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President

LaForge outlines bright future at convocation

By | Academics, Community, Faculty/Staff, President | No Comments

Delta State University President William N. LaForge delivered his State of the University address Thursday during opening convocation ceremonies at the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

The address was titled “With Gratitude” and began with a thank you to faculty and staff for their continued efforts at the start of Delta State’s 93rd academic year.

“I am pleased to report that the current state of the university is positive, stable and advancing, and I am optimistic about a bright future,” said LaForge.

President LaForge said the university remains positive thanks to Delta State’s stellar people and programs.

“We embrace and promote core values such as individual worth, a healthy life style, hospitality, a strong work ethic, cultural enrichment, civility and respect for all, loyalty, ethical conduct, and accountability in all we do — for which I am profoundly grateful,” he said.

“We certainly have serious challenges, especially budget related, but we can rightfully commence our new academic year with the confidence that the ship is upright and moving in the right direction — combined with a dose of caution about the budget situation.”

LaForge was referencing major state budget cuts that have trimmed institutional funds by approximately $2.2 million in the last fiscal year. Despite these cuts, the president said the university is stable thanks to a recent recovery from years of eroding enrollment and financial woes.

According to LaForge, Delta State is advancing in response to a slate of new and bigger opportunities available on campus. Among those, he cited the remodeled Wiley Planetarium, the creation of the Dave Heflin Outdoor Recreation Lab, a major increase in the international student body, a long list of athletic achievements, a number of facility remodeling and renovation projects, major campus conferences, and a boost to recruitment and marketing efforts.

Despite the optimism, the president asked faculty and staff to remain extra cautious of the state budget cuts.

“A sad and disappointing statistic to report is that, for the first time in history, state funding is no longer Delta State’s largest source of operating revenue,” said LaForge. “This year, we will derive less revenue from the state than from tuition. Arguably, we have crossed over from being a state-supported university to a state-assisted university.”

“I am truly grateful to everyone on campus for joining our efforts to manage our way through this challenging budget time,” he added. “We will hope for, and work toward, a better budget climate for next year — but, that outcome is largely dependent on the fiscal health of the state.”

The president and his cabinet have enacted a responsible budget process, one that remains visionary and transparent, and guides the university according to strict business and ethical principles.

Like the university community as a whole, LaForge’s optimism will guide the institutional vision in the face of challenges. Delta State will remain committed to its 10 visioning principles, which LaForge outlined at last year’s convocation.

“Why shouldn’t we engage in a sense of idealism about who and what we are at Delta State?” asked LaForge. “After all, our ideas and actions make this university what it is every day. There’s no reason why we cannot apply even better ideas and actions to remaking the reality and condition of Delta State. But we must be intentional about it. It won’t just happen. I firmly believe that there is no limit to the creativity of the human mind.”

Visit www.deltastate.edu to stay updated on university news and event coverage.

Alumni to host Desoto County event

By | Alumni, President | No Comments

The Delta State University National Alumni Association will travel to Southaven for its annual DeSoto County Alumni Event on Saturday, Aug. 12. This year’s event will be held at the BankPlus Training Center and will begin at 6 p.m.

An update from campus will begin at 6:45 p.m., and the Desoto County Scholarship Silent Auction will be open from 6-8 p.m. The cost will be $15 for individuals and $25 for couples. Children are welcome, and kids under 12 eat free. Walk-in guests are welcome to pay at the door.

President William N. LaForge and head baseball coach Mike Kinnison will be the featured guests from campus. Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Vernell Bennett, the Alumni-Foundation staff, as well as other Delta State faculty and staff will also be in attendance.

“I am glad to help with the planning of the alumni meeting this year,” saids Billy Sears, Desoto County alumni president. “There are dedicated alumni in Desoto County that love Delta State, and it is always great to see our meeting come together each year. It is amazing to continue the love for the university that has given me so much through the years.”

Each year, the event has a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the DeSoto County Scholarships, which are awarded to incoming Delta State freshmen from the area. This year’s recipients are Avery White and Jackson Moore.

Prospective students are invited to attend as guests of the Alumni Association.

To RSVP, contact the association at 662-846-4660 or visit https://www.deltastategiving.org/alumniassociation/desotocountyevent.

All students interested in attending Delta State University are urged to contact Caitlyn Thompson, director of Admissions, at 662-846-4020.

Sponsors for the event include: State Farm agents Ryan T. England and Stephanie Morrison, BankPlus, Renasant Bank, Northcentral Electric Power, First Security Bank, Planters Bank, Lost Pizza Company, McAlister’s Deli, Grapevine Liquor & Wine, and A&B Distributors.

LaForge hosts fourth annual Mayors’ Summit

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President William N. LaForge (left) recently welcomed local mayors, including Cleveland mayor Billy Nowell, to Delta State’s fourth annual Delta Mayors Summit.

Mayors from across the Mississippi Delta gathered at Delta State University recently for the fourth annual Delta Mayors’ Summit hosted by President William N. LaForge.

The university invited local mayors to engage in discussion about campus and community activities, and to continue forging collaborations and partnerships in the Delta.

This year’s meeting focused on overall campus updates, a summary of university initiatives, an introduction of a new government leadership institute, as well as updates from a number of campus leaders.

Mayors in attendance also had the opportunity to discuss common challenges and successful initiatives in their respective communities.

LaForge was pleased to build on the success of previous summits, a conference he instituted after becoming president in 2013.

“This is a great opportunity for Delta State to showcase its programs, its successes and its offerings to the elected leadership of the Delta,” said LaForge. “It’s also an opportunity for us to hear from them and find out what they need in the way of workforce and programming. It’s extremely important for us to build these relationships because we must all work together for the improvement of the Delta region, and we also want these cities and towns to send us their students.

“We also offer a number of outreach programs in which local municipalities can participate, such as our race relations conference, the blues conference and our annual international business conference. And today, we’re announcing a program designed to provide professional development opportunities for local elected officials.”

The new program, called Local Government Leadership Institute, will assist Delta communities in addressing governance challenges by providing local officials with the information and tools needed to run their municipalities effectively and efficiently.

The program is a partnership with The John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Municipal League. It is being offered with financial support from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and Casey Family Programs.

Billy Nowell, mayor of Cleveland,  is thrilled with the summit’s growth each year and with Delta State’s outreach efforts.

“It’s very important we continue this town-gown relationship,” said Nowell. “We really appreciate President LaForge planning this event. It really reminds all the mayors in the Delta that the university is here for them as well as all the students. President LaForge has shown that time and time again.”

Eulah L. Peterson, the recently elected mayor of Mound Bayou, enjoyed networking with university staff and fellow Delta mayors.

“As a new mayor, I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to be here at the summit and to learn about the things we’ll be working on jointly with the university,” said Peterson. “It’s also good to hear what other common concerns the other mayors have. This is a very positive opportunity to share and work together.”

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

Young-Mauldin closes for major renovations

By | Community, Faculty/Staff, President, Students | No Comments

Members of the  President’s Cabinet and fellow staff members shared lunch at Delta State’s Young-Mauldin Dining Hall on Thursday, the final meal to be served at the cafeteria until major building renovations come to fruition.

According to Jeff Barkman, director of Facilities Management at Delta State, the $9.2 million in renovations will include an updated dining space, theater, snack bar and private dining room. The remodeling will also feature a new state-of-the-art kitchen.

The new temporary dining location will be the State Room in the H.L. Nowell Student Union. A temporary kitchen has also been constructed across the hall.

Jamie Rutledge, vice president for Finance and Administration at Delta State, said the anticipated start of construction is Sept. 1 and will continue for 18 months.

“The cafeteria will be totally renovated throughout the entire building,” said Rutledge. “All of the mechanical, plumbing and electrical will be completely replaced. Repairs will also include all new kitchen equipment, furniture and serving lines.”

Untitled-1Dr. Vernell Bennett, vice president for Student Affairs, said the renovations would provide a major boost to the student dining experience.

“Student Affairs is excited about this project. This state-of-the-art facility will benefit both current and future students by improving the university’s service delivery, campus facility and food service offerings, and recruitment,” said Bennett. “The theater and private dining room will be very helpful for programming and will serve as a vital additional outlet for student engagement activities and projects. The updated dining space and expanded food service choices will afford our students more options for dining, which was the topic of several town hall forums that Student Affairs sponsored last spring.”

Ashley Griffin, president of the Student Government Association, said her peers are also looking forward to the upgrades.

“When we survey students at Delta State for things they feel will enhance their college experience, responses always includes Wi-Fi and their cafe experience,” said Griffin. “By remodeling the cafe with these accommodations, it will become a great place for eating, but also a place for students to socialize and relax in an on-campus area that’s not the dorm. The updates in the kitchen will hopefully give the cooks more food options to serve students. I feel this is a step towards fulfilling what students having been wanting for years.”

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

University to break ground on Statesmen Boulevard

By | Athletics, Community, President, Students | No Comments

Delta State University cordially invites university supporters to the groundbreaking ceremony for Statesmen Boulevard on July 19 at 2 p.m. at the Dorgan Center on campus.

The Statesmen Boulevard project will create a new and improved gameday traffic entrance for the university’s athletic facilities north of Highway 8 and west of the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

Funding for this project was made possible in part by a grant from the Federal Highway Administration and the Mississippi Department of Transportation. Additionally, there will be a 20 percent local match from Delta State and the City of Cleveland.

Construction will also include improvement of streets around and in front of the football stadium, new sidewalks and street lighting installation, and the construction of new storm drainage piping and fencing.

Senator Thad Cochran played a major role in securing federal funding for the project.

“I am thrilled that the Statesmen Boulevard project is about to commence,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “We are finally seeing the fruition of a lot of hard work and planning, including a wonderful amount of support garnered by U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, who was able to steer federal money for this project. We are very grateful to the senator. The university also has skin in the game, as we have matched the federal funds with $500,000 that we’ve taken from our budget the last two years to contribute to the cost and support of this project.”

LaForge said that upon completion, the university will have a much improved routing system for sporting event traffic.

“This new routing will curtail the need to go through neighborhoods or cut through campus by the Coliseum, and provide a safer and more efficient transportation flow for all of our fans, alumni and students alike.”

MDOT pitched the Statesmen Boulevard project as a safety issue. By re-routing gameday traffic, students and fans walking and driving to the athletic venues will no longer have to maneuver in high volume traffic between parked cars alongside residences.

“This campus connector project will have a big impact on the Statesmen community,” said Dick Hall, transportation commissioner with MDOT. “It will significantly improve safety and efficiency for residents, students and visitors.”

Delta State Athletic Director Ronnie Mayers is also thrilled to break ground on a new project that will safely welcome fans to campus.

“We are excited to begin construction on Statesmen Boulevard as a new way to welcome fans to Delta State athletic events,” said Mayers. “Delta State is always thankful for its dedicated fans, and this project will provide them a grand entrance as they come to cheer on the Green and White.”

Jeff Barkman, director of Facilities Management at Delta State, said the project would be competed in the spring of 2018.

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