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Social Business Challenge hosted in Jackson

Students from Mississippi Public Universities, including Delta State University, will have the opportunity to showcase their ideas, creativity and ingenuity as they present solutions to some of Mississippi’s most pressing problems Thursday at the State Capitol in Jackson.

The event is called the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge. In 2012, Blueprint Mississippi (BM), an independent cooperative of organizations and leaders, conducted an objective review of Mississippi’s economic opportunities and recommended actions for putting Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity.

Competing groups in the business challenge were asked to focus their efforts in support of one of the nine goals identified by Blueprint Mississippi:

-Increase the Educational Achievement of Mississippians
-Cultivate a More Robust Workforce in Mississippi
-Strengthen and Expand Mississippi’s Economy
-Promote Health Care as an Economic Driver
-Support Mississippi’s Creative Economy
-Continually Develop the Infrastructure for a Competitive Economy
-Increase Availability of Financial Capital
-Cultivate Diversity, Community Cooperation and Racial Reconciliation
-Improve Communication and Coordination Among Public, Private and Non-profit Leaders

The Creative Activists, a Delta State group of students and faculty, will represent the green and white as they go against teams from Alcorn State, Jackson State, Mississippi State, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State, University of Mississippi and University of Southern Mississippi.

Members of the group include: students FaDerricka Harvey; Harrison Downs Wood; Toby Tombers; Ann Sweezer; Chace Holland; Justin Boatman; Dr. Beverly Moon, dean of Graduate and Continuing Studies and Research (faculty advisor); and Tricia Walker, director of the Delta Music Institute (faculty advisor);

The Creative Activists are proposing a project called Mississippi Entrepreneurial Center for Creative Arts (MECCA). The MECCA will create a comprehensible, sustainable database of artists and businesses within the creative economy sector.

This database, providing specific information on individual artists and creative economy support businesses, addresses the fifth BM goal — support Mississippi’s creative economy.

MECCA promotes and supports creative arts while simultaneously enhancing the economy by attracting investors and tourists. The project builds on the cultural and artistic heritage of the state and establishes a base for Mississippi artists.

Advisor Tricia Walker said the experience has been invaluable for the Delta State students.

“I have watched the Delta State team competing in the challenge from the inception of their project to the campus competition and now to the state competition,” said Walker. “There’s no doubt they have gained valuable experience along the way learning to work as a team under the guidance of mentors. Their ‘Creative Activists’ idea is unique and compelling. I congratulate them on their hard work.”

Open to any public university student, the challenge required students to work in teams of six with at least one faculty adviser. The teams may also enlist the assistance of professionals or alumni that have expertise related to the group topic.

Student teams from each university competed in competitions held on campus last fall, with the winning team from each campus advancing to the state competition.

Each team has developed a business plan and will outline their concept in a tabletop display and present their ideas to the judges in a brief oral presentation on Thursday.

Five business leaders will serve as the judges for the event. The judges include:
· Mary Martha Henson, executive director and COO, Mississippi Economic Development Council
· Christi Kilroy, vice president, Policy, Research and Member Engagement, Mississippi Economic Council
· Patricia McMahon, vice president and government loans manager, Trustmark National Bank
· Cathy Northington, vice president, Programs and Administration, Mississippi Economic Council
· Vickie Powell, senior vice president, Foundations, Mississippi Economic Council

More information on the competition is available on Mississippi Public Universities’ website at will be posted on Twitter @MSPublicUniv.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.