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2016 WTR committee group photo-1

Winning the Race returns March 27-28

By | Academics, Community, Faculty/Staff, President, Students, Winning the Race | No Comments
2017 Winning The Race Committee member include: (front, left to right) Dr. Rolando Herts, Dr. Billy Moore, Dr. Lekeitha Morris, Tricia Walker, Georgene Clarke, Jeanna Wilkes and Dr. Temika Simmons. Back (l to r): Dr. Charles Westmoreland, Dr. David Breaux, Sam Washington, Michelle Johansen and Davlon Miller. Members not pictured: Bryce Anderson, Dr. David Baylis, Dr. George Beals, Travis Calvin, Jondelyn Catlette, Dr. Edwin Craft, Dr. Ellen Green, Dr. Leslie Griffin, Matthew Harris, Dr. Garry Jennings, Elizabeth Joel, Paula Lindsey, Michael Lipford, Don Allan Mitchell, Cleveland Phinisee, Arlene Sanders, Jeremiah Smith, Dr. Myrtis Tabb (ex-officio), Jenn Keathley and Chante Willis.

Delta State University’s award-winning conference Winning the Race returns to campus for the fourth year on March 27-28.

Conference updates, registration and additional information are available at http://www.deltastate.edu/winning-the-race/.

This year’s conference, “Winning the Race: Advancing Education in the Mississippi Delta,” is presented in partnership with the Casey Family Programs and the Mississippi Humanities Council and will focus on identifying educational inequities and strengthening educational opportunities in the Mississippi Delta.

The inaugural program, spearheaded by Delta State President William N. LaForge in 2014, was designed as an innovative academic conference with a focus on engaging, promoting and rekindling conversations in hopes that Delta-area communities can move toward greater equity, forward thinking and reduced racial tensions.

“I am very much looking forward to another outstanding race relations conference, with a program I’m advised will be top flight,” said LaForge. “From the special speakers, breakout sessions and general discussion topics, this conference promises to be another great success.”

“While our conference is not conducted in reaction to anything in the current political climate, it certainly comes at an appropriate time to contribute to the national, regional and local dialogue on how we get along in society,” added LaForge.

In recognition of this work, the university received the 2014 Civil Rights and Social Justice Award accepted by LaForge at the fourth National Civil Rights Conference in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

The 2017 schedule will continue the critical dialogue about current issues related to education, social justice and community healing, while highlighting opportunities for sustained community action, awareness and mobility.

“This year’s conference will provide attendees with the tools to engage in not only the dialogue, but the work of strengthening the educational community and infrastructure in and around the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Temika M. Simmons, assistant professor of psychology and conference chair. “Unique to the 2017 platform are opportunities for professional development credits for teachers and counselors, in addition to a special workshop track for high school students — further evidence of the university’s commitment to moving the conference initiative beyond the current dialogue to tangible action and outcomes.”

Highlight speakers for the 2017 conference include Dr. Ivory Toldson, president and CEO of the Quality Education for Minorities Network, and Dr. William C. Bell, a Delta State graduate and president and CEO of Casey Family Programs.

Toldson is a professor of counseling psychology at Howard University and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Negro Education. Toldson’s previous appointments include executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and contributing education editor for The Root.

With more than 60 publications, four books, and over 150 research presentations in 36 states and numerous countries, Toldson’s work and research have focused on dismantling some of the most pervasive myths about African Americans. Instead, he highlights the talent and potential of students of color. Toldson has been featured on MSNBC, The New York Times, various radio stations, and has been dubbed one of “30 leaders in the fight for Black men,” by Newsweek Magazine. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said he is “a prolific young scholar and myth buster.”

William C. Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, is returning for another highly anticipated speech. With more than 35 years of experience in the field of human services, Bell chairs the executive team for CFP and is responsible for the vision, mission, strategies and objectives of the foundation.

Bell’s awards include Special Contribution to the Judiciary Award from the King County Washington Women Lawyers (2016), the Orgullo de la Comunidad (Pride of our Community) Award from the Coalition for Hispanic Family Services (2015), and the 2014 James A. Joseph Lecturer for The Association of Black Foundation Executives.

Additionally, he was named Delta State’s 2012 Outstanding Alumnus of the Year and was inducted into the university’s Alumni Hall of Fame and the Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society.

Bell is nationally renowned for his contributions and lifelong commitment to improving the lives of children and families, his tireless work to prevent child abuse and neglect, his fight to make the judicial system more accessible to all, and his battle to improve the lives of children in foster care.

In addition to stellar speakers, conference breakout sessions will feature topics covering social justice, civil rights and law, economic opportunities, education and community, and culture and community. These sessions will be guided by leaders from around the state and nation.

Other featured activities include poster competitions for high school and college students, and performances by the ROOTS of Sunflower County and the Delta Blues Museum Band.

The university will kick off this year’s conference with an open house on March 26 from 2-6 p.m. at the Amzie Moore House Museum and Interpretive Center located at 614 South Chrisman Avenue in Cleveland. A press conference honoring the work of Mississippi civil rights veterans will take place at the house at 3 p.m.

Conference activities will begin on campus at 8 a.m. on March 27 in the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State.

For more information, contact Simmons at tsimmons@deltastate.edu.

pres award winner

BPAC’s Highest Honor Given to Gresham, McPherson Families

By | Alumni, Bologna Performing Arts Center, General, President, Uncategorized | No Comments

The Bologna Performing Arts Center (BPAC) proudly announces that the Gresham and McPherson families of Indianola are the latest recipients of the President’s Award.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge presented the award Tuesday, Feb. 7 at a special event on the theater’s stage. The President’s Award is given in recognition of outstanding service to the BPAC.

“Since the Bologna Performing Art Center’s beginnings, the Gresham and McPherson families have been ardent supporters, as they are of so many aspects of the arts and Delta culture,” remarked LaForge. “They are shining examples of community support and engagement.”

This award is given by Delta State’s president to those who have contributed their expertise, insights and energy to promote the arts for the enrichment of the Delta in special ways. The award is the BPAC’s highest honor. Acknowledgement is made through a unique award modeled after architectural details of the BPAC façade, which are covered in gold leaf.

The Gresham and McPherson families were original supporters of the BPAC when it was first built in 1994 through state funding through the Mississippi legislature. Gresham Petroleum Company and Double Quick, Inc. provided the lead gift for the BPAC’s Recital Hall stage. Over the last 20 years, the Gresham and McPherson families have provided scholarship ticket programs for school-age students to attend matinee performances and youth scholarships for children to the Mississippi Summer Arts Institute, in addition to annual support for the facility’s programs.

A multidisciplinary facility, the BPAC presents an annual season of national and international touring productions in addition to its university commitments. To learn more about the BPAC or to get tickets to an upcoming performance, visit www.bolognapac.com or stop by the center.

Senior Tyler Sullivan will serve as a 2017 Thad Cochran Fellow.

DSU quarterback selected for prestigious Congressional Fellowship

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Delta Council, President, Students | No Comments

Delta State University Statesmen quarterback Tyler Sullivan was recently selected as a 2017 Congressional Fellow for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Sullivan, who is a biology premedical science major, will move to Washington D.C. in January and remain there through the spring semester. The program selects one Delta State student each year to serve on Cochran’s staff, with the goal of providing a better understanding of the legislative process.

“I am extremely grateful to be selected for the fellowship,” said Sullivan, a native of Louisville, Mississippi. “It’s hard to actually wrap my mind around the fact that I’ll be moving to D.C. in January to work for such a prestigious senator. The fact that Delta State and the Delta Council have chosen and trust me to be their representative for the fellowship is a very high honor.”

Sullivan said he was excited to learn how the legislative process works, having never previously delved into politics.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of seeing what I’m made of,” he added. “This is an opportunity to not only get a solid foundation in politics, but also an opportunity that will benefit me no matter what I do in the future. I want to learn what it takes to be a valuable Mississippian like Sen. Cochran is, and how to make tough decisions that will affect many people.”

Delta State has a long-running tradition of sending fellows to Washington, and Delta State President William N. LaForge served as Cochran’s chief of staff during the 1980s.

“I am thrilled that Tyler Sullivan has been chosen to be our Congressional Fellow,” said LaForge. “He is confident, capable and is the perfect candidate for this opportunity. He will be of great value to Sen. Cochran’s office while representing Delta State in grand fashion.

“It is professionally and personally gratifying to me that we continue this wonderful relationship with the senator’s office in cooperation with Delta Council and Staplcotn because of the affiliation with Sen. Cochran going back to my days as his chief of staff. Tyler will have an excellent experience there, and their office will benefit from his outstanding background at Delta State.”

Sullivan, who will graduate in December, is currently applying to medical school. He was recently named a finalist for the 2016 William V. Campbell Trophy, which is presented to the best football scholar-athlete in the country. Sullivan was one of only 12 athletes to make the final list and will travel to New York on Dec. 6 for the awards ceremony.

The fellowship program is funded through Delta State University, the Delta Council and Staplcotn. Additionally, Sullivan will receive a stipend from Cochran’s office.

The Delta Council is an area economic development organization representing the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties of Northwest Mississippi. The organization pioneers efforts to solve common problems and promote the development of the local economy. Founded in 1921, Staplcotn (Staple Cotton Cooperative Association) is the oldest and one of the largest cotton marketing cooperatives in the United States.

President’s Statement Regarding the Mississippi Flag

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Statement Regarding the Mississippi Flag

William N. LaForge, President, Delta State University

November 3, 2016

Today, I am announcing that Delta State University has lowered the flag of the State of Mississippi, and will retire it to the University Archives.

The discussion about the Mississippi flag on the Delta State campus has continued for well over a year.  The conversation increased this fall when the remaining public universities lowered their flags.

I wish to make it clear that this university is making an institutional decision on this issue because the state government has declined to change the flag.  This is a painful decision in many respects because this is a highly charged emotional issue for many people.  The University finds itself in the untenable position of making a decision that will disappoint some, no matter the outcome.  But in the absence of state action, we are making a decision that I believe is right and just on all levels.

In the spirit of open academic discussion, our various university constituencies — especially our students, faculty, and staff — have given thoughtful consideration to this issue.  As expected, there are differences of opinion and divergent viewpoints. However, my Cabinet and I have carefully weighed the input from all quarters, and it is now my responsibility to speak for the University on this matter.

The objectionable portion of the state flag — the stars and bars — presents a polarizing symbol that is a barrier to progress and improved understanding of our state, our university, and our people.  Delta State recently completed a visioning process, during which we set a course of excellence for the university’s future.  Included in our visioning principles are a number of core values that we promote and embrace, including civility, respect for all, diversity, inclusion, fairness, hospitality, and a welcoming environment that is conducive to the success of our students, faculty, and staff.  We believe that continuing to fly the state flag — with its divisive symbol that sends a confusing message, at best, and that has increasingly become a distraction to our mission — is contrary to our core values and to an accurate understanding of who we are and what we stand for as a university.

In 2015, the University announced its strong support for the adoption of a new flag by the State of Mississippi that would be a symbol of unity rather than one of divisiveness.  But, that change, unfortunately, has not occurred. So, today, I renew Delta State’s support and call for that change.

While taking the flag down is a symbolic act, its removal, nevertheless, underscores the numerous positive things we do on this campus to advance inclusiveness, fairness, and transparency in our various enterprises.

As the state’s most racially diverse university, Delta State is proud of its multicultural heritage and identity.  We are leading conversations and programs of action on the important topics of race relations, the Delta Blues, international business, educational advancement, scientific research, and community engagement — most notably through our signature conferences on those themes and through our outstanding academic programs. Those who study, teach, and work on this campus, as well as those who visit Delta State from around the country and the world — especially our record number of international students — deserve to know that our welcoming community and commitment to inclusiveness are not encumbered by an outdated symbol in the state flag.  And, after a 15-year ban by the NCAA, Delta State University deserves the opportunity to host swimming and other athletic championships that are currently not allowed because of the design of the state flag.

As a public institution of higher learning, Delta State continues to honor and respect its relationship with the people and state that support this university.  That will not change merely because we choose to join our seven sister universities in solidarity in lowering a flag that contains an antiquated symbol that is offensive to so many, and that public universities are not required by law to fly.  Delta State will demonstrate its respect for the state by continuing to inspire its students and educate new generations of thinkers and leaders who will invest in this state’s future.

I am grateful to the Delta State community for engaging in a deliberate, thoughtful, and sometimes difficult conversation about the flag.  It is now time for us to turn our full attention to the more serious matters of teaching, learning, and service at a university that is working hard to guide and educate our students, while also helping to provide vision for the future of the Mississippi Delta and our state.

In a recent court decision involving a legal challenge to the state flag, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves astutely wrote: “At times there is something noble in standing alone.  This is not one of those times.  The Confederate battle emblem has no place in shaping a New Mississippi, and is better left retired to history.”

In sum, Delta State’s decision to take down the Mississippi flag signals this university’s opposition to the design of the current flag, and sends the message to our state leadership that the time for a new, unifying state flag is long overdue. We look forward to raising a state flag that will represent the New Mississippi.  However, until that new flag becomes available, and as an added measure of respect for the state, Delta State will fly the state’s bicentennial banner that was recently unveiled by the Mississippi Economic Council.

Taking down the state flag on this campus is the right thing to do, and it is in the best interest of Delta State University because we are working to help shape the New Mississippi.

Allie Rose Parker, SGA president at Delta State, recently became the first student appointed to the board of directors for the Cleveland-Bolivar County  Chamber of Commerce.

Parker named to Chamber Board of Directors

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Allie Rose Parker, Student Government Association president at Delta State, recently became the first student member of the Board of Directors for the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce.

Parker was appointed to the position at the recommendation of Board President Heather Robinson ’01, ’03. She will begin her duties next month.

“This is a special opportunity for me because I have the chance to interact with some of the people who work so hard to make Cleveland the awesome city that it is,” said Parker. “As a student, I feel that I’ll be able to learn from these men and women and gain experiences and knowledge for the future.”

“Cleveland is a unique city because the residents here care so deeply about DSU,” she added. “With this position, I hope to involve the city even more with events happening on our campus. Community events are such a big thing in Cleveland, and with the city and Delta State working together, I think we will see some really great things accomplished.”

Chamber Executive Director Judson Thigpen ’78 said he’s thrilled to bring a student voice on board.

“We feel a strong bond with Delta State, especially with the faculty and staff, and we wanted to become more mindful of the things students would like to see,” said Thigpen ’78. “We really value Allie Rose’s input as she represents the student body, and we expect that each year the SGA president would serve this role for the Chamber.”

Dr. Vernell Bennett, Delta State’s vice president of Student Affairs, said this is the perfect opportunity for Parker to strengthen the university’s bond with the community.

“This is a great opportunity for Allie Rose and very insightful of the Chamber to include the student voice on its board,” said Bennett. “In doing so, I believe they’ll see a marked increase in DSU students being engaged in their programming and activities. I think it’s mutually beneficial because it allows both entities to capitalize off of the strengths of the other. DSU students will benefit from the Chamber’s programming, services, networking opportunities and possible merchant mentorships.”

Bennett noted that this has become a semester of firsts for Parker. She also became the first Delta State student to have voting privileges on the President’s Cabinet.

Delta State President William N. LaForge echoed Bennett’s praise for this opportunity.

“We’re very moved that the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber invited our SGA president to be on the board,” said LaForge. “Just as Allie Rose will serve on the President’s Cabinet, now the Chamber has the benefit of student input for the community. It’s a wonderful illustration of town-gown relations and the engagement of students who have very important perspectives. She will be a great member of their board.”

Follow all Delta State news at www.deltastate.edu.