Delta State partners to present first-ever Mississippi Delta Children’s Arts & Letters festival

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 Michael Shoulders

 Rick Anderson

 Felder Rushing

It’s a memory that will stay with you forever. You will always be able to recall your little fingers hurriedly turning the pages, as your imagination builds the magnificent storyline in your head. You will never forget that triumphant slam of back cover to front cover as you successfully read your first book – with no help, just you and a hardback. That book title will forever be part of your make-up.

It is that “right of passage” memory, Delta State University, in cooperation and conjunction with the Bolivar County Literacy Council, the Bright Beginnings Foundation, the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, First Book – Mississippi Delta Advisory Board, the Roberts-LaForge Library and the Sunflower County Library System, is hoping to capitalize on in a three-day festival celebrating children’s books, authors and illustrators, Nov. 8-10.
“We want this to be a celebration of a memory that forever stays with you. Who can’t remember the first book they read,” questioned Kay Stricklin, Chair of the Mississippi Delta Children’s Arts and Letters Steering Committee. “Our committee has come together in an effort to plan an event that encourages a life-long love affair with reading, and we want to recognize those children’s authors and illustrators who have made contributions to this area.”
As such, activities are being coordinated throughout the community from Thursday through Saturday, spotlighting the children of the Delta, their books and the authors and illustrators who create them.
The author/illustrator team of Michael Shoulders and Rick Anderson, creators of “M is for Magnolia” and “1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi” along with numerous other teaching books, will be in attendance all three days, beginning Thursday. The two will be presenting master classes on campus at Delta State for education and art majors.   
The duo will then host area school children on Friday, Nov. 9 at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on the Delta State campus. Shoulders and Anderson will talk about the creative process in an interactive workshop, including how books are imagined, composed and finally appear on one’s book shelf.
Later that evening, the festivities travel south to Rosedale’s River Resort for an adult gala and awards presentation. Both Shoulders and Anderson will be recognized for their collective efforts during the festival’s inaugural Mississippi Book Award Winners presentation, as well as renowned Magnolia gardener, Felder Rushing.
Felder has authored several books for children that teach them how plants grow, how to cultivate their own food and flowers, and how to make fun things – a sunflower house, a scarecrow, colorful tile stepping stones, flower arranging in a potato, bird houses, your very own jungle, or even a worm box where worms can eat your garbage.
The Friday evening event will be a ticketed event. 
“We are using the Friday night event as both a fundraiser and equally important, a way to recognize the many volunteers that helped in putting this festival together,” Stricklin added.
The festival will culminate Saturday, Nov. 10 with a Community Book Jam at the Cleveland Depot Library from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. The book fair will be complete with “fabulous, beautiful books, authors and illustrators, story book characters that will come alive and book give-aways,” Stricklin promised.
“We hope the community will use the event as opportunity to do some Holiday shopping,” she continued. “More events and details will be coming, but we are just so excited with the progress we have made already, we wanted to get the date and information out to the public.”
Book sales from all events will benefit First Book, an international nonprofit organization with a single mission – to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.
Since its inception in 1992, First Book has distributed over 50 million new books to children in need in hundreds of communities nationwide.  For more information about First Book please visit
For more information on the Mississippi Delta Children’s Arts and Letters Festival, please contact Stricklin at (662) 846-4864 or
The Mississippi Delta Children’s Arts and Letters Festival is being sponsored in part by the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Clint and Ellen Ann Johnson Foundation, Entergy, River Resort and Delta State University.

Delta State University breaks ground for DMI Recording Studios

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A groundbreaking ceremony was held to officially mark the beginning of construction that will transform Delta State’s Whitfield Gymnasium into a state-of-the-art recording studio. Pictured are: (from left) Dick David, architect; Martin Smith of David Smith Construction; A.C. Prewitt, representing the Delta State Physical Plant; Delta State Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs & Provost, Dr. Billy Moore; Brady Smith of David Smith Construction; Delta State President, Dr. John Hilpert; Delta State’s First Lady, Pat Hilpert; Delta Music Institute Director, Tricia Walker; David Smith of David Smith Construction; Delta State Dean of Arts and Sciences, Collier Parker; and Delta State Executive Director of Alumni-Foundation, Keith Fulcher.

Members of Delta State’s administration, faculty and staff took golden shovels in hand and donned hard hats Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking for the Delta Music Institute Recording Studios on the campus of Delta State University. The studios, which will be the centerpiece of the Delta Music Institute program, will be constructed inside of the old Whitfield Gymnasium. Completion of the project is set for the spring of 2008.

Dr. John M. Hilpert, President of Delta State, offered, “These studios, housed in this historic building, will give our students an opportunity to apply their audio recording skills under the supervision of DMI faculty in a unique facility. The Delta Music Institute program also fits in nicely with our overall academic program.”
The design for the studios was drawn by veteran engineer/producer Norbert Putnam, and will consist of two main recording spaces. Studio A will serve as an orchestral studio, able to accommodate symphony orchestras, concert bands, mass choirs, and other large ensembles while Studio B will serve the recording needs of smaller ensembles or solo performers. There will also be a Studio C, which will serve as a small project lab.
DMI Director Tricia Walker indicated the studios would also serve the community, region and state. “Our plan is to open the studios up for all types of recording projects. This will give our students the opportunity to work in real-life recording sessions and will give musicians and performers an opportunity to record in a world-class facility at a fraction of the cost of a commercial studio.”
The Delta Music Institute is a first step towards a broad program in Media Arts Production. It began with a generous donation by Fred Carl of the Viking Range Corporation in 2003. The focus of the DMI is to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, business, and creative areas of the music industry.

Delta State profs form new chapter of American Association of University Professors

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Dr. Jeff Smithpeters, Dr. Mark Bonta and Dr. Garry Jennings.

Dr. Garry Jennings, professor of Political Science, has been elected President of Delta State University’s newly-formed Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Dr. Mark Bonta, assistant professor of Geography, is the newly-elected vice-president and Dr. Jeff Smithpeters, assistant professor of English, will serve as secretary.

 AAUP defends academic freedom and tenure, advocates collegial governance and develops policies ensuring due process.

 For more information, please contact Jennings at (662) 846-4107.

Delta State sets Provost Search timeline, appoints Search Committee

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The timeline is admittedly “aggressive,” Delta State University President, Dr. John M. Hilpert acknowledges, as the University officially announced this morning both its search timeline and committee to find the next Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“Our intended schedule calls for the appointment of a new Provost by Thanksgiving,” he continued. “The timing could change, of course, as the realities of the search unfold, but the determination to find the right person will not change.”

Dr. Phyllis Bunn, President of the Faculty Senate for the 2007-08 academic term and long-time College of Business professor, will chair the Search Committee. She will be joined in her work by:


  • Tracy Mims – College of Arts & Sciences
  • Dr. Rie Somlai – College of Arts & Sciences
  • Dr. Darry Hardy – College of Business
  • Dr. Jenetta Waddell – College of Education
  • Dr. Scott Hutchens – College of Education
  • Vicki Bingham – School of Nursing
  • Jeff Slagell – President’s Cabinet/Academic Council
  • Dr. Tyrone Jackson – Academic Support Staff
  • Deborah Brick – Student Government Association
  • Rori Herbison – Administrative Staff Council
  • Dr. Jackie Thigpen – Community
  • Greg Redlin – Ex-Officio (Staffing to the Committee)

The committee will hold its first meeting next week with advertisements for the position to be placed by Monday, Oct. 1. The committee will begin to review and narrow the candidate pool by Monday, Oct. 22. On-campus interviews are slated for Nov. 5 – Nov. 12, with the preferred candidate to receive an offer by Monday, Nov. 19.

“Our search will be broad-based and thorough,” Hilpert promised. “The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs is a key position for the future of Delta State University. We exist, after all, as an academic enterprise, and we must have a leader in this area who can balance effectively issues of quality, development, responsiveness to external realities and advocacy for faculty concerns.”

The Provost position was originally left vacant in March 2007 with the resignation of Dr. John Thornell. After 30-plus years of service to Delta State, Thornell accepted a similar position in North Carolina.

Delta State’s Presidential Cabinet opted to postpone a search for Thornell’s replacement until the fall semester, reasoning, “If we were to begin the search process in March, our best case scenario would have been to have final candidates on campus in May or June. That timing would have made it difficult for many of the faculty and others in our organization to participate.”

In the interim, Dr. Billy C. Moore, Dean of the College Business, is serving as Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.