LaForge to hold series of presidential forums

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

Delta State University President William N. LaForge will hold three open forum discussions April 26 to provide campus updates to students, faculty and staff. The forums will take place in the H.L. Nowell Student Union.

Topics will include budget, tuition, facilities and programs.

Beginning at 10 a.m. in room 302A, LaForge will host a session for staff members. At 12:15 p.m., the president will meet with students on the second floor west lobby. At 3 p.m., again in room 302A, LaForge will address faculty.

Separate forums will be held for the different groups so discussions can focus on the different interests of each sector.

For more information, contact the Office of the President at 662-846-4000.

Delta State signs PepsiCo contract

By | President, Student Life | No Comments
President William N. LaForge (left) signs the beverage services contract on April 12 with Mike McGraw, PepsiCo Director of Workplace — South Region.



Delta State University President William N. LaForge welcomed representatives from PepsiCo on April 12 to sign the beverage services contract with the company. In February, Delta State announced PepsiCo as its new beverage vendor of choice for the next five years.

Delta State chose PepsiCo after a university committee unanimously recommended the company following a detailed analysis of corporate options, products and services.

LaForge said he was looking forward to the numerous opportunities the new partnership will provide.

“PepsiCo will provide a large array of services and benefits, including an extensive line of beverages that students prefer, a significant increase of revenue from commissions, a special partnership with Gatorade for our athletic programs, card reader machines campus-wide for convenience of purchase, and a number of student engagement events and promotional programs on campus for the next several years,” said LaForge. “On top of those important features of the relationship, PepsiCo will also purchase substantial advertising from the university.”

Joining LaForge for the signing was Mike McGraw, PepsiCo Director of Workplace — South Region.

Sales reports have already shown a major increase in consumer purchases, with sales tripling in the first month. PepsiCo has remained busy restocking machines throughout campus on a daily basis.

Ashley Griffin, Student Government Association president at Delta State, said students around campus are showing great enthusiasm for the new products.

“A lot of students are excited about having a wider variety of options that aren’t just sodas, such as the iced coffees and flavored water,” said Griffin. “It’s also been a bonus to have access to more healthy options. Students also like using their Okra Kards, credit cards and debit cards at all the machines.”

Alan Gorman, a senior graphic design major, said he also enjoys the variety in the new product line.

“Now, there’s something everyone can find, even for the people not big on sodas,” said Gorman. “Additionally, now it’s much more convenient to find a drink on campus with the new drink machines and the card readers. Probably one of the biggest things I’ve heard from the other students is how much they like having Starbucks coffee in the drink machines.”

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Music Across Campus broadcasts first note

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Delta State University is striking a new note campus-wide thanks to a project coined “Music Across Campus: Connecting the Delta State University Family and Campus with Music.”

Music Across Campus features the installation of 28 speakers strategically placed around campus that will feed music, programming and announcements from the university’s radio station, WDSW-LP 88.1 FM.

President William N. LaForge, who envisioned the project, turned on the speakers for the first time at the university’s annual Spring Fest festivities on April 12. Fittingly, the first song played was “Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones. As LaForge officially turned the speakers on, he was joined on stage by student, faculty, staff and community members involved with the music scene at Delta State.

The speakers are realistic recreations of rocks that blend in with campus surroundings. The goal is to provide musical enjoyment for everyone walking Delta State’s campus.

President LaForge and First lady Nancy LaForge graciously donated funding to pay for the speakers to help cement Delta State’s identity as a music-centric institution.

“Nancy and I think that the Music Across Campus concept is a great way to underscore and highlight our music-centric nature at Delta State,” said LaForge. “So we are personally supporting this project as something that will be available for all to enjoy.”

LaForge’s initial idea for the project stemmed from his experience teaching as a Fulbright Fellow at Perm State University in Perm, Russia. Perm State broadcasts music from the campus radio station to locations throughout the grounds of the campus, much like the musical presence heard throughout malls and theme parks across America.

LaForge has helped boost Delta State’s musical identity by enhancing signature programs like the Delta Music Institute, Department of Music, Bologna Performing Arts Center, International Conference on the Blues — and in addition, hosting GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi on campus, which tributes Mississippi as the birthplace of American Music.

Delta State’s Office of Information Technology and Facilities Management helped install the speakers in various locations so the sounds can be heard by a wide campus audience.

Edwin Craft, Chief Information Officer for OIT, said the concept of a campus-wide system was intriguing because deploying and interfacing the speakers on a large scale required an innovative design to meet the needs of the university.

“Each speaker is specially designed to be controlled from our wireless network, making this the first IoT —Internet of Things — in our area,” said Craft. “The system is very unique, in that it was designed to operate wirelessly for both the audio and control of each device. The only wire needed for the speakers was power, and we are thankful to have a great Facilities department on campus that was able to provide the power at each location.”

Ashley Griffin, Student Government Association president at Delta State, said the music would make walking across campus more enjoyable for everyone.

“I think that we can all associate with music,” said Griffin. “For each of us, there is probably a special song that makes us smile each day. I think as students, faculty, staff and guests pass by, it will make their day brighter and more fulfilling. Besides food, music is the key to the soul, especially in the Mississippi Delta.”

“These speakers will definitely liven the campus,” she added. “Students will sit outside during the day and enjoy each other. Delta State has signature music programs, and through the addition of Music Across Campus, it gives another outlet for artists on campus to broadcast their music.”

In addition to playing music, the speakers will also broadcast occasional announcements, keeping people informed of campus events and programming. In emergency situations, they will also be able to provide emergency notices.

“I hope Music Across Campus is a fun addition to our Delta State culture and family,” added LaForge.

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LaForge called upon for “Testifying Before Congress”

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge has been a source of information recently for a number of media outlets calling about a national hot-button issue — testify before congress.

LaForge has been an authority on the subject following his 2010 book, “Testifying Before Congress: A Practical Guide to Preparing and Delivering Testimony Before Congress and Congressional Hearings for Agencies, Associations, Corporations, Military, NGOs, and State and Local Officials.”

The book guides and assists witnesses and their organizations in preparing and delivering Congressional testimony.

LaForge will conduct an on-air interview about the topic with Toronto’s Business News Network and has also been interviewed by NBC.

On April 9, the Harvard Business Review published an interview with LaForge on the subject. The original article can be viewed here:

Below is the HBR interview, authored by Daniel McGinn, a senior editor at HBR:

How to Testify Before Congress by Daniel McGinn

It’s a predictable part of nearly every big business scandal: the moment when the CEO is summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before a congressional committee. For Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, this rite of passage happens this week, when he will testify about data breaches and how foreign states allegedly used social media to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. Observers are already speculating about how Zuckerberg will perform and whether he might join the list of CEOs (like Equifax’s Richard Smith) whose appearance made the company’s predicament even worse. To get a sense of how a CEO should approach this task, I spoke with William LaForge, a former Washington lawyer and lobbyist and author of Testifying Before Congress. (Since 2013 LaForge has served as president of Delta State University, in Mississippi.) The following is an edited, condensed version of our conversation:

HBR: How difficult is it to find the right expertise to help someone prepare for this?

LaForge: Testifying at a congressional hearing is actually very commonplace. There are hundreds of hearings every week when Congress is in session. So there’s a cottage industry of advisers who help prepare people to testify. Most hearings are informational or educational, not adversarial. Many of them are yawners — boring, inside baseball. These sensationalized, highly publicized ones only come along a few times a year. But Washington is filled with lawyers and lobbyists who get clients ready for their day in the hot seat.

What’s the most common mistake CEOs make when preparing to testify?

There are several. One is to act like you’re the smartest person in the room. It’s not just CEOs who do that — look at Judge Bork’s hearing for the Supreme Court back in 1987. Compare that with John Roberts, who may actually have been the smartest person in the room but still behaved with humility and honesty. That approach works much better. You also need to recognize and lead with your key message. During the financial crisis, the automakers’ CEOs flew down in corporate jets, and they talked about it — that became the big issue. Around the same time, the Wall Street CEOs appeared and tried to justify their salaries, at a time when there was public outrage about that issue. That was a mistake. But in general, the biggest mistake — far and away — is failure to prepare properly. You need to do live practice sessions, and watch yourself on video. People may think they’re a naturally eloquent speaker, but you’re on somebody else’s turf, and you’re playing by different rules.

How does preparing an executive for congressional testimony differ from, say, preparing to testify at a deposition or a trial?

Congressional testimony is a much more arcane process, so it’s different. You need to focus on the purpose of the hearing and what the officials on the dais want to hear. You get to submit a written statement and give affirmative remarks, so you’re not just answering questions. Before the hearing, there’s often dialogue between congressional staffers and the CEO’s staff, so you can obtain guidance about what the committee wants to hear — that can be very helpful. You need to understand the format: Everyone speaks in a certain order, with strict time limits. What I would tell Mark Zuckerberg is to make sure you know what the committee needs to hear, get your points across, be conversational, and don’t sound too defensive or apologetic. Repetition is good: What you say in the written statement, your opening statement, and in response to questions should all be the same. [Editor’s note: Here’s Zuckerberg’s prepared testimony.]

Very often, the politicians seem to give mini-speeches rather than asking questions. How does a CEO deal with that?

You just sit there and take it. Learning to do that is part of the preparation. There will be a lot of editorializing, and the rules allow that. There will be peacocks who want to show their colleagues and constituents how much they know about the issue. A witness needs to be callused against that. Don’t interrupt. If there is a question in there, answer it. If there’s something in their comment that’s really factually incorrect, you should correct it for the record. But don’t get hostile.

Are there certain personality types that tend to crash and burn in this format?

The most egregious sign is if the principal is dismissive during preparation — when he says “I’ll be fine” and wants to read the briefing book the night before. This is not a time to be cavalier. This is a time to roll up your sleeves and overprepare. I also worry about high-end Type A people, the ones who like to spar and fight. This is not the time to do either. In this format, the committee members have the first word and the last word.


Civil Rides bikes through campus for awareness

By | Community, Delta Center, President, Winning the Race | No Comments

Delta State University hosted Civil Rides on campus April 5-6 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Civil Rides was a three-day group bicycle ride from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The trek followed the civil rights footsteps of King.

The purpose of the ride was to raise awareness around persistent rural poverty in America, just as King did with the Poor People’s Campaign. Additionally, the event advocated for racial justice and healing, and created a space for racial discourse and dialogue.

Civil Rides was organized and sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Together for Hope, and Out Hunger. Participants in the ride came from Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Mississippi.

Delta State also sponsored the campus visit as a post-conference activity linked to Delta State’s annual Winning the Race race relations conference, which took place March 26-27. Along with WTR, other campus sponsors included the DSU Quality Enhancement Plan, DSU Diversity Committee and Delta Center for Culture and Learning .

Delta State hosted the riders for a meet-and-greet opportunity on April 4, along with a reception and information session in the Baioni Conference Center. Dr. Jason Coker with Civil Rides shared a summary of their efforts, and participants were shown student videos created at the Lens Collective workshop, housed on campus by the Delta Center for Culture and Learning.

On April 5, the university provided the riders with a nutritious breakfast, followed by a press conference at the Student Union as a sendoff for the bikers as they continued their 200-mile journey.

Following the press conference, Civil Rides bikers, Delta State riders, and President William N. LaForge got on their bikes for a ceremonial exit from campus. Participants took off from the Student Union and traveled down Court Street into downtown Cleveland.

The group finished at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum with a celebratory festival.

Dr. Temika Simmons, co-chair of this year’s Winning the Race conference, said the event was a fitting followup to the race relations conference.

“It was an honor to partner with Dr. Jason Coker, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Out Hunger in support of Civil Rides,” said Simmons. “Many of our students come from the communities the rides are intended to support. The Winning the Race conference is committed to continuing its work within and beyond Delta-area communities by partnering and supporting area initiatives that seek to combat racial inequities, fight for social justice, and to improve the condition of our communities. It was a privilege to host Civil Rides in commemoration of the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We look forward to continuing this partnership in the fight against rural poverty.”

For more information on Civil Rides, visit

To learn more about Winning the Race, visit