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International Conference on the Blues brings musicians, music scholars to campus

By | Delta Center, Faculty/Staff, General, Students, Uncategorized | No Comments

The Second Annual International Conference on the Blues promises to bring legendary entertainment and academics to Delta State University on Monday, Oct. 5 and Tuesday, Oct. 6, including GRAMMY award-winning Blues artist Dom Flemons, former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Dr. William Ferris, an historic statewide proclamation honoring B.B. King and a free performance from GRAMMY-nominated Blues musician Bobby Rush and Mississippi Governor’s Award-winning Blues musician James “Super Chikan” Johnson.

The conference, which is still open for registration, brings together Blues scholars, historians and fans from all over the United States in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a place known as the epicenter of Blues music and history.

Among the highlights of this year’s Blues conference:
* the bestowing of a statewide proclamation signed by all five living Mississippi governors designating B.B. King as the “Mississippi’s Secretary of State of the Blues”;
* a keynote address by Blues scholar and Southern culture historian Dr. William Ferris of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
* a master class and performance from GRAMMY winner Dom Flemons, known as the “American Songster”;
* events highlighting Blues music songwriters and performers including ‘Blues in the Round’ sponsored by Visit Mississippi;
* and “The Storytellers featuring Bobby Rush and Super Chikan: Up Close and Personal”, a free public concert sponsored by the International Delta Blues Project and the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

Visit here for a complete schedule of events, or here for a complete list of presenters.

“This year’s International Conference on the Blues represents the power of the Blues to strengthen partnerships and to engage diverse communities on local, regional, national, and global scales,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. “We appreciate the generous support of the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and other organizations that are making this conference possible, including Visit Mississippi, Entergy, Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, Bridging the Blues, Mississippi Blues Commission, BPAC, Mississippi Grounds, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, the Dockery Farms Foundation and several other sponsors and partners. Through these relationships, Delta State University is empowered to offer an unparalleled educational and cultural experience to its students, faculty, and staff, as well as Delta residents and visitors.”

The second annual conference is part of the International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and is based at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including the Delta Music Institute, the Department of Music, the Division of Languages & Literature, the Office of Institutional Grants, and Cleveland Tourism.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Either our presenters are alums of these schools, graduate students at these universities, or teach at the following institutions: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George Washington University, The University of North Texas, the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho, the University of Oregon, Indiana University, Loyola University of New Orleans, Columbus State University, the New York City Public Schools, and Perm State University in Russia.”

Flemons who is known the “American Songster,” has performed music professionally since 2005 and has played live for over one million people just within the past three years. As part of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he co-founded with Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, he has played at a variety of festivals spanning from the Newport Folk Festival to Bonnaroo, in addition to renowned venues such as the Grand Ole Opry.

Ferris, a widely recognized leader in Southern studies, African American music, and folklore, is the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the senior associate director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. He is also adjunct professor in the curriculum on folklore.

The former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Ferris has conducted thousands of interviews with musicians ranging from the famous (B.B. King) to the unrecognized (Parchman Penitentiary inmates working in the fields). He has written or edited 10 books and created 15 documentary films.

“Bill Ferris is a personal hero of mine,” said Don Allan Mitchell, interim chair of the Division of Languages & Literature and co-chair of the International Conference on the Blues. “Every Blues class I teach, I have my students read his groundbreaking Blues from the Delta book, which is an essential text for any Blues scholar or fan.”

Mitchell said the appearance by Flemons expected to be an exciting part of the conference.

“Dom Flemons is known for his work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, but he is also a walking American songbook, and his knowledge and expertise in playing the country Blues and classic Blues is phenomenal,” Mitchell said.

This year’s conference promises to build on the vision established for the event when it began last year, Mitchell added.

“We hope to establish a long-term and sustainable Blues musicology conference, and we especially want to foster the next generation of emerging scholars of the African American Blues tradition,” he said. “Yes, the Mississippi Delta has a legacy tied to the Delta Blues, but the Blues has become a world-wide music, and we want to examine all genres of the Blues and its ever-present global influence. We know that Cleveland & Delta State prides itself on hospitality, so we think we are a perfect place to host such scholarly dialogues.”

For more information, please contact Mitchell and Collins at

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 is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. For more information, visit


Young Valley set to perform next Levitt AMP Series concert

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Young Valley will perform a free concert in downtown Cleveland on Thursday, Oct. 1, at 7:30 p.m. as part of Levitt AMP Cleveland Music Series.

Young Valley will bring alternative country to downtown Cleveland. Their style has been described as “no dress up, good southern, honest music. Perfect for long roads or barbecues.”

The Young Valley concert will take place on the downtown greenspace near College Avenue. Mississippi Grounds featuring Yo Eddie’s BBQ will sell food and Delta Dairy will sell frozen treats. Concert goers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, ice chests and bug repellent. Glass bottles are not allowed. Live music will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The Levitt AMP Cleveland Music Series is supported in part by Levitt Pavilions, the national nonprofit behind the largest free outdoor concert series in America. Dedicated to strengthening the social fabric of our communities, Levitt partners with cities to transform neglected public spaces into thriving destinations through the power of free, live music.

In 2015, free Levitt concerts will take place in 16 cities across 14 states, all featuring a rich array of music genres and high caliber talent. In addition to Levitt AMP, Levitt forms the only national network of nonprofit outdoor music venues, each presenting 50+ free concerts each year. Within this region is the Levitt Shell ( in Memphis, Tennessee, with concerts taking place this May, June, July, September and October. Learn more about the Levitt locations and impact at:

The Levitt AMP Cleveland Music Series is sponsored by Delta State University and their partners: the Delta Music Institute, Delta State University Student Government Association, the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, Team Cleveland, The Grammy Museum Mississippi, Peavey, Domino’s Pizza, and the Delta Arts Alliance.

For more information about the Cleveland Amp Levitt Concerts Series, visit our website at: or call the Cleveland Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce at (662)843-2712.


Commissioner of Higher Education presents budget request on behalf of university system

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JACKSON — Focusing on the resources needed to achieve the state’s goal for higher education, Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Glenn F. Boyce presented the universities’ budget request for Fiscal Year 2017 to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee at a hearing this morning in Jackson.

As outlined in the Statewide Strategic Plan, the state’s goal for higher education is “to make available an accessible, quality public higher education at an affordable cost that prepares Mississippians to become productive, financially self-sufficient members of society while meeting the human resource needs of Mississippi and its employers, including the creation of new jobs through the commercialization of university-based research.”

“This is a good goal for higher education in Mississippi,” said Dr. Boyce. “We support this goal and are working to attain it through increasing educational attainment, supporting economic development and solving Mississippi’s most pressing problems. However, we must have the resources necessary to do the work required to achieve this goal.”

Mississippi Public Universities enroll almost 94,000 students each year and awarded more than 16,800 degrees in the most recent year. This year, fall enrollment reached its highest point in history, with 81,132 students. Universities lead more than 2,500 research projects.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center is the state’s leader in addressing Mississippi’s healthcare issues. With 2,900 students in 28 degree programs, UMMC has 28,000 inpatient admissions and more than 250,00 outpatient and emergency department visits annually. UMMC’s Telehealth program is improving rural access to healthcare by offering more than 30 medical specialties at more than 100 clinical sites.

The universities’ request included an increase of $50.1 million for faculty and staff salaries and an additional $14.2 million for student financial aid over the appropriation for Fiscal Year 2016. It also includes a request of $17 million to address facility repair and renovation needs.

“To increase educational attainment, we must attract and retain faculty and staff, maintain our infrastructure and increase accessibility,” said Dr. Boyce. “Our request is a direct reflection of this.”

Average salaries in Mississippi are 83 percent of the average salaries in other Southern Regional Education Board states.

“We can’t overstate the importance of faculty and staff on student success and research,” said Dr. Boyce. “Our faculty members serve as an inspiration to students and help them persist and graduate, our staff members provide essential services that protect student safety, help students persist, and help students find jobs after graduation. Our researchers conduct important research that helps solve Mississippi’s most pressing problems.”

The request includes $17 million to address facility needs. Universities must maintain the safe, secure and state-of-the-art facilities that students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community expect. In addition to eight main campuses, the university system includes the medical center and 12 satellite centers.

This includes more than 1,600 buildings totaling more than 32 million square feet. More than 70 percent of IHL Buildings are more than 25 years old from construction date. More than 52 percent are more than 25 years from the last major renovation.

“The facilities infrastructure goes beyond the brick and mortar one expects,” said Dr. Boyce. “Our faculty, staff and students must have the technology infrastructure necessary to have the teaching and learning opportunities they expect in the 21st century.”

The request also includes a $14.2 million increase for student financial aid funding. There are currently 29,909 students receiving financial aid at public and private universities and community colleges.

“Having wonderful faculty and great buildings and programs only helps those students who can get through the door,” said Dr. Boyce. “We are very concerned about the issue of access and are considering how this issue will look 10 to 20 years down the road. Student financial aid plays a tremendous role in enabling students to stay in school and graduate.”

Dr. Boyce noted that the Board of Trustees has lead several initiatives to keep costs down, including:
· A system-wide energy savings programs that has saved $70 million.
· A system approach to property insurance has saved $45 million.
· Textbook policies to help keep those costs down as much as possible.
· Annual reviews of all academic programs.

The Board is also exploring the possibility of implementing other cost-savings measures, including:
· Expanding the MissiON Network, the state’s high-bandwidth internet backbone for research universities, to include the regional universities.
· Establishing a system-wide Employee Assistance Program, which will allow universities to pool resources and save money.

“I know we share the goal of ensuring that every student who has the drive and desire to earn a college degree has that opportunity,” said Dr. Boyce. “It is what is right for Mississippi’s students of today and tomorrow and it is a key building block in the building the Mississippi of the future that we all want.”

Dr. Ethan Schmidt

Tributes pour in for Ethan Schmidt

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Tributes have poured in honoring the life of Ethan Schmidt, and Paulette Meikle, chair of the Delta State Social Sciences and History division, has compiled some of them for the Schmidt family and Delta State community:

“His students revered him. Student evaluations confirm success for Dr. Schmidt’s articulated goals to make the discipline of history interesting for students and to stretch their cognitive capacities by engaging them in steep critical thinking about historical facts, ideas and events, while encouraging them to question existing perspectives. There are so any wonderful student remarks about Dr. Schmidt, I had difficulty making a selection, nevertheless, see below:

One student notes: “Do not change a thing about his course, Dr. Schmidt,…. . Easily my favorite history class ever! ”

Another student notes; “I hate history but I honestly enjoyed your class, keep doing what you are doing! If it’s not broke don’t fix it! Didn’t love doing the articles but I can see their purpose.”

Other students note:

“Nothing, the course was great and the teacher was awesome. I enjoyed going to his class and his assignments did not feel like busy work, just to get a grade in he grade book. his assignments actually taught me something.”

“Dr. Schmidt is a great professor who’s lectures keep you interested on the material.”

“Extremely relatable teacher who is fun and energetic! Great speaker and easy to follow in class! I have never in my life been a fan of history classes and this class was by far my favorite history class I’ve ever taken. Dr. Schmidt made the class fun and enjoyable. I also felt like I learned a lot more than I had already known in the past. Great class and would highly recommend Dr. Schmidt to anyone!”

“I love the way we have quizzes on a few sections of material instead of tested on a whole bunch of information. Great course and I will refer this professor to anyone who takes this course.”

“Great class. Your teaching style is very helpful to me. I feel like I have actually learned something about history while enjoying myself. Your class is not the typical boring old history class.”

“He’s a very good teacher. I loved his class and actually learned the material.”

“Great Instructor! Gives clear instructions. His lectures are concise and very informative.”

“He really inspires the classroom. All of his PowerPoints bring the class to life. The material and the way he uses the lectures allows someone to see history from a new perspective, not the typical southern perspective”

“Very good instructor. Keeps lecture interesting. Very good at communicating with students. Funny
This class was very good. The teacher was nice and he explained everything I didn’t understand. If I ever need to take another history class, I will take it with him.”

“He was a great teacher and I would strongly agree on the material he taught and how he taught it.”
“Great class and a great instructor”

“He was a nice instructor and he was very easy to converse with.”

“Great Teacher”

“This course was the best history course I’ve had in my life.”

“You are a great teacher, and I really enjoyed your class. You are very knowledgeable and my only comment will be that there is always room for improvement.”

“I would definitely recommend Dr.Schmidt to others and i know that I will also try to take more courses with him as well.”

“This course has allowed me to view and analyze situation with an opened mined. Dr.Schmidt teaching styles is great it allows every student to learn history in a simpler way.”

“I was very impressed with this class and the fact I felt I could talk to the instructor without a problem.”
“He Is very enthusiastic about the course and really gets into it in some topics. I really enjoyed learning more about history than I have in the past.”

“Dr. Schmidt is my favorite instructor at DSU. I have and will again recommend him to other students. I was never a ”history person” until I took his classes. He makes the material fun as if he was talking about friends to other friends just casual conversation. And I’ve done really well in his courses so he’s doing something right!”

Dr. Schmidt’s passion for his discipline translates into prodigious energy in the classroom, which brings life to the study of history. Several students remarked that they liked his instructional energy:

“Overall, I loved this course. Schmidt is a good instructor with plenty of energy and obscure facts that make history that much more interesting……. I recommend him for any student of history.”

“I really enjoy that Dr. Schmidt’s enthusiasm and personality comes out when he teaches; it makes the learning environment much more enjoyable and effective.”

From Our President:

Ethan Schmidt was nothing less than a rock-star on this campus. When we met soon after we both arrived here in 2013, I immediately liked him. He was engaging, smart, and giving, and I knew he would have an impact on this campus. In fact, he has had an amazing impact. I have heard so many positive comments about his teaching and advising. His leadership of our First Year Seminar program was superb. At the start-up of this year’s FYS on the football field, we were together for the special welcome for our new students. I watched his glee as his program unfolded, and as our students were made to feel a part of this university. Provost McAdams and I relished the opportunity to host a book-signing for Ethan. And Ethan and Connor sat directly across the court from me at home basketball games. I observed the banter between them and was touched by his wonderful fatherly qualities. Ethan leaves a legacy that will never be forgotten. Especially by me, President LaForge

From our Provost:

Dr. Ethan Schmidt was a true rising star at Delta State University. When I first met Ethan I was impressed with his experience and passion for helping freshmen succeed on campus. When I needed a faculty member to take charge and direct the First Year Seminar program at Delta State, I knew that Ethan was the right person. Under his leadership, he rebuilt our course for new students into an academically focused experience that is making a real difference in the success of our students. I was also pleased to honor Ethan and meet his family with the book signing we sponsored in honor of the publication of his second book, Native Americans in the American Revolution. Ethan was a terrific person who positively impacted many students, faculty, and staff on our campus. He will be greatly missed, but we are better off for his being a part of our Delta State family. Dr. Charles McAdams

From Our Dean:
One of my favorite quotes regarding education is from William Butler Yeats, who once said that “education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Based on my interactions with Ethan, I can truly say that he took that quote to heart. Teaching for Ethan, was not simply a job, it was a calling. He loved lighting fires within his students by challenging them to think critically and communicate effectively. My only wish is that I would have had more time to get to know and work with him. He will be sorely missed, Dr. Dave Breaux.

From our faculty:

Dr. Schmidt was an exemplary colleague and academician, and innate leader and a committed family man. No one can fill his vacant place, his labor in love, his legacy; you made an indelible mark on us Ethan. We will always remember you, Dr. Paulette Meikle

When I first met Ethan, I knew would be a great colleague, a tremendous asset to Delta State University, and, above all, a great friend. I’m not always right but I sure hit the nail on the head with that one. Ethan said yes to our offer and became part of the DSU faculty starting in the fall of 2013. Over the past two years, Ethan Schmidt has meant so much to so many people on this campus and beyond. To his students, he was the consummate teacher. Ethan loved giving interesting lectures and thrived on engaging in stimulating discussion with his students. But teaching didn’t just take place in the classroom. I cannot imagine the number of hours he’s spent in his office talking with students about classes, campus activities, sports, their families, and their hopes and dreams for the future. He was always there for his students and they knew it. From the time he arrived on campus, he was a buzzsaw of energy. Full of great ideas, unparalleled passion, and a willingness to serve in any capacity asked of him. The best tribute we can pay to Ethan Schmidt is to go from here and see the good that is out there in each individual. See the good that exists in a world that is too often harsh, volatile, and senseless. Be a teacher, be a servant, and be a friend. Ethan Schmidt was all of those things to me and I am forever grateful. Dr. Chuck Westmoreland.

A life is certainly what appears on the page, what is heard in the classroom and how it is heard in the hallways. The life of an academic goes far beyond this as it also reflects and shares in the life of the mind and the spirit of his colleagues and students. Ethan Schmidt was at least these things and so much more. He gave his mind and his heart to the idea of a university, to his colleagues every day, and to the inspiration and memories of his students. And so it is that we will always hold Ethan as part of our lives and thoughts forever here at Delta State. Prof. Garry Jennings.

I could not have asked for a better colleague or friend, Dr. James Robinson

Ethan was an excellent colleague and an even better friend. There are no words that can adequately convey how sorry I am for your loss. My thoughts are with you all, as always. Dr. Brian Becker

I would like to say to Ethan: “over the past a few days, our brief and only conversation has been lingering in my head. Enjoy your pumpkin pie in heaven.”
To Ethan’s family: “you are not alone. We are always here for you,” Dr. Chunhui Ren

From his administrative assistant:
In a conversation I had with Dr. Schmidt last week, I was asking about the FYS he was teaching and he was telling me about his love for teaching. He said, “I love teaching. I love students. In fact, I just kept taking classes because I didn’t want to leave school. Now I get to do it everyday”. Ms. Tammy Hyche

From the University of Kansas:

Ethan was an amazing person—gifted as a teacher and historian, a loving husband and father. He was full of energy and optimism. He always brought out the best in those with whom he interacted: his fellow classmates, his students, and his professors. I was fortunate to have him as an advisee and am deeply saddened by his loss. Dr. Paul Kelton, Associate Dean for the Humanities

His Legacy:

Perhaps the most important legacy that Dr. Schmidt has left behind for the academy, not only for students and faculty here at DSU but for students and faculty elsewhere in higher education is his scholarship contribution which parallels his noteworthy teaching achievements. His single authored book entitled “Native Americans in the American Revolution: How the War Divided, Devastated, and Transformed the Early American Indian World” accrued the following positive endorsements:

“Anyone interested in the monumental impact that the Revolution had on Native Americans must start with Schmidt’s eloquent and informative synthesis . . . a much needed and excellent contribution that expands our understanding of the American Republic’s founding.”—Paul Kelton, Associate Professor of History, University of Kansas

“It has been wisely noted that the story of colonial/early America is a counterfactual construct absent key players too often missing in the narrative: Native Americans. Ethan Schmidt fills that gap with his new book, one that decidedly (and refreshingly) includes the drama’s Native American participants who affected (and were affected by) the Revolution’s challenges and opportunities—and he does so with a stylistic flair informed by a familiarity with the subject that is notable for both its breadth and depth.”—Ron McCoy, Professor of History, Oklahoma State University

“Ethan Schmidt’s Native Americans in the American Revolution will become notable as a richly rewarding, comprehensive account that knits together a massive amount of evidence and commentary on many Native peoples’ roles in these events. This work also is lucidly written and valuable for its scope (beginning with events in the 1750s) as well as its empathy for Native points of view, which often portray the revolution as a setback, not a victory. This book is at its best with original sources that illustrate the brutality of the war, as well as the betrayal of Native American allies by both sides once their military usefulness had ended and the rush of immigration exploded.”—Bruce E. Johansen, Jacob J. Isaacson University Research Professor, School of Communication and Native American Studies, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Students and professors will feast on the content of his second single authored book entitled; The Divided Dominion: Social Conflict and Indian Hatred in Early Virginia, was published in March just this year. He has several other peer reviewed publications and he has presented elements of his research on Native Americans at the community level and in professional settings. He recently delivered the 2015 Zimmerman Memorial Lecture at Emporia State University in Kansas (his Alma Mater). Dr. Schmidt’s lecture, was titled “Why Native American History Matters: The Case of the American Revolution.”

He was appointed by Provost McAdams in August 2014 to serve in a university-wide position as Director of the University’s First Year Seminar program. He is did a stellar job in this capacity. He is the founder of the DSU’s Native American Heritage Month. He was a member of the University Diversity Committee. He served on several other university and departmental committees and participated in several recruiting activities.

Dr. Schmidt was clearly an enthusiastic professor and scholar, beloved colleague and committed family man. He often articulated that he has always enjoyed being in the environment of higher education. Dr. Schmidt was an enormous asset to the Division of Social Sciences and History and to The University in general. He has left an indelible mark on the hearts of his students, colleagues and friends. He will be missed but we can take comfort in knowing that he has left a powerful and positive legacy.


Get your shoes on and help fight cancer

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Delta State University’s B.E.E.P (Breast Education & Early-detection Project) and the College of Education and Human Science’s Outdoor Recreation Program are teaming up to fight Breast Cancer with the 2nd annual Walk-A-Thon. This event will raise funds to help provide mammograms and education for women in need. So, walk or jog with us to support breast cancer education and early-detection practices. Walk as long as you can, or as long as you wish. For each completed lap, Sonic Drive-In of Cleveland, will donate 50 cents to B.E.E.P., up to $500.00. So, the more you walk, the more we earn together to fight breast cancer. Donations will also be accepted from participants.

The event will be held 3-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the Delta State Fitness Trail (on Maple Street across from the DSU Physical Plant). Registration will be held on site. For more information, contact Gail Bailey, B.E.E.P. Coordinator at 662-207-0262 or or Todd Davis, Director of Outdoor Recreation, at 662-846-4570 or