Delta State to complete cultural exchange with Polish university

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When President William N. LaForge took office at Delta State University in 2013, he promised to develop the university’s relationships with international institutions and provide more exchange opportunities.

These efforts continue with an upcoming cultural exchange trip available to Delta States students to visit John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) in Poland, an institution where LaForge has been a visiting professor four times in recent years. The trip is being coordinated by DSU International Student Services.

Delta State hosted a group of KUL faculty and students in October 2015, and the upcoming trip will mark the first opportunity for Delta State students to visit KUL’s campus. KUL is one of several universities abroad with which Delta State has signed a memorandum of understanding to further develop international exchanges.

LaForge said this trip would also serve as a way to build on future exchanges between both institutions.

While the exact itinerary for the two-week exchange has not been finalized, tentative plans are to visit KUL in early May following Delta State’s spring commencement ceremonies.

Students attending the trip will be selected through a competitive application process. All academic majors are eligible to apply, but preference will be given to fulltime undergraduate students interested in pursuing various aspects of law beyond graduation, such as law school, business law, international business, environmental law, etc. KUL’s law school specializes in the study of these aspects of law.

To apply, visit More requirements and trip details are explained on the application webpage.

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, will lead the group as the university’s international partnership liaison.

LaForge continues to stress the importance of partnering with institutions abroad.

“I’m thrilled that we’re sending our first delegation to KUL,” said LaForge. “This will be a great opportunity for our students to see a very different part of Europe. Our students will get a flavor for the Polish culture and KUL’s university environment.

“International travel really helps broaden an individual’s outlook and experiences not available through just a textbook or travelogue,” he added. “The international exchange experience provides a terrific opportunity for our students. Secondly — in a very practical sense — international travel, study abroad and exchange programs help set students apart in the market competition for jobs and graduate programs. It helps a potential employer or graduate school say, ‘This student is engaged and interested in the world around them.’”

That’s the highest and best use of the international exchange experience. Secondly — in a very practical sense — international travel, study abroad and exchange programs help set students apart in the market competition for jobs and graduate programs. It helps a potential employer or graduate school say, ‘This student is engaged and interested in the world around them.’”

Dr. Christy Riddle, executive director of International Student Services and the Student Success Center at Delta State, added that the university will continue to strengthen ties with its partner schools.

“We are very excited to offer the Poland trip,” said Riddle. “These international partnerships offer the opportunity for our Delta State faculty and students and their faculty and students to travel, teach and study abroad through various exchange programs. It’s is a win-win for Delta State because the students traveling abroad gain a greater understanding of global issues, and it also exposes our on-campus students to other cultures.”

Along with KUL, Delta State has been developing exchange programs with Perm State University in Perm, Russia and The University of National World Economy in Sofia, Bulgaria, both schools at which LaForge has taught. Delta State is also in the process of developing partnerships with two additional international universities. Follow all news at as advancements continue with these schools.

For more information on the KUL trip, visit, or contact Dr. Reza at

Special Event to take place during GRAMMY® Week in Los Angeles on Thursday, Feb. 11, and feature performances by GRAMMY®-nominated Blues Legend Bobby Rush, current GRAMMY nominees the Cedric Burnside Project, the DMI All-Stars, and rising country trio Southern Halo

GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi and Visit Mississippi Announce Mississippi Night at The GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE

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GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi announces Mississippi Night will take place on Feb. 11, 2016 at the GRAMMY Museum at L. A. LIVE in Los Angeles. This event has become an integral part of GRAMMY® Week activities and allows Mississippi to showcase its musical talent underscoring why the state is seen as the Birthplace of American Music.

Performing at this year’s event is rising country trio Southern Halo, the DMI All-Stars, the GRAMMY-nominated Cedric Burnside Project, and blues legend Bobby Rush.

“This event highlights Mississippi and its achievements, and also promotes the state as a tourist destination,” said Emily Havens, Executive Director of GRAMMY Museum Mississippi. “Evening activities will begin with a reception on the Museum’s rooftop terrace, hosting Mississippi music, film, and tourism industry professionals, GRAMMY Award winners, and others, and culminates with performances in the Museum’s intimate Clive Davis Theater.”

Prior to the evening’s performances, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will lead an education program for Los Angeles students utilizing music and film that illustrates and celebrates Mississippi and its contributions to the arts. The education program will also feature special performances.

“The DMI All-Stars are great ambassadors for the Delta Music Institute’s entertainment industry program, and Delta State University. What I really hope our students get out of this opportunity is that it’s possible to start anywhere, even a small town, and succeed in this industry,” said Walker.

About GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi
Set to open on March 5, 2016, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi is affiliated with the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE and will share its mission to celebrate the enduring legacies of all forms of music, the creative process, the art and technology of the recording process, and the history of the premier recognition of excellence in recorded music — the GRAMMY® Award. In addition, GRAMMY Museum Mississippi will focus on continuing achievements of Mississippians. The Museum will house interactive exhibits dedicated to its mission, as well as host educational programs for students of all ages. For more information about GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, please visit, follow @GRAMMYMuseumMS on Twitter and Instagram, and like “GRAMMY Museum Mississippi” on Facebook.

About the Artists
Bobby Rush is an 82-year-old legendary R&B, soul, funk, and blues artist with the energy and performance style like he’s in his prime. Rolling Stone magazine calls Bobby Rush “The King of the Chitlin’ Circuit” for his constant touring and vibrant live show on a circuit that has been home to Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, James Brown, and other black entertainers. As a result, the Blues Music Awards named him B.B. King Entertainer of the Year for 2014. Just released is his first-ever box set titled Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History on Bobby Rush with 74 recordings on four CDs from 1964-2014 from 20 labels, with three new songs, outtakes, and testimonials from his friends Mavis Staples, Elvin Bishop, Keb’ Mo’, Al Bell, David Porter, and more. In 2006 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and from 2014-2015 he garnered back-to-back GRAMMY nominations and Blues Music Awards.

Cedric Burnside Project epitomizes the unique sound that originates in the Hill Country of North Mississippi. Cedric Burnside began playing drums for his grandfather, the legendary R.L. Burnside, when he was only 13 years old. His uncle, Garry Burnside (R.L.’s youngest son), got his start as the bass player for Junior Kimbrough at his world famous juke joint in Chulahoma, Miss. Trenton Ayers also got his start at that juke joint. His father was Kimbrough’s original bass player and Ayers learned by watching his dad and the older guys who played there every Sunday night, including Cedric and Garry. Cedric, Garry, and Ayers collaborated to create Descendants of Hill Country, which is a love letter to their families and the hypnotic beat that echoes through North Mississippi Hill Country.

The DMI All-Stars, a student band selected from Delta Music Institute Entertainment Industry Studies majors, covers songs associated with Mississippi GRAMMY-winning artists, songwriters, and producers. This year’s group of students includes eight performing band members and three non-members who assist with road management, social media, and tech support.

Southern Halo, whose members hail from Cleveland, Miss., are a dynamic modern country- rock band composed of teen sisters Natalia Morris on guitar and lead vocals, Christina on drums and vocals, and Hannah on bass guitar and vocals. Their amazing sibling harmonies and expert musicianship best define their sound. Southern Halo has performed across America, from Atlanta, Georgia to San Diego, Calif., and at concert venues across the Mississippi Delta to the hallowed stage of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. Their debut single, “Little White Dress,” from their 2015 self-titled album, has recently cracked the national MusicRow radio chart and entered 2016 by holding down the #1 spot on the European Hotdisc chart for 8 consecutive weeks.

Don't miss MAMMA MIA! Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bologna Performing Arts Center.

MAMMA MIA! at BPAC one night only on Feb. 18

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Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ MAMMA MIA!, the smash-hit musical based on the songs of ABBA, plays the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. on the campus of Delta State University. The performance is locally sponsored by Guaranty Bank.

MAMMA MIA! is one of the most successful musicals of all time, the eighth longest running show in Broadway history and one of only five current musicals to have run for more than ten years on Broadway. The West End production is now in its 17th year. The international tour has visited more than 81 foreign cities in 37 countries.

Inspired by the storytelling magic of ABBA’s songs from “Dancing Queen” and “S.O.S.” to “Money, Money, Money” and “Take a Chance on Me,” MAMMA MIA! is a celebration of mothers and daughters, old friends and new family.

MAMMA MIA! will perform one night only, Thursday, Feb. 18 at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Tickets for MAMMA MIA! are $35-$65 and are available through the Bologna Performing Arts Center Ticket office, 662-846-4626 and online at

MAMMA MIA! is produced by Work Light Productions, whose other touring productions include Rent 20th Anniversary Tour, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Vocalosity, and Crazy For You.

The original production of MAMMA MIA! was produced by Judy Craymer, Richard East and Björn Ulvaeus for Littlestar in association with Universal, the creative team responsible for bringing MAMMA MIA! to theatrical life includes some of the most gifted and celebrated talents of musical theatre and opera. With music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, MAMMA MIA! is written by Catherine Johnson and directed by Phyllida Lloyd. MAMMA MIA! has choreography by Anthony Van Laast, production design by Mark Thompson, lighting design by Howard Harrison, sound design by Andrew Bruce and Bobby Aitken, and musical supervision, additional material and arrangements by Martin Koch.

Dr. Shannon Jeffreys, director of Choral Activities and assistant professor at Georgia Southern University

Honor Choir concert set for Feb. 14

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Join the Delta State University choirs on Sunday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m. in the Bologna Performing Arts Center for this year’s Honor Choir concert.

DSU will host approximately 140 high school students from more than 15 schools in Mississippi and Tennessee. These students were selected through competitive on-site auditions in October and will visit the Delta State campus for the weekend to celebrate their achievements in choral music.

The concert will also feature the Delta State Chorale performing several selections including the Kentucky Appalachian tune “Bright Morning Star,” Beethoven’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” and Dan Forrest’s “Lead, Kindly Light,” as well the Delta State University Chamber Singers performing Stan Wagnon’s “The Least of These” with faculty member Dr. Laurissa Backlin as a soloist.

The guest conductor for the Honor Choir is Dr. Shannon Jeffreys, who is the director of Choral Activities and assistant professor at Georgia Southern University, where she conducts Southern Chorale, Fermata the Blue, and Southern Gentlemen and teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting and literature courses.

She has led Southern Chorale in two international choral competitions where the choir won significant awards earning the highest overall score in Sing ‘N’ Joy, Louisville in 2013. Dr. Jeffreys’ choirs have also been invited to perform in state conferences of the American Choral Directors Association and the national conference of the National Association for Music Education. Last spring, she was awarded the “CLASS Award of Distinction in Teaching” from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

Dr. Jeffreys holds degrees in music performance and conducting from Birmingham Southern College, the University of Mississippi, and the University of South Carolina. Dr. Jeffreys is an active adjudicator and clinician and a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, American Choral Directors Association, and National Association for Music Education.

President William N. LaForge speaks to representatives of Perm State University at a dinner held in their honor during their weeklong visit to campus.

Perm State returns for international visit

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A delegation from Perm State University in Perm, Russia — an international partner university — will be visiting Delta State for the first week of February. The visit marks the third time Perm State has been hosted on campus to develop exchange opportunities.

The group of Perm State faculty and students will spend the week meeting with a variety of department heads to advance international exchange programs between both universities. Visiting students will also attend and observe Delta State classes.

“I’m very pleased that we’re continuing our relationship with Perm State,” said Delta State President William N. LaForge. “It’s a university near and dear to my heart. We’re looking forward to hosting the PSU delegation, substantively in terms of coursework and programs on campus, but also socially and culturally.

“Their faculty will meet with our counterparts on campus to explore possibilities for future exchange programs that will be beneficial for both their students and ours,” he added. “This is a great next step in our growing relationship with Perm State University.”

LaForge has a long history with Perm State, dating back to 2008 as a visiting professor in their Center for International Legal Studies program. He also returned in 2011 and 2015 as a Fulbright Fellow.

In a groundbreaking international trip for Delta State last spring, a group of Delta Music Institute students and faculty visited Perm State and took part in “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture,” a two-week exchange project that was part of the U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of State.

Learn more about “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” and explore the trip blog at

Perm State faculty member Svetlana Polyakova, also the “Rivers of Music — Rivers of Culture” program coordinator from Perm State, will once again be leading her group of colleagues and students.

Joining Polyakova will be four Perm State graduate students and seven faculty members from four different departments.

“The main purpose of the visit is to take our partnership to the next level and develop further collaboration between the departments at Perm State University and Delta State University,” said Polyakova. “We hope to gain new cross-cultural knowledge and experience, understanding of the Mississippi Delta, and establish solid academic contacts for our colleagues from other departments.”

The Perm State delegation will also provide lectures to Delta State students and faculty to discuss the possibilities of mutual research projects in psychology, biology, linguistics, sociology, arts and economics. Grant opportunities for academic exchanges for both students and faculty will also be an area of focus.

“We are very much looking forward to seeing our great DSU friends and meeting new ones,” added Polyakova. “We hope to have a look at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi that will open in March.”

Dr. A.H.M. Ali Reza, assistant professor of biology at Delta State, will help guide the group on campus as the university’s international partnership liaison.

“Delta State and the Mississippi Delta in general are very localized, so hosting the Perm State group will bring us a lot of diversity in terms of cultural and academic exchange,” said Reza. “We, especially our students and teachers, will gain a lot of new ideas — as well as local community members.”

Follow all news at as developments continue with international partner universities.