Delta State enrollment increases over five percent

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For the fourth year in a row, Delta State University is proud to announce an increase in university enrollment.

The preliminary numbers, as of Sept. 8, were 3,035 undergraduate students and 743 graduate students, for a total enrollment of 3,778. The increase of nearly 5.5 percent was the largest increase among the state’s eight public universities this year.

According to Delta State University President William N. LaForge, the growth is due to a number of major institutional efforts.

“I am very pleased with the increase in enrollment for the fall of 2017,” said LaForge. “Early reports indicate we are up 190 students, or nearly 5.5 percent over last year. This significant uptick represents the fourth consecutive increase, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

LaForge credited six major reasons for the enrollment increase:

  • A great team of faculty and staff across campus.
  • Smarter and more targeted recruiting in high schools and community colleges. This includes doubling community college recruiters, and increasing partnerships with high schools.
  • Improved retention rates thanks to engaged faculty and programs such as the Student Success Center and First Year Seminar.
  • Signature programs that continue to attract more students, including the Robert E. Smith School of Nursing, Delta Music Institute, Health/Physical Education/Recreation, and Aviation.
  • Doubling the number of international students in the last three years.
  • Offering a competitive tuition rate with stellar academics, including capstone projects for every major — all at an unparalleled value.

“I would be remiss not to mention that we have a welcoming student environment,” added LaForge. “Students feel very welcomed here and have the total college experience. There’s a buzz on campus, and there’s excitement all around.”

Caitlyn Thompson, director of recruiting, said recruitment efforts have focused on directly communicating with potential students.

“The recruiting staff worked very hard over this past year to reach new students, and one effort that may have contributed to the enrollment increase is the E-Communication Center that was implemented last fall,” said Thompson. “Current Delta State students contacted prospective students to speak with them about topics like campus events, scholarships, admissions deadlines, application reminders and more.”

Tricia Walker, director of the Delta Music Institute, said the DMI program has experienced significant growth over the past few years.

“The sustained growth of the DMI program brought the opportunity to add a faculty member and a studio manager to our ranks in order to better serve our students,” said Walker. “We are grateful to the administration for their support of this unique program. With an incoming class of more than 30 new students this fall, the DMI will exceed 120 majors in our entertainment industry studies program. We are packed and we like it that way.”

Tim Colbert, chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said HPER is one of the fastest growing majors.

“HPER has good degree options in multiple areas that lead not just to employment, but also sustainable careers with a chance for advancement,” said Colbert. “Our faculty understand how to relate to students on a personal level and help them to deal with their issues to become successful.”

Additionally, Delta State saw another uptick this year in the number of international students. Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of the Student Success Center and International Student Services, is proud that the university has doubled its international student body since the spring of 2013.

“We love that our international student population is growing each year,” said Riddle. “International students contribute so much to campus because of their global perspectives and diverse cultures. We welcome them to Delta State and look forward to even more international students for years to come.

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

COAS to kick off luncheon lecture series

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The College of Arts and Sciences at Delta State is pleased to announce the launch of its new luncheon lecture series Café Scientifique.

The monthly series kicks off Sept. 13 from noon to 1 p.m. in the GIT Center (Kethley Hall Room 150). The events are free and open to the public.

Presenters will include Talbot Brooks, director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Geospatial Information Technologies, and Chris Smith, program manager for the center.

Brooks’ topic is entitled “Mapping Crisis: A Standards Approach to Using the U.S. National Grid,” and Smith will present on “A Geostatistical Analysis of Severe Weather in the Mississippi Delta.”

“I will be sharing how mapping and analyzing the location of severe weather events for the past 60 years of the Mississippi Delta region shows that those events are clustered around populated places, in relation to hail, tornadoes and severe wind datasets,” said Smith.

Smith added that GIT Center student workers and geospatial analysis and intelligence majors have volunteered the majority of their time the past two weeks to create United States National Grid Mapbooks of the affected areas of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

“These students will continue to support the emergency responders out in the field until mapping support for the disaster rescue and recovery efforts are no longer required,” said Smith.

For more information on the lectures, contact Dr. Douglas Mark (dmark@deltastate.edu) or Margaret McClain (mmcclain@deltastate.edu).

King sculpture pays heartfelt tribute to Schmidt

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Visitors to downtown Cleveland are enjoying the recent expansion of Delta State’s Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden with five new installations along Sharpe Avenue.

One sculpture holds special meaning thanks to the creative work of recent Delta State graduate Lawson King ’17, an art major originally from Indianola.

His 8-foot steel and recycled rope sculpture “Broken Arrow” stands tall in dedication to former Delta State professor Dr. Ethan Schmidt, who fatally fell victim to gun violence in 2015.

“I dedicated the piece to him because his shooting caused me to react — caused me to respond to the traumatic experience,” said King. “The more I found out about the shooting, the more I felt connected to it.”

King found many similarities to the incident after his father was killed in a shooting at the age of three. King also taught with Schmidt’s wife at a local elementary school through his participation in the Delta Arts Alliance’s artist-in-residence program.

“It was personal for me to create this piece, but I also wanted to do it for Ethan’s wife and his kids,” said King. “I wanted to show them that I was three when my father was killed, and I think I turned out alright.”

Michael Stanley, chair of the Delta State Department of Art, was thrilled with King’s dedication, noting that he was the first student/alumni to have work displayed in the sculpture garden.

“Lawson’s piece is a very powerful tribute to Dr. Ethan Schmidt because he elegantly intertwines a number of very complicated ideas into one sculpture,” said Stanley. “The broken arrow is a symbol that represents peace and also refers to Ethan’s expertise in Native American history. It’s also a direct reaction to the events that took place the day of the shooting. Instead of using an image of violence, Lawson chose an image of peace, which is much more powerful in my opinion.”

The sculpture garden has developed into an iconic element of Delta State’s campus, and it has shown growth in recent years while expanding across the university, to the grounds of GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, and downtown Cleveland.

Judson Thigpen, executive director of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, said the sculpture garden’s development continues to forge the town-gown relationship.

“The sculptures are a continuation of the Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden at Delta State into the community,” said Thigpen. “It’s an added treasure that one of the sculptures is dedicated to the life of Ethan Schmidt and the lives he touched while here.”

Stanley agreed that the expansion of the sculpture garden strengthens the partnership between the university and the city of Cleveland.

“We cannot survive without the other, and this is a wonderful display of cooperation and a great visual reminder of this unique relationship,” he said.

Public sculpture was a big reason King pursued his art degree, as he felt public art was lacking in his hometown. The facilities in the art department make it possible for students to create large-scale public works.

King said it was an incredible honor to be selected in the first group of downtown sculptures.

“It feels like such a big accomplishment for me,” he said. “It’s awesome to be included with super talented sculptors from across the country. Just to be accepted and be among them in the first round of downtown sculptures — it means a whole lot to me.”

Learn more about the Hazel and Jimmy Sanders Sculpture Garden at http://thesculpturegardenms.com/.

University to celebrate 92nd anniversary

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All campus members, friends and supporters of Delta State University are invited to a university birthday celebration Sept. 13, as the institution marks the 92nd anniversary of its opening.

The public is encouraged to visit campus for the celebration of 92 years of excellence.

Delta State University President William N. LaForge, joined by members of the Dedicated Statesmen Association, will start the ceremony at noon at Whitfield Hall, the current home of the Delta Music Institute.

The anniversary program will focus on the decade of the 1940s, which will include a brief introduction of Governor James Whitfield, the man for whom Whitfield Hall was named. The former Mississippi leader signed the bill establishing Delta State Teachers College in 1924.

The program will highlight the historic events that took place in and around Whitfield Hall, and how its renovation has given rise to the thriving entertainment industries studies program at the DMI.

The event will conclude with a light lunch for attendees.

Dr. James Robinson, president of the DSA committee, is excited to once again celebrate the university’s founding.

“We will continue to celebrate each year with growing excitement as the 100th birthday of Delta State approaches,” said Robinson. “A yearly celebration allows us to embrace the school’s history and its bright future. Each year, the anniversary brings us closer as students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends.”

Emily Jones, university archivist, has been working closely with the DSA to bring the event together.

“We celebrate Delta State’s anniversary to pay tribute to those who have come before us, and all the great Statesmen and Lady Statesmen yet to come,” said Jones. “As an archivist, it brings me great honor to help highlight our history. We look forward to shining light on the ‘40s and former Governor Whitfield.”

The Delta State Wind Ensemble will join the program again this year, performing a selection of the green and white’s most popular tunes.

Stay up to date on all university events and activities at http://www.deltastate.edu.

Fighting Okra Records releases new compilation CD

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Fighting Okra Records, a student-run record label housed in the Delta Music Institute entertainment industry program at Delta State University, recently released its third compilation CD project, “Fighting Okra: Round 3,” featuring 17 tracks of original music either written, produced or recorded by DMI students.

The new Fighting Okra project was the culmination of a senior project by DMI graduate Jarrick Finkley during the fall of 2015. In a continuing effort to expose the music of DMI students to the campus and community, Finkley decided to assemble a third compilation CD to expose the depth of talent of DMI students.

“Fighting Okra: Round 3” contains 17 original works representing a wide range of genres including hip-hop, gospel, alternative, R&B, dub step, rock, metal, and country. The songs on the project were written, produced, engineered or performed by current DMI students and alumni, with Finkley serving as executive producer. Songs on the CD were selected by Finkley after multiple screenings and were chosen on the basis of lyrical content and recording quality.

“I loved working on Fighting Okra Round 3,” said Finkley, a native of Vicksburg. “It was a big challenge, but the project allowed me to learn so much within a cooperative work situation. I am grateful to every student artist and engineer who contributed their awesome gifts and talents to this project.”

DMI Director Tricia Walker served as the faculty advisor for the project.

“The lessons students like Jarrick learn in working on a real-world project like this are invaluable,” said Walker. “I’m very proud of what he’s put together on this CD. It really does represent the breadth and depth of the talent coming out of DMI.”

Copies of the CD will be available for purchase in the main office of the DMI on campus and online at www.fightingokrarecords.com. For more information on the album or the FOR label, contact the DMI at 662-846-4579 or visit www.fightingokrarecords.com.

The DMI is an independent center of study under the College of Arts and Sciences at Delta State, offering a bachelor’s degree in entertainment industry studies. 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, contact 662-846-4579 or visit http://dmi.deltastate.edu.