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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

By | Academics, GRAMMY, President, Students | No Comments

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.

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza (left to right) will be leading a group of Delta State students on a cultural exchange trip to Poland at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. Others attending include Scottie Willis, Katherine Jackson, Maria Clara Belisário, Paxton Stratton and university photographer/writer Rory Doyle.

Students to visit Poland for cultural exchange

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

A select group of Delta State students are gearing up for an exciting cultural exchange with one of the university’s international partners, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) in Lublin, Poland.

Leaving May 9, the group will travel for two weeks under the direction KUL faculty. The trip, coordinated by DSU International Student Services, will mark the first opportunity for Delta State students to visit KUL’s campus, observe classes, learn about college life in Poland, and gain hands-on knowledge of Polish culture.

Delta State President William N. LaForge continues to strengthen the university’s ties with international institutions, an effort he has made a priority since taking office in 2013.

In 2014, LaForge returned to KUL for the fourth time as a visiting professor, each time focusing on various aspects of law and public policy advocacy in America. KUL’s law school is well known for its quality programming.

“Delta State’s exchange partnership with KUL is a wonderful opportunity for our students to become acquainted with another educational system, with programs at another university and with the people of Poland,” said LaForge. “International partnerships like this afford our students an opportunity to broaden their horizons, see the world, and be better prepared for the global economy, which will greet them upon graduation.”

President LaForge discusses Poland with students.

President LaForge discusses Poland with students.

KUL is one of several universities abroad with which Delta State has signed a memorandum of understanding to further develop international exchanges. Delta State hosted a group of KUL faculty and students in October 2015.

Students attending the trip include: Scottie Willis, a senior from Byram, Mississippi; Katherine Jackson, a junior from Cleveland, Mississippi; Maria Clara Belisário, a junior from Belo Horizonte, Brazil; and Paxton Stratton, a freshman from Fort Worth, Texas. The students recently had the opportunity to meet with President LaForge to discuss expectations for the exchange.

Willis is looking forward to his first experience abroad — a trip he knows will be full of opportunities.

“I’m entering my last semester at DSU this fall, and as President LaForge put it to me recently, ‘You’ve had a good run here.’ But my run isn’t quite over yet,” said Willis. “I plan to go into education after graduation, and I know that going to Europe will definitely give me a ‘real life’ perspective when teaching about it. I hope that my participation in this cultural exchange will encourage current and future students to see that there are life-changing opportunities here at Delta State, and they just have to take advantage of them.”

Belisário, an international student at Delta State, is also looking forward to experiencing Polish education and culture.

“I will be in contact with different students and teachers who are in the same area as me, and I’ll be expanding my knowledge and vision,” said Belisário. “I will be able to interact and learn in some of their classes, and see perspectives and ideas about different issues that can help me in my major. I will use and share all of that when I return to DSU. Contact with another part of the world is one of the best opportunities as an international business major. I am really proud to have this opportunity.”

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, will lead the group as the university’s international partnership liaison.

“I’m thrilled that we are bringing such a strong group of students to KUL,” said Reza. “This will be a great opportunity for us to get an understanding of Polish culture and KUL’s university environment. KUL faculty members have gone above and beyond to help us plan this trip.”

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 trip updates at www.deltastate.edu.