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University Research Center hosts conference on solving state’s most pressing problems

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Identifying solutions to some of Mississippi’s most pressing problems was the focus of the “Advancing Mississippi: Research for a Better Mississippi for More Mississippians” Conference held last week in Jackson.

“I cannot think of a more important conference and work,” said Dr. Glenn Boyce, commissioner of Higher Education. “The key to improving a state like ours, with limited resources, is to tap into the power of synergy. Working together, we can use our university expertise and research capabilities to solve problems and advance the state.”

Hosted by the University Research Center, the conference featured some of the brightest minds in Mississippi public universities as they covered topics organized into four categories: estimations, employment, being healthy and education. The conference also addressed the systemic challenges that Mississippi faces.

“This conference brings together the best and brightest minds to bear on the systemic problems facing our state,” said Dr. Darrin Webb, state economist and director of the University Research Center. “We’re here to talk about real solutions to make a better Mississippi.”

Representative Joel Bomgar, a republican from Madison County, and Representative Kabir Karriem, a democrat from Lowndes County, presented the luncheon keynote. They discussed Mississippi’s current criminal justice system and how a bi-partisan effort to reform the system could improve outcomes for those transitioning to the workforce once their debt to society has been paid.

The papers presented included:

Estimations

Is Hinds County Mississippi Really Worse than Madison or Rankin County? A Spatial Equilibrium Approach to Ranking Quality of Life
Maury Granger and Gregory Price
Jackson State University
·        Using a spatial-equilibrium econometric approach, the authors measured local amenities, which informed them about quality-of-life. This approach provided a novel, theoretically tenable and unbiased approach to measuring amenities and gauging quality-of-life in particular locations.

The Role of Income and location in Racial/Ethnic differences on loan denial in three Mississippi Counties
Okechukwu Anyamele, Gail Fulgham and Jean-Claude Assad
Jackson State University
·        The authors investigated the racial differences in loan denial rates in three Mississippi counties within the Jackson Metro statistical area. The results showed that 31.56% of the difference in loan denial rates between whites and African Americans is explained by endowments, while 68.40% is unexplained. Similarly, 20.60% of the difference in loan denial rates between Hispanics and Whites is explained by endowments, while 79.40% is unexplained.

Estimation of the Burden of Cigarette Smoking on the State of Mississippi in 2014
Alan Barefield
Mississippi State University
·        The purpose of the research, sponsored by the Mississippi State Department of Health – Office of Tobacco Control, was to estimate the economic burden of smoking cigarettes on Mississippi’s adult population. The study estimated the total economic burden of smoking on the state to be approximately $6.8 billion with $1.5 billion allocated to direct medical costs and $5.3 billion comprising indirect costs. Also estimated were state fiscal impacts (approximately $90 million for income taxes and sales taxes) and potential wealth redistribution effects quantified by input-output analysis.

Employment

Independent Living Program (ILP) and Workforce Development for Youth Aging Out of the Mississippi Foster Care System
Shonda Lawrence and Glenda McMillan
Jackson State University
·        There are approximately 3,700 children in the foster care system in the state of Mississippi, with approximately 1,200 children who are 14 to 21 years of age and eligible for independent living services. The study looked at the Independent Living Program (ILP), which provides services that will foster self-sufficiency through employment, and at workforce development for youth aging out of the system. Some of the recommendations brought forward by the study includes early and consistent work experience for youth, a task force to examine employment trends and an oversight committee to monitor employment opportunities.

Understanding the Nature of the Teacher Shortage in Mississippi
Authors: Kenneth V. Anthony, Dana Pomykal Franz and Devon Brenner
Mississippi State University
·        The goal of the study was to understand the nature of the teacher shortage in Mississippi in order to provide policy makers with the information necessary to develop effective solutions. The authors’ findings indicate that districts with a high percentage of black students, districts located in the Yazoo-Mississippi River Delta Region, and districts that generate less money locally for education are more likely to have a teacher shortage. The factors that most influence the shortage extend outside the world of education and education policy and include people’s perceptions and ideas about race, the economics of place and what makes a place a valuable place to live, and the economic health of places. All of these problems are place-based and the solutions must be found in the places. Some of them can be addressed by education policy, but others must be addressed by the larger society. One possible solution that can be addressed within the field of education is to produce teachers who reside in the places experiencing teacher shortage and who are committed to staying.

An Exploratory Study of Effects of Workplace Variables on Organizational Commitment of Mississippi Correctional Staff
Linda Keena, Eric Lambert, Zachary Buckner, David May and Stacy Haynes
University of Mississippi
·        The study explored how different dimensions of the workplace are associated with organizational commitment among staff at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, the largest facility in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. The study found that key factors in influencing employee commitment include role clarity, input in decision-making and instrumental communication.

Being Healthy

Transforming Lives Through Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment
Authors: Laura Richard and Kathryn Rehner
University of Southern Mississippi
·        Mississippi adults and children are significantly more likely than adults in the rest of the nation to be uninsured. The E³ (Educate, Enroll, Empower) Health Initiative was a partnership between the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Social Work and local city government. The study found that the efforts of the E3 Health Initiative resulted in a 65.8% growth in Medicaid/CHIP enrollment in the targeted zip code area.

The Socio-Economic Impact of Community Development Financial Institutions on Child Health Outcomes in Mississippi
Nicholas Hill and Corey Wiggins
Jackson State University
·        Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) have an important role in providing financial products and services to underserved communities. Poverty stricken areas are plagued with significant disparities in heath due to inequities between social and economic issues. Specifically, these social determinants of health have both a direct and indirect influence on child health outcomes. This research provides an exploratory examination on what impact CDFIs have on child health outcomes in Mississippi. Utilizing probabilistic and comparative analysis for data collected at the county level in the State of Mississippi, an economic model that predicts the level of investment that maybe linked to obesity rates is developed. At the national level, it is suggested that innovative cross-sector collaborations by the community development sector showed promise in mitigating place-based disadvantage and improving the social determinants of health.

Health Insurance Influence on Obesity Rates: A Cross-Sectional Study of Mississippi’s 82 Counties
Sam Mozee, Jr. and Jin Zhang
Jackson State University
·        This study investigated whether there is a relationship between the percentage of persons not having health insurance (i.e., the un-insured) and obesity rates at the county level in Mississippi. However, the impact of higher uninsured percentages on obesity rates was statistically insignificant and very negligible for the time period under review.

Education

Sex Education in Mississippi: An Analysis of the Early Impacts of HB999
Authors: Robert D. Brown and Sara Porcheddu
University of Mississippi
·        House Bill 999 was passed during the 2011 legislative session and represents Mississippi’s first attempt to require the teaching of sex education and STD/HIV prevention in Mississippi schools. First implemented during the 2012-2013 school year, HB999 allows school districts to choose between “abstinence-only” and “abstinence-plus” approaches to adopting sex education curricula. The study provided an initial glimpse into the early impacts of HB999. The study found the Abstinence Plus CHART (Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens) program to be effective. The CHART initiative is a partnership between Mississippi First, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi.

Applied Behavior Analysis in Mississippi: New Opportunities, New Challenges, and New Solutions
Authors: Meleah Ackley, Shawn Bishop, BreAnna Newborne and James Moore
University of Southern Mississippi
·        According to the 2015 Mississippi Autism Advisory Committee Report, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) affects an estimated 10,743 children in Mississippi. ASD causes social and communication issues as well as repetitive behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, tantrum behaviors, and aggression. The authors proposed using Telehealth to provide an economic and efficient way to overcome the challenges in assessment and treatment of autism spectrum disorders in children.

Early Learning Standards
Authors: Kristin Javorsky and Candice Pittman
Mississippi State University
·        This study involved a statewide, large-scale survey of licensed early childhood care providers examining choices in implementation of Mississippi’s official Early Learning Standards (ELS) for three- and four-year-olds (preschoolers). Policy recommendations based on survey results include:

1.      Increasing awareness among childcare providers of how the Mississippi’s Early Learning Standards are beneficially aligned with existing childcare licensing requirements, Head Start framework criteria, and the Mississippi College and Career Ready Standards
2.      Expanding educational partnership efforts between private childcare centers and public school districts
3.      Increasing educational and financial opportunities that can raise the formal education levels of the early childhood care and education workforce statewide.

Financial Literacy among College Students: Comparisons by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Age, and National Norms
Authors: Thomas Taylor, John Thornell, Molly Vaughn and Nathan Pitts
Delta State University
·        The purposes of this study were twofold:
1.      To assess college student performance on a nationally recognized measure of financial literacy and compare the results for three demographic variables: race/ethnicity, gender, and age.
2.      To compare overall performance of students in this sample against national performance on the same measure.
·        The study found there is a need for financial literacy education to help students learn how to make good financial decisions.

In addition, three student papers were recognized with book scholarships:

·        First Place: “Improving Developmental Mathematics Courses: A Study of Various Methods for Replacing Developmental Mathematics Courses in Higher Education” by Aaron Lyle Wallace, Chris Kelly, Marti Pulido, Flora Sumrall and Selah Weems (Mississippi State University- Meridian Campus)
·        Second Place: “Bridging the Gap: Improving Mental Health Services for Children and Adolescents in Mississippi Schools” by Amy Henderson (University of Southern Mississippi)
·        Third Place: “Blueprint Health: A Social Solution to Obesity in the Workforce and Communities of Mississippi” by Cecilia Snyder, Molly Chaffin , Brian Street and Timothy King (University of Southern Mississippi)

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Dr. Ellen Green (left to right), Brian Barnett, Rebekah Napier-Johnson and Christine Beck recently participated in Posters in the Rotunda at the State Capitol.

Students present at Posters in the Rotunda

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Three undergraduate students recently represented Delta State in the inaugural Posters in the Rotunda event at the State Capitol in Jackson.

Students from all eight of Mississippi’s public universities shared their research and creative activities on a wide variety of topics with legislators and state leaders. The event allowed students to show how their research solves some of Mississippi’s most pressing problems and benefits the citizens of the state.

Participating Delta State students and their topics included:
– Brian Barnett of Winchester, Virginia — Blood Flow Occlusion Pressure at Rest and Post Low Load Exercise
– Christine Beck of Crystal Springs — Role of Tick Antioxidants in Rickettsia Parkeri Colonization in the Gulf
– Rebekah Napier-Johnson of Johannesburg, South Africa — The Gut Microbial Fauna of the Hardwood Stump Borer, Mallodon dasystomus (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae)

The faculty sponsor for the affair was Dr. Ellen Green.

Modeled after the Posters on the Hill event in which students from across the country share their work in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Mississippi’s event is similar to ones held in 17 other states.

Dr. Corlis Snow was recently recognized as Delta State's nominee for the IHL's 2016 Diversity Award for Excellence in honor of Black History Month.

Snow honored as diversity nominee

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The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning gathered Feb. 18 to celebrate February’s Black History Month by honoring faculty and staff from Mississippi institutions.

The board has been commemorating Black History Month since 1992 with awards that recognize the achievements of university faculty and staff who work to promote diversity and academic excellence on campuses and communities.

Dr. Corlis Snow, associate professor of elementary education at Delta State, was selected as the university’s nominee for the 2016 Diversity Award for Excellence.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the efforts I’ve made to prepare teachers to ensure diverse learners in the K-12 setting receive effective instruction,” said Snow.

Snow serves as the Delta State team leader for the state’s CEEDAR Team (Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability and Reform), an initiative to inform policies about teacher licensure processes to ensure diverse students receive instruction from qualified teachers.

Previously, she helped conceptualize, develop and implement the Literacy Enhancement Clinic, a grant-funded effort included in Project 21 of the Delta Health Initiative. The LEC was a field-based training site for graduate and undergraduate teacher education majors and dietetics majors who diagnosed and remediated literacy difficulties and provided nutrition instruction for diverse K-12 students.

Snow received her Doctor of Education degree in elementary education from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Education degree in elementary education from Delta State. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in education with an emphasis in reading from Delta State.

She is a former registered nurse with several years of practice as a home health professional, and she began her career in education as a second grade teacher at Ray Brooks School in Benoit, Mississippi.

Her research interests include early literacy instruction, remediating reading difficulties, research-based approaches for informational text instruction, teacher leadership and best practices for online instruction.

Snow’s hobbies include reading, traveling with family and fishing. She is married to Willie J. Snow, Jr. and has two children, Alexia and Aasin.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Delta State honorees at the 29th annual HEADWAE program in Jackson included student Mikel Sykes and the late Dr. Ethan Schmidt. Pictured are: (l to r) Sen. Buck Clarke, Sykes, Sen. Willie Simmons, Dr. Chuck Westmoreland and Elizabeth Schmidt.

Sykes and Schmidt honored by state

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Two Delta State honorees were recently recognized at the 29th annual HEADWAE program in Jackson.

Higher Education Appreciation Day — Working for Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) was established by legislative resolution to honor individual academic achievement and the overall contribution of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning.

The annual event honors outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities.

This year’s Delta State honorees included Mikel Sykes, a senior social science and history double major from Winona and the late Dr. Ethan Schmidt, a history professor who was the victim of a fatal shooting on Sept. 14, 2015.

Sykes is a two-term SGA student body president, former orientation leader, vice president of the IHL student body presidents council, and the recipient of the Delta State University Bobby Rowe Outstanding Leadership award.

“It is always great to be recognized for something, especially on the state level, but I have to say that the highlight of the event for me was opening up the program and seeing the picture of Dr. Ethan Schmidt,” said Sykes. “I usually don’t keep copies of programs like that, but I made an exception for this one.”

Schmidt, who taught at Delta State for two and a half years, worked as an assistant professor of American history in the Division of Social Sciences and History. On campus, he served as the director of the First Year Seminar Program and organized the university’s inaugural Native American Heritage Month celebration. He was also a member of the Delta State University Diversity Committee.

Elizabeth Schmidt, wife of Ethan, accepted the award on his behalf. Dr. Charles Westmoreland, assistant professor of history, represented the university at the ceremony.

“I was extremely humbled and honored to represent Delta State on this important occasion,” said Westmoreland. “Ethan had a profound impact on Delta State because, above all else, he loved being part of a university family. He loved teaching. He loved listening to and imparting advice to students. He loved working with colleagues to find ways to improve our academic programs and enhance student success. He loved going to campus lectures, plays and sporting events. Furthermore, as much as possible, he loved making his own family a part of this university’s culture.

“In just two short years, Dr. Ethan Schmidt left an indelible mark on Delta State and made it a better place for everyone who walks on this campus. His legacy will be felt for many, many years to come.”

Honorees began the day with a visit to the State Capitol, where they were welcomed by Governor Phil Bryant, recognized by the Senate and House of Representatives, and given a tour of the Capitol.

Click here http://www.ihl.state.ms.us/headwae/downloads/headwaehonorees2016.pdf for a list of 2015-16 HEADWAE honorees.

A delegation of Delta State students and faculty recently attended the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge at the state capital. Pictured (l to r): Dr. Billy Moore, dean of the College of Business; Sen. David Parker; Emily Riley Herrington, student; Sen. Willie Simmons; Dr. Virginia Webb, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences; Sen. Gray Tollison; Elizabeth Stitt, student; Melody Fortune; assistant professor of health care management; and Liz Quinn, student.

Delta State places third in BlueCross BlueShield competition

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Delta State University recently placed third at the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Social Business Challenge hosted at the state capital Feb. 10. The competition, in coordination with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, was open to all Mississippi public universities and addressed one of the state’s most pressing problems — obesity and related health issues.

Delta State’s team was comprised of students Emily Riley Herrington, Elizabeth Stitt, Liz Quinn, and faculty advisors Dr. Virginia Webb and Melody Fortune.

The competition platform provided each institution’s team of students the opportunity to showcase their ideas, creativity and ingenuity as they presented plans for businesses focused on reducing obesity, rather than making a profit. Formal presentations were made to judges as well as elevator pitches to Mississippi state legislators.

The Delta State team proposed LEE Activity Center, a program for kindergarten through sixth grade students that incorporates learning, eating and exercise (LEE). In the proposal, students would arrive after school, have a tasty and nutritious snack, then rotate between sessions focussing on homework, tutoring, nutrition lessons and exercise activities. Outcome measures included management of time and resources, mastery of nutrition information, and level of physical activity.

“Taking part in the competition was a lot of hard work but very rewarding in the end,” said Quinn. “It was nice to meet students from other universities in Mississippi and hear their ideas and proposals, as well as having lunch with three Mississippi senators. We hope to see nutrition education and physical activity increase in the Mississippi Delta, and hopefully this will be the healthy start to impact our community.”

Webb was thrilled with the group’s winning proposal.

“As students, the links between improving society and operating a business are not always evident. This challenge allowed the students to be creative in their approach to dealing with societal issues while working within the business environment,” said Webb. “I am very proud of our third place out of 11 competitive entries from other higher education institutions in Mississippi.”

Learn more about the annual competition at http://www.mississippi.edu/ihl/newsstory.asp?ID=1221.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.