Laura Howell, executive director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center on the campus of Delta State, recently attended the Emerging Leadership Institute conference.

Howell attends NYC arts conference

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Laura Howell, executive director of the Bologna Performing Arts Center on the campus of Delta State, recently took part in an intensive leadership seminar in New York City.

The Emerging Leadership Institute, held Jan. 10-14, provided Howell the opportunity to engage in professional networking, exchange ideas in a confidential environment and reflect on her role with the BPAC.

The ELI conference is specifically designed for arts professionals, including presenters, managers, artists, agents, artistic company managing directors, marketing directors, arts council personnel and other related positions in the performing arts industry.

The seminar operates under the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, an organization that the BPAC is a part of.

“It was a valuable series of different sessions that focused on leadership styles and how to create your own toolbox of leadership skills,” said Howell. “It was also a great networking opportunity with other professionals in similar positions across the country.”

Howell said the conference allowed her to reflect on her role as executive director, as well as the BPAC’s impact on campus, the community and across the region.

To learn more about the impressive opportunities at the Bologna Performing Arts Center, visit

Employee of the Month winners for 2013 honored at the Staff Council luncheon included: (front, l to r) Officer Donald Bradshaw, July; Laura Walker, October; Dianne Serio, April; De’Andrea Eason, November; (back): Michael Kemp, May; Kirk Mansell, March; Chris Gaines, February; Gloria Hudson, September; Patsy Burchfield, December; and Justin Chandler, August. Not pictured include: Kimberly Cooley, January; and Lee Rowland, June.

Staff Council hosts Employee of the Month luncheon

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The Staff Council Incentives and Recognition Committee hosted a successful luncheon today to honor the Employee of the Month (EOM) recipients for 2013. The annual event takes place each January in the Simmons Room of the Hugh Ellis Walker Alumni-Foundation House.

The Staff Council of Delta State University takes great pride in recognizing the exceptional service among its staff, and the EOM program continues to see growth thanks to the support of the campus community.

EOM distinction is given to a staff member who has provided service that is considered over and beyond those duties outlined in his or her job description. Nominations are submitted by colleagues on campus.

2013 winners include: Kimberly Cooley, January; Chris Gaines, February; Kirk Mansell, March; Dianne Serio, April; Michael Kemp, May; Lee Rowland, June; Donald Bradshaw, July; Justin Chandler, August; Gloria Hudson, September; Laura Walker, October; De’Andrea Eason, November; and Patsy Burchfield, December.

Each winner receives a plaque; monetary award; Wal-Mart gift card from the Student Government Association; an engraved insulated coffee mug; a free parking decal courtesy of the Campus Police Department; a box of treats from The Sweetery; a parking spot of their choice; two Okra gift cards (one from Athletics and one from a private donor); marquee announcement; and website recognition.

Dr. James Robinson and Bert Herbison

Dr. James Robinson, a semi-retired professor in the history department, also sends flowers to all the ladies who receive EOM recognition.

The program has developed greatly for more than a decade thanks to ongoing financial donations from Robinson. Through his support, the luncheon is made possible each year.

Robinson, who graduated from Delta State in 1966, never stops brainstorming ways to give back to his beloved university.

“The program was already in place when I first donated, but it was something I wanted to contribute to as a way to say thanks to all the wonderful people we have at Delta State,” said Robinson. “I’m happy to see how much it’s grown and that the staff continue to be recognized.

“This shows that Delta State truly is a family.”

Also honored at this year’s luncheon was Bert Herbison, chair of the Incentives and Recognition Committee for the past nine years. Herbison has worked at the university for 24 years and will be retiring at the end of the year.

“The Employee of the Month program has been my ‘baby’ while at Delta State,” said Herbison. “It’s bittersweet attending my last luncheon, and I’m going to have a hard time giving it up when I retire.”

Herbison said working with Robinson to develop the program has been a true privilege.

“Words can’t describe what an honor it has been to work with a man who is so hardworking, caring and selfless when it comes to others — staff in particular,” said Herbison. “He constantly is looking for ways that we can honor our staff.”

Robinson’s support has also made other programs from the Incentives and Recognition Committee possible — such as the Smile On You award, which is a $25 gift certificate to a local restaurant that a staff member unexpectedly receives in the mail, and the “Take A Break” gift card from Aramark that can be used on campus at one of their facilities for a coffee, smoothie or snack. Quarterly birthday parties are also held for staff along with mailed birthday cards.

In October of 2013, Robin Boyles, Staff Council chair, and fellow council members attended the Mississippi Association of Staff Council Organizations meetings in Hattiesburg. Boyles quickly learned Delta State’s EOM program stands superior against the other Mississippi institutions in the Institutions of Higher Learning system.

“Meeting with other Staff Council officers affirmed for me that our Staff Council here at Delta State is an active and integral part of our campus,” said Boyles. “We clearly have the most structured and comprehensive Employee of the Month program in Mississippi and that is primarily due to the contributions of Dr. James Robinson and the dedication of Bert Herbison and the Incentives and Recognition committee.”

For an archived list of previous EOM winners, visit
Delta State’s Staff Council serves as a liaison between the administration and the staff to provide a formal process for staff to discuss issues involving university policies and procedures and to forward ideas, recommendations and opinions to the president.

Volunteers assisting the AmeriCorps*VISTA program at Delta State University's Center for Community and Economic Development helped prepare over 200 personal hygiene bags for the homeless.

Point in Time Count 2014

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The AmeriCorps*VISTA program at Delta State University’s Center for Community and Economic Development, the American Red Cross Northwest Mississippi Office, Gulf Coast Veterans Advocacy Council, Inc. and local service providers joined efforts in honor of Martin Luther King Day to prepare personal hygiene bags that will be distributed during the National Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness.

The count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities across the country to receive funding. The annual count is an important effort to make sure the voices of people experiencing homelessness in our communities are heard, and efforts are made to provide appropriate services. It also helps communities develop more effective plans and measure progress toward ending homelessness.

The VISTA program hosted a donation drive from Nov. 25, 2013 through Jan. 20, 2014 to collect items such as socks, blankets, travel size hygiene products, first-aid kits, small snacks, nabs, snack crackers, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, flash lights and coats. More than 2,300 items valued at more than $2,600 were received during the donation drive. Supporters included 11 VISTAs, three Red Cross volunteers and eight community members who were Drum Majors for Service by dedicating 118 hours sorting and preparing 202 personal hygiene bags.

The VISTA program has partnered with Ledger Parker, program director for Mississippi United To End Homelessness in Jackson and Joseph Herring with Gulf Coast Veterans Advocacy Council, Inc in Mound Bayou. These partnerships ensure the bags and other donations will be distributed to homeless veterans and homeless populations living in emergency shelters, transitional housing and domestic violence shelters.


Robert Khayat, former Chancellor of the University of Mississippi and author of  “The Education of a Lifetime," will present on Jan. 29 in the Jobe Hall Auditorium.

Khayat featured as 2014’s first Colloquia Series speaker

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The Delta State University Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series kicks off 2014 with an impressive leader — Dr. Robert Khayat, former Chancellor of the University of Mississippi.
Khayat’s speech, titled “The Education of a Lifetime,” will begin at 6 p.m. on Wed., Jan. 29 in Jobe Hall Auditorium on campus. The event will be followed with a book signing and reception.
His speech will cover topics from his recent memoir, also titled “The Education of a Lifetime,” which will be available for purchase. The book was ranked 29th on the New York Times Top 75 Best-Selling Education Books of 2013.
Those unable to attend the event can view the livestream speech online through the university’s official uStream channel:
LaForge established the Delta State University Colloquia program when taking office in 2013. The platform is an ongoing series of top-flight lectures and addresses featuring prominent speakers. Former Mississippi governor William F. Winter was honored as the first speaker.
Khayat served as the 15th chancellor of the University of Mississippi from 1995-2009. He is also a former college football all-star, an Academic All American football and baseball player, all-pro kicker for the Washington Redskins, law professor and president of the NCAA Foundation.
His memoir covers a number of topics from his noteworthy career, including the 1962 riot at Ole Miss with the admission of James Meredith. At the time, Khayat was kicking for the newly integrated Washington Redskins in the National Football League. More than 35 years later he was leading the university through its controversial association with the Confederate flag.
LaForge, now following in his footsteps as a university president, has long shared a professional friendship with Khayat. They originally met at Ole Miss during LaForge’s first year in law school.
“We’ve stayed in touch through the years and I consider him a friend, advisor and mentor,” said LaForge. “He was there to support me in my candidacy for president and has continued to support me since taking office.
“We share similar backgrounds in the areas of law and education — it’s a pleasure and honor to welcome him to Delta State. The audience will get to hear about the significance of education in Mississippi, along with other topics such as leadership and community involvement.”
Following the reception, Khayat and LaForge will be doing a little “pick up play” at the Delta Music Institute, as they both share a passion for musical performance.
Khayat will remain on campus Thursday and meet with students to speak during classes, focusing on the areas of leadership principals and networking.
LaForge said the Colloquia program is another commitment toward bringing excellence to Delta State.
“As a university, we need to make available to Delta State and the community marquee speakers from across the country and the world,” said LaForge. “Great universities have great programs, and this is another step in the right direction. This is one of the hallmark items of what we’re trying to do here.
“This is a university-wide program that will continue to bring a unique and diverse array of people — from judges, former government officials, lawyers and business people. These are all folks our students can look up to.”
Learn more about the series at

William “Bill” Beckwith is just one of the artists who will be on exhibit with the opening of Reflecting Realism at The Wright Art Center Gallery on Jan. 19.

Art gallery to showcase realism

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The Wright Art Center Gallery at Delta State University will open a new exhibition, Reflecting Realism, on Jan. 19 with a public reception for the artists from 2-4 p.m. Featured artists include sculptor William Beckwith and painters Charles Carraway, Laurin McCracken, Richard Kelso, Margaret Munz-Losch and Jerrod Partridge.
The style of Realism has remained a steady and beloved approach by many artists and patrons despite new movements in the art world at large. This is particularly true in America, which has always favored and valued Realism from the earliest days of the country. In this exhibition six artists present their individuality within the genre — some work naturalistically in painting style and subject matter, while others paint or sculpt naturalistically as the subject matter derives partially from the imagination.
William “Bill” Beckwith, a native of Taylor, Miss., began his career in sculpture by working in the studio of Leon Z. Koury in Greenville in the ’60s. He later received a BFA and MFA in sculpture from the University of Mississippi. After graduating, Beckwith opened Vulcan Studios, Mississippi’s first commercial fine arts foundry. He continues to operate his studio and also teaches sculpture at the University of Mississippi. Small, gestural female figures as allegorical references to youth will be shown in the Wright Gallery.
Terry, Miss. native Charles Carraway, chair of the Jackson State University Art Department, has exhibited his paintings in numerous venues since the early ‘80s and most recently was awarded a Visual Arts Fellowship by the Mississippi Arts Commission in 2013. Carraway’s paintings of interiors have a Vermeer mystery and sense of silence, which implies a person has just stepped away from the scene or is about to enter the space and break its tranquility.
Laurin McCracken is a realist watercolorist whose work is largely influenced by the Dutch and Flemish Still Life painters of the 16th and 17th centuries. From a training standpoint, as an architect and later as a photographer, he brings a natural inclination to detail and refinement to the subjects of his painting. Those subjects tend to be the beautiful objects life offers, such as flowers, crystal and silverware, clouds, toys or anything which attracts his eye and attention. McCracken currently lives in Ft. Worth, Texas where he maintains his art studio.
Richard Kelso, from Cleveland, lives and works in his studio in Jackson, where he has lived since 1987. He attended Delta State University and was a student of Sammy Britt. He earned a MFA in painting from the University of Mississippi and has taught at Millsaps and Meridian Community College. As many artists who practice, he keeps a regular daily schedule of painting in his Fondren studio, which results in a disciplined and extensive body of work. Represented by Fisher Gallery in Jackson, Kelso will show genre scenes and still life paintings.
Margaret Munz-Losch ‘s work reflects a deep fascination with mystery and adventure. Her vivid compositions observe complex, and sometimes uneasy, relationships between the natural world, art and identity which result often in surrealistic dreamscapes which marry the mundane and the fantastical. As an emerging artist, she exhibited her work in Los Angeles. She also became the director of a mural company during her time there before moving to Tennessee. Munz-Losch’s work has appeared in group and solo shows and most recently she was awarded winner of the No Dead Artists competition at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans.
Jerrod Partridge is a fulltime artist and drawing instructor living and working in the Fondren neighborhood of Jackson. He earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi College and a MFA from the New York Academy of Art. The majority of his work is done in oils on his own handmade paper, a process which forces him to approach the piece with more awareness and care of painting’s materiality. As the father of three young children, his focus has been on domestic scenes of familiarity which are often overlooked, like overflowing closets, dirty dishes or children playing with weapons. Painting is how Partridge finds organization and tranquility in this world. His works are intended to represent and possibly question the domestic American culture as a whole.
Reflecting Realism will be available for viewing from Jan. 19-Feb. 21. The gallery is open Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the Art Department at 662-846-4720.