Fireside Chat – April 2, 2018 – Dr. Ahm Reza

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Joining President LaForge is Dr. Ahm Reza.

Dr. AHM Reza, associate professor of biology and environmental sciences at Delta State University, was recently selected for a highly competitive fellowship spearheaded by the government of Australia.

The program, Australia Awards–Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships, is a merit-based fellowship providing opportunities for Australians to undertake study, research, or professional development overseas, and for overseas citizens to do the same in Australia.

The fellowship selection process of the Endeavor program is conducted through a global competition, and is open to all nations.

Dr. Reza’s participation in the program will include working in Australia from mid-May to early August, where he will utilize the fellowship for both research and teaching.

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Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella coming to BPAC

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RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN’S CINDERELLA, the 2013 Tony® Award-winning Broadway musical from the creators of “The King & I” and “The Sound of Music,” will play at the Bologna Performing Arts Center for one night only, April 17 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available now and can be purchased at the BPAC Ticket Office at 662-846-4626 and

The event is locally sponsored by Planters Bank and Trust.

With its fresh new take on the beloved tale of a young woman who is transformed from a chambermaid into a princess, this hilarious and romantic Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA combines the story’s classic elements — glass slippers, pumpkin, and a beautiful ball along with some surprising twists. More than just a pretty face with the right shoe size, this Cinderella is a contemporary figure living in a fairytale setting. She is a spirited young woman with savvy and soul who doesn’t let her rags or her gowns trip her up in her quest for kindness, compassion and forgiveness. She longs to escape the drudgery of her work at home and instead work to make the world a better place. She not only fights for her own dreams, but forces the prince to open his eyes to the world around him and realize his dreams too.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA has music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, a new book by Douglas Carter Beane, and original book by Oscar Hammerstein II. Originally directed by Mark Brokaw and choreographed by Josh Rhodes, the tour is directed by Gina Rattan and choreographed by Lee Wilkins. Music adaptation and arrangements are by David Chase and music supervision is by Greg Anthony Rassen. Orchestrations are by Bill Elliott and are adapted from the original Broadway orchestrations by Danny Troob.

One of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s most popular titles, the production was written for television — debuting in 1957 starring Julie Andrews. In 2013, the show made its long-overdue Broadway debut. Along with CINDERELLA, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein’s legendary musicals include “OKLAHOMA!,” “Carousel,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and” The Sound of Music.”

Mr. Beane’s book for Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA blends masterfully with the musical’s cherished score with songs including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible,” “Ten Minutes Ago,” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?”

The creative team includes scenic design by Tony® Award-nominee Anna Louizos, costume design by six-time Tony® Award-winner William Ivey Long, lighting design by Tony® Award-winner Kenneth Posner, and sound design by Tony® Award-nominee Nevin Steinberg.

The tour is produced by Work Light Productions. CINDERELLA was produced on Broadway by Robyn Goodman, Jill Furman, Stephen Kocis, Edward Walson, Venetian Glass Productions, The Araca Group, Luigi Caiola & Rose Caiola, Roy Furman, Walt Grossman, Peter May/Sanford Robertson, Glass Slipper Productions LLC/Eric Schmidt, Ted Liebowitz/James Spry, Blanket Fort Productions , and in association with Center Theatre Group.

For more information, visit Facebook:  and Twitter: @CinderellaBway.

Delta State completes successful Winning The Race conference

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Photos, clockwise from top left: keynote speaker Kevin Powell; Delta State President William N. LaForge; Delta Music Institute student Jerion Keyes; participants of the local high school leadership forum.


Delta State University recently wrapped up its fifth annual Winning the Race conference, its award-winning race relations conference, held March 26-27.

This year’s conference, “Intersectionalities in Action: The Quest for Equity, Access, and Justice,” was presented in partnership and with support from Casey Family Programs and the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge closed the event by thanking co-chairs Dr. Temika Simmons and Dr. Charles Westmoreland, and by encouraging others to continue the imperative dialogue ignited at the conference.

“Delta State remains committed to core values and principles of equality,” LaForge said. “We proudly celebrate our multicultural identity and heritage every day. It’s not just black and white issues. It’s the full canvas of issues in society today — race, gender, sexual identity and preference, ethnicity, age, background, class struggle, poverty, education, social justice. We have 134 international students looking in at what we are doing today. These are truly global issues of great importance, but they are also truly local.”

And on an international level, the conference was watched via livestream by Perm State University in Perm, Russia, and by Delta State faculty and staff traveling in China. In addition, a German radio station visited campus to record part of the conference.

LaForge said if the dialogue changed even just one mind or heart, then the program was worthwhile.

“Let us grow and mature responsibly and together in this sphere of thought and activity as people of good will, to foster understanding, to be change agents, and to ensure — by our actions — that no one divides us, and that all of us understand the importance of working for a future in which all views and people are understood and valued, and in which we share the abundance of the opportunities this world presents us. That means a new Mississippi, and that’s up to us.”

Simmons, who was thrilled with the quality presenters, said the conference did an excellent job of highlighting places of equity exist in Mississippi.

“This conference is a good example of how we can better understand the racial undertones in everything we do,” said Simmons. “We want to be intentional about the racial implications things like who has access to healthcare and education — and provide the opportunity for people to be expressive of who they are, absent of stereotypes. That’s what this conference is supposed to do, to let people know that they can’t fight for equity without knowing where spaces of equity are.”

Westmoreland, co-chair with Simmons, said the hard work will not stop after the conference closing.

“Winning the Race remains active throughout the year thanks to the outstanding work of our Sustainability Committee,” said Westmoreland. “Through this committee, WTR has been able to establish partnerships with Delta State and off-campus entities to promote continued dialogue on race relations, and building more inclusive and equitable communities.”

“Next week, we are proud to be involved with Civil Rides, which is a three-day bike trek from the steps of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Mississippi, that follows in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to raise awareness around persistent rural poverty in America, and advocate for racial justice and healing.”

WTR also works closely with the Delta State Diversity Committee and Quality Enhancement Plan to sponsor and coordinate events on campus. Westmoreland encouraged all campus and community entities to contact WTR with ideas about future events that can advance the conversations on race, inclusion and equity. These efforts will be ongoing.

Conference programming highlighted the various ways in which race and race relations intersect areas of daily lives — from politics, economics, health and housing, to education, entertainment, art and science.

Keynoting the affair was Kevin Powell, a political activist, poet, writer and entrepreneur. Powell is widely considered one of the most acclaimed political, cultural, literary and hip-hop voices in America.

Also keynoting a conference luncheon was civil rights activist Dave Dennis, who participated in the first Freedom Bus ride from Montgomery, Alabama to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. Dennis was also a key figure in voter registration efforts during the 1964 Freedom Summer.

A community gathering on March 25 officially kicked off the schedule with an open house and press conference at the Amzie Moore House Museum and Interpretive Center in Cleveland. The occasion honored local civil rights leaders, veterans and their families.

LaForge spearheaded the first conference in 2014 as an innovative academic symposium with a focus on engaging, promoting and rekindling conversations in hopes that Delta-area communities can move toward greater equity, forward thinking and reduced racial tensions.

In recognition of this work, the university received the 2014 Civil Rights and Social Justice Award accepted by LaForge at the fourth National Civil Rights Conference in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

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Fireside Chat – March 26, 2018 – Frederick W. Smith

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Joining President LaForge is Frederick W. Smith, the chairman and CEO of FedEx.

Fred is the most recent speaker in one of our signature programs, the Delta State University Colloquia Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series. This ongoing series brings to campus high-profile professionals who share career and life stories with our students, employees, and the community, and provide an opportunity to hear from, and engage with, experts from a wide array of professions and interests. William F. Winter, former Mississippi governor, served as the first Colloquia speaker in 2013.

We’re honored to have Fred with us today, especially because of his Delta ties to Marks, Mississippi. Fred left the South in 1962 to enter Yale University. At Yale, he wrote a paper for an economics class outlining an overnight delivery service in a computer information age — and thus began his early ideas for FedEx.

After finishing at Yale, Fred was commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for three years as a platoon leader and a forward air controller. He served two tours of duty in Vietnam, flying with pilots on more than 200 combat missions. He was honorably discharged in 1969 with the rank of Captain, having received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.
In 1970, Fred purchased the controlling interest in an aircraft maintenance company, Ark Aviation Sales, and by 1971, turned its focus to trading used jets. On June 18, 1971, Smith founded Federal Express with his inheritance, and he raised $91 million in venture capital. And, if these accomplishments weren’t already enough to write home about, Fred is also a co-owner of the Washington Redskins National Football League team in our nation’s capital.

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