Campus Update from President LaForge

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By: Delta State President William N. LaForge

Greetings Colleagues and Students!

Welcome back from Spring Break, and happy “soon-to-be” spring this week!

Thanks to our hard-working colleagues in Facilities Management and good progress with major projects, the campus is looking great.  The Quad is DSU green, flowers are popping up around campus, and we are anticipating the reopening of Zeigel Hall soon, as well as the dining hall and Statesmen Boulevard later in the year.

We are in the midst of a very good year and productive semester, with spring-to-spring enrollment numbers up eight percent, and a six percent increase in the retention of first-time, full-time freshmen.  We received the coveted designation as a “military-friendly” school, and, in the area of community outreach, we rolled out the Local Government Leadership Institute that will assist Delta municipal and county leaders in building skill sets that will enable them to run their communities more effectively.

The academy has implemented our two new requirements for all graduates — participation in upper-division courses that provide enhanced writing experiences, and the completion of a capstone project as a requirement for graduation.  This boost in academic requirements should make our graduates more prepared and competitive as they move on to jobs and/or graduate or professional schools, as well as ratchet up Delta State’s academic reputation in the eyes of the public and student prospects.  Additionally, our Student Success programs are providing superb services to our students, and making a difference in the academic progress of students across the spectrum of disciplines.

We started the month of March with the announcement of the Gertrude Ford Foundation’s $3 million pledge in support of our Center for Teaching and Learning, our internal professional development program for faculty.  Be on the lookout for more major gift announcements in the near future that will support scholarships and other vital programs on campus.

The next two weeks promise to be Delta State’s version of non-basketball “March Madness!”

On Wednesday of this week, FedEx founder and CEO, Frederick W. Smith, will be our distinguished lecturer at the spring Colloquium in Jobe Hall at 6pm.  There will be a reception for him — and you — immediately following.  He will also meet with student leaders the next morning.

On Thursday evening, the BPAC hosts the legendary Gladys Knight.  At this point, tickets may only be available from scalpers! J

Next week features the 5th annual Winning the Race Conference, and the 13th annual International Business Symposium.  I hope you will make every effort to attend both programs.

Our baseball, softball, golf, and tennis teams are all in full action, so come out to support them when you can.  And, a shout-out is due to Statesmen basketball for going to the conference championship finals, and to men’s and women’s swim-dive for their outstanding showing at the NCAA national meet last week.

We are pleased to report that we have a record number of international students enrolled — 134 — from 48 countries.  Efforts are underway to bolster our international programs abroad for students and faculty.  We have formal relationships now with universities in Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, and Korea, and a DSU delegation is in China now working with seven universities on student exchange and recruiting opportunities.

In April, look for specifics about this spring’s campus forums we will host for students, faculty, and staff, respectively.  These forums will be live opportunities to hear about and discuss current campus activities and plans for the future.  Our annual Go Green Weekend for student recruitment is slated for April 27th and 28th, and will provide an opportunity for us to welcome prospective students to campus.

In early April, we should be able to report to you the results of the current state legislative session.  We are hopeful that we will be able to secure increased operational dollars for the university, as well as bond authority to fund campus infrastructure improvements.

As we approach spring graduation on May 5th, I am pleased to announce that our commencement speaker will be Dr. Glen Jones, President of Henderson State University (Arkansas) and President of the NCAA Division II Presidents Council.  And, we will bestow an honorary doctorate on music legend Mavis Staples.

Finally, I continue to enjoy the opportunity to meet with faculty and staff through my departmental visits and periodic luncheons.  It is refreshing to learn about all of the good things our professionals on campus are doing for our students and the university.

Thanks to all of you in the Delta State family for making this university a great place to live, work, and learn.

Onward and Upward!

Very best regards,

Bill LaForge

Smith, founder of FedEx, to provide Colloquia address March 21

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The Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series continues this semester featuring Frederick W. Smith, the founder, chairman and CEO of FedEx, originally known as Federal Express.

Smith’s speech, titled “Innovation and its Importance to FedEx and the World,” will begin at 6 p.m. on March 21 in the Jobe Auditorium on campus.

Smith, a native of Marks, Mississippi, left the South in 1962 to enter the prestigious Yale University. At Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class outlining overnight delivery service in a computer information age — and thus began his early ideas for FedEx.

After graduation, Smith was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for three years (1966-1969) as a platoon leader and a forward air controller. As a Marine, Smith had the opportunity to observe the military’s logistics system firsthand. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, flying with pilots on over 200 combat missions. He was honorably discharged in 1969 with the rank of Captain, having received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

In 1970, Smith purchased the controlling interest in an aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation Sales, and by 1971, turned its focus to trading used jets. On June 18, 1971, Smith founded Federal Express with his $4 million inheritance and raised $91 million in venture capital.

With the creation of Federal Express, Smith not only offered an alternative to the mail, and more traditional and slower delivery services, but he also created an industry that almost single-handedly changed the way business was conducted. In the process, Smith’s company became the first American business to earn $10 billion in profits.

Along with his endless guidance at FedEx, Smith has served on the boards of several large public companies, as well as the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Mayo Foundation boards. He was formerly chairman of the Board of Governors for the International Air Transport Association and the U.S. Air Transport Association.

In addition, Smith is also a co-owner of the Washington Redskins National Football League team.

Delta State President William N. LaForge established the Colloquia program when taking office in 2013. The platform is an ongoing series of top-flight lectures and addresses featuring prominent speakers. William F. Winter, former Mississippi governor, was honored as the first speaker in 2013.

LaForge said the Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series is another commitment to bringing excellence to Delta State.

“The university colloquia program gives our institution a chance to hear from and engage with experts from a wide array of professions and interests,” said LaForge. “It especially allows our students and faculty to rub elbows with professionals and resources we sometimes have the rare opportunity to engage. Great universities have great programs, and this is one.”

Those unable to attend the event can view the live stream speech online through the university’s official LiveStream channel:

Learn more about the series at

University institutes campus-wide Capstone Project program

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Delta State University recently announced a new program developed through a university-wide visioning process to promote academic excellence and student success at the institution.

The initiative, called the Capstone Project, aims to increase student learning by providing a Capstone experience for every student in every degree program. Departments across campus have identified a Capstone experience for each of its major programs.

The projects provide students the formal opportunity to connect major themes from their discipline and apply them to their field of study. The desired outcome of the program is that every student will have a capstone experience in their major program to promote reflection and synthesis of key concepts within their major.

“I’m very pleased with the university’s new and revised Capstone Project requirement for every major and every graduate,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge.

LaForge said this new feature would distinguish Delta State in two major ways. First, it underscores and enhances the academic rigor and reputation of the university and its programs. Secondly, it gives Delta State graduates a competitive advantage, including the substantive experience from doing the project, in addition to what they’re able to put on their résumé and discuss in interviews.

“This should make our graduates more competitive for jobs in the marketplace, but also for positions in graduate and professional school,” added LaForge. “The Capstone requirement adds an academic ‘halo’ over our students’ performance and degree that should help them advance in their chosen careers.”

Dr. Charles McAdams, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said the program would strengthen the overall learning experience at Delta State.

“Another step in Delta State’s commitment to providing the best academic experiences possible is making sure that every degree program has a Capstone experience,” said McAdams. “Experiencing a curriculum can sometimes leave students wondering how all the information they are learning, and skills they are developing, will help them in the next phase of their professional life.”

“Capstone projects are designed to help students synthesize what they have learned to ensure they have achieved the outcomes of their degree,” added McAdams. “Many programs, such as teacher education programs, nursing and social work, have traditionally had field experiences at the end of their program. We have expanded this effort so that now every degree program has some type of Capstone experience within their curriculum.”

McAdams said not many universities have taken this extra step, but Delta State remains committed to providing the most meaningful curriculum possible.

Dr. Leslie Griffin, dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, said the projects should boost the overall academic experience for students.

“I think the saying that ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ applies here,” said Griffin. “That is, increasingly, employers and the world-at-large expect graduates to bring understanding of all the nuances of their specialization to bear on the workplace and in life experiences. Capstone courses help learners to contemplate, analyze and synthesize their learning experiences in a manner that achieves this level of understanding and operation, with an eye on outcomes.”

“In the realm of professional practice in education, counseling, and other related fields, Capstone projects ensure that learners bring the skills, knowledge and dispositions they have developed in their programs to bear on the real world through their work in the professional setting — P-12 schools, counseling centers, medical facilities, others, dependent upon the area of specialization.”

Dr. Dave Breaux, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, echoed Griffin’s praise for the initiative.

“Providing students the opportunity to engage in a Capstone experience will allow them to synthesize and integrate material encountered throughout their program of study,” said Breaux. “It should provide a platform for them to demonstrate mastery of the material within their respective disciplines, and give them a leg up on the job market.”

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University to celebrate $3 million pledge from Gertrude C. Ford Foundation

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Delta State University will host a special grant announcement ceremony in honor of The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, a longtime Delta State supporter that recently provided one of the largest gifts in the university’s history.

University supporters are welcomed to the ceremony March 1 at 2:30 p.m. on the second floor of Ewing Hall.

Gertrude Castellow Ford

The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, based in Jackson, Mississippi, recently pledged $3 million to the university to support the Center for Teaching and Learning at Delta State.

The foundation, founded in 1991 by Gertrude Castellow Ford, gives to educational and philanthropy projects primarily relating to higher education, children and youth services, and also health and human service organizations.

Thanks to the foundation’s commitment, the Center for Teaching and Learning at Delta State will be funded over the next several years. And in Ford’s honor, the center will be named the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning. The facility provides Delta State with an opportunity to support the faculty in their efforts to improve student success.

John Lewis, a board member for the foundation, said the funding would go a long way in developing quality faculty at Delta State.

“Our investment here is really on the faculty level at Delta State,” said Lewis. “We can build buildings, and we can do a lot of things — but at a school, especially Delta State, the attraction is the faculty. The faculty is what makes the school go. I, along with my fellow board members Cheryle Sims and Gayle Papa, think the individual attention to the faculty makes this a worthwhile investment for us.”

Delta State University President William N. LaForge said the foundation’s support would make a significant long-term impact at the university.

“The gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in support of our Center for Teaching and Learning is a gift that will continue giving,” said LaForge. “It has transformational value because it’s going to help support a very important function at Delta State that will affect our students, potentially forever.”

“This donation is a major statement by a major foundation, of support for and confidence in Delta State,” he added. “We are very grateful for that. They are going to see their good work in action here. The $3 million gift will serve the purpose of making sure we can continue this great program on campus.”

Dr. Gray Kane, director of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning, said the center is an essential facility to improve overall learning at Delta State.

“The Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning is a hub for faculty development at Delta State,” said Kane. “It promotes a culture of self-development, collaboration and innovation in support of student success. The center provides faculty and chairs with resources, facilitated conversations, workshops, programs, networking opportunities, and individual consultations centered on topics such as online, hybrid, and face-to-face teaching, advising, mentoring, leadership, curriculum mapping, assessment and scholarship.”

“The faculty are experts in their disciplines, but outside the College of Education, very few have studied teaching, mentoring, course design, curriculum design or other facets of their profession,” added Kane. “This gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation will fund opportunities to interconnect the faculty for knowledge transfers, collaborations, and innovations that can lead to student success both inside and beyond the classroom.”

For more information on the center, visit

To learn more about the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, visit

The public grant announcement ceremony on March 1 will celebrate one of the most significant pledges in the university’s history. Delta State supporters are welcome to the ceremony and to view The Gertrude C. Ford Center for Teaching and Learning.

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Delta State expresses grave concern for concealed carry bill

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Delta State University and institutions across Mississippi are expressing concern today after House Bill 1083, also called the “weapons bill,” was passed by the Mississippi House of Representatives by a wide margin of 80-29.

The bill proposes legally permitting concealed carry weapons onto all areas of college campuses, including classrooms, offices, residence halls and athletic venues.

In a statement released by Dr. Glenn F. Boyce, IHL commissioner, he stressed that the new legislation prohibits the IHL from establishing any policies, thus giving it no authority to regulate weapons in sensitive areas.

“The safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors on our university campuses is a top priority for the Board of Trustees and University leaders,” Boyce stated. “HB 1083 compromises our ability to protect and ensure the safety of those on our campuses because it nullifies and prohibits any policies and/or authority to designate sensitive areas of campus where weapons should not be allowed.”

Delta State University President William N. LaForge said the bill poses a significant threat to Mississippi campuses.

“A university is no place for guns — period,” said LaForge. “And that goes doubly for residence halls, classroom buildings and athletic facilities. To enable the legal carrying of guns on a university campus in today’s society is misdirected and unwise.”

Ronnie Mayers, director of athletics at Delta State, echoed LaForge’s concerns.

“Athletic events are often highly emotional events and there is always potential for something to go horribly wrong,” said Mayers. “Guns should not be allowed at any athletic events.”

Jeffrey Johns, chief of police at Delta State, also warned of the hazards associated with the bill.

“I echo the concerns of President LaForge and Commissioner Boyce about expanding concealed carry on educational property,” said Johns. “While a supporter of Second Amendment rights, I do not think that more concealed carry in sporting events or educational buildings, which is currently prohibited, provides any value or enhancement to safety. Spectator sport security has become a highly-specialized process, and fans can become emotionally charged at the events.”

Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum was among institutional leaders to also voice his concern with the bill on Wednesday by issuing a press release.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors to our campus,” Keenum said in the statement. “In recent years (the College Board) adopted policies to allow concealed weapons into ‘public’ venues on campus, but has not allowed firearms into areas determined ‘non-public’ such as classrooms and residence halls. We have great concerns about the prospect of a broad expansion of the existing IHL policies regarding firearms being brought onto campus because of the increased risk it would pose for every member of our campus community.”

HB 1083 was authored by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton.

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