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Laforge GSC

LaForge elected president of Gulf South Conference

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge will add another prestigious leadership post to his list of accomplishments this week, as he officially takes office as the president of the Gulf South Conference at the league’s annual summer meetings. He has spent the past two years as vice president of the GSC.

“I am thrilled and honored to be able to serve the GSC and Delta State in this new capacity,” said LaForge. “I look forward to working with the CEOs, ADs and staffs of our member institutions, Commissioner Matt Wilson and the conference office staff in advancing the interests of the league. We are in a position of strength to expand and I welcome the opportunity to work with colleagues as we move the GSC forward.”

The president of the GSC oversees the board of directors for the league and is responsible for chairing all board and general session meetings; appoints all standing and special committees and their chairs; calls all special meetings of the conference and executive committee; represents the conference in all of its business; and is legally empowered to bind the GSC when the commissioner is unavailable.

The GSC, with offices in Birmingham, Alabama, sponsors 17 sports at the NCAA Division II level and features membership across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee. In its 46-year history, the GSC has won 49 national team championships in 13 sports and more than 100 regional titles.

“The Gulf South Conference is lucky to have President LaForge serve as president of the GSC and chair of our board of directors,” said Wilson. “He is a great supporter of the Division II model and is a consistent advocate for the GSC, its member institutions and student-athletes. I look forward to working alongside President LaForge during his term.”

LaForge’s election as president of the GSC continues Delta State’s longstanding tradition of leadership within the league. In the summer of 1970, DSU was one of six charter institutions that formed the GSC. Since that time, the Statesmen and Lady Statesmen have won 44 league championships, including the 2015-16 women’s basketball and baseball titles.

“The GSC is one of NCAA Division II’s premier conferences, and President LaForge’s leadership will be a major asset to the league as we move forward,” said Ronnie Mayers, DSU director of athletics.

Earlier this spring, LaForge was selected to serve on the NCAA Division II Presidents Council, the highest governing body of Division II responsible for implementing policies adopted by the NCAA Board of Governors.

LaForge represents those active Division II institutions in Region 2, which include schools in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The council is a 16-member body that is based on a weighted regional representation by institutions and includes one president or chancellor per region for every 22 institutions in that region. In addition to setting policies adopted by the NCAA Board of Governors, the Presidents Council establishes and directs the general policy for Division II, with all other Division II committees reporting either directly or indirectly to it.

Dr. Vernell Bennett has been named the new vice president of Student Affairs.

Bennett named VP of Student Affairs

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge recently announced the hiring of Dr. Vernell Bennett for the position of vice president of Student Affairs.

Bennett replaces Dr. E.E. “Butch” Caston, who had filled the role on an interim basis following the retirement of Dr. Wayne Blansett, who served the university for four decades.

Bennett will officially take office July 1, pending IHL Board approval, but will begin the transition process on June 15.

I am honored to join Delta State University as the newest member of the great executive team President LaForge has built,” said Bennett. “To say that I’m eager to work with the students the university educates is an understatement. It is truly exciting to join forces with engaged faculty, staff and community members to help Delta State University continue its long legacy of service and excellence.”

In the role, she will serve as the chief student affairs officer for the university. This position is responsible for providing leadership and administrative direction to a comprehensive Student Affairs Division, which complements and supports the academic mission of Delta State.

Bennett arrives at Delta State after previously serving in the same role at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her extensive experience at KSU enabled her to foster collaborations between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs, faculty, staff, students, the administration and community. At KSU, Bennett oversaw a personnel and operating budget of $5 million and a scholarship budget of $2.6 million.

Prior to her VP role at KSU, she served as the university’s assistant vice president for diversity and inclusion, the senior advisor to Academic Affairs, and as a presidential liaison.

She holds a doctorate in instruction and administration from the University of Kentucky, received her master’s from Eastern Michigan University and her bachelor’s degree from Fisk University.

Bennett’s professional memberships include: The Council on Student Affairs; The National Association of Student Affairs Professionals; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated; The Links, Incorporated; and the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.

Additionally, she has a background in teaching music courses, including voice instruction, elements of music, phonetics and dictation, and more.

President LaForge said he was thrilled to bring Bennett’s leadership to campus.

“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Bennett to Delta State,” said LaForge. “She brings a wealth of talent and experience to the position of vice president for Student Affairs, and I know she will have a terrific impact on our students and our campus culture. I look forward to her contributions to our leadership team.”

A selection committee, chaired by Dr. Temika Simmons, assistant professor of psychology, was formed in order to guide the national search for the position. Finalists recently visited the Delta State campus and spent time meeting with various groups including the President’s Cabinet, Academic Council, division directors and the search committee, along with addressing open forums attended by faculty, staff and students.

Along with Simmons, search committee members included: Michael Lipford, Dr. David Hebert, Marilyn Read, Mike Kinnison, Diana McLemore, Dr. David Breaux, Betsy Elliott, Porter Leftwich, Mikel Sykes (student), Allie Rose Parker (student) and Lisa Giger (ex-officio).

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

President William N. LaForge (right) recently visited with Senator Thad Cochran and fellow Mississippi lawmakers in Washington, D.C.

LaForge meets with Mississippi lawmakers in D.C.

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Delta State University President William N. LaForge visited the nation’s capital in late April to touch base with Mississippi’s federal lawmakers.

“This was an opportunity to visit with the Mississippi congressional delegation and their staffs,” said LaForge. “There are issues that we want them to support or oppose, and we had an opportunity to express our concerns with them.”

LaForge personally spent time with Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and the staffs of Mississippi’s four members of the House of Representatives.

The conversations focused on grants, federal funding and alternative funding sources to support Delta State.

“Government relations and public policy advocacy are necessary in order to keep issues in front of our lawmakers so they know what our interests are, and so that they can vote and act accordingly. It allows us to express our needs and interests to our government.”

“It’s all about directly addressing the issues that are important to us as a constituent institution,” added LaForge. “We are always exploring possibilities for Delta State assistance.”

LaForge is no stranger to Capitol Hill, having spent time in the ‘70s with Congressman David Bowen and in the ‘80s working as Cochran’s chief of staff.

“Senator Cochran is very special to me. We have a unique relationship that goes way back,” said LaForge. “It was great to see my mentor again and have a visit with him. He has a deep interest in education in general, and certainly higher education. He’s a great resource for us at Delta State.”

LaForge also has a connection with Wicker, as the two were law school classmates at the University of Mississippi.

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

Fireside Chat: Delta State students in Poland

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Joining President LaForge are four students visiting Poland as part of a cultural exchange program between Delta State University and John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland—commonly referred to as KUL.

The group left on May 9 for a two-week trip that has been under the direction of faculty members at KUL. The trip was coordinated by Delta State’s International Student Services office and marks the first opportunity for Delta State students to visit the KUL campus. During their trip, our students have been observing classes, learning about college life in Poland, and gaining hands-on knowledge of the Polish culture. KUL is one of several universities abroad with which Delta State has signed a memorandum of understanding to further develop international exchanges, and we hosted a group of KUL faculty and students on our campus in October of this past year.

In other news on campus, Teach for America corps members will arrive on campus soon, and we hope everyone at Delta State and the Bolivar/Cleveland community will extend a warm welcome to this bright and dedicated group. Next week, the first summer session term will begin on campus, and the residence halls will open to students this Sunday, May 29.

Bob Santelli, executive director of the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE, will keynote commencement ceremonies May 7 at 10 a.m. inside Walter Sillers Coliseum. Santelli will also receive the Doctor of Arts and Letters honorary degree.

Delta State to honor Santelli at commencement

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Delta State University will celebrate the 2016 Spring Commencement Ceremony at 10 a.m. May 7 inside Walter Sillers Coliseum. The institution, friends and family will unite to recognize the accomplishments of 442 graduates.

The graduates include recipients of bachelors, masters, education specialists and doctoral degrees — all of whom have made their impact on the storied history of Delta State.

The keynote speaker for the commencement address is Bob Santelli, executive director of the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE. Santelli’s leadership was crucial to making GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi a reality on Delta State University’s campus.

Santelli will also be granted an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts and Letters as part of Delta State’s long-running tradition of recognizing green and white greatness.

Delta State confers the honorary degree to individuals who have made significant and meritorious contributions to the university, higher education generally or other areas of society. Achievements can include, but are not limited to, outstanding creative and scholarly work, distinguished leadership or service, significant accomplishments or exceptional philanthropic support.

Santelli was named executive director of the GRAMMY Museum in 2006. A noted blues and rock historian, he is credited for developing the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Festival, and has authored three books on the blues: “The Big Book of Blues: A Biographical Encyclopedia,” “The Best of the Blues: The 101 Essential Blues Albums” and “Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: A Musical Journey.”

Santelli also served as a consultant on Scorsese’s “The Blues” series for PBS, and co-created a 10-part history of the blues series for PBS radio. He was also honored with the Keeping the Blues Alive Award from The Blues Foundation, and taught courses on the blues at Monmouth University in New Jersey and the University of Washington.

Delta State President William N. LaForge will provide introductions at the ceremony, while presentations of candidates and degrees will be led by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Charles McAdams.

Follow all news at Delta State University at http://www.deltastate.edu.