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Investing in Our Academic Future

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By President William N. LaForge

The continued cuts to state funding for public universities in Mississippi present a significant challenge that is felt not only at the university level, but also across the entire state.

Each of the eight public four year universities has a considerable investment in our students, businesses, employees, communities, outreach efforts, and research projects—all of which ripple out to impact the state’s economy and future. All of us as citizens of Mississippi are affected directly or indirectly by higher education outcomes, sometimes in ways we don’t even realize.

Mississippi Today recently reported that between fiscal years 2010 and 2017, state university funding has declined 4.5 percent, and general funding for IHL has declined more than 7 percent. During that same time, system-wide enrollment has increased more than 12 percent, and the number of degrees awarded in this state has increased nearly 14 percent.  The hardest hit budgets have been the universities’ operating budgets that provide funding for maintaining campus operations and paying the salaries of the faculty and staff who educate our students.

State funding is necessary to supplement tuition and other revenue for our universities that, collectively, are one of the best higher education bargains in the country, and which boast reasonable tuition rates that other states and universities envy.

To support the vision of a new Mississippi, the most appropriate view of higher education expenditures by the state is not simply that of an expense item in the budget. It is much more essentially an investment—in our students, in our state, and in our future.

Like our sister public institutions, Delta State manages scarce resources in an environment of competing priorities every day. We strategically focus our attention and spending on programs, initiatives, and educational offerings that bring value to our students and to the state. And, we rely basically on state funding and student tuition to provide the revenue necessary to accomplish our mission. Some ask, ‘How can we measure the outcomes and the return on our investment?’  The answer is in the products we produce—prepared students who are ready to enter the professions and workforce across the state.  All of our state universities are working hard every day to meet that goal through prudent allocation of resources.

One example of smart, targeted spending that produces terrific outcomes at Delta State is our emphasis on improved retention—helping our students stay in school and on the path to graduation.  Between the fall of 2015 and the fall of 2016, we experienced significant increases in retention rates for first-time, full-time, degree-seeking freshmen—5.2 percent; first time, full-time, degree-seeking transfer students—7.8 percent; and, all full-time, degree-seeking undergraduate students—3.7 percent. Simply put, this means more students stayed in school and on the path to graduation—and on the path to being more productive, employable citizens of our state.

But, the retention programs that produce this success cost money. Better said, they beg for our investment of dollars to support a program that will help Mississippi get off the bottom rung of American educational and economic metrics.  We are being asked by the state to continue doing this good work—to continue producing more and better-educated students—with fewer and fewer resources. By any measure, that is an unsustainable pattern.

Here at Delta State University, as at all our public universities, we believe in putting students first, and that quality education should be available to all qualified students in this state. We offer the lowest tuition in the region, and we make the most of our limited resources, while still providing a top-tier education for our students.  But, as long as state funding is severely limited or cut, this model of success will be undermined.

Just as our eight public universities merit the investment of Mississippi tax dollars to support our educational mission, our students individually also need financial assistance to enroll and stay in school.  State research data show that 89 percent of our eligible full-time, degree-seeking students, both undergraduate and graduate, received some form of financial aid during the 2015-16 academic year. These deserving students need our support to help them earn a college degree—a tangible outcome that serves the best interests of our state on so many   levels.

In the rural Delta of Mississippi, Delta State is seen as a beacon of opportunity in a place where opportunity is sometimes lacking. In the fall of 2016, for example, 25 percent of our student body comprised first-generation students. This number is clearly indicative of the urgent need for, and value of, higher education in the Magnolia State. When we educate that first­ generation student, we are lifting up an entire family.

Continuing to cut state funding for higher education puts statewide efforts for student success at dire risk. Future cuts will only produce a steeper uphill battle in the fight to lift this state off the economic bottom. We cannot continue to be expected to produce more graduates, continue our outreach efforts in our communities, and fund vital research with fewer resources.

Let’s continue to educate Mississippians and to make this state a better place to live, work, prosper, and raise our families. Enhanced state funding for higher education—not more budget cuts—is the key to a brighter future for this state.

Margaret Tullos

Margaret Tullos Symposium scheduled for March 10

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Delta State University’s Department of Social Work will present the annual Margaret Tullos Symposium entitled “Making Social Work EPIC: Engaging, Passionate, Invigorating and Creative” on March 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Jacob Conference Center of James M. Ewing Hall.

The conference is named in honor of Professor Emeritus Margaret Tullos, who served as a field education instructor during her long tenure at Delta State. The event is sponsored by the Social Work Department to offer continuing education credits to enhance the professional growth and development of social work practitioners throughout the State of Mississippi. Both active and retired social work practitioners, social work students, mental health therapists and school counselors from across Mississippi are encouraged to attend.

This year’s featured speakers and guests include:
 ·  Heather McTeer Toney (keynote speaker), regional administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV, Atlanta, Georgia
 ·  Allison Curington, director of field education, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
 ·  Patricia Williams, LCSW and readjustment counselor, Baton Rouge Vet Center (Veterans Administration Regional Counseling Service), Baton Rouge, Louisiana
 ·  Jerome R. Kolbo, Ph.D., MSW program coordinator, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg

The conference fee is $80 and can be paid at registration beginning at 9 a.m. Social work students with proper identification will only be charged $10 for registration.

Activities will conclude at 4 p.m. with refreshments available throughout the day. Participants will receive five Continuing Education hours awarded by the Mississippi Board of Examiners for Marriage and Family Therapists. Exhibitors will also be on hand with information about local resources.

For details or additional information, contact the Social Work Department at 662-846-4407 or e-mail cjackson@deltastate.edu.

pres award winner

BPAC’s Highest Honor Given to Gresham, McPherson Families

By | Alumni, Bologna Performing Arts Center, General, President, Uncategorized | No Comments

The Bologna Performing Arts Center (BPAC) proudly announces that the Gresham and McPherson families of Indianola are the latest recipients of the President’s Award.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge presented the award Tuesday, Feb. 7 at a special event on the theater’s stage. The President’s Award is given in recognition of outstanding service to the BPAC.

“Since the Bologna Performing Art Center’s beginnings, the Gresham and McPherson families have been ardent supporters, as they are of so many aspects of the arts and Delta culture,” remarked LaForge. “They are shining examples of community support and engagement.”

This award is given by Delta State’s president to those who have contributed their expertise, insights and energy to promote the arts for the enrichment of the Delta in special ways. The award is the BPAC’s highest honor. Acknowledgement is made through a unique award modeled after architectural details of the BPAC façade, which are covered in gold leaf.

The Gresham and McPherson families were original supporters of the BPAC when it was first built in 1994 through state funding through the Mississippi legislature. Gresham Petroleum Company and Double Quick, Inc. provided the lead gift for the BPAC’s Recital Hall stage. Over the last 20 years, the Gresham and McPherson families have provided scholarship ticket programs for school-age students to attend matinee performances and youth scholarships for children to the Mississippi Summer Arts Institute, in addition to annual support for the facility’s programs.

A multidisciplinary facility, the BPAC presents an annual season of national and international touring productions in addition to its university commitments. To learn more about the BPAC or to get tickets to an upcoming performance, visit www.bolognapac.com or stop by the center.

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Delta State Alumni Association announces 2017 event dates

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The Delta State University National Alumni Association recently announced the following 2017 event dates for three of the largest events held on campus — Go Green Weekend, Pig Pickin’ and Homecoming.

On April 7-8, join the Green and White Nation for the 4th annual Go Green Weekend at Delta State. Celebrate the spring season with live entertainment, tailgating, a jambalaya cook-off, athletic games, activities for the family and more! Come out to support the Statesmen and Fighting Okra for a weekend of food, fun and sports.

The 32st annual Pig Pickin’ will be held this year on Oct. 7-8, as the Statesmen football team hosts the University of West Alabama. The full schedule of events will be announced at a later date. Make plans now to tailgate in Statesmen Park with friends and fellow alumni.

Homecoming has been set for Nov. 10-11, and the Statesmen football team is scheduled to compete against Florida Tech. Throughout the weekend, the Alumni Association has a variety of activities planned. The class of 1967 will be featured and honored, as they’ll be celebrating 50 years since graduating from Delta State. They will also be inducted into the prestigious Golden Circle, which is a constituency group of the Alumni Association that honors alumni who graduated at least 50 years ago. The National Alumni Association will recognize the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year, Alumni Hall of Fame, and other service awards. The award winners along with the Delta State Athletics Hall of Fame will be recognized at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Nov. 10.

“Make plans now to return to campus! The Alumni Office has mailed 15,000 save-the-date postcards to our alumni and friends promoting these signature annual events. We also just released 28,000 Alumni and Foundation magazines which feature these dates, so keep them handy as a reminder,” said Jeffrey Farris, alumni director. “The Alumni Office wants to help you get back to campus to enjoy Cleveland and your alma mater.”

Email alumni@deltastate.edu with questions, and for travel info and local accommodations, go to www.visitclevelandms.com.

More details on events will be released at a later date. The official hashtag for Go Green Weekend is #GGW, Pig Pickin’ is #DSUPigPickin and for Homecoming is #DSUHC.

To stay up to date on the Alumni Association’s activities, follow these social media sites: Facebook (Statesmen Graduates), Twitter (@DSU_Alumni), LinkedIn (DSU alumni), Instagram (dsualumni) and You Tube (dsualumni1).

Stagecraft-Workshop

DMI Students Complete Stage Performance Workshop

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The Delta Music Institute, an entertainment industry studies program at Delta State University, recently presented a stagecraft workshop on “Making Your Live Music Performance Effective,” a two-day event featuring lectures, discussions and hands-on demonstrations facilitated by Lang Bliss, live show producer with Diff’rent Wirld Productions in Nashville.

The event was held Feb. 3-4 at the DMI studios on the campus of Delta State.

According to Bliss, “DMI students and other talented young people are facing a different music industry than those seven, 10 and 15 years ago. The old record label based model doesn’t exist for most aspiring artists these days. A new model exists and is continuing to develop, where the main source of income for the vast majority of artists is centered around that artist’s live performance and their ability to gain and expand their audience with each and every show.”

Lang Bliss has over 30 years of experience in the music industry, in addition to his live music production work with Diff’rent Wirld Productions. His work as a live music producer includes everyone from weekend warrior artists to the Armed Services to those who have sold millions of records and written numerous number one hits, including The TeLang-Blissnors, Sidewalk Prophets, The Henningsens, and Francesca Battistelli.

As a performer, Bliss has been involved in the rock, country and CCM music industries as a songwriter for BMG publishing, an artist with BlissBliss, and he was signed to REX records with label mates Sixpence None the Richer. As a musician he’s played and sung with artists such as GRAMMY® and Dove award winners Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, and Michael McDonald.

Participants in the workshop included members of the DMI All Stars, B4Y2K, singer/songwriter Kelsey Buquet and other selected students.

The DMI is an independent center of study under the College of Arts & Sciences at Delta State University offering a B.S. degree in Entertainment Industry Studies degree. The focus of the DMI is to provide students with a broad and thorough education in the technological, creative and business areas of the music and entertainment industry. For information, visit http://dmi.deltastate.edu. For information about the DMI program, call (662) 846-4579 or email dmi@deltastate.edu.