NEH funds Delta Center’s “Most Southern” workshops for ninth year

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June 2017 NEH “Most Southern Place on Earth” scholars and Delta Center staff members Lee Aylward and Dr. Rolando Herts visit the 1927 Flood Mississippi Blues Trail marker in Scott, Mississippi.

The National Endowment for the Humanities recently announced $39.3 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country. Among the projects funded is The Delta Center for Culture and Learning’s “Most Southern Place on Earth: Music, Culture, and History of the Mississippi Delta.” These week-long professional development workshops attract K-12 educators from across the U.S. to Delta State University and the broader region.

NEH will award nearly $190,000 to Delta State to support the summer 2018 “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. Since 2009, NEH has awarded approximately $1.5 million to Delta State to fund the workshops.

“NEH grants ensure that Americans around the country have the opportunity to engage with our shared cultural heritage,” said Jon Parrish Peede, NEH acting chairman. “From traveling exhibitions and teacher workshops to efforts to preserve local history, these projects demonstrate the power of the humanities to build connections, stimulate discovery and contribute to vibrant communities.”

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center, said he was thrilled to receive additional NEH support.

“We are honored and grateful to receive funding from NEH for our ‘Most Southern’ workshops,” said Herts. “The workshops have developed national ambassadors for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, which The Delta Center manages. Our workshop participants take what they learn about the Delta’s culture and history back to their school communities. Many of them return to the Delta as educational and cultural heritage tourists, bringing family members, friends, students and colleagues with them.”

The summer of 2018 will be the ninth year that the workshops have been offered to K-12 educators, and Herts said they are in high demand among K-12 educators nationally. The workshops have produced an active alumni network boasting over 500 members.

“Our workshops yield hundreds of applications annually for just 72 slots,” said Lee Aylward, workshop co-director. “We are so very pleased that NEH continues to support these workshops. Once again, we can provide a unique professional development opportunity for master teachers who will educate students all over the country using Mississippi Delta music, culture and history. Through these workshops, we all are making a difference in the lives of these teachers and their students.”

Herts said this was an especially competitive funding year for the workshops. The NEH suspended the Landmarks of American History funding category for the summer of 2018, and all existing Landmarks workshops, if they chose to do so, had to apply under NEH’s Summer Seminars and Institutes for College and University Teachers funding category. This meant more programs across the country were competing for the same grant funds.

This round of funding, NEH’s third and last for fiscal year 2017, will support vital research, education and public programs in the humanities. These peer-reviewed grants were awarded in addition to $46.1 million in annual operating support provided to the national network of state and local humanities councils during fiscal year 2017, including the Mississippi Humanities Council.

“The Mississippi Humanities Council congratulates The Delta Center and Delta State University on this achievement,” said executive director Stuart Rockoff. “The ‘Most Southern Place on Earth’ workshops help to raise the national profile not only of the Delta region but of the entire state of Mississippi.”

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit http://deltacenterdsu.com/.

Alumni to host Desoto County event

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The Delta State University National Alumni Association will travel to Southaven for its annual DeSoto County Alumni Event on Saturday, Aug. 12. This year’s event will be held at the BankPlus Training Center and will begin at 6 p.m.

An update from campus will begin at 6:45 p.m., and the Desoto County Scholarship Silent Auction will be open from 6-8 p.m. The cost will be $15 for individuals and $25 for couples. Children are welcome, and kids under 12 eat free. Walk-in guests are welcome to pay at the door.

President William N. LaForge and head baseball coach Mike Kinnison will be the featured guests from campus. Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Vernell Bennett, the Alumni-Foundation staff, as well as other Delta State faculty and staff will also be in attendance.

“I am glad to help with the planning of the alumni meeting this year,” saids Billy Sears, Desoto County alumni president. “There are dedicated alumni in Desoto County that love Delta State, and it is always great to see our meeting come together each year. It is amazing to continue the love for the university that has given me so much through the years.”

Each year, the event has a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the DeSoto County Scholarships, which are awarded to incoming Delta State freshmen from the area. This year’s recipients are Avery White and Jackson Moore.

Prospective students are invited to attend as guests of the Alumni Association.

To RSVP, contact the association at 662-846-4660 or visit https://www.deltastategiving.org/alumniassociation/desotocountyevent.

All students interested in attending Delta State University are urged to contact Caitlyn Thompson, director of Admissions, at 662-846-4020.

Sponsors for the event include: State Farm agents Ryan T. England and Stephanie Morrison, BankPlus, Renasant Bank, Northcentral Electric Power, First Security Bank, Planters Bank, Lost Pizza Company, McAlister’s Deli, Grapevine Liquor & Wine, and A&B Distributors.

Ownby, Westmoreland and Jones to discuss “The Mississippi Encyclopedia”

By | Academics, Archives, Community, Faculty/Staff, QEP | No Comments

The DSU Quality Enhancement Plan, the Division of Social Sciences and History, and the DSU Archives Department will present a public presentation on “The Mississippi Encyclopedia” on Aug. 31 at noon in the seminar room of the Charles W. Capps, Jr. Archives & Museum.

The presentation will provide a concise compilation of people, places and events from prehistoric times through today.

Featured speakers include: Dr. Ted Ownby, professor of history and southern studies at the University of Mississippi and director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture; Dr. Chuck Westmoreland, associate professor of history at Delta State; and Emily Jones, Delta State archivist.

The trio will discuss Ownby’s most recent publication, “The Mississippi Encyclopedia,” a large collaboration that includes over 1,600 entries, 1,451 pages, and features more than 700 scholars who wrote entries on every state county, every governor and numerous musicians, writers, artists and activists.

The work is the first encyclopedia treatment of the state since 1907.

“I was excited when Dr. Ownby reached out to me in the spring about DSU hosting this event,” said Michelle Johansen, QEP coordinator. “Our campus and community will be amazed by the breadth of this book. I’m proud of the number of current and former DSU scholars who made valuable contributions to the encyclopedia.”

The volume will appeal to anyone wanting to know more about Mississippi and the people who call it home. It will be especially helpful to students, teachers and researching scholars.

The event will be followed by a book signing and reception.

McAnally to perform album release and benefit concert at BPAC

By | Bologna Performing Arts Center, Community | No Comments

On Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m., the statewide non-profit organization Extra Table will host country music star Mac McAnally along with the Mississippi Bicentennial Orchestra and members of the Coral Reefer Band in a benefit concert at the Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State.

Now, in his fifth benefit concert to help fight hunger, McAnally joins Extra Table to help get healthy food to the hungry across the Mississippi Delta. All profits from the show will be used to purchase healthy food for area feeding agencies.

Extra Table, founded by chef, author and restaurateur Robert St. John, is a non-profit organization committed to ending hunger in Mississippi by providing food pantries and soup kitchens with the nutritious food they need to feed Mississippi’s hungry.

Through a partnership with Sysco, the nation’s largest food distributor, Extra Table uses 100 percent of donations given for food to purchase healthy food bundles from Sysco, which are delivered free of charge on a monthly basis to 27 food pantries and soup kitchens that Extra Table is partnered with throughout the state.

In addition to the profits from the concert, McAnally is also announcing a special album release of biggest hits and favorite songs set to orchestration, with a portion of proceeds also benefitting Extra Table.

McAnally’s peers have voted him County Music Association Musician of the Year for an unprecedented eight years in a row. He’s a member of the Nashville Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer band. He has been releasing albums since he was 20, and he’s written several No. 1 hits, beginning with Alabama’s “Old Flame.”

Scheduled to release Aug. 25 on Mailboat Records, “Southbound” is the first of his 14 albums to present all original material in McAnally’s newly arranged orchestral context. The album features 16 tunes from his catalog, each one spotlighting members of Hattiesburg, Mississippi’s FestivalSouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jay Dean, accompanying McAnally’s performances.

To purchase tickets to the Sept. 7 performance, visit http://bolognapac.com or www.extratable.org.

Delta State represented at Botanical Society of America conference

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

Delta State University’s Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding, professor of biology and environmental science, recently attended the annual Botanical Society of America conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Botanical Society of America is one of the world’s largest scientific societies dedicated to the study of plants and serves as an umbrella organization that covers all plant specialties including conservation and ecology, historical botany, microbiological interactions, paleobotany, physiology, teaching plant science and more.

During the conference, Baghai-Riding served as a senior mentor in the Plants Grant program that is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. This year, she mentored Jocelyn Navarro, an undergraduate botany student from Connecticut College.

Baghai-Riding presented a professional poster on her research titled “Implications of a palynological sample from Bowie River.” She co-authored the research with Delta State students Kendal Davis and Raven Allison, along with Dr. Brian Axsmith from the University of Southern Alabama.

Also presented was “An elemental study of regional variation in noncommercial jams and jellies,”‘ a poster co-authored by Delta State students Callie Masterson, Raven Allison, Dana Rico, William Whittington, Breana Randle, Gregory Peacock and Dr. Chuck Smithhart, and “Stomatal density and carbon dioxide leaf peel study of four woody plant species in the Mississippi Delta,” which was co-authored by Hannah Taylor, Wilsonya Mitchell, Jon’ Ayo Farquharson and Madison Zoeller.

To learn more about the environmental science program at Delta State, email Baghai-Riding at nbaghai@deltastate.edu.