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Delta State enrollment increases over five percent

By | Academics, Admissions, Faculty/Staff, IHL, President, Students | No Comments

For the fourth year in a row, Delta State University is proud to announce an increase in university enrollment.

The preliminary numbers, as of Sept. 8, were 3,035 undergraduate students and 743 graduate students, for a total enrollment of 3,778. The increase of nearly 5.5 percent was the largest increase among the state’s eight public universities this year.

According to Delta State University President William N. LaForge, the growth is due to a number of major institutional efforts.

“I am very pleased with the increase in enrollment for the fall of 2017,” said LaForge. “Early reports indicate we are up 190 students, or nearly 5.5 percent over last year. This significant uptick represents the fourth consecutive increase, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

LaForge credited six major reasons for the enrollment increase:

  • A great team of faculty and staff across campus.
  • Smarter and more targeted recruiting in high schools and community colleges. This includes doubling community college recruiters, and increasing partnerships with high schools.
  • Improved retention rates thanks to engaged faculty and programs such as the Student Success Center and First Year Seminar.
  • Signature programs that continue to attract more students, including the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing, Delta Music Institute, Health/Physical Education/Recreation, and Aviation.
  • Doubling the number of international students in the last three years.
  • Offering a competitive tuition rate with stellar academics, including capstone projects for every major — all at an unparalleled value.

“I would be remiss not to mention that we have a welcoming student environment,” added LaForge. “Students feel very welcomed here and have the total college experience. There’s a buzz on campus, and there’s excitement all around.”

Caitlyn Thompson, director of recruiting, said recruitment efforts have focused on directly communicating with potential students.

“The recruiting staff worked very hard over this past year to reach new students, and one effort that may have contributed to the enrollment increase is the E-Communication Center that was implemented last fall,” said Thompson. “Current Delta State students contacted prospective students to speak with them about topics like campus events, scholarships, admissions deadlines, application reminders and more.”

Tricia Walker, director of the Delta Music Institute, said the DMI program has experienced significant growth over the past few years.

“The sustained growth of the DMI program brought the opportunity to add a faculty member and a studio manager to our ranks in order to better serve our students,” said Walker. “We are grateful to the administration for their support of this unique program. With an incoming class of more than 30 new students this fall, the DMI will exceed 120 majors in our entertainment industry studies program. We are packed and we like it that way.”

Tim Colbert, chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said HPER is one of the fastest growing majors.

“HPER has good degree options in multiple areas that lead not just to employment, but also sustainable careers with a chance for advancement,” said Colbert. “Our faculty understand how to relate to students on a personal level and help them to deal with their issues to become successful.”

Additionally, Delta State saw another uptick this year in the number of international students. Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of the Student Success Center and International Student Services, is proud that the university has doubled its international student body since the spring of 2013.

“We love that our international student population is growing each year,” said Riddle. “International students contribute so much to campus because of their global perspectives and diverse cultures. We welcome them to Delta State and look forward to even more international students for years to come.

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

University to celebrate 92nd anniversary

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

All campus members, friends and supporters of Delta State University are invited to a university birthday celebration Sept. 13, as the institution marks the 92nd anniversary of its opening.

The public is encouraged to visit campus for the celebration of 92 years of excellence.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge, joined by members of the Dedicated Statesmen Association, will start the ceremony at noon at Whitfield Hall, the current home of the Delta Music Institute.

The anniversary program will focus on the decade of the 1940s, which will include a brief introduction of Governor James Whitfield, the man for whom Whitfield Hall was named. The former Mississippi leader signed the bill establishing Delta State Teachers College in 1924.

The program will highlight the historic events that took place in and around Whitfield Hall, and how its renovation has given rise to the thriving entertainment industries studies program at the DMI.

The event will conclude with a light lunch for attendees.

Dr. James Robinson, president of the DSA committee, is excited to once again celebrate the university’s founding.

“We will continue to celebrate each year with growing excitement as the 100th birthday of Delta State approaches,” said Robinson. “A yearly celebration allows us to embrace the school’s history and its bright future. Each year, the anniversary brings us closer as students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends.”

Emily Jones, university archivist, has been working closely with the DSA to bring the event together.

“We celebrate Delta State’s anniversary to pay tribute to those who have come before us, and all the great Statesmen and Lady Statesmen yet to come,” said Jones. “As an archivist, it brings me great honor to help highlight our history. We look forward to shining light on the ‘40s and former Governor Whitfield.”

The Delta State Wind Ensemble will join the program again this year, performing a selection of the green and white’s most popular tunes.

Stay up to date on all university events and activities at http://www.deltastate.edu.

Fourth blues conference to feature Aaron Neville

By | Community, Delta Center, Faculty/Staff, International Delta Blues Project, President, Students | No Comments

The fourth annual International Conference on the Blues at Delta State University is shaping up to be the best yet. This year’s lineup features GRAMMY winner Aaron Neville and has a two-part theme: Mississippi Delta native John Lee Hooker’s centennial birthday celebration in conjunction with GRAMMY Museum Mississippi and an exploration of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi Delta blues and gospel recordings.

The conference is scheduled for Oct. 1-3.

The unique symposium brings together blues scholars, historians and fans from all over the United States in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a place known as the epicenter of blues music and history.

To register for the conference, visit https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ee79rfch3347d1e5&oseq=&c=&ch=. CEU credit is available for educators.

Among the highlights for this year’s schedule are:

  • an opening reception and tour of the John Lee Hooker exhibit at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
  • a keynote breakfast featuring Alan Lomax scholar, Dr. John Szwed of Columbia University, New York City
  • a free, open-to-the-public John Lee Hooker tribute concert at Bolivar County Courthouse in downtown Cleveland featuring a trio of the next generation of great bluesmen, Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram
  • an open mic “Blues in the Round” event at Mississippi Grounds coffee shop in downtown Cleveland
  • a lunch conversation with Aaron Neville
  • a blues-related film festival in the Sanders Theater at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi
  • a presentation by renowned blues photographer Dick Waterman
  • free admission to GRAMMY Museum Mississippi with paid conference registration
  • a closing concert performance by Aaron Neville at Delta State’s Bologna Performing Arts Center with tickets ranging from $25-$50 and a special 10 percent discount for conference registrants

“As the academic center of the Delta blues, Delta State is proud to host and sponsor this year’s blockbuster blues conference,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “With all the superb programming that is scheduled, this conference will not disappoint and is one not to be missed.”

In addition, the conference will announce a project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts that will bring Alan Lomax’s collection of Mississippi recordings back home to the region in partnership with the Association for Cultural Equity at Hunter College.

As part of celebrating this exciting new partnership, the conference will feature keynote speaker Dr. John Szwed. Szwed won the 2006 GRAMMY Award for Best Album Notes for “Jelly Roll Morton: The Complete Library of Congress Recordings,” a box set based on Lomax’s interviews with jazz great Jelly Roll Morton. Szwed is considered a leading authority on Lomax’s life and work. He is the John M. Musser Professor Emeritus of anthropology, African American studies and film studies at Yale University and an adjunct senior research scholar in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, where he previously served as the center’s director and professor of music and jazz studies.

“We are honored to have Dr. Szwed and representatives from the Association for Culture Equity join us this year to announce our Lomax Mississippi Collection partnership,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center. “We look forward to making early recordings of Delta-based blues and gospel singers available to their families and the communities that they called home.”

GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will be the site for much of the conference, including a specially curated exhibit on John Lee Hooker.

“When the initial conversation began for our museum to be the site of this year’s conference we were thrilled,” said Emily Havens, executive director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Our goal has always been to help give a better understanding of Mississippi’s role in music, and it makes complete sense for us to work with this conference to expand that mission.”

The conference is part of the International Delta Blues Project, which is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Foundation and is based at The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State. The conference is being managed by a team of campus and community collaborators including The Delta Center; the Delta Music Institute; the Department of Music; the Division of Languages & Literature; the Office of Institutional Grants; Cleveland Tourism; Visit Mississippi; the City of Cleveland; and Bolivar County.

Over 30 papers will be presented during conference sessions.

“I always marvel at the variety of scholars that our conference attracts,” said Dr. Shelley Collins, a professor in the Department of Music and conference co-chair. “With the conference focusing on both John Lee Hooker and Alan Lomax, we’re thrilled to have received a record number of paper submissions this year.”

Numerous opportunities to enjoy live music will also be available at this year’s conference. Monday night will feature a free concert in downtown Cleveland by Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram. On Tuesday, Aaron Neville will be interviewed during a lunch conversation, and later that evening, he will perform at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Conference registrants are eligible to receive a 10 percent discount on ticket prices for this special closing concert.

“Jontavious Willis, Marquise Knox and Kingfish Ingram playing John Lee Hooker songs and their solo and original sides is such a great tribute to both the past and future of the blues,” said Don Allan Mitchell, conference co-chair. “Their average age is 23, and their superb advocacy for blues, as especially relevant to modern African American culture, will especially resonate with our diverse audiences. And Aaron Neville — the man is a music legend and his experience, knowledge and talent will be such a great addition. With a record number of paper and presentation submissions for this year’s conference, and a first-rate lineup of both artists and scholars, there is nowhere to go but up.”

Follow all conference updates at http://www.internationaldeltabluesproject.com/conference.

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.