Monday, April 17, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
 
Mississippi State's Bagley College of Engineering nets $175K grant
Mississippi State University's Bagley College of Engineering recently received a $175,000 grant from the Toyota USA Foundation, and has plans to expand its outreach to middle and high school students throughout Mississippi. The grant funding will be put toward the Boosting Engineering Science and Technology (BEST) Robotics program. The BEST program serves 25 teams at local schools and aims to expand to 30 teams this year. The grant from the Toyota USA Foundation is the largest made to the Mississippi BEST Robotics program to date. The program encourages participation in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field.
 
Toyota plans $10M visitor and training center in Mississippi
Toyota Motor Co. says it will build a $10 million center for visitors and interactive training at its northeast Mississippi assembly plant. The Japanese automaker's announcement came Thursday as it marked the 10th anniversary of the plant's groundbreaking. The factory, with 2,000 workers assembling Corolla sedans, began production in 2011. Toyota also says it will give $175,000 for a family learning program in Tupelo. Another $175,000 will go to a Mississippi State University robotics program for middle and high school students.
 
Toyota announces major Mississippi investments
Toyota Motor Corp. is making a major financial investment in its Blue Springs, Mississippi, manufacturing facility with the announcement of a $10 million visitor and interactive training center as well as $350,000 in donations for education and literacy. State and company officials announced the investments during an event last week recognizing the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the $1 billion plant in Union County, about 20 miles from Tupelo and about 75 miles southeast of Memphis. Governor Phil Bryant said the announcement shows the strength of the relationship between the automaker and Mississippi. The Toyota USA Foundation donated the other $175,000 to Mississippi BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics at Mississippi State University in Starkville. The program exposes middle and high school students to the engineering design process.
 
Mississippi State researchers work to extend blueberry season
In-season blueberries are a fleeting summer treat. But with the help of high tunnels -- structures that shelter plants from the elements -- a Mississippi State University researcher hopes to make Mississippi-grown blueberries available for longer periods of time. A longer season will allow producers to use the high-selling products to supplement cash flow, said Guihong Bi, plant and soil sciences research professor at MSU's Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. "Because local blueberries aren't available year-round, it will allow producers to tap into a niche market when they have early or late blueberries. People are willing to pay premium prices for crops that are locally grown and out-of-season," Bi said in an MSU news release.
 
Theatre MSU concludes 53rd season with Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible'
Theatre MSU will conclude its 2016-17 season Thursday-Saturday with 7:30 p.m. performances of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" on the university's McComas Hall main stage. General admission tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the door prior to each performance or in advance at comm.msstate.edu/theatre/tickets. Group rates are available upon request. Set during the Salem witch trials of the 1690s, "The Crucible" is a timeless parable of morality, where the accusations of witchcraft by the young girls of Salem spin out of control and quickly become a game of life or death. "'The Crucible' is an American classic that is as relevant today as it was when Miller first penned it," said director Tim Matheny, an MSU assistant professor of theatre. "It is a story that needs to be told, and I am proud to join my fellow colleagues and students in bringing it to the MSU stage," Matheny added.
 
MSU-Meridian students to represent state at DECA International
Two Mississippi State University-Meridian students qualified to represent Mississippi in international competition in Anaheim, California, next week after recently earning first place recognition at the state's DECA Winter Leadership Conference and Competition in Raymond. Casey May of Meridian took first place in the business research category. May is pursuing a Bachelor of Applied Technology degree in healthcare services at MSU-Meridian and is a benefits analyst at Anderson Regional Health System. Melissa Hamilton of Collinsville, who placed first in the marketing management category, is a business administration student. May and Hamilton join four other MSU-Meridian students -- Steven Miller of Waynesboro, Anthony McOlgan and Lynette Cockrell both of Meridian and Michael Costa of Toomsuba -- who placed first in their respective categories at the state competition.
 
Albert L. Weimorts, Designer of Big Bombs and Mississippi State alum, Dies at 67
Albert L. Weimorts, a civilian engineer for the Air Force who conceived and designed some of the biggest, most powerful nonnuclear bombs ever made, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. He was 67. The cause was brain cancer, his son Todd said. In 2003, in honoring him at his retirement, the Air Force Research Laboratory cited Mr. Weimorts's role in developing two extremely powerful bombs. One was the GBU-28 "Bunker Buster" used in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. The other was the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, nicknamed the "mother of all bombs." It was made for the second Iraq war as a dramatic manifestation of "shock and awe," but never used. Albert Lee Weimorts was born March 6, 1938, in DeFuniak Springs, Fla. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., and graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in mechanical engineering.
 
Greater Starkville Development Partnership may go with search firm for CEO
Sources familiar with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership's search for a new chief executive officer say the organization is likely to hire an external firm to seek additional applicants after three finalists were identified but not hired this spring. Numerous members of the GSDP Board of Trustees declined to comment on the record about the status of the search, and board Chairman Michelle Amos did not reply to specific questions about the search. Instead, Amos issued a statement calling the search "ongoing" and said the board is "committed to recruiting the best possible candidate" and "is actively moving ahead with the process." As of Friday, it was unclear if the board has formally hired a search firm, how much such a move is estimated to cost and from where the funding for such a task would come.
 
OCH audit: Hospital loses money in 2015-16
OCH Regional Medical Center's Fiscal Year 2015-16 audit reported a $190,844 drop in its end-of-the-year net position after all operational and nonoperational revenues and expenses were accounted. The audit, which Oktibbeha County supervisors will acknowledge during Monday's 9 a.m. meeting at the chancery courthouse, shows a $416,064 loss between OCH's operating revenues ($71.75 million) and expenses ($72.17 million) after both categories moved negatively from the previous fiscal year's marks. Revenues decreased $1.98 million and expenses increased $1.26 million from FY 2014-15 to the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2016. Despite the overall loss, OCH Chief Executive Officer Richard Hilton said the hospital remains on a strong financial footing as recent trends show financial gains in the past years.
 
Testing time: Starkville-Oktibbeha looks to strengthen rating
Lining the halls of Starkville High School, names emblazon yellow-and-black-painted cinder blocks above the classroom doors. Each block represents a student who scored advanced on high-stakes subject testing in December. In the coming weeks, the students will get another shot to place their name on the wall. The window for Mississippi Assessment Program testing opens Tuesday and runs through mid-May. During that span, public school students in grades 3-8 will take annual exams for English and math, while students in fifth and eighth grades will also take science exams. Of those, third grade reading comprehension is considered a "high-stakes" test, meaning students are required to pass it before being promoted to fourth grade. Even students who fail that test this week, however, will have two more chances to pass before being retained.
 
Cadence goes public
After six years as a privately-held company, Cadence is again publicly traded, going live on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. Cadence Bancorporation (CADE) raised about $150 million for its initial public offering with 7.5 million shares worth $20 each. Sam Tortorici, CEO of Cadence and president of Cadence Bancorp, said the first share traded at $22.05. Prices stayed in that general range for most of the day, and ended traded Thursday at $21.55, according to MarketWatch. "This is an important milestone in the life of Cadence Bank," Tortorici said. "We're giving the public an opportunity to invest at a really positive time where Cadence's growth and our financial momentum is really positive." Cadence is based in Houston, Texas, with 66 banks across the southeast, including the Golden Triangle. Jerry Toney, Mississippi president of Cadence, said Thursday's stock offering marked a "very exciting" time for Cadence and the IPO should help fund future growth and potential acquisitions.
 
Cadence's Jerry Toney honored
Jerry Toney, senior wealth advisor for Cadence Investment Services and Mississippi president for Cadence Bank, was recently recognized as one of the nation's "Top 100 Bank Advisors" for 2016 by Bank Investment Consultant, a financial services industry magazine. Toney ranked 31st in the annual list, placing among the top 50 for the second consecutive year. Toney is a 1996 graduate of Mississippi State University and is an adjunct lecturer for the Department of Finance and Economics.
 
Viking Range to pay $4.7M fine over self-starting ovens
A Mississippi appliance maker has agreed to pay a $4.7 million federal fine for not reporting that certain ovens in freestanding gas ranges could turn on by themselves, with customers then sometimes unable to turn them off. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the fine Thursday against Viking Range, saying the company had 170 reports of problems with 15 models it sold between 2007 and 2014 before it notified the federal watchdog agency. The Greenwood, Mississippi, manufacturer was bought in 2012 by Middleby Corp. of Elgin, Illinois.
 
MDOT requesting funding sooner rather than later
The Mississippi Department of Transportation is claiming that road construction projects could be delayed and the costs of those projects to taxpayers could be increased if Gov. Phil Bryant waits too long to call a special session to fund the agency. Melinda McGrath, MDOT's executive director, sent a letter to Bryant last week explaining the need for her agency's budget for the upcoming fiscal year to be approved by May 15. The Legislature ended the 2017 session late last month without funding the office of Attorney General Jim Hood, the Department of Transportation and the state Aid Road Program. Bryant is expected to call a special session before the new fiscal year begins July 1 for the Legislature to fund the agencies. The legislative leadership has indicated that the passage of those bills will not be difficult, though they died during the regular session in the midst of disputes between the House and Senate leadership. But in a letter to Bryant, McGrath said the governor should not wait too long to call the special session.
 
Analysis: Leaders say reducing state budget meets GOP goal
There has been plenty of hand-wringing about the Mississippi budget the past several months, with Republican Gov. Phil Bryant making multiple rounds of cuts because tax collections fell short of expectations. Many programs face further reductions for the year that begins July 1 under a spending plan set by legislators. Some agency directors are certain to develop heartburn while figuring out how many jobs to leave unfilled and how many services to trim Don't expect woe-is-me rhetoric from Republican leaders of the House and Senate. After the legislative session ended in late March, House Speaker Philip Gunn of Clinton said the budget is tight, and said: "I don't apologize for that." Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves also said it's good that Mississippi is moving to a smaller state budget.
 
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., blasts Trump budget proposal
U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) unleashed a sharp critique of President Donald Trump's policies and administration during an address to the Mississippi Association of Supervisors' Minority Caucus on Wednesday morning at the Trotter Convention Center. The Minority Caucus, which has 142 members from 70 counties, is holding an annual education conference in Columbus. Thompson, who represents Mississippi's 2nd Congressional District, said cuts in Trump's proposed budget include severe slashes to agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture, that Mississippians rely on. The USDA is facing a 21-percent, $4.7 billion, cut under Trump's proposed budget. Thompson, a former Hinds County supervisor, said Mississippi faces challenges going forward that could be compounded by the Trump Administration's proposed budget cuts.
 
Panel updates Delta on federal, state programs
A community update in Clarksdale Thursday on legislative and congressional action highlighted issues with funding for health care, education and federal safety net programs. "I want to have a conversation with you about our state and the well-being of our state," said State Representative Orlando Paden, D-Clarksdale, who hosted the event at Coahoma Community College. Panelists -- including legislators, state officials, public policy advocates and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson -- highlighted areas they said should be of concern to residents in this region of the state. "I was asked to kind of give you a quick overview of where Mississippi's economy is," said Dr. Derrick Webb, State of Mississippi Economist. "We are growing at a pace that is better than what we have seen in the past, but not as good as some other states."
 
Jackson native driving force for national African-American museum
Tammy Boyd, a Jackson native, remembers in 2000 when her boss Rep. John Lewis gave her the assignment: Get enough bipartisan support behind legislation to build a national African-American museum. Never mind that the Georgia congressman had been trying to get Congress to pass the bill for 15 years. "I thought, 'Oh this is a great idea -- an African-American museum ...but I did not know how big it would end up being or how long folks had been fighting," for a museum, recalled Boyd, then the legislative director for Lewis. "I knew it would probably be hard. I didn't think it would be that difficult." Last fall, 16 years later, Boyd stood in the lobby of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a 400,000-square-foot bronze structure on the National Mall. "Even when I was working on it, I knew that it was something great, but did not know that it would be of the magnitude that it was," said Boyd, 42, a graduate of Clinton High and former staffer for Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson. "I'm like wow you actually worked on getting this passed."
 
Congress needs to reach a budget deal in a matter of days: What could go wrong?
The fate of the federal government -- whether it stays open or shuts down at the end of April -- is all up to Congress and President Donald Trump. What could possibly go wrong? Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are optimistic that when they return from their recess the last week of April, they'll reach a deal and avert a government shutdown by April 28, when legislation that is now funding the government expires. Yet there are a number of issues, including the White House's push for U.S.-Mexico border wall money and Trump's threat this week to pull some health care funding, that could lead to a collapse of comity and a budget blowup. This year's showdown is most likely in the House.
 
Pence tells North Korea not to test American resolve, offering recent strikes as examples
Vice President Pence warned North Korea on Monday not to test U.S. military might by pursuing its nuclear weapons program, citing recent strikes in Syria and Afghanistan as proof of American "strength and resolve." The stark warning, delivered in Seoul after the vice president went to the military demarcation line that separates the two Koreas, could revive speculation that the White House is considering military action against the regime in Pyongyang. Pence said the Trump administration wants to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons "through peaceful means," but he repeated the administration's warning that "all options are on the table."
 
Trump learning to love Bush aides
Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly declared that "the last thing we need is another Bush," as he vowed to take on two political dynasties -- the Bushes and the Clintons. But as president, Trump has been increasingly dipping into the talent pool from the George W. Bush administration that he regularly vilified during the campaign to now fill critical administration posts. Trump promised to drain the swamp and instead rely on Washington outsiders, but nearly 100 days into his term, the staffing and political realities have set in, and his team has been turning to some of the top old hands of the Bush administration. Just this past week, the White House sent out a press release announcing the nomination of four confirmation-level hires, with three out of the four being former Bush administration staffers.
 
Church revival? More liberals are filling Protestant pews
A year ago, Tammy Rose never imagined she'd be active again in church, holding a palm branch with a community of Christians marking the beginning of Holy Week. For nearly two decades, in fact, she had more or less abandoned the faith, disillusioned by what she saw as a constant focus on conservative social issues and pressing needs for more donations. But if politics helped drive her away, it is politics that, in some ways, is drawing her back to the fold. Like a number of progressive congregations across the country, Greenpoint Reformed has seen both a surge in attendance and a newfound energy within its pews over the past year. Since the rise of Donald Trump to the US presidency, in fact, liberal enclaves have reported something of an awakening. The current "Trump bump" now energizing many progressive congregations, however, may only be a blip on what has been a decades-long decline of liberal Christianity and some of the mainline Protestant denominations that have carried its torch since the early 20th century, many scholars caution.
 
Major change to financial aid rules could impact thousands in Mississippi
A recent bill passed by the Mississippi Legislature could impact approximately 4,300 university students across the state. One of the bill's conferees, State Sen. Briggs Hopson, R-Vicksburg, said it was a choice between ending stacking or having to cut grant programs and added that he couldn't think of any other state that allowed the practice. Hopson added that the grants impacted by the bill include the Higher Education Legislative Plan for Needy Students, Mississippi Tuition Assistance Grant and Mississippi Eminent Scholar's Grant. Mississippi State Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the university will comply with what the state decides, especially given the current budget climate. Salter said a concern among MSU and other state-funded institutions is the impact the policy could have on accessibility to higher education. "Also there are concerns this will impact competition for the best and brightest students, with the unintended consequence of driving students to explore out-of-state opportunities," he said.
 
Layoffs, tuition increases possible at community colleges
Program cuts, layoffs and tuition increases are possibilities for Pearl River Community College and Jones County Junior College following news of significant budget reductions by the state Legislature. PRCC expects to see a 10.2 percent cut, while JCJC is looking at an 11.6 percent cut. The University of Southern Mississippi is still waiting to see how its budget will be affected by state cuts. Officials at Mississippi's Institutions of Higher Learning said the system suffered a cumulative 5.4 percent cut of $20.2 million in 2016-17 and is expecting a 10 percent reduction of $36.9 million in 2017-18. Those cuts will be passed on to institutions like Southern Miss. Officials at the University of Southern Mississippi said there are many uncertainties related to the school's budget for next year.
 
Earth Day celebration at The W is April 18-22
Mississippi University for Women is organizing events Tuesday through Saturday, April 18-22 to celebrate Earth Day and to support campus sustainability projects. "Reminding the campus community of the importance of Earth Day is the main objective of this year's program. Our goal is to remind the students that Earth Day is every day. The things that we do every day affect how we live," said Sirena Cantrell, dean of students. On Tuesday guests will get a glimpse of the life of Fannye A. Cook in a presentation at 6:30 p.m. in Nissan Auditorium. The presentation is titled "Pursuing a Dream - Protecting Mississippi's Natural Resources." Cook, a 1911 graduate of MUW, spent most of her life researching and teaching in the area of wildlife management and conservation. She founded the Mississippi Museum of Natural Sciences and was the driving force behind creating the Game and Fish Commission.
 
Oxford University Transit (OUT) ridership dips slightly in March
The number of people riding the bus in March dipped slightly from March 2016, according to the monthly Oxford University Transit report. OUT Manager Ron Biggs presented the report Wednesday during the OUT Commission meeting. The number of bus trips in March was 131,809, compared to 133,270 in March 2016. The numbers reflect each time someone gets on a bus. Some people ride the bus more than once a day. Most of the riders were University of Mississippi students, accounting for 128,365 trips. Revenue for the month was $1,699. Ole Miss students ride the bus for free with the university covering the costs for their fare. More than 1,100 students rode the Safe Ride Route in March, which runs Thursday-Saturday nights, giving students a safe way to ride home to campus from the Square.
 
List of JSU candidates kept secret, but here are three in the running
Although candidates for president of Jackson State University begin interviewing on Tuesday, no names are being released by the Institutions of Higher Learning. However, Mississippi Today has identified three people who have been nominated. Two of those candidates have completed applications. According to Institutional Executive Officer Search Process policy, the IHL's board of trustees will not release any information until the preferred candidate has been selected and brought to the university for meetings with the university community. The first round of interviews, conducted by eight members of the JSU campus search advisory committee and the IHL search committee, will be completed this week.
 
New accelerated pharmacy school planned at William Carey University
A groundbreaking is planned soon for a school of pharmacy at William Carey University Tradition campus, which will bring pharmacy education closer to residents of South Mississippi while helping meet a shortage of pharmacists in rural areas of the region. Dr. Michael Malloy, who has been named dean of the new pharmacy school, said the closest pharmacy school to the Mississippi Gulf Coast is a branch campus of Auburn University in Mobile, which doesn't have a full complement of faculty so it uses a lot of distance education. The next closest one is Xavier School of Pharmacy in New Orleans.
 
U. of Alabama to add 116 new faculty members
The University of Alabama hopes to add about 116 tenure-track faculty by the start of classes next fall. The figure includes replacement hires as well as new faculty being added as part of UA's five-year strategic plan, UA President Stuart Bell said. Bell gave the update Thursday as part of remarks during the annual spring campus assembly meeting for faculty and staff. "We are now well into adding more than 300 new faculty positions on our campus," Bell said. About one-third of the 116 new hires have already signed contracts, with the remaining two-thirds in the process of reaching agreements, Bell said. "We are targeting both newly minted faculty and faculty with established records of excellence in areas that will bolster out achievement," he said.
 
Auburn University lands $12 million gift to create new culinary science center
A $12 million commitment from James W. "Jimmy" Rane and the Rane family will create a new culinary science center at Auburn University. The Auburn University board of trustees approved at its April 7 meeting the naming of the facility as the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center in honor of Rane's parents. Plans for the new facility, to be located adjacent to The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, include a restaurant, teaching and demonstration kitchens, a beverage appreciation center, a terrace and rooftop function space and a premier spa. The building also will house meeting and board rooms, hotel rooms, suites and luxury apartments. "Not only will the center's facilities provide our students with unparalleled opportunities for hands-on lessons and demonstrations in culinary arts and luxury accommodations from the best in the industry, but it also will provide guests with an immersion in hospitality that is second to none," said College of Human Sciences Dean June Henton.
 
Auburn University Cancels Speech by Richard Spencer
Auburn University has canceled a talk by Richard Spencer, a white supremacist, scheduled for next week on the Alabama campus. In a written statement, the university cited "credible evidence" that the event would "jeopardize the safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors." Mr. Spencer had arranged to pay the public university $700 plus the cost of security to speak there, reports AL.com. Many people on the campus objected to the event. Mr. Spencer didn't comment to the news website, but he did tell the student newspaper, The Plainsman, that he would deliver his speech regardless. "Auburn University is naive and has totally misunderstood who I am if they think that I am going to politely back out of this. I will be there 100 percent," Mr. Spencer told the student publication.
 
Controversial speaker vows to defy Auburn University cancellation of event
Auburn University on Friday afternoon canceled next week's scheduled speaking engagement of alt-right provocateur Richard Spencer. Hours later, Spencer said he still plans to arrive Tuesday on Auburn's campus. Auburn officials cited security concerns for canceling Spencer's appearance. Spencer, who developed a national reputation espousing far-right beliefs and using hate speech often laced with racism to highlight his views, was scheduled to speak at the James E. Foy Hall. "In consultation with law enforcement, Auburn canceled the Richard Spencer event scheduled for Tuesday evening, based on legitimate concerns and credible evidence that it will jeopardize the safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors," the university said in a statement. Spencer has garnered national attention over the last year with his support of white supremacy and has called for "peaceful ethnic cleansing," according to an article in The Atlantic. Spencer was punched in the face during an interview at an anti-Trump protest in January.
 
No more 'official beer' of LSU? Proposed bill aims to ban universities' licensed beers
With much fanfare, LSU and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette joined a growing trend of allowing brewers to pay them for making "official beers." Reading that news in his Shreveport kitchen, Democratic Rep. Cedric Glover said he was appalled. "It struck me deep in my heart. This is wrong." For health reasons, for moral reasons, for religious reasons, Glover said he vowed at that moment to use one of his five allotted bills in a legislative session that's supposed to focus on fiscal matters, to ban public universities from licensing "official" alcoholic beverages. His House Bill 610 also would forbid LSU and UL-Lafayette from renewing the contracts with local brewers when they expire. "It's nonsense. Glover likes to throw stones," LSU President F. King Alexander said. "He's never been a fan of LSU." Alexander was speaking moments before he was to address a House Appropriations Committee last week on proposals to cut LSU's appropriation for 17th time in nine years.
 
$2 for TOPS? Financial aid letters confuse Louisiana families
New Orleans senior Karriem Bennett worked hard and earned a Louisiana TOPS college scholarship. But when she looked at her financial aid offer from Tulane University, it wasn't the $5,567 she expected. "I was awarded $2.00 for TOPS, a dollar a semester," Bennett wrote in an open letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards. "I was devastated," she wrote. "I feel betrayed by the State of Louisiana." Published on the national Hechinger Report education website, the letter created a sensation, tapping into the anxiety of many Louisiana families as they pore over financial aid offer letters, hoping they can afford their top choice. Many universities have a May 1 acceptance deadline. And choosing among colleges is harder than ever this year because in the absence of guidance from a legislature tussling over the budget, Louisiana universities are projecting widely different amounts for the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students.
 
Future of U. of Tennessee Pride Center unclear after defunding nearly one year ago
As president of the University of Tennessee Pride Ambassadors, Audrey Parker gets a lot of questions about whether the UT campus is safe and welcoming to LGBTQ students. "My response is typically to tell them the truth about the diversity defunding history, but also to add a hopefully uplifting side, which is that there are LGBTQ students here like myself who are doing everything possible to make the campus safer," said Parker, a junior. It's been nearly one year since state lawmakers moved to redirect $445,000 in funding for UT's Office for Diversity and Inclusion, eliminating a vice chancellor for diversity and resulting in other changes, some of the most visible of which have occurred at the Pride Center, which lost a part-time director and is now run on private funds with oversight from the Office of the Dean of Students.
 
New on-campus hotel, convention center planned at Texas A&M
Visitors to Texas A&M University soon will have a new option overlooking Kyle Field for accommodations during their stay in Aggieland. Expected to be ready for the 2018 football season, a yet-to-be-named hotel and conference center situated near the heart of Texas A&M's ever-growing campus is expected to be "an integral enhancement" to the on-campus facilities, Texas A&M University System Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Philip Ray said. The 250,000 square foot project is planned to include a full-service restaurant and bar, 1,000 square feet of retail space, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, an outdoor event area, a 650-seat ballroom and more than 28,000 square feet of conference and meeting space.
 
U. of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs dean search suspended
The search for a new dean of the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs has been suspended after two of the three finalists invited to campus for interviews declined. "We had a strong candidate pool, but during the search process, we received some feedback and the provost wanted to have some additional conversations about the future direction of the schools," said MU spokesman Christian Basi. "This is an important decision at a critical time and we don't want to rush the decision." Garnett Stokes, MU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, sent an email to faculty in the Truman School informing them of the decision to suspend the search and the reason. In it, she said she would be scheduling small group meetings within the school to discuss the best path forward.
 
Student Affairs leader Cathy Scroggs to retire after 32 years at U. of Missouri
A mortarboard cap sat on a desk in Cathy Scroggs' office in Jesse Hall on Friday afternoon, as students posed for photos on Francis Quadrangle shortly after the 90th Annual Tap Day ceremony. Scroggs had just finished celebrating the reveal of students inducted into the University of Missouri's secret societies -- one of her favorite traditions -- for the last time, as it was announced in a news release Friday that Scroggs would be retiring from her position as vice chancellor for student affairs, effective July 31. Scroggs said it felt very strange and unreal to be retiring and that she's loved every minute of her career at MU. "It's always also good to leave when you feel good," Scroggs said.
 
State colleges facing budget bind
Some higher education leaders are facing a potential "nightmare" scenario as lawmakers in more than a dozen states consider funding cuts to public colleges and universities --- on top of possible federal funding cuts proposed by President Donald Trump. In some of those same states, such as Texas and Wisconsin, lawmakers are also pushing to cap or freeze tuition, or have already done so, squeezing yet another revenue stream. "There's an awful lot of worry," Raymund Paredes, Texas' higher education chief, told Morning Education. "That's a nightmare, as you might expect, for a university administrator." State funding for higher education has been on a steady decline over the last decade or so. Colleges have increased tuition costs in many instances to cover revenue drops. That has left federal funding for students -- in the form of Pell grants and other aid -- to help plug some of the gaps.
 
Students must truly 'Know Thyself' before comparing thyself
Angela Farmer, an assistant professor of educational leadership in the College of Education at Mississippi State, writes in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal: "It takes only an instant on social media, television or even a trip to the grocery to notice others. Aspects of that awareness may be recognizing another's smile, clothing, carriage or behavior. While fleeting cognition of others may resonate if something is particularly outstanding or unique, many of these interactions are processed simply as background to the larger image of one's day. However, there are instances where such interactions occur on a daily or even hourly basis for nearly 200 days per year with the same individuals repeatedly. Such intimate and repeated involvement can be found in classroom across the nation."
 
Public contract reforms unsung but epic
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "As the dismal saga of bribery and extortion swirling around former Commissioner Chris Epps and Mississippi Department of Corrections contracts continues to make headlines, epic reforms to the public contracting process slipped through the Legislature with scant media attention. Longtime champion of contract reform Representative Jerry Turner passed legislation that completely revamps the public contract review board and tightens up its procedures. Governor Phil Bryant, another champion of contract reform, signed his bill into law on March 29th. A similar bill authored by Senator John Polk died but a companion bill passed that further tightened definitions related to public purchasing. His bill was signed into law by Gov. Bryant on March 20th. These changes build and improve on earlier reforms..."
 
Should Legislature go back to meeting every other year?
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "As lawmakers wait to be called back to Jackson to finish business they couldn't get done during their three-month regular session, Rep. Hank Zuber III is trying to drum up support for his proposal to have the Legislature meet only every other year, at least on general bills. 'The response from the public is strong,' Zuber, R-Ocean Springs, told me last week, after he pitched the proposal to several Coast civic and political clubs. 'They're all for it.' ...This year, Rep. Cory Wilson, R-Madison, filed a biennial session bill similar to Zuber's. 'If we can get the public involved and educated like with campaign finance reform, then the leadership hopefully won't take 13 years to consider this,' Zuber said. But to call Zuber's proposal for biennial general sessions a long shot is an understatement. There are good arguments for his proposal but also against it."


SPORTS
 
Schedule set for 2017 Road Dawgs Tour
Coaches Vic Schaefer, Ben Howland and Dan Mullen along with athletic director John Cohen are hitting the blacktop once again for Mississippi State's annual Road Dawgs Tour. That group will make five stops in four days to speak to Bulldog fans. Mullen and Cohen will also make their way across the state line to Birmingham, Alabama on May 16 at 6 p.m. The Road Dawgs Tour wraps up in Jackson on July 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Summer Extravaganza featuring Mullen, Cohen and MSU president Mark Keenum.
 
No. 13 Mississippi State baseball nearly completes sweep at South Carolina
A strong pitching performance by junior right-hander Jacob Billingsley wasn't enough Sunday as the No. 13 Mississippi State baseball team dropped a 6-1 decision to No. 17 South Carolina in the finale of a three-game Southeastern Conference series at Founders Park. MSU fell to 25-13 and 10-5 in league play, while South Carolina improved to 22-13 and 8-7. The Bulldogs saw a five-game winning streak snapped. Thanks to a 7-4 win Friday and 5-4 win Saturday, MSU claimed its first conference series win at South Carolina since 1998. The Bulldogs have won four straight conference series and 13 of their last 15. MSU will close its four-game road trip at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama.
 
Spencer Price has erased ninth inning worries for Mississippi State
Mississippi State needed a closer. By March 7, the Bulldogs were outscored 23-0 in the ninth inning of games. Blake Smith, who entered the season on the watch list for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, required Tommy John surgery. Ryan Rigby, who earned the same preseason accolade, was sidelined with a groin injury. Mississippi State owned an underwhelming 7-6 overall record. So when Andy Cannizaro gave the ball to Spencer Price three days later with the Bulldogs clinging to a 2-0 lead in the ninth against South Alabama, you couldn't blame the fans at Dudy Noble Field for holding their collective breath. But Price pitched a perfect ninth inning that day. He needed only eight pitches to do so, too.
 
Boxing gloves symbol of Mississippi State baseball team's fighting spirit
The most coveted gloves in the Mississippi State baseball program aren't of the batting or fielding variety. They also already have been defaced by multiple writings in black marker. MSU's new favorite trophy is a pair of boxing gloves, a symbol of the fight coach Andy Cannizaro has tried instill in his team after a 0-3 start in Southeastern Conference play. After a win -- and only after wins -- the player that throws the best metaphorical punch in a game gets to sign the gloves. The gloves have collected a lot of ink. Cannizaro said he came up with the idea sitting in his office trying to find what was missing from the team during its losing skid. He had a strong feeling talent wasn't the team's issue and started looking for anything that could provide a mental spark. He returned to his mantra of making at-bats "fistfights in the batter's box."
 
Mississippi State tennis teams benefit from video technology
The A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre is a sea of maroon and tan divided by the white lines that surround the courts -- with one exception. On the far right of the court on the far right, a blue kiosk stands out. The small, blue support structure houses a tablet that receives information from five cameras. It is Mississippi State's portal to the future of college tennis. Over the winter, MSU installed PlaySight's video technology on all six courts of its tennis facility. Those cameras provide analytical data to the blue kiosk to create a so-called SmartCourt. The results have given the MSU men's and women's tennis teams a video archive that is a great tool for its players, coaches, and fans. As innovative as the data can be from a coaching perspective, MSU men's tennis coach Matt Roberts is most excited about having all six courts fitted with cameras to live stream matches. It's a service to the families of his current players, of which just one is American, and to the future of the program's international recruiting approach.
 
Monster day from Caroline Seitz sends Mississippi State softball to series win at Georgia
When it was all set and done on Sunday, there was no doubt that Caroline Seitz left her mark on Jack Turner Stadium. Behind her two home runs and three RBIs, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (31-14, 6-9 SEC) defeated the No. 19 Georgia Bulldogs (29-15, 3-12 SEC), 5-2, to capture their second-straight SEC series win. To say that Seitz had a monster weekend would be an understatement to most, as the senior finished the weekend 7-for-10 with 14 RBIs, four home runs (two grand slams), four runs scored, a scorching 1.900 slugging percentage and a .667 OBP. She became the first in school history to hit four home runs in an SEC weekend series and became the first Bulldog since Mackenzie Toler (May 2, 2015 at South Carolina) to hit two home runs in a game. The Bulldogs will return to action on Tuesday, heading to the west side of the state to take on Alcorn State.
 
Caroline Seitz's blasts push Mississippi State softball team past No. 19 Georgia
Caroline Seitz left her mark on Jack Turner Stadium. Behind Seitz's two home runs and three RBIs, the Mississippi State softball team defeated No. 19 Georgia 5-2 to capture its second-straight Southeastern Conference series win. It's the first time since 2015 that MSU (31-14, 6-9 SEC) has won multiple SEC series in a campaign. In 2015, MSU defeated No. 19 Texas A&M at home and Arkansas on the road. MSU has Seitz to thank for playing a key role in the series victory. The senior went 7-for-10 for the weekend with 14 RBIs, four home runs (two grand slams), four runs scored, a 1.900 slugging percentage, and a .667 on-base percentage. She became the first in school history to hit four home runs in a SEC weekend series, and the first MSU player since Mackenzie Toler (May 2, 2015 at South Carolina) to hit two home runs in a game.
 
Mississippi State participating in Cancun Challenge in November
Vic Schaefer and Mississippi State are headed south of the border next season to participate in the 2017 Cancun Challenge at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya from Nov. 23-25. The Bulldogs will be in the Mayan Division along with Arizona State, Green Bay and Columbia. Indiana State, Marquette, Montana, Oklahoma State, South Dakota and Tennessee have been designated for the Riviera Division. Schedules for the event will be released at a later date.
 
MUSH! A Southern boy, and Mississippi State alum, finds his calling among sled dogs
Seth Barnes needed freedom, a change in life. So he got on his BMW motorcycle and (loosely) followed his parents' RV on a trip out west. It was the summer of 2010 and Barnes, a Mississippi State alum, was living in Washington, D.C. working for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Without a solid plan, he returned to his hometown of Stockton, Alabama, a small unincorporated community in northern Baldwin County, 60 miles due north of the coast. He arrived as his parents were going to Wyoming to visit his brother, Kiley, and he decided to tag along on the BMW. When his parents returned home, though, he decided to continue his trip to see an old friend in Fairbanks, Alaska, who ran a kennel that trained sled dogs. One day Seth got on a sled behind a team of dogs and took them on a run. He was hooked.
 
What new NCAA rules mean for Mississippi's FBS programs
College football recruiting, as we know it, received a major facelift Friday. The biggest news to come out of the day was the addition of an early signing period. The NCAA's Division I Council decided to add a December signing date along with the traditional signing day in February. If this rule, which will take effect Aug. 1, was instituted this past recruiting cycle, Willie Gay could have possibly signed with Mississippi State in December as opposed to February, if he so chose. The same would have been true with D.D. Bowie and Ole Miss. Dan Mullen is the only head coach on the NCAA's oversight committee. As a part of the new legislation, Mullen, Freeze and Hopson will be able to hire a 10th assistant to their respective staffs, effective Jan. 9, 2018. Freeze has supported the idea of a 10-member coaching staff.
 
Auburn's Sugar Bowl trip cost more than $2 million
Auburn spent more than $2 million to send the football team, band, cheerleaders and school officials to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl in late December and early January. The total cost of the trip was $2,121,811, according to the Summary of Postseason Football Institutional Bowl Expenses report Auburn filed to the NCAA and obtained by the Opelika-Auburn News in a Freedom of Information Act request on Friday. Between football players and staff, band members and cheerleaders, and school officials and faculty, Auburn's travel party in New Orleans numbered 794. Travel cost $150,038 and meals cost $1,040,453. Auburn paid $23,766 for entertainment, $4,852 for promotion, $85,663 for "awards" and $19,703 for equipment and supplies, per the document.
 
Florida ahead of curve in gender diversity of head coaches
When it comes to gender diversity in its head coaching staff, Florida is ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the SEC. But as a league, the SEC is behind the rest of the country when it comes to the balance of male and female head coaches. The SEC received a D grade according to a University of Minnesota Tucker Center report on head coach gender diversity in Division I sports. The ACC, Big East and Big 12 also received D grades, with only the Big 12 (31.6 percent) employing fewer women's head coaches for women's programs. In a breakdown of individual schools, Florida earned a C grade. "That's probably a byproduct of doing your homework and having a diverse pool of candidates," Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said.
 
Jeremy Foley, days from retirement, blasts U. of Florida's top lawyer
University of Florida General Counsel Jamie Keith, under investigation following a complaint alleging misconduct, has been placed on administrative leave. UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said it would be inappropriate to discuss the reason for the move while the investigation is underway. Keith continues to be paid her $389,500 annual salary, Sikes said. Keith had agreed to take annual leave once the investigation by UF's Office of Internal Audit was launched. She said in an email to her staff that she was taking time away to avoid compromising the investigation. Meanwhile, a new batch of public records concerning Keith released last week show that she so inflamed former UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley that he wrote in an email to her four days before he retired on Oct. 1, 2016, that he was thankful he would no longer be working with her. Records also show that Keith continued to work while she was on annual leave, even coming on campus.



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