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Delta State Radio (WDSW-LP 88.1 FM) officially launched Friday

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Delta State Radio (WDSW-LP 88.1 FM), a new low-power FM station broadcasting from the campus of Delta State University, launched Friday with the goal of providing community-targeted radio programming.

Delta State President William N. LaForge said the university is grateful for all of the private donors and the many donations of time and resources that have enabled the station to begin broadcasting.

“The Delta State University Foundation, along with friends and supporters, helped us achieve this goal by providing in-kind and private dollar contributions,” he said. “It’s all privately funded, and we hope to continue that going forward.”

As the university continues to build its reputation nationally through quality academic programs in music and culture, the station offers unique opportunities for Delta State students and the surrounding community, LaForge added.

“The radio station will give us a little pizzazz as a university and a community,” he said. “We have new opportunities to keep our constituencies apprised of events and activities. It will also give some of our students a chance to participate in the broadcast end of it. This will certainly be a nice addition to Delta State’s focus on music and culture.”

This initial launch is the result of years of planning and commitment from numerous people within the Delta State family.

Soon after becoming President, LaForge voiced his desire for a campus radio station to build and share the unique culture and diversity found at Delta State and in the Mississippi Delta as a whole, said Dr. Michelle Roberts, Chief of Staff and Vice President for University Relations.

“However, the bulk of the work has taken place in the last few months,” she added. “Delta State has many wonderful people who work tirelessly to ensure its success, and those who have been involved in getting this station up and running in such a short amount of time are to be commended. I offer special thanks to the staff in Communications and Marketing — led by Director Jennifer Farish and assisted by April Mondy and Leigh Emerson — who have coordinated this effort and worked around the clock to launch the station by Homecoming weekend, as well as Tricia Walker and her advisory committee who have been invaluable resources in this new adventure.”

Walker, executive director of the Delta Music Institute Entertainment Industry program at Delta State, has been one of the primary champions behind the station’s creation and said she has always been a fan of college/community radio and the eclectic mix of programming it offers.

In first researching the possibility of getting a station at Delta State nearly a decade ago, she and others on the Delta State staff found that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not open up frequencies very often, and when they do, the window of time to apply for a radio license is often pretty small.

So, in 2013 when the FCC announced a window of time that applications for an LPFM license would be accepted, everyone knew it was time to jump into action.

“A group of campus/community radio fans convened to discuss the possibilities,” Walker said. “In that early group were myself, Don Allan Mitchell, Karen Bell, Will Jacks, Michelle Johansen, and the late Dorothy Shawhan. Others on campus with radio ‘connections’ included Pat Webster, Matt Jones, and former Delta State professor Ron Douglas.”

The application for an LPFM construction permit was submitted to the FCC and was awarded to Delta State on January 27, 2014. Once the construction permit was issued, the station had to be on the air within 18 months or the construction permit would expire.

It was essential to enlist the help of some generous donors to meet the deadline. Research was completed for available call letters, and in the summer of 2015, the station was born through the generous donation of equipment by Delta State alumnus J. Boyd Ingram and radio station owner Larry Fuss, the support of the DSU Foundation, and the hard work of Ed Czelada and the Elijah Mondy family. Thanks to their time and support, the FCC granted the license to Delta State on July 27, 2015.

Walker said the initial launch is just a beginning point for the station, which aims to greatly expand its local programs and community involvement. Starting with a mix of music from genres including blues, classic rock and pop, the station will seek to develop a broad mix of community-oriented programs created and supported by volunteers both from the Delta State campus and the community.

“I believe we will begin to develop a great group of programmers who will put together some really interesting, relevant and entertaining programming for the campus and surrounding community,” she said. “And the original programming will be something you won’t find on other stations.”

The involvement of students and community volunteers will be essential in order for the station to achieve its mission “to engage in and celebrate the diversity of Cleveland and Delta State University through alternative, non-commercial, community-targeted radio programming and to offer broadcast learning opportunities for community members and the Delta State family,” according to the station’s website.

“We need students and citizens who enjoy being part of building something from the ground up to sign up as volunteers and programmers,” Walker said. “This is not the type of station where you have to have a particular type of ‘radio sounding’ voice. We are looking for dedicated folks who have a passion for the ‘theatre of the mind’ that is radio.”

People of all ages and backgrounds are needed for the station grow and expand in the year to come, she added.

“I really hope the campus and community will take ownership of the station in the sense of making it their own through programs that address issues important to the community as well as unique music programs,” she explained. “Civic issues, school issues, celebrations, local news … the station should be a voice for all of the community.”

For more information on Delta State Radio or to sign up as a volunteer, visit www.deltastateradio.com. The station is seeking both volunteers and donations through memberships and time. Applications are available through the station website, and anyone around the world will be able to listen to the station through a live streaming link to be available on the website by Saturday (Nov. 7).

Questions and feedback on the station should be directed to the Office of Communications and Marketing at commark@deltastate.edu.

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University to celebrate 90 years

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All friends and supporters of Delta State University are invited to a birthday celebration Nov. 3, as the university celebrates the 90th anniversary of its opening.

In 1924, two Mississippi senators introduced a bill to create Delta State Teachers College, which was signed by the governor on April 9. Just under a year later, James Wesley Broom was appointed the first president of the college, and the institution was formally opened on Sept. 15, 1925.

“Starting with just 11 faculty members and a fall enrollment of 97 students, the university has grown into a noted four-year institution that continues to educate some of the brightest students in the state,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “In addition, the university has developed into a center of excellence in areas such as business, aviation, nursing, music, entertainment industries, culture and more.”

LaForge, joined by members of the Dedicated Statesmen Association, invites everyone to attend the celebration which will get started at noon with the dedication of the newly-restored clock and Alumni Brick Plaza in front of Ward Hall.

The project is the first of 10 projects to be identified by the DSA committee, which includes both retired and current Delta State faculty and staff who have put many hours into planning the 90th celebration events.

The dedication will be followed by lunch on the quadrangle and then a program looking back at Delta State’s 90 years scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. in the Jobe Hall Auditorium. Student and campus groups will pitch in on a number of campus beautification projects beginning at 3 p.m. Tuesday, including a project to repaint the footsteps marking the “Green Mile” on campus.

Other opportunities to reflect and celebrate the university’s history include a main gallery exhibition at the Charlie W. Capps, Jr. Archives and Museum on 90 years of Delta State students. The exhibit, under the direction of University Archivist Emily Jones, will explore how the student body grew from under 100 students as well as nine decades of academic achievements. 

“We’re really driving home that this anniversary is about 90 years of celebrating students at Delta State,” said Jones. “We’ve had 90 years of people putting lots of energy and dedication into the university. We want to make sure that in another 90 years we have done as well as those who came before us. Collecting our history and knowing our foundations are essential.” 

Leading up to the anniversary date, Jones has also been publishing “History Days,” a series of informative posters focusing on all things related to the student experience over the years. View the series at http://www.deltastate.edu/anniversary/history-days/.

James Robinson, president of the DSA committee, said he encourages everyone to take the time to join in the events on Nov. 3.

“We thank all those individuals and businesses who have helped organize the day’s events and who have provided gifts and prizes,” he said. “We want the day to be full of excitement and joy as we express our love for our alma mater.”

Stay up to date on all anniversary events and activities at http://www.deltastate.edu/anniversary. The public is encouraged to join the university as it continues to celebrate 90 years of excellence.

Mississippi Poet Laureate and former United States Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, will present through the Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. in Jobe Hall Auditorium.

Mississippi Poet Laureate to present colloquium address

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Former United States Poet Laureate and current Mississippi Poet Laureate, Natasha Trethewey, will return to Delta State’s campus as part of the institution’s Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. in Jobe Hall Auditorium.

Trethewey’s event, “An Evening with Natasha Trethewey: Reflections from a U.S. Poet Laureate,” is free and open to the public.

The Mississippi native has been tied to Delta State for many years, having received an honorary Doctor of Arts and Letters degree during the university’s 2007 fall commencement ceremony.

Trethewey was last on campus in 2012 to launch her new book of poetry “Thrall.” The work was her poetic follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Native Guard,” which also won the 2007 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Book Prize. The visit was also her first Mississippi reading as U.S. Poet Laureate, and her first reading after she was officially introduced for the position at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, Trethewey was the 2008 winner of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Her Pulitzer-winning poems feature elements of her personal history as the daughter of interracial parents — and the story of her mother, who died at the age of 40.

Don Allan Mitchell, interim chair of the Division of Languages & Literature, has been instrumental in bringing Trethewey back to campus.

“We are so very fortunate to have a supporter of Delta State University like Natasha Trethewey,” he said. “She understands that memory has a special resonance in Mississippi and in the Delta, and I have made it a personal mission of mine to make sure she is properly honored in her home state.

“After two terms as U.S. Poet Laureate, and as the current Mississippi Poet Laureate, she has represented Mississippi and America well. She has shown that now, more than ever, poetry is vital to our understanding of our broader world.”

Delta State President William N. LaForge established the lecture 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.

“This is a university-wide program that will continue to bring a unique and diverse array of people — from judges, former government officials, lawyers and business people,” said LaForge. “These are all folks our students can look up to.”

Learn more about the lecture series at www.deltastate.edu/president/colloquia.

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

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 http://www.aascu.org.

Delta State will rename New Men's Residence Hall to Blansett Hall with a public naming dedication Oct. 17 to honor Dr. Wayne Blansett, former vice president of Student Affairs.

Blansett to be honored with building dedication

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Delta State University and supporters from the community will gather Oct. 17 at 3:30 p.m. to honor one of the university’s most beloved leaders, Dr. Wayne Blansett, recently retired vice president of Student Affairs.

To recognize Blansett’s 40 years of dedication to the institution, Delta State will hold a naming dedication to rename New Men’s Residence Hall to Blansett Hall. The ceremony will also include a reception in the lobby following the main event.

Over the past four decades, Blansett has remained a fixture as one of the most respected leaders at Delta State. Serving the green and white for nearly half of the institution’s existence, Blansett retired at the end of the academic calendar in June of 2015.

Most recently serving as vice president of Student Affairs — 1993 to 2015 — Blansett has been a role model and mentor for countless students in Delta State’s storied history. As he put it, his job was to improve the total development of students at the university.

“I started working at Delta State when I was 23-years-old,” said Blansett in a previous press release. “I’ve had a long and rewarding career, and I will certainly miss the interactions with students, staff and the entire Delta State family.”

The true leader is also a proud alumnus of Delta State, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1973, Master of Education in Counseling in 1974 and a Doctorate of Education in Professional Studies in 1988.

Shortly after his graduate studies, Blansett began working for his alma mater as the assistant dean of students from 1975-1980. He then progressed as the director of Student Activities (1980-1984), associate dean of Student Affairs (1984-1990) and dean of Student Affairs (1990-1993).

Delta State University President William N. LaForge, who has been Blansett’s longtime friend and colleague, said the building dedication is an appropriate way to pay tribute to Blansett’s outstanding service to the university.

“No one bleeds ‘Green and White’ more than Wayne Blansett,” said LaForge. “It is very difficult to say a professional farewell to someone who has given his entire career to this university and who has had such an enormous and positive impact on thousands of students during his 40 years of service in the student affairs arena.”

Continue to follow Delta State’s daily news feed at www.deltastate.edu for more information on Blansett’s building dedication.