Winning the Race returns for third year

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Off the heels of last year’s successful Winning the Race Conference, Delta State University is gearing up for the third year of the award-winning race relations symposium scheduled for March 28-29.

This year’s conference is titled “Winning the Race: Advancing Social Justice in Communities and Institutions.”

The inaugural program spearheaded by Delta State President William N. LaForge in 2014, was designed as an innovative academic conference, and the 2016 schedule promises to build on the meaningful dialogue presented at the previous conferences.

“Delta State is a cultural ‘mecca’ that champions and celebrates the multicultural identity of the Mississippi Delta, and provides leadership and programming for the community and region,” LaForge said of last year’s conference.

The schedule of events will place special emphasis on engaging campus and community dialogue regarding current issues related to social justice, and working to rekindle opportunities for municipalities of the Mississippi Delta to collaborate and promote racial healing.

Co-chairs for the conference are Dr. Temika Simmons, assistant professor of psychology, and Dr. Garry Jennings, professor of political science.

“In 2016, we are looking forward to expanded and depended conversations around social justice issues as a continuation of conversations held at previous conferences,” said Simmons. “Participants have asked for more information regarding how they can get more involved on campus and in their communities. This conference will provide that information.”

Members of the 2016 Winning the Race Committee: Front (l to r): Paula Lindsey, Arlene Sanders, Elizabeth Joel, Garry Jennings, President William N. LaForge, Temika Simmons, Lekeitha Morris, Jeanna Wilkes. Back (l to r): Emily Jones, Sam Washington, Edwin Craft, Paulette Meikle-Yaw, Charles Westmoreland, David Breaux. Missing from the photo: Georgene Clarke, Rolando Herts, Billy Moore, Michelle Johansen, Michael Lipford, Davlon Miller, Tricia Walker, Ahm Reza and Robin Boyles.

Members of the 2016 Winning the Race Committee: Front (l to r): Paula Lindsey, Arlene Sanders, Elizabeth Joel, Garry Jennings, President William N. LaForge, Temika Simmons, Lekeitha Morris, Jeanna Wilkes. Back (l to r): Emily Jones, Sam Washington, Edwin Craft, Paulette Meikle-Yaw, Charles Westmoreland, David Breaux. Missing from the photo: Georgene Clarke, Rolando Herts, Billy Moore, Michelle Johansen, Michael Lipford, Davlon Miller, Tricia Walker, Ahm Reza and Robin Boyles.

Two highlight speakers will be featured during this year’s schedule.

Tim Wise is the author of seven books, including his highly-acclaimed memoir, “White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son.” He has contributed chapters or essays to over 25 additional books and his writings are taught in colleges and universities across the nation. Wise appears regularly on CNN and MSNBC to discuss race issues.

Wise is among the nation’s most prominent antiracist essayists and educators and has spent the past 20 years speaking to audiences in all 50 states, on over 1,000 college and high school campuses, at hundreds of professional and academic conferences, and to community groups across the nation.

Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an investigative journalism fellow at The Nation Institute. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone and The Guardian, and he is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC, C-Span and NPR.

His new book, “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” was published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Berman graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a degree in journalism and political science. He lives in New York City.

Other event highlights include a special mayor’s roundtable, designed to provide a platform for local governmental leaders to discuss race and the challenges and successes they’ve experienced while leading and governing municipalities across the Delta.

The conference also features a student poster competition, a gallery talk and tour of the home of Amzie Moore, an African American civil rights leader and entrepreneur in the Delta whose home was declared a historical landmark in Cleveland in 2008. Breakout sessions feature topics covering social justice; civil rights and law; economic opportunities; education and community; and culture and community.

Simmons added that the conference allows the campus and community to focus on underreported positive race relations efforts across the nation.

“Over the past several years, tensions around race and ethnicity have increased nationwide,” she said. “Although there has been an increase in media coverage on many pervasive issues, not as much attention has been paid to the many individuals, organizations, movements and institutions that have played a critical role in helping people to fully understand and positively affect the current racial and cultural climate across the country.

“Delta State University, by way of this conference, has taken a bold, leading step in advancing a rich, academic and positive dialogue about not only what’s happening nationwide, but what’s happening on our campus and in our local Delta communities,” she added. “Given Mississippi’s current reputation regarding issues around race and race relations, it is important for an academic institution like Delta State to highlight — despite stereotypes — what is actually happening on the ground in our state, particularly in the Delta.”

The university’s Winning the Race committee developed the conference with three overarching goals: engage in conversations with campus and community constituencies that will build an appreciation for diversity differences and a spirit of community through shared ideas; promote a broad discourse on race relations by building conversations to bring together diverse communities in the Delta through sharing of ideas and building cooperation; and to rekindle a hope that Delta communities will move toward greater equality, forward and open thinking, while reducing racial disparities and tensions.

In its inaugural year, the conference received the 2014 Civil Rights and Social Justice award and was accepted by LaForge at the 4th National Civil Rights Conference in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

A finalized schedule of events is still in progress. All conference updates will be published at

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

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.

Delta State president emeritus honored with prestigious national award

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CLEVELAND – Dr. John M. Hilpert, president emeritus of Delta State University, was honored Monday as the 2015 recipient of the James T. Rogers Distinguished Leadership Award given by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the regional accrediting body for more than 800 colleges and universities.

Hilpert, who served as president at Delta State from 2003 until his retirement in 2013, worked more than 30 years in higher education administration, including serving as president of Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, executive vice president and acting president of the University of South Dakota, and vice president at Thiel College in Pennsylvania.

Delta State President William N. LaForge said Hilpert’s distinction as a leader is one of the primary reasons he nominated Hilpert for the award.

“During Dr. Hilpert’s tenure at Delta State, he exemplified all the characteristics of a distinguished leader involved with, and supporting, the activities, mission and spirit of SACSCOC,” LaForge said. “Not only was he an actively involved member president, but he served the SACSCOC in various roles throughout his presidency at Delta State.

“Respected by his peers throughout the higher education community for his depth of knowledge and exceptional leadership ability, Dr. Hilpert was elected to serve on the 2008 Executive Council of the Commission and chair of the State Delegation Executive Council of the Commission, and the following year he was elected vice chair of the SACSCOC,” he added. “At the December 2009 annual meeting, he was elected for the first of three one-year terms as chairman of the SACSCOC and served as chair in 2010, 2011 and 2012. I am pleased that the committee supported my nomination of Dr. Hilpert for this prestigious award.”

In addition to his leadership roles with SACSCOC, Hilpert served as chairman of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area board; board president for the Delta Health Alliance, a regional non-profit corporation with a $40 million annual budget; and, president of the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities, an organization of all public and private, two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions in the state.

In October of this year, Hilpert published a book on Theodore Roosevelt and his “Whistle Stop Campaign” which is available through Amazon. Having lived for many years in states visited by Roosevelt prior to the election of 1900, Hilpert sought to fill in a gap in historical biographical information about Roosevelt. He has also authored pieces for scholarly journals, newspapers and periodicals.

Named for a Delta State alumnus who served as executive director of the Commission on Colleges for more than 20 years, the James T. Rogers Distinguished Leadership Award is the highest public recognition given by the commission and is reserved for extraordinarily distinctive and effective leadership. Rogers was a 1955 Delta State graduate who served as president of Brenau College in Georgia for 15 years before taking the position as the executive director for the Commission of Colleges of SACS.

During his tenure, Rogers worked with the membership and the commission’s leadership and staff to institute comprehensive changes in accreditation standards which placed a renewed and deep emphasis on student learning. Rogers was named Delta State’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 1995, is a member of the Delta State Alumni Hall of Fame, and received an honorary doctorate from Delta State in 2007.

Jeffrey Farris, Delta State Alumni Affairs Director, said the association is pleased that the award is named after the distinguished alumnus and that it is fitting that Hilpert be honored as a recipient.

“The award being presented to our former university president, Dr. John Hilpert, is a testimony to the leadership qualities that are exhibited by our students, alumni and employees,” Farris said. “I congratulate Dr. Hilpert and Dr. Rogers on behalf of the National Alumni Association for their exemplary leadership of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.”

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states. It serves as the common denominator of shared values and practices among the diverse institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Latin America and other international sites approved by the Commission that award associate, baccalaureate, masters or doctoral degrees.

Tornado Watch issued for Bolivar County

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The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Watch for the Bolivar County area through 8 p.m. tonight. The area also remains under a Wind Advisory and a Flash Flood watch due to the potential for severe weather.

The Delta State Emergency Response Team is monitoring the situation and will issue alerts throughout the day. The team remains in contact with the National Weather Service, emergency officials and the university’s administration.

Any changes to the university’s schedule this evening including night classes will be posted using, email, text messages, Twitter (@DeltaState) and Facebook.

This weather system has the potential to affect travel conditions for our area. If you have travel plans, please check weather conditions and road conditions and use judgment before traveling. If a tornado warning is issued, remain calm. Go to an interior hall or windowless room. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms.

Further updates will be posted using, email, text messages, Twitter (@DeltaState) and Facebook

Anyone who has not yet registered his or her cell phone number for emergency text alerts is encouraged to do so now by completing the following steps:
1. Login to your “My DSU” account:
3. Choose the “Personal Information” section and the “Enroll in Okra Alert” option.
4. Add your cell phone number (with area code).