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Social work conference slated for Oct. 5-6

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

The 46th annual Alabama-Mississippi Social Work Education Conference will take place at Delta State University on Oct. 5-6.

The opening ceremony for the event kicks off at 8 a.m. on Oct. 5 in the Jacob Conference Center in Ewing Hall.

Attendees are asked to register in advance at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/46th-annual-alabama-mississippi-social-work-education-conference-registration-32440965802. Anyone wanting to enhance their knowledge of social work is invited to register.

Keynoting the affair is Dr. William Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs and a Delta State alumnus.

This year’s theme is “Social Work Marching Together: Yes We Can … No We Won’t.”

“We invite you to come and share in this educational experience with social work educators, students and professionals from both Alabama and Mississippi,” said Cora Jackson, interim chair of the Department of Social Work at Delta State. “This is the first time in 10 years that Delta State has hosted the event, and we hope participants will enjoy our beautiful campus and enjoy the culture of the Delta as they enhance their knowledge and skills.”

Jackson said the conference will provide faculty with the opportunity to obtain up to 26 continuing education units.

“It will also allow us to develop and strengthen collaborations with other undergraduate social work programs throughout the region as we share our unique perspectives on social work and social work education,” she said.

The conference will also feature a red carpet event open to all attendees at GRAMMY Museum ® Mississippi on Oct. 5. The event encourages camaraderie among colleagues as well as the opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the museum. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided. The attire for the evening is semi-formal or Sunday’s best.

From 1969-1971, social work faculty from Southern states met four times a year as part of a faculty development project of the Southern Regional Education Board. When the project ended, faculty from Alabama and Mississippi schools decided to form a conference so they could further the bonds they had developed. The conference has continued ever since.

Objectives of the conference are: to promote transfer of information among schools providing social welfare education courses in the states of Alabama and Mississippi; to provide a forum for issues and problems of regional importance for the two states; and to enable individual schools and faculty members to be sensitive and responsive to the changing demands of social work education.

The first three conferences were hosted by the University of Alabama, and starting in 1975 the conference was rotated among social work programs in the two states.

Today, representatives from all 27-CSWE accredited social work programs in Alabama and Mississippi, as well as programs from surrounding states, participate in the annual conference. Many of these programs bring their students who participate in programming and seek out employment and further educational opportunities.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/almssocialworkedconference.

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.

TFA Graduate Fellows complete retreat

By | Academics, Community, Continuing Education, Graduate and Continuing Studies, Students, Teach for America | No Comments

Delta State University’s Graduate and Continuing Studies department recently completed its second annual immersion retreat for the Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program.

The program is a collaboration between Teach For America and Delta State University, offering 20 Teach For America alumni support while working to launch and run a social entrepreneurship project in the Mississippi communities they serve, while also completing a graduate degree program of their interest.

This year’s cohort includes: AK Suggs, Alexis Williams, Catie Denham, Charlotte Arrowsmith, JJ Townsend, Kaitlyn Barton, Latasha Capers, Leigh Hill, Lucas Rapisarda, MK Honeycutt, and Sean Brown.

The retreat offered the fellows the opportunity to refine their leadership skills while also being introduced to entrepreneurial perspectives when tackling social problems. Additionally, the cohort was required to disconnect from their day-to-day stresses and devote all their energy for four days to the retreat. The cohort had the privilege of staying at a cabin directly on the Mississippi River which allowed for stunning sights and sounds, refreshing walks and a beautiful setting to collaborate.

Participants focused on the expansion of their proposed social venture projects through vision setting, customer discovery, probes and prototypes. Spud Marshall served as the facilitator for the retreat. Marshall is the chief catalyst for co.space, an international network of homes for change-makers that launched in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also the co-founder of New Leaf, a nonprofit social innovation incubator in State College.

“We offered the cohort tangible tools for them to use by providing a framework and space to plan out the implementation and design of their projects,” said program coordinator Harrison Wood. “Our retreat was an incredible success. They became more than simply a group of TFA alumni, but rather, a group that will continue to intentionally support and collaborate with one another as they make steps towards change in Mississippi over the next two years.”

The group also visited with Ben Lewis and Amanda Johnson, who are both leading social enterprises in Clarksdale. The trip provided fellows an opportunity to visualize and learn from entrepreneurs who have pursued ventures positioned in a rural area. Wrapping up their visit to Clarksdale, the cohort canoed the Mississippi River with John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company, fostering a team-building experience for the participants.

To complete the fellowship, each participant will focus on social entrepreneurship, while simultaneously completing a graduate degree at Delta State. The cohort will regularly convene to share experiences in a collaborative environment, allowing participants to develop goals.

“We’re delighted that our alumni have an opportunity to further invest their talents and demonstrate their devotion to Mississippi and the Delta in this structured, creative way,” said Teach For America’s Ron Nurnberg. “It’s been terrific for me to see this opportunity move from dream, to discussion, to planning, to unfurling. I’m eager to see this potential unleashed and improving the quality of life for all of us.”

The project is funded through a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. The principal goal of the foundation is to contribute to the overall economic advancement of the state of Mississippi by making funds available to four-year colleges and universities and graduate professional schools located in the state.

For more information on the program, visit www.tfafellows.com.

Reza leads field course in Bangladesh

By | Academics, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty/Staff, International, Students | No Comments

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, associate professor of biology at Delta State, recently returned from leading another international field course in his homeland of Bangladesh.

The two-week tropical field biology study abroad course, which took place in July, was in partnership with the Creative Conservation Alliance (CCA), an NGO that works tirelessly to conserve Bangladesh’s imperiled wildlife.

“This was a special opportunity for students to get direct access to one of the most diverse environments in the world — the jungles of Lawachara National Park,” said Reza. “Students were provided with some of the best résumé-boosting conservation field experience you could imagine.”

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza

Open to university students around the world, the curriculum focused on biology, natural resources management, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, management, veterinary sciences and related fields.

Thanks to the partnership with CCA, course fees directly contributed to the conservation of the endangered flora and fauna of Bangladesh.

Reza also led a shorter-term outdoor adventure education workshop from July 13-16 open to local participants. The workshop was sponsored by Delta State University, the DSU Quality Enhancement Plan and the CCA. Participants learned about environmental policies and issues, research and study practices, and wildlife photography techniques.

A group of 45 students from local universities participated in the workshop and received a certificate issued by Delta State and CCA. Reza was joined by a team of experts to manage the large group of students. Colleagues included: Ceasar Shahirar Rahman, CEO of CCA; Dr. Kamrul Hasan, professor of zoology at Jahangirnagar University; Scott Trageser, director of CCA; Dr. Samia Saif, biologist of BCAS; and Tania Khan, a freelance naturalist.

Reza said hands-on field courses often help students get recognized in the scientific field.

“You have a great chance of getting your name on a scientific publication by making a range extension, or even discovering a new species,” he said. “Our 2014 and 2015 trips recognized multiple potentially new species and made several range extensions. In 2016, our group discovered a new species of a Takydromus lizard.”

During his trip to Bangladesh, Reza also organized two seminars at Jahangirnagar University and Independent University of Bangladesh, where he discussed the environmental policy issues related to U.S. and Bangladesh perspectives. Both seminars had high attendance and wide covered by the local media.

At the end of the trip, Reza participated in a live — online as well as on a local television — panel discussion on river conservation and aquatic biodiversity in Bangladesh. The small country, slightly bigger than the state Mississippi, has more than 700 major rivers.

“Many of them have issues related to pollution, encroachment, building unplanned dams, etc.,” said Reza. “During the panel discussions, experts and managers discussed ways to mitigate the issues.”

Reza, who also serves as Delta State’s international partnership liaison, is planning to offer another field course in December. For more information about fieldwork and other opportunities with Delta State’ environmental science program, contact Reza at areza@deltastate.edu.