Dominique Rashad Warren, a Delta State biology graduate in 2013, is serving in the Peace Corps in The Gambia.

Delta State grad serving in Peace Corps

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Dominique Rashad Warren, a Delta State University biology graduate in 2013, is making his mark in the world by serving in the Peace Corps. Warren has been with the organization since October of 2015.

Despite being based in a rural area of The Gambia, a small West African country, Delta State Communications and Marketing was able to communicate with the distinguished alumnus via email.

Warren will serve for 27 months as a health extension volunteer, which will allow him to provide malaria, malnutrition and sanitation education, as well as work hands-on and with the people of the country.

“I had no previous connection with The Gambia before applying, but I was interested in the health positions they had available in this country, and the culture looked very interesting,” said Warren. “I’m really glad I chose The Gambia as my first choice because this place has lots of history. Being here makes me want to know more about my family history. I feel a deep connection with this place.”

The Cleveland native first considered applying to the Peace Corps when his passion to make a global impact grew.

Dominique Rashad Warren '13.

Dominique Rashad Warren ’13

“I always wanted to travel the world, see new places and meet new people, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it,” he said. “I was very glad I stumbled across the Peace Corps website because it gave me the opportunity to combine my passions. I would be able to help people in need and explore the world at the same time, for free. I don’t think you could ever get a better deal than that.”

He has already experienced numerous life-changing moments, but his favorite thus far occurred during training in the village of Jalambere.

“My host family there was amazing,” said Warren. “Every day after language class I would walk home. As soon as the children saw me they would run full speed to the end of the road to meet me. Sometimes I would have as many as 10 kids holding each of my fingers and singing my name as we walked home. This is easily one of the best experiences of my life.”

Warren said the area is quite reminiscent of the Mississippi Delta, but pressing issues plague the region such as education, health care, infrastructure, poor water quality, and lack of electricity and air conditioning.

While at Delta State, he was known for being an active student who made an impact. He was inducted into Delta State University’s Hall of Fame in 2013, and was elected Mr. Delta State University the same year. Additionally, he served on the SGA, was a tenor in Delta Singers, was a founder of the Delta Sigma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and worked as a RA and hall director.

Dr. Ellen Green, department chair and associate professor of biology at Delta State, got to know Warren as his teacher.

“The first time I met Rashad in class, we were discussing prospecting for biofuels in various countries,” said Green. “In our very first conversation, he told me that he wanted to see the world. Rashad is a natural for the Peace Corps because he is curious, has great work ethic and amazing people skills. Coupled with his biology degree, he is well equipped to tackle the medical mission that he volunteered for as his Peace Corps service.

“Rashad was voted Mr. DSU in his senior year, in large part I think, because of his personality. He became friends with everybody. I expect him to be voted Mr. The Gambia any day now.”

Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of the Student Success Center and International Student Services, said Warren would be a strong representative for Delta State while volunteering.

“While serving with the Peace Corps, Rashad is also a cultural ambassador for DSU,” said Riddle. “People say that DSU is the best kept secret in education, and we continuously search for ways to spread the word abroad about the benefits of attending DSU.”

While Internet access is extremely hard for Warren to come by, on the rare occasion he gets online, he is blogging about his experiences. Follow Warren’s journey at

To stay updated with Delta State news and events, visit




Delta State to complete cultural exchange with Polish university

By | Faculty/Staff, International, President, Students, Uncategorized | No Comments

When President William N. LaForge took office at Delta State University in 2013, he promised to develop the university’s relationships with international institutions and provide more exchange opportunities.

These efforts continue with an upcoming cultural exchange trip available to Delta States students to visit John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) in Poland, an institution where LaForge has been a visiting professor four times in recent years. The trip is being coordinated by DSU International Student Services.

Delta State hosted a group of KUL faculty and students in October 2015, and the upcoming trip will mark the first opportunity for Delta State students to visit KUL’s campus. KUL is one of several universities abroad with which Delta State has signed a memorandum of understanding to further develop international exchanges.

LaForge said this trip would also serve as a way to build on future exchanges between both institutions.

While the exact itinerary for the two-week exchange has not been finalized, tentative plans are to visit KUL in early May following Delta State’s spring commencement ceremonies.

Students attending the trip will be selected through a competitive application process. All academic majors are eligible to apply, but preference will be given to fulltime undergraduate students interested in pursuing various aspects of law beyond graduation, such as law school, business law, international business, environmental law, etc. KUL’s law school specializes in the study of these aspects of law.

To apply, visit More requirements and trip details are explained on the application webpage.

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, will lead the group as the university’s international partnership liaison.

LaForge continues to stress the importance of partnering with institutions abroad.

“I’m thrilled that we’re sending our first delegation to KUL,” said LaForge. “This will be a great opportunity for our students to see a very different part of Europe. Our students will get a flavor for the Polish culture and KUL’s university environment.

“International travel really helps broaden an individual’s outlook and experiences not available through just a textbook or travelogue,” he added. “The international exchange experience provides a terrific opportunity for our students. Secondly — in a very practical sense — international travel, study abroad and exchange programs help set students apart in the market competition for jobs and graduate programs. It helps a potential employer or graduate school say, ‘This student is engaged and interested in the world around them.’”

That’s the highest and best use of the international exchange experience. Secondly — in a very practical sense — international travel, study abroad and exchange programs help set students apart in the market competition for jobs and graduate programs. It helps a potential employer or graduate school say, ‘This student is engaged and interested in the world around them.’”

Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of International Student Services and the Student Success Center at Delta State, added that the university will continue to strengthen ties with its partner schools.

“We are very excited to offer the Poland trip,” said Riddle. “These international partnerships offer the opportunity for our Delta State faculty and students and their faculty and students to travel, teach and study abroad through various exchange programs. It’s is a win-win for Delta State because the students traveling abroad gain a greater understanding of global issues, and it also exposes our on-campus students to other cultures.”

Along with KUL, Delta State has been developing exchange programs with Perm State University in Perm, Russia and The University of National World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria, both schools at which LaForge has taught. Delta State is also in the process of developing partnerships with two additional international universities. Follow all news at as advancements continue with these schools.

For more information on the KUL trip, visit, or contact Dr. Reza at

President William N. LaForge speaks to representatives of Perm State University at a dinner held in their honor during their weeklong visit to campus.

Perm State returns for international visit

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A delegation from Perm State University in Perm, Russia — an international partner university — will be visiting Delta State for the first week of February. The visit marks the third time Perm State has been hosted on campus to develop exchange opportunities.

The group of Perm State faculty and students will spend the week meeting with a variety of department heads to advance international exchange programs between both universities. Visiting students will also attend and observe Delta State classes.

“I’m very pleased that we’re continuing our relationship with Perm State,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “It’s a university near and dear to my heart. We’re looking forward to hosting the PSU delegation, substantively in terms of coursework and programs on campus, but also socially and culturally.

“Their faculty will meet with our counterparts on campus to explore possibilities for future exchange programs that will be beneficial for both their students and ours,” he added. “This is a great next step in our growing relationship with Perm State University.”

LaForge has a long history with Perm State, dating back to 2008 as a visiting professor in their Center for International Legal Studies program. He also returned in 2011 and 2015 as a Fulbright Fellow.

In a groundbreaking international trip for Delta State last spring, a group of Delta Music Institute students and faculty visited Perm State and took part in “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture,” a two-week exchange project that was part of the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

Learn more about “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” and explore the trip blog at

Perm State faculty member Svetlana Polyakova, also the “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” program coordinator from Perm State, will once again be leading her group of colleagues and students.

Joining Polyakova will be four Perm State graduate students and seven faculty members from four different departments.

“The main purpose of the visit is to take our partnership to the next level and develop further collaboration between the departments at Perm State University and Delta State University,” said Polyakova. “We hope to gain new cross-cultural knowledge and experience, understanding of the Mississippi Delta, and establish solid academic contacts for our colleagues from other departments.”

The Perm State delegation will also provide lectures to Delta State students and faculty to discuss the possibilities of mutual research projects in psychology, biology, linguistics, sociology, arts and economics. Grant opportunities for academic exchanges for both students and faculty will also be an area of focus.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing our great DSU friends and meeting new ones,” added Polyakova. “We hope to have a look at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi that will open in March.”

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, will help guide the group on campus as the university’s international partnership liaison.

“Delta State and the Mississippi Delta in general are very localized, so hosting the Perm State group will bring us a lot of diversity in terms of cultural and academic exchange,” said Reza. “We, especially our students and teachers, will gain a lot of new ideas — as well as local community members.”

Follow all news at as developments continue with international partner universities.


DMI students to present on Russia exchange

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Delta Music Institute, International | No Comments

Join the Delta Music Institute and Quality Enhancement Plan for a public event Wednesday night with a discussion about the DMI’s groundbreaking international exchange in Russia last May and June.

The event, “You Can Get There From Here,” is free and open to the public Oct. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in DMI Studio A on the campus of Delta State.

DMI students, and participating faculty and staff, will share stories, music and photography from their exchange trip to Perm State University and Moscow.

The trip, “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” utilized music as a universal language to explore the cultures, histories and heritages of the Mississippi Delta and Perm Krai regions, both situated along historic rivers.

The program was backed by the U.S. Department of State and allowed students and faculty from Perm State to visit Delta State in 2014.

“Most of our students are from small towns in a largely rural state,” said Tricia Walker, DMI director. “Traveling to another country and interacting with the culture there offered a unique way for our students to broaden their perspective on the world outside of Delta State and Mississippi.”

Walker added that the event would shed light on international exchange opportunities available at Delta State.

“I hope our students will come to the presentation to see what is possible for them through international travel opportunities,” she said. “They can ‘get there from here.’ In addition, the students and community will be treated to some music created by Delta State and Perm State students, as well as some stunning photography of the Perm Krai region by university photographer Rory Doyle.”

Learn more about the group’s trip to Russia at

President William N. LaForge (right) recently met with Dr. Rodolfo Alarcón Ortiz, Minister of Higher Education in Cuba, as part of an American delegation discussing future partnerships and exchanges with Cuban institutions of higher education.

LaForge among first to meet with higher education leaders in Cuba

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge recently traveled to Cuba to participate in groundbreaking relationship-building with higher education leaders in Cuba. For the first time since America’s diplomatic reset with Cuba last December, a delegation of university presidents, including LaForge, visited the island nation.

“On the heels of President Barack Obama’s recent efforts to reopen negotiations and diplomatic relations with Cuba, Delta State was one of 17 American universities, and the only Mississippi university, to participate in this effort to strengthen relations with Cuba,” said LaForge.

The trip was made possible by the annual Presidential Mission led by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Each year, the AASCU organizes a Presidential Mission to a country or region where member presidents and chancellors have opportunities to explore potential linkages with institutions of higher education.

“The second part of this story is that we concluded our meetings with the signing of an agreement between AASCU and the higher education community of Cuba, laying out a format going forward related to program collaboration and student exchanges,” added LaForge. “This is a huge step. Higher education is one of the first industries in the nation to get its nose under the tent, even before full diplomatic relations are restored.”

With the agreement, Delta State, along with the other institutions represented during the weeklong session, will have the opportunity to form international exchanges for students and faculty, both in Cuba and in the U.S. The door has now been opened programmatically.

President LaForge said multiple schools in Cuba showed interest in Delta State’s academic opportunities, particularly in the areas of entertainment industry studies, geospatial information technologies, nursing and aviation.

“This gives us an opportunity to broaden relationships across the academy overall, and more specifically, for our students and faculty to go there, and for them to come here,” said LaForge. “In many respects, Cuba is kind of the last frontier. It’s exciting that when the cloud is finally lifted, we will be among those first in line.”

The American delegation met with a network of 34 Cuban rectors (university presidents) — including the likes of the University of Havana, Medical University of Havana, Polytechnic University and the University of Information Sciences — to discuss potential partnerships.

Discussions also included Cuba’s minister of higher education, director of international relations, and deputy minister of health and welfare.

Additionally, participants toured the local area and met with artists and musicians. LaForge said Cuba is very musically oriented, and they showed great interest in Delta State’s departments of music and art, Delta Music Institute, Bologna Performing Arts Center, and the university’s connections to GRAMMY Museum Mississippi.

Attending the program was another step in international relationship building for Delta State, something LaForge has promised will be at the forefront of his agenda.

“Delta State has a role to play in international relations — and this is a great example of that,” said LaForge. “We’re encouraging our students to learn about a global economy. Here we have an opportunity to deal with cutting-edge international changes.”

LaForge added that once the embargo is officially lifted, Cuba would continue to undergo major developments.


LaForge’s 1957 Simca taxi ride.

“Old Cuba will morph quickly once the economic embargo has been lifted,” he said. “Stories abound regarding the plight of Cubans from top professionals to those barely able to cobble together a living under the socialistic regime. On a trip across the city one evening, my cab driver revealed that he quit his job as a cardiologist two years ago because he couldn’t earn enough to support his family. He was making roughly $57 a month as a heart surgeon. My round-trip fare in his 1957 French-made, restored, spit-shined Simca was about $46 — the same as the monthly wage of a typical university professor in Cuba.”

Arlene Jackson, associate vice president for Global Initiatives with AASCU, was pleased with the progress made by the American and Cuban leaders.

“In many ways this was a challenging mission,” said Jackson. “However, being the first university presidential delegation to go to Cuba — after the resumption of diplomatic relations — will allow us to begin to implement mutually beneficial academic opportunities. More specifically, we will be positioned to increase student mobility, expand professional development for faculty and promote joint research for both U.S. and Cuban students and faculty.”

AASCU represents more than 400 public state colleges and universities in the U.S. and works as a transformative influence in American public higher education through advocacy, leadership and service.

Learn more about the AASCU at