinson, president of the DSA committee, is excited to once again celebrate the university’s founding.

“We will continue to celebrate each year with growing excitement as the 100th birthday of Delta State approaches,” said Robinson. “A yearly celebration allows us to embrace the school’s history and its bright future. Each year, the anniversary brings us closer as students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends.”

Emily Jones, university archivist, has been working closely with the DSA to bring the event together.

“We celebrate Delta State’s anniversary to pay tribute to those who have come before us, and all the great Statesmen and Lady Statesmen yet to come,” said Jones. “As an archivist, it brings me great honor to help highlight our history. We look forward to shining light on the ‘40s and former Governor Whitfield.”

The Delta State Wind Ensemble will join the program again this year, performing a selection of the green and white’s most popular tunes.

Stay up to date on all university events and activities at http://www.deltastate.edu.

DSU Geospatial Information Technologies Center responds to Hurricane Harvey

By | Academics, Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies, Faculty/Staff, Students | No Comments

The Delta State Geospatial Information Technologies Center (GIT) produced detailed United States National Grid maps of the areas most affected by Hurricane Harvey this week.

These maps will help emergency responders make the most of their resources to assist communities hit hardest by Harvey and the record rainfall and flooding that the hurricane generated.

A small team of GIT students and other experts worked through the night of August 28 to produce the hundreds of maps needed by emergency responders on the ground around Houston. Most of these maps needed accurate and detailed annotation to show the location of critical infrastructure, provide points of reference to the responders on the ground, and the location of other features that allow the rescue work to go on in a safe, secure way.

The entire package of maps and information was produced and delivered in less than 24 hours.

“The GIT center is often asked to support natural disaster relief efforts. This is part of our continuing work with first responders such as fire and police departments,” said Talbot Brooks, GIT Center director. “Floods, earthquakes, epidemics and other disasters require immediate mapping support to help responders use their limited resources to best meet the most critical needs.”

Brooks said the mapping experience was very valuable to students in the GIT program.

“This mapping project gives us a chance to make a contribution to a real world problem,” said Tanner Overcash, senior GIT major and Marine reservist. “It’s very much like the missions the Marines are called on for, responding to hurricanes and typhoons all around the world. We’re excited to get to work on something that really matters. Hopefully, we helped make things better for the people who are suffering from Harvey.”

Brooks added it was another opportunity for Delta State students to experience the application of GIT to real world problems.

“We take a great deal of pride in producing map products like this database — something that makes a real difference in how we handle disasters like Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “Our students make a real and immediate difference when we get the opportunity to work on projects like this. The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well in the state of Mississippi. As volunteers, they were able to truly make a difference in the lives of their neighbors by bringing this technology to their search and rescue, damage assessment, and similar efforts. I’m honored to be associated with such a wonderful group of people.”

Learn more about opportunities at Delta State’s Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies at http://www.deltastate.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/center-for-interdisciplinary-geospatial-information-technologies/.

The mission of the center is to provide geospatial services, accessible education and training, and institutional knowledge for geospatial information technologies to the widest possible audience, and particularly, the mid-Delta region.

Penton awarded NASA-supported fellowship

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Katie Penton, a graduate student in the Master of Science in Natural Sciences program at Delta State, was recently awarded the prestigious Mississippi Space Grant Consortium Graduate Research Fellowship, an opportunity coordinated by the Mississippi Research Consortium and supported by NASA.

The consortium’s mission is to enhance and support aerospace science and technology efforts and activities in Mississippi, as well as promote a strong science, mathematics and technology base at pre-college, undergraduate and graduate levels in the region’s educational institutions.

Penton, a native of Southaven, said she was thrilled to receive the fellowship. She has been working closely with Dr. Sharon Hamilton, professor of chemistry at Delta State, while researching polymer chemistry.

The fellowship is for the 2017-18 academic year in the amount of $20,000.

Penton’s fellowship will focus on two aspects — her innovative research at Delta State, and her K-12 STEM education outreach plan to visit Mississippi Delta schools and share demonstrations of science, particularly chemistry demonstrations. She will also work with local teachers to reinforce the subjects they are teaching within her lessons.

“I am very grateful to be one of only eight recipients of this fellowship throughout the state,” said Penton. “In my proposal, I stressed how underrepresented the STEM fields are in the Delta, and given the opportunity, I wished to go into local schools to introduce and hopefully inspire students to pursue this area of study. I first got really invested in chemistry in high school, and I would love to ignite that spark in someone here in Cleveland.”

Hamilton said Penton is particularly worthy of the fellowship.

“Katie is an extremely hard worker who has significantly contributed to the Department of Chemistry and Physics at Delta State,” said Hamilton. “The chemistry faculty at DSU are always looking for ways to improve our majors’ education —whether that be through exposing them to summer research experiences, bringing in speakers to the department, or helping them find ways to fund their research.”

“Katie’s fellowship signifies that the research being done at Delta State is and can be just as significant as the quality of research being done at the larger schools in the state,” added Hamilton.

Her work with Hamilton has concentrated on developing a drug-loaded fiber mat that can be used in wound healing applications.

“Katie’s research in my lab has focused on developing wound healing materials,” said Hamilton. “Think of it as creating bandages that can help you heal more effectively. This is an area of great interest to NASA. Our efforts address NASA’s need for medical treatments that will allow space flight illnesses, particularly smaller wounds, to be treated with a minimum of infrastructure support and to keep crew members in good health.”

Penton’s lab research continued through the summer break, while at the same time, she mentored a student from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. She also presented the results of her research at the 2017 Summer Student Science Symposium sponsored by the Mississippi Academy of Sciences, and the MS INBRE Symposium.

Learn more about Department of Chemistry and Physics at Delta State at http://www.deltastate.edu/artsandsciences/chemistry-and-physics.