CLEVELAND, Miss. — Delta State University President Dr. Dan Ennis and Coahoma Community College Dr. Valmadge Towner welcomed guests from the region to the Cutrer Mansion on the campus of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale on September 12. The presidents spoke to their commitment to working together to meet the higher education needs of the citizens of the Mississippi Delta, and to the opportunities for collaboration that both universities are embracing.
Don Green, former DSU Alumni Association President and CCC Foundation board member, opened the program, welcoming the guests. He noted the historic nature of the Cutrer Mansion and the community efforts that went into its restoration and repurposing, then introduced Towner.
Towner said, “We believe that our strength definitely is connected to our partnership with Delta State University. It is really important to our college as well as the county, community and state that Delta State is strong, so we are thankful to the DSU Foundation for hosting this program tonight.”
Towner then introduced Ennis, who began by expressing his appreciation for the event’s location. He said, “Before I went to the dark side and became an administrator, I spent years teaching English. And I will tell you a story that only makes sense here. I had started my dissertation, at Auburn, and I was trying to finish up that degree, but I took one extra class, a Tennessee Williams seminar. And I tell you the truth, if I had not been 60-70 percent done with my dissertation, I would have switched to Tennessee Williams. I cannot tell you how much emotion I feel, standing in this place, talking to you all.”
Ennis spoke to his appreciation of the Delta region for its cultural footprint, and of his desire to become a part of the community. “I chose to come here,” he said. “I chose to be here, I wanted to be here, and I will spend my time trying to prove that I deserve to be among you.”
Ennis then discussed the importance of DSU and CCC working together to benefit the region. “Our growing and healthy relationship with Coahoma Community College is part of it,” he said, “because the way that this can work is some students need multiple steps to get to where they are going. They need a place to start, and they need a place to finish, and they need to see that there’s a route from where they are to where they want to be. Our partnership is part of that route.
Ennis was asked about the plans that are already in place to bring the two institutions closer. He said that his initial visits with Towner have been focused on big picture ideas, but that these visits have already laid the groundwork for collaboration in nursing and healthcare. “The very first curricular change you are going to see is a nice, tight supportive arrangement between the nursing programs here and our nursing programs in Cleveland, and that hopefully we will be routing back into your hospital and provide some resources there.”
Towner said, “The majority of our academic transfers already go to Delta State. We are open minded to discussing how our institutions can benefit from extending our partnership. We are excited about exploring new ideas.”
Ennis also spoke about the concept of “frictionless transfer,” where a credit is a credit, no matter where it is earned. He said, “I don’t ever want one of your students to be told, ‘well, half these classes don’t count.’ That is not right, it’s not appropriate, it’s not student-friendly, and it’s not necessary. The way to avoid that is to have great peer-to-peer relationships at the advising level, at the curriculum design level, and then to have conversations about what content is being covered at one institution and how does that feed content into another.”
Ennis said that he saw extraordinary opportunities for the two institutions to work together. “We are ready. We are signaling that we are ready. We’ve already started, and it’s exciting.”