Winning the Race sparks diversity dialogue

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

Delta State University, under the leadership of President William N. LaForge, continues to provide progressive opportunities for both campus and community. Most recently, the institution completed “Winning the Race: A Conference on Diversity and Community.”

The two-day program on March 18-19 featured a number of prominent speakers, including former Mississippi Governor William Winter, Congressman Bennie Thompson and Civil Rights expert John Dittmer.

The conference placed special emphasis on student-level concerns, but also offered a wide selection of sessions for all attendees — including such topics as Civil Rights history, education, religion, healthcare and multi-cultural sensitivity.

LaForge pushed for the event from the moment he took office in 2013, and he was thrilled to see a dedicated commitment from everyone who brought it to fruition.

“We’re very pleased with the speakers, the program and the format of the conference,” said LaForge. “I can tell you that the feedback at this point is very, very positive. I’m thrilled with the outcome.

“Throughout the conference we had great resources and presenters that made this all possible. The power-packed trio of John Dittmer, Gov. William Winter and Congressman Bennie Thompson was really a great trifecta.”

Student Government Association President Sydney Hodnett said the experience provided students with a unique and necessary platform for meaningful discussion.

“It was an opportunity for us to meet significant leaders who had an influence on the Civil Right movement and diversity in the Delta” said Hodnett. “Some of the panels and lectures taught students to get out of their comfort zones — which made us realize how important it is to discuss these critical topics.”

The conference also developed a presence on social media. Twitter handle @paulbabba said, “We have to teach kids it’s about the heart of the person. Not their differences.” @deltastate #WinningTheRace.

@kmday95 said, “Yes thank you @deltastate for putting on such an awesome start to an engaging conference #proudstudent.”

Panelist and local small business owner @suzettematthews quoted Congressmen Thompson, “‘There’s no substitute for talking to each other.’ @BennieGThompson. Let’s start bridging racial gaps in MS. @deltastate #diversity #equity.”

LaForge added Winning the Race should become an annual tradition to highlight race relations in the Mississippi Delta.

“We think we have a solid foundation and platform to go ahead and continue this as a program,” he said. “We will be doing the evaluation of this conference soon and we certainly hope to establish an annual event that perpetuates a very important dialogue at Delta State University and in the Delta.”

For more information on participants and events from Winning the Race, visit





International Business Symposium to feature prominent experts

By | College of Business, Community, Faculty/Staff, General, Students | No Comments

Delta State University’s College of Business proudly presents the ninth annual International Business Symposium beginning at 9 a.m. April 4 at the Jobe Hall Auditorium.

This year’s program features top-ranking international business professionals, whose knowledge and experience is renowned and spans the globe. Senior business officials will provide a unique look at trends in the business world.

“This year’s event will be amped up,” said Cooper Johnson, event coordinator and chair of Entrepreneurship in Business Technology at Delta State. “We have President LaForge helping us bring together the campus, community and guests. We are seeking to involve more than just the College of Business and showcase the excellence at Delta State.”

The symposium is sponsored by David and Sherry Abney, Delta natives who currently reside in Atlanta. Abney is the Chief Operating Officer for United Parcel Service, the world’s largest package delivery company.

As COO, he holds responsibility for UPS logistics, sustainability and engineering. In these roles, Abney directs all facets of the UPS transportation network serving more than 220 countries and territories.

A 1976 graduate, Abney studied business administration at Delta State and was named the 2007 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. To this day, he serves on the Delta State University Alumni Foundation Board of Directors.

Through UPS, he has traveled the world on business, but his Delta roots are forever ingrained.

“Sherry and I wanted to do something meaningful for the Delta. By bringing global leaders onto campus and sharing their experiences with students, I believe we’ll be able to expand Delta State students’ horizons in how they see and prepare for their futures,” Abney said in a previous Delta State interview.

Also joining Abney as a featured lecturer is William C. Bell ‘82, president and Chief Executive Officer of Casey Family Programs. The organization is the nation’s largest operating foundation, whose work is focused on safely reducing the need for foster care and building communities of hope for all of America’s children and families.

Bell has more than 30 years of experience in the human services field. Prior to becoming president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, he served as the foundation’s executive vice president for child and family services, providing strategic direction to nine field offices and leading a staff working directly with young people from the public child welfare system.

Bell was named the 2012 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year by Delta State and was inducted into its Alumni Hall of Fame and Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society.

Also presenting is Dwight C. Herlong, a 1991 graduate of Delta State’s marketing program. Herlong joined Google in 2013 and is currently responsible for global store operations and logistics. He also spent four years on the Statesmen football team and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Prior to joining Google, Herlong spent 22 years working for multiple Fortune 100 companies in the Retail Supply Chain space. These companies included Best Buy, Macy’s and T Mobile USA.

The 2014 International Business Symposium is free and open to public.

“We encourage the public to join us as we welcome these esteemed business professionals to our campus and community,” said Johnson. “There is something we can all learn from what our speakers have to offer.”

For more information, contact Johnson at 662-846-4192 or email








Greek organizations to hold suicide prevention walk

By | Community, General, Students | No Comments

The Greek organizations of Delta State University will hold the Out of Darkness Walk on April 5 to raise funds for suicide prevention at the Delta State Fitness Trail. The event is in conjunction with a campaign by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Registration begins at noon and the walk starts at 1 pm. Pre-registration is also available online at

Walk volunteer and Mental Health Needs Coordinator Katrina Taylor said, “We want to make it aware all over campus and in our community that it is okay to reach out and get help for mental illnesses and depression — that suicide should not be an option. Suicide and depression can impact everyone in some kind of way, so this walk will be an opportunity for the campus and community to come together and fight against suicide by bringing it out of the darkness and into the light.”

According to Taylor, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college age students and the elderly. On average, someone commits suicide every 17 minutes.

For more information about the event, contact student coordinator Marisa Hall at 901-335-5682 or email

For more details on suicide prevention at Delta State, visit

Congressman Thompson highlights Winning the Race

By | Bologna Performing Arts Center, Community, Faculty/Staff, General, Students | No Comments

Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson is sure to a provide a riveting speech as the highlight presenter on day two of Delta State University’s Winning the Race conference on March 19.

Introduced as a new program open to the public and titled “Winning the Race: A Conference on Diversity and Community,” the seminar will place special emphasis on student-level concerns, but will also offer a wide selection of sessions for all attendees — including such topics as Civil Rights history, education, religion, healthcare and multi-cultural sensitivity.

Thompson, a product of the Civil Rights movement, will speak at 8:30 a.m. inside the Bologna Performing Arts Center on campus.

“I am pleased by Delta State University’s efforts to promote diversity and community,” said Thompson. “This is a timely discussion, as this year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the events surrounding Freedom Summer.

“Although significant progress has been made to encourage inclusion, continuing the conversation around diversity is the only way to bring communities together to foster a better environment.”

Congressman Thompson has spent his entire life giving a voice to the voiceless. His 45 years of public service are a testament to his unwavering dedication to fulfill and exceed the expectations of the constituents of the Second Congressional District of Mississippi.

A native of rural Bolton, Miss., Thompson has always been aware of the realities that plague the South. Viewing the experiences his family endured firsthand became the catalyst for his passion to help the underserved.

During the Civil Rights era, Thompson joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and helped organize voter registration drives for African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta. Thompson then followed in the footsteps of his mother and worked as a schoolteacher. It was during this time that he began to aggressively pursue a career in politics. He is now the longest-serving African-American elected official in the state of Mississippi.

The congressman is serving his 11th term in for the state, and he is the only Democrat in the Mississippi Congressional Delegation. His voting record is indicative of his determination to be an activist for reform.

Thompson employs a progressive, yet realistic, approach to overcoming disparities while being an unabashed champion for civil rights, equal education and healthcare reform for Mississippi. To learn more about Bennie Thompson, visit

The two-day Winning the Race conference will provide an innovative academic environment focusing on race relations and diversity. For a full schedule of events, visit


Delta State University wins at AFA Awards

By | Alumni, Faculty/Staff, General | No Comments

Delta State University’s Office of Communications and Marketing brought home eight medals from the American Advertising Federation (AAF) at the Mississippi Delta/American Advertising Awards (AAA) District Seven awards ceremony in Greenville.

The AAA is the advertising industry’s largest and most representative competition, attracting over 40,000 entries every year in local AAF club competitions. The mission of the AAA competition is to recognize and reward the creative spirit of excellence in the art of advertising.

The university’s award total included one gold, six silvers and one bronze.

Special individual recognition was awarded to Delta State’s graphic designer and brand manager Laura Walker, who took home Designer of the Year.

The Office of Communications and Marketing team consists of Vice President for University Relations Michelle Roberts, coordinator Caitlyn Thompson, graphic designer and brand manager Laura Walker, news writer/photographer Rory Doyle, web designer/writer April Mondy, senior secretary Bevin Lamb, student illustrator Charles Taylor and student graphic design students Maria Alejandra Torres, Elizabeth Vaughn and Brittany Benford.

The gold was awarded for the William N. LaForge Inauguration campaign featuring integrated media. Silvers were granted for the 2013 Delta State Pig Pickin’ poster, the William N. LaForge Inauguration invitation set, awareness billboards, photOKRAphy photo campaign and “Even Turkeys Fear the Okra” advertising.

A bronze was given for the awareness billboard ads.

“The staff and students in the Communications and Marketing Office, led by coordinator Caitlyn Thompson, are a group of amazingly talented and energetic professionals,” said Roberts. “I am incredibly excited that they have received the recognition they so richly deserve. Laura Walker, the senior staff member on the team, should win ‘Designer of the Year’ at every event. She sets high standards for her work and those of her students, and she achieves them every time. I am very proud of this team.”

Delta State President William N. LaForge also praised the office for its recognition at the event.

“I am so very proud of our Communications and Marketing department for the high quality of work they do that has been rightfully recognized by their being selected as AAA award winners,” said LaForge. “To win one or two awards in various categories is an amazing feat, and our wonderfully talented staff took home eight awards as well as our graphic designer, Laura Walker, taking the top award as Designer of the Year. Like so many professionals who make the Delta State family what it is, these colleagues make us very proud.”

A special thanks is extended to Delta State’s Office of Alumni and Foundation for their support and encouragement throughout the design year.

To learn more about the AAF, visit