Monday, August 7, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
Giving tops $100M for fourth time in a row at Mississippi State
Mississippi State University has topped the $100 million mark in private gifts for a fourth consecutive year. More than $108.6 million was contributed during the just-ended fiscal year 2017, marking the second highest fundraising year on record for the 139-year-old land-grant institution. New gifts accounted for just under $50 million, and new pledges totaled over $34.4 million. Deferred gifts made up the remaining more than $24.2 million. In all, some 23,625 alumni, friends, corporations and foundations contributed during the year. The university's Infinite Impact campaign has set a goal of raising $1 billion by 2020 for the creation of scholarships and chairs and professorships, along with support for state-of-the-art facilities and innovative programs. The total is now nearly $753 million.
Giving to Mississippi State Tops $100M for 4th Year in a Row
Private donors have given more than $100 million to Mississippi State University for the fourth year in a row. The Clarion-Ledger reports that more than $108.6 million was contributed during the 2017 fiscal year that just ended. That represents a 5 percent increase over the total for the previous fiscal year, which came to $103.2 million. It was the second-highest fundraising year on record for the land-grant school. It was $1 million short of the $109.6 million collected in the 2015 fiscal year.
MSU-Meridian campus courtyard unveiled
A new square of downtown space has been completed for MSU-Meridian campus students -- and also for local residents. Officials from Mississippi State University, The Riley Foundation, The Phil Hardin Foundation, the City of Meridian and other community and business leaders celebrated, on Friday morning, the completion of the Riley Campus Courtyard at 23rd Avenue and 5th Street -- a space that is now part of the MSU-Meridian campus. "This is something that we'll be able to use for our students," said MSU President Mark E. Keenum, in town for the ribbon-cutting. "The mayor and the city and others will be able to use this space for other important gatherings and events in downtown Meridian." After Friday's ceremony, Terry Dale Cruse, administrative director and head of campus for MSU-Meridian, described how the space will be available for students and the public.
MSU-Meridian celebrates courtyard addition
The ribbon was cut for the new courtyard at the Mississippi State University Riley Campus in downtown Meridian. The corner of 23rd Avenue and 5th Street is the final portion of the renovation that started 17 years ago with the MSU Riley Center. MSU president, Dr. Mark Keenum, thanked the Riley Foundation, Phil Hardin Foundation and Mississippi Power for ongoing support. Keenum says the plaza makes the downtown campus a jewel for the city and state, as well as the university. "This whole city block is now Mississippi State University," said Keenum. "And it's here because of a lot of dedicated people in this community who have worked with us and partnered with us over all these many years to make this vision for this city, the home of Mississippi State University, a reality that we're here celebrating today."
Mississippi State's Bagley College of Engineering takes courses southward
The Mississippi Gulf Coast has one of the most robust job markets in the state for engineering due to major employers like the Chevron Pascagoula Refinery, Huntington Ingalls Industries and others. A market analysis done several years ago showed a 20 percent growth in the projected engineering jobs in the Gulf Coast area. It used to be that Gulf Coast residents who wanted engineering degrees had to relocate. But, starting in January 2016, MSU began offering the option of pursuing an engineering degree on the Coast. Residents can become engineers without ever leaving the Coast. "We have some space on the Gautier campus of MCGCC where we are delivering about 64 hours towards a 128-hour degree," said Bagley College of Engineering Dean Dr. Jason Keith.
Dawg Days: Welcome concert to feature 'Eagles Tribute - Hotel California'
As part of Mississippi State's 12th annual Dawg Days event series for incoming freshmen and transfer students, the MSU Lyceum Series and Music Maker Productions are sponsoring a Welcome Concert Tuesday, Aug. 15 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Area musicians Dale Robertson, Jerry Carnathan, Bob Damm, Ronnie McGee, Brent Varner, Bill Cooke, Raymond Miller and Raymond Brooks present a tribute to the American rock band The Eagles. The opening set of the concert will consist of songs from the group's first four albums: "Eagles," "Desperado," "Along the Border" and "One of These Nights." Each musician will represent a specific vocal from the Eagles throughout the concert. After a brief intermission, the mega-hit album "Hotel California" will be performed in its entirety.
'New Bulldog' honored at Clarke County send-off party
Photo: Montari Johnson, seated left, was the honored guest at a Send-off Party for new Mississippi State University students sponsored by the Clarke County Chapter of the MSU Alumni Association. Johnson, a 2017 honors graduate of Quitman High School, rings his new cow bell presented during "A Celebration for New Bulldogs" hosted by Lacia and Jimmy Donald at their residence in Quitman. Johnson, a psychology major, is the son of Melissa Parks and Jermeka Johnson. Among Clarke County MSU alumni who attended the special event included (standing from left) Pam Hampton, Dr. Steve Hampton, Lisa Riley, Rob Riley, Kasey Norton, Bill Read, Lacia Donald and Emma Kate Williams. Seated at right is Janet Downey, coordinator of Alumni Chapter and Volunteer Programs for the MSU Alumni Association. Send-off Parties are held throughout the nations to give incoming MSU freshmen and transfer students an opportunity to gather with future classmates and meet alumni and friends of the university.
Downtown prepares for Bulldog Bash
Representatives from the Mississippi State University Student Association held meetings with Main Street merchants and restaurants at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership on Thursday to discuss plans and road closures for Bulldog Bash on Sep. 15. This will be the first time since the first Bulldog Bash the event will be held in downtown, and Main Street, Lafayette Street and Jackson Street will all have road closures for the event. There will be artists and a variety of vendors set up during the Maroon Market, and GSDP CEO Scott Maynard said some stores located on Main Street will be offering specials during these hours to take advantage of the event and drive traffic into their stores. "Bulldog Bash is always a neat event for the city, it attracts a lot of people," Maynard said. "It is going to be LSU football weekend so there's going to be a tremendous number of people in town."
Cheikh Taylor announces bid for District 38 House seat
The field for the vacant Mississippi House of Representatives' District 38 seat grew to three contenders Friday as Cheikh Taylor, the executive director of the nonprofit Brickfire Project, announced his candidacy. Taylor will face former Starkville Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and fashion model-turned-community activist Narissa Bradford in the Nov. 7 non-partisan, special election. District 38's seat became vacant after former Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, retired this summer to spend more time with his family. The district covers portions of Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties. Taylor said his role as the Brickfire Project's leader has allowed him to cultivate numerous partnerships across the area. He has also served on various groups' boards, including Habitat for Humanity, Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors' Advisory Council, Starkville Area Arts Council and Oktibbeha County Food Policy Council.
Starkville city clerk fined for delayed records disclosure
A preliminary ruling by the Mississippi Ethics Commission recommends fining Starkville City Clerk Lesa Hardin $100 for the city's failure to meet a statutory deadline for answering an open records request for minutes of previous Starkville Airport Board meetings. The recommendation, spurred by a complaint filed by former George M. Bryan Airport Fixed Based Operator Kenneth Aasand, sets a tentative hearing Aug. 23 for a possible city objection, but a challenge is not expected at this time. Mayor Lynn Spruill said policies and procedures are now in place to "prevent another such instance" of the mistake from occurring again and said she has "the utmost faith" in Hardin. "I am saddened that Ms. Hardin has been personally caught up in an issue of timing coming from a dispute between the airport and a contractor," Spruill said.
Entergy Mississippi begins using drones to survey lines
Earlier this year, when strong storms moved through Vicksburg and flooded a substation making it inaccessible from the ground, Entergy Mississippi used drones to look at its equipment and how it was affected by the rising water. "Ordinarily, we would fly over the area in a helicopter to inspect the two-mile section of line because much of the area was off-road and there were several river crossings," said Tison Reno, Entergy Services asset manager engineer. "But by using a drone, we were able to complete the inspection in an hour and determine that there was a tree on the line that caused the outage. The aerial photos allowed us to develop a plan to enter the area safely and remove the tree." Since then, the utility has used drones to assess storm damage throughout the state. It is the latest application for the technology, which Entergy Mississippi pioneered in the corporation's four-state service area late last year, when it began using drones for inspection of distribution lines.
Auto parts maker to expand in Mississippi, hiring 40
An auto parts maker will invest $4 million and hire 40 new workers, expanding in northern Mississippi. S&A Industries of Akron, Ohio, will occupy a new 52,000-square-foot (4,800 square-meter) building in New Albany in 2018, consolidating two sites and increasing its current workforce of 16. Union County will borrow roughly $3 million from the state to build the building, leasing it to S&A. The Mississippi Development Authority is directing $638,000 in federal community development money for infrastructure improvements, with Union County paying a $68,000 match. The state will give S&A $80,000 to move and reassemble equipment.
UAW defiant in Mississippi loss as union opponents celebrate
Supporters of the United Auto Workers say they're not giving up their fight to unionize a Nissan auto assembly plant in Mississippi after a stinging defeat, even as UAW opponents say Friday's loss proves workers don't want the union. More than 62 percent of workers voting in a two-day election at Nissan Motor Co.'s Canton plant voted against the UAW, with 2,244 ballots against the union according to the National Labor Relations Board. Voting for union representation were 1,307 workers, or 38 percent. "They know we didn't need it," said Nissan worker Kim Barber, an outspoken union opponent who said she was celebrating Friday's result. "We didn't need outside interference coming into our plant."
Nissan workers say no to union; UAW says threats tilted outcome
With more than 3,500 employees casting ballots, Nissan workers in Mississippi said no thanks to union representation by the UAW. The final tally was 2,244 to 1,307. "With this vote, the voice of Nissan employees has been heard. They have rejected the UAW and chosen to self-represent, continuing the direct relationship they enjoy with the company," Parul Bajaj, a Nissan spokeswoman said in a media statement. However, it seems unlikely that the UAW will be leaving town any time soon.
Nissan Mississippi Workers Vote Heavily Against Unionization
Workers at Nissan Motor Co Ltd's plant in Canton, Mississippi, voted nearly two to one against union representation, the company and the United Auto Workers said late on Friday. The vote at the end of a bitterly contested campaign extended a decades-long record of failure by the union to organize a major automaker's plant in the U.S. South. The vote at the Canton plant could leave the UAW weakened ahead of contract negotiations with the Detroit Three automakers in 2019, when many analysts are predicting a cyclical slump for U.S. auto sales. The last failed UAW vote in the U.S. South, at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga in 2014, was far closer than the tally in Mississippi.
Mississippi tax collections improve for start of budget year
Mississippi tax collections looked better than expected for the first month of the budget year. The state took in more money this July than during the same month a year ago. "One month doesn't set a trend," Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson told The Associated Press. "We need to watch it for the next three or four." Republican Gov. Phil Bryant had to make multiple rounds of budget cuts in the past year because revenue fell short of expectations. Frierson said lawmakers who write the state spending plan are setting "more realistic" expectations for how much money the state might collect, based on how the economy is performing. The state is in its 2018 budget year. The 2017 budget year ended June 30, with revenue for the year falling $20 million below the total for 2016. It was the second year in a row that Mississippi tax collections decreased.
Insurance premium tax boosts state revenue
The 3 percent tax on all insurance premiums sold within Mississippi was a key factor in making July a good month for state revenue collections. For the month of July, the first of the new fiscal year, revenue on the insurance premium tax was $14.3 million or 54 percent above the amount collected in July 2016. And the $40.7 million total collected in the insurance premium tax was 70.8 percent above the official estimate. Kathy Waterbury, a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, explained that while the tax on insurance premiums has been a growing source of revenue for the state, the July collections were most likely an anomaly. "About half of the increase for insurance premiums is money that should have been June collections, but didn't process until July," Waterbury said. "The remaining is a growth in the tax that has been occurring over the last several months. We did an evaluation of the returns and have found increases across the board."
Analysis: Top Mississippians back private flood insurance
Mississippi's top insurance regulator and its only Democratic congressman are both ready to cede some of the federal flood insurance market to private insurers. Both Republican Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney and U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson say they're open to proposals being considered in Congress that would make it possible for private insurers to enter the market in a big way. Key among those would be a legal mandate that banks accept private as well as public insurance when they issue mortgages, Chaney said. The availability of flood insurance is a key concern for the 65,000 Mississippi homeowners who currently pay the National Flood Insurance Program to reimburse them from damage caused by floodwaters. Almost two-thirds of the policies are in the state's three Gulf Coast counties, but there are also significant concentrations in Jackson and Greenville.
Entrenched poverty tough to shake in the Mississippi Delta
Otibehia Allen is a single mother who lives in a rented mobile home in the same isolated, poor community where she grew up among the cotton and soybean fields of the Mississippi Delta. Allen works 30 hours a week as a data entry clerk and transportation dispatcher for a medical clinic, pulling in barely over minimum wage. Persistent poverty shapes daily existence in this expanse of agricultural flatland that gave birth to the blues. Jobs are scarce. Schools struggle for funding. Tens of thousands of families receive government food aid and health insurance. Although opportunities have improved in the past 50 years, the Delta remains one of the most deprived regions in the U.S. The national poverty rate is about 15 percent; it's 22 percent for Mississippi. In most Delta counties, it's 30 to 40 percent.
1st District's Trent Kelly touts House efforts to move GOP goals
With a Republican effort to advance healthcare legislation stalled, perhaps indefinitely, after nearly a half-year of effort and with national attention turned to a recent spate of near-daily convulsions in the White House, U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly is back home in the 1st District to face constituents and talk policy. Amid increasing stalemates and divisions within the ranks of elected Republicans, north Mississippi's congressman stands by the legislative accomplishments of the U.S. House of Representatives. "In the House, I think we're doing our jobs," Kelly said on Friday while speaking to mostly Union County constituents at a Rotary Club in New Albany. "We're doing what you asked us to do in my opinion." Kelly is in the 1st District while the U.S. House of Representatives stands in recess until the beginning of September.
Diversity debate divides Silicon Valley
Opposition to the tech industry's diversity initiatives, thrust into the open when a Google software engineer published an online manifesto over the weekend, reflects a simmering resentment that few have discussed openly -- and that puts pressure on tech leaders to address. On Saturday an unnamed male engineer published "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber," strongly suggesting the company encourage "ideological" rather than gender diversity. The author contends women don't make up 50% of the company's tech and leadership positions because of differences in their preferences and abilities, not sexism. By early Sunday, the memo had gone viral. Silicon Valley's lack of diversity has long been an issue but discussions about it began to rise to the surface in 2014. It was then that Google openly published its diversity figures, breaking ranks with other tech companies that had long argued such revelations would cause them competitive harm.
Sheila Adams to keynote MUW commencement Friday
Dr. Sheila Adams, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Mississippi University for Women, will speak at graduation Friday, Aug. 11 at 2 p.m. in Rent Auditorium, Whitfield Hall. Approximately 400 candidates have applied for August graduation. Over her 47-year career, Adams served in a variety of healthcare roles before entering higher education and making lasting contributions to the preparation of future nurses. After receiving undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees from Emory University, she came to The W in the earliest days of the nursing program and has been an integral part of growing it into one of the largest and most highly regarded programs in the region.
Most of the OUT bus lines being affected are on Ole Miss campus
Several Oxford University Transit bus lines will change this fall; however, most of those affected are the routes associated with the University of Mississippi. According to OUT Manager Ron Biggs, the implementation of new circular routes on the campus will change some of the existing route stops. All city routes will drop people off at the school's two transit hubs on campus, Kennon Observatory and the Student Union. The Campus bus loop will then pick up and distribute riders throughout campus. "All bus stops are within a four-minute walk from any location on campus and should make getting around campus much easier and it will also connect the outlying parking areas around campus," said UM Transportation Director Mike Harris. Ole Miss faculty and students ride the bus at no cost. Other riders pay $1.
New Medical School Dedicated in Mississippi
Physician-starved Mississippi can expect more doctors, more room for medical training simulations and a permanent home some once-scattered resources because of a new building at University of Mississippi School of Medicine, school leaders said Friday. And med students are happy about it too. "This is going to be amazing," said Andrew Strachan, a second-year student. Gov. Phil Bryant, University of Mississippi Chancellor David Vitter and others gathered to dedicate the five-story, $74 million structure at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. "The expanded facilities will allow us to continue to grow the class size, which means more doctors for Mississippi," said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school.
Ole Miss Pharmacy School and diabetes patients collaborate on research
Capping off nearly a year of discussions with people who have diabetes and diabetes stakeholders across the state, researchers from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy invited them all to a meeting in Oxford to generate diabetes research questions as part of a research initiative. Researchers involved in the project, called "PaRTICIpate in Diabetes Self-Management Research Collaborative: A Conference Series," invited people with diabetes to a series of meetings throughout northern Mississippi to ask how they manage their symptoms and to help them manage their condition. All participants were invited to the culminating meeting in late June.
Southern Miss student travels to Thailand to teach English
"There are three things I love: traveling, teaching and getting a chance to tell people about Jesus," said University of Southern Mississippi student Michael Coats after returning from his second mission trip to Bangkok, Thailand. Offering all three of his favorite things in one package, this summer marks the second consecutive year the senior English major has served as a certified ESL instructor with the City English Project, a nonprofit organization that connects the citizens of Thailand with native-English speakers. A son of missionary workers, this adventure came as nothing new to Coats thanks to the example set by his parents, whom he watched travel around the world teaching countless people the Christian doctrine.
New dorms open, some community partnerships close at Jackson State
William B. Bynum on Friday joined the list of Jackson State University presidents to visit the weekly community forums at Koinonia Coffee House blocks away from campus. The conversation quickly shifted from back-to-school excitement to the seriousness of Jackson State's financial challenges. "Some of what you would like for us to do or be involved in (partnerships, proposals, investments) I'll tell you straight up we won't be able to for the next couple of years," said Bynum. The priority is raising funds to compensate for the reduction in state financial support and increasing the university's cash reserves.
New women's residence hall already filled to capacity at East Central Community College
East Central Community College in Decatur will cut the ribbon on its $6.6 million New Women's Residence Hall at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. And the facility is already filled to capacity with a waiting list of nearly 75 female students who wish to live on campus. The ceremony will be held near the entrance to the new facility located on the South Campus adjacent to the existing Erma Lee Barber Women's Residence Hall. The residence hall was funded from bond revenue and financial support from each of the five counties in the college's district. The three-story facility includes 56 rooms, a study area and a kitchen on each floor for student use, and a coin-operated laundry room. It also includes wireless internet and cable TV similar to the seven other student living facilities on campus. The lobby includes a television and social and study space for the residents.
Meridian Community College hosts summer commencement with record number of grads
An all-time record number of summer graduates were awarded their degrees and certificates when Meridian Community College held its August commencement ceremony at the Temple Theater Friday afternoon, according to MCC Dean of Student Services Soraya Welden. Some 156 students were honored during the ceremony which also spotlighted nine outstanding graduates for their inclusion in the College's Circle of Excellence. These graduates were chosen on the basis of scholarship, leadership, spirit and service. Circle of Excellence honorees were Ana Emilia Calderon, Alena Maria Calderon, Kaylah Alexandria Roberts, Jacob Eli Brand and Hannah Corrine Thaggard, all of Meridian; Anna Elizabeth Holmes and Ivy Danielle Cumberland, both of Preston; Morgan Leanne Williams of Waynesboro and Samantha Paige Sellers of Gilbertown, Ala.
Co-Lin addressing over $1 million cut in state funding
Copiah-Lincoln Community College has dropped at least one sport and won't fill vacant jobs in an effort to make up for the more than $1 million cut in state funding. Vice President of Business Affairs Stan Patrick updated the board Thursday on the recent cuts and how they have affected Co-Lin. "Every public agency in the state of Mississippi got some sort of cut. Revenues weren't meeting projections," Patrick said. "As a result, over $28 million was cut from the community colleges in Mississippi." Last year, Co-Lin received $12 million from the state. This year they received $10.8 million, a $1.2 million reduction in funding. Patrick said that they were notified of the cuts in early March. Patrick said the college responded to the cuts by cutting the soccer program and some positions.
Advocates worry diploma elimination will edge out special-ed students
Post-graduation outcomes are why some parents want to keep the occupational diploma. They're the same reasons the Mississippi Department of Education wants the option to go away. It's not uncommon in education policy debates to see this: two sides wanting to reach the same objective through opposing routes. But there was a time when advocates for the diploma and the MDE were on the same side. In a filing to the federal government detailing Mississippi's goals for special education for fiscal years 2005 to 2012, officials predicted success for the then new graduation option. "Districts reported that 41% of students that received a certificate or modified diploma, including Mississippi's Occupational Diploma, were most likely to be competitively employed. This demonstrates the ability of the Occupational Diploma program to effectively prepare students for gainful employment upon exit from school," the report states. By 2016, the picture was less rosy. And by the 2017 legislative session, state Superintendent of Education Carey Wright was speaking publicly of the limitations the occupational diploma posed for students.
U. of Alabama parking spot reserved for Purple Heart recipients
The University of Alabama plans to unveil a parking space on campus for Purple Heart recipients on Wednesday. "Honoring veterans in this way shows the commitment and dedication UA has for taking care of these students," said David Blair, director of the UA Office of Veteran and Military Affairs, in a statement released by the university. "This is just one more reason UA continues to be recognized as a top military- and veteran-friendly university. Currently we serve just over 4,000 veterans, service members and dependents." The parking space near the Ferguson Student Center will be unveiled during a ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The parking space at the southwest corner of the Ferguson Center parking lot will be designated with purple striping, a marker and the logo of the medal painted on the asphalt. The spot will be available to Purple Heart recipients who register with parking services.
U. of Alabama grads celebrate at summer commencement
The University of Alabama held its summer commencement exercise Saturday morning at Coleman Coliseum on campus, where more than 750 undergraduates and graduate students representing all schools and colleges participated in the ceremony. UA awarded 1,442 degrees. Dr. Elizabeth K. Wilson, senior associate dean and professor in the UA College of Education, served as commencement marshal.
Family, friends cheer on Auburn graduates
For the 1,160 recipients of degrees awarded Saturday, Auburn University's graduation ceremonies will serve as one of the last memories of campus life. For others, the ceremony marks one of their first. "Today, we celebrate new beginnings," President Steven Leath told the crowd gathered in Auburn Arena on Saturday morning. "As you are my first class to send off as president of Auburn University, I'm truly grateful to celebrate this with you." The 10 a.m. ceremony honored graduates in architecture, design and construction, engineering, forestry and wildlife sciences, liberal arts and the university college. The 2 p.m. ceremony conferred degrees upon students in agriculture, business, education, human sciences, nursing and sciences and mathematics. "You each joined the most fabulous university family in the world," commencement speaker Beth Thorne Stukes, co-chair of the "Because This is Auburn" advertising campaign, told the new graduates.
U. of Tennessee looks to peer, 'aspirational' institutions as it studies pay gap, bonuses
The University of Minnesota, University of Florida and University of Wisconsin are the top three institutions the University of Tennessee Knoxville aspires to be like, according to a new list approved by a board of trustees committee Friday. The list of peer institutions and so-called "aspirational" institutions was compiled as part of work the executive and compensation committee is doing to revamp administrative bonuses and study pay gaps between what UT employees are making and what those at other schools are earning. It will also be used to benchmark other work UT does as it strives to improve graduation and retention rates, attract top students and faculty, and grow research. A 2011 study found that salaries at UT lagged behind the national median for both faculty and staff and helped bring about work to close the gap.
UGA off party school list for second consecutive year
For the second consecutive year, the University of Georgia has failed to make Princeton Review's list of top party schools. Just seven years ago, UGA topped the party list, and two years ago remained on the list at no. 8. That's one ranking UGA administrators are happy to be absent from, but Georgia did make the charts in two other Princeton Review rankings, one of which administrators will like -- "lots of hard liquor," at no. 4, and "best alumni network," at no. 20. Each year, Princeton Review polls students from hundreds of colleges and universities across the nation. They then use the answers to rank schools on a number of top-20 lists -- good and bad -- such as "students study the least," "students study the most," "their students love these colleges," "best dining halls," "best and worst professors" and so on.
LSU Awards 674 Degrees at Summer Commencement
LSU graduated 674 students during LSU's 293rd commencement ceremony Friday. Of the 674 graduates at summer commencement, 355 earned bachelor's degrees, 177 earned master's degrees, nine received a certificate of education specialist, six received graduate certificates, 17 received post-baccalaureate certificates and 110 received doctoral degrees. In the August 2017 graduating class, 38 Louisiana parishes, 41 U.S. states and 44 foreign countries were represented. Women made up 54.3 percent of the graduates, and men made up 45.7 percent. The oldest graduate was 69, and the two youngest graduates were 20. LSU alumnus and culinary blogger Jay Ducote gave the keynote address in the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Public records: Sly moves unmasked in U. of Florida search for president
Chartered jets between Gainesville and Orlando, hotel reservations made under false names and billed to companies affiliated with a University of Florida trustee -- all were part of the search that led to the hiring of Kent Fuchs as UF president. Documents relating to the 2014 search, released this week as part of an ongoing public records request, show a process largely kept out of the public eye. UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said all of the costs were paid with private donations. She added that top-tier prospects for a university presidency typically want privacy. "During this outreach phase, public universities must balance the obligations of state law even while being sensitive to the privacy of individuals trying to make a major career decision about whether to become a candidate for president," Sikes wrote in an email. "In fact, sitting presidents and other high-level administrators often request confidentiality to not imperil their standing at their current institution."
Texas A&M students will soon return for the fall semester, and with them, traffic concerns
The Bryan-College Station area is poised for the return of its sizable student population in the weeks to come as Texas A&M University prepares for the start of the 2017-2018 academic year. Bryan-College Station Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Dan Rudge and Texas A&M Transportation Institute research fellow Tim Lomax said drivers in the community should be ready for an increase in traffic for the first few weeks of the new semester as returning students settle into their transportation routines -- especially in areas where student housing has grown the most. Peter Lange, associate vice president of Transportation Services, said the past three semesters have seen a steady increase in demand for the university's transit services. He said transportation services over the three-year period saw an 18.7 percent increase -- an addition of 24,066 hours of service -- over the previous three-year period.
Texas A&M researcher crunches data to prevent blackouts
Texas A&M researchers are looking to prevent power outages the next time a storm comes into town with a model that crunches data on past grid failures. The model is a few years in the making and the work of Mladen Kezunovic, a decorated professor in Texas A&M's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "It's not a simple concept, but in simple terms, you look at historical data about what has been happening in a given service area," Kezunovic said. "You look at the history of outages, the history of weather, events that were coinciding with outages, and then the mathematical model -- based on the history of what has been happening -- is predicting what might happen in the future." Kezunovic said he and his team of graduate students are testing the model on Texas A&M's campus, but he is also in talks with electric companies that might test it in their service areas.
U. of Missouri reverses cut to veterinary services
The University of Missouri's College of Veterinary Medicine reversed a planned budget cut after pressure from agriculture interests and veterinarians made it unlikely the move would save any money. Under President Mun Choi's spring directive to find savings and do so without using an across-the-board approach, the college needed to find $2.4 million in savings, former Dean Neil Olson wrote in a memo distributed June 6 to the college's faculty. To meet that goal, Olson wrote that the college would cut back on its animal reproductive services by eliminating the Theriogenology Service and curtailing companion animal, small ruminant and embryo transfer reproductive services in 2019. The Missouri Cattlemen's Association and the Missouri Veterinary Medicine Association objected strongly to the decision. While training in theriogenology would continue, students would have less hands-on experience if the cut stood, said Mike Deering, executive vice president of the cattlemen's association.
Federal student aid: Late audits were culprit in sanction of W.Va.'s public colleges
When public colleges and universities in West Virginia were placed under cash restrictions for federal student aid last month, it was a rare -- and possibly unprecedented -- instance of the federal government sanctioning an entire state's higher education system. But it's not unusual at all for public universities to find themselves subject to this form of sanction, known as heightened cash monitoring, which requires them to seek reimbursement from the feds only after they've handed out aid to students. Ninety public institutions were subject to heightened cash monitoring as of March, when the most recent data were released by the U.S. Department of Education. Jim Justice, West Virginia's governor, has promised "heads will roll" over the failure to submit the audit statements on time. But for three years, the No. 1 reason public universities landed on the sanction list was the same one that tripped up his state -- late or missing financial audit statements.
A braver new world
Angela Farmer, an assistant professor of educational leadership at Mississippi State University, writes: "It's time to return to the classroom. While the youngest of students are often eager and excited to begin their academic adventure, there are instances where some more seasoned students find the true visit to be more along the lines of rigidity and top down hierarchy than a tour of intellectual curiosity. What happens in those early years to students who embrace school, their teachers and the overall idea of learning is neither overly complex nor surprising. They soon learn that school, in many cases, has become more about compliance and data driven assessments than about individual expression, learning styles and expansion of one's interests."
Take the wheel America and enable more John McCains
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "Love of country is supposed to be the tie that binds us into 'one nation under God, indivisible.' But, that hopeful, beautiful ideal appears gone with the wind. A greed and power seeded sickness infects us, inflamed by swelling ill will toward one another. When political enmity pits brother against brother, family against family, church against church, and state against state there is nothing left to bind us into an 'indivisible' nation. Instead, we are fragmenting into a nation of conservatives vs. liberals, haves vs. have-nots, big business vs. common folks, straight vs. gay, black and brown vs. white, faithful vs. faithless, gun lovers vs. gun haters, and so on. We are so split into factions and antagonisms, personified by Republicans vs. Democrats, that our national government struggles to function, much less accomplish anything. If there is to be a turn-around, courageous and forthright patriots must take the wheel."
Toyota-Mazda partnership will benefit state, region
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal's Dennis Seid writes: "Toyota's announcement Friday that it had signed a joint venture agreement with Mazda to build Corollas and other vehicles sent state and local leaders through a range of emotions -- surprise, concern and hope. If you didn't hear, the two Japanese automakers, which signed an agreement two years ago to work closer together, said they would build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in the United States that would employ as many as 4,000 workers. Toyota also said it would build the Corolla at that new plant. That, of course, brought some concern, since the Toyota Mississippi plant in Blue Springs has been cranking them out since late 2011. What will happen to the plant that Toyota has invested nearly $1 billion? Apparently, nothing negative as far as we can tell."
How long could Mississippi government afford to keep running in an emergency?
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "If things went to hell in a hand basket (remember Hurricane Katrina?) Mississippi government could afford to keep running for 21.2 days, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of states' budgets for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Mississippi ranked 33rd in the survey. Alaska ranked first, with enough cash in the bank to keep running for 477.8 days, even after pulling $3.3 billion from its savings in fiscal 2016 to cover shortfalls from plummeting oil revenue. ...Despite Mississippi's recent revenue shortfalls and budget crunch, the state is in better shape than many others because of the cushion from money lawmakers socked away in '15. Given current economic uncertainty and the state's location on the hurricane-prone Gulf, it would make sense for the state to save as much as possible for rainy days."

Mississippi State's defense wants the juice
Mississippi State wants its defense to be made from 100 percent real juice. The Bulldogs want it to be homemade. Original, too. Nothing fake. "It's all about passion," Bryant said. That's a big part of the recipe, but, no, we're not talking the cocktail blend kind. Todd Grantham, who is tasked with improving Mississippi State's defense in his first year as coordinator, has introduced a daily prize for his group during training camp. The juice award. Grantham announces a single award-winner after every practice. Early winners include nose guard Jeffery Simmons, safety John Abram and outside linebackers Marquiss Spencer and Gerri Green. Simmons was the first recipient. As of the middle of the second week of practice, no player had captured the award twice.
Bulldogs moving in a positive direction
Although Mississippi State had held seven previous practices, head coach Dan Mullen considered Friday's workout to be the official start of training camp. With finals competed and the summer semester done, the Bulldogs checked into the team hotel Thursday evening and held practice Friday morning at "The Farm" in full pads. Football will be the sole focus for the team over the next 12 days until school resumes on Aug. 16. "We've done some installations and those will become a little smaller so it's really the kickoff of training camp," Mullen said. "The mindset has to change for everybody a little bit and become more of a grind. We're taking steps in a positive direction."
Mississippi State's Korey Charles working on both sides of the ball
Mississippi State signed Korey Charles in 2016 as an athlete. Charles was considered a three-star prospect by recruiting services having played running back, wide receiver and a little bit of cornerback at North Florida Christian in Tallahassee. The 5-foot-10, 179- pounder redshirted his first year with the Bulldogs as a defensive back but has been utilized on both sides of the ball thus far in fall camp. "It was something that I wanted to do," Charles said. "Coming out of high school, I didn't really play that much defense. I'm just used to the offensive side of the ball and wanted to try receiver and see how things are and how that goes."
Will Stewart Reese, Darryl Williams be the answers for Mississippi State's offensive line?
The messages from Mississippi State coaches to offensive linemen Darryl Williams and Stewart Reese were similar heading into training camp. The common point? It's time to grow up. That instruction was as direct as it was accurate. After all, Williams and Reese are the front-runners for starting roles on Mississippi State's offensive line --- despite both lacking significant in-game experience at the SEC level. "They have to," offensive line coach John Hevesy said. "It is expected of them. They have the talent, have everything we need and everything we want." Williams, a sophomore, is practicing with the starters at left guard and Reese, a redshirt freshman, is at right tackle. They are joined by veterans Martinas Rankin (left tackle), Elgton Jenkins (center) and Deion Calhoun (right guard).
Lee VanHorn followed twisting path to new role at Mississippi State
Lee VanHorn came to grips with the full reach of his new job in about a 30-minute span. VanHorn was sitting in a meeting in Mississippi State's athletic department when, in quick succession of each other, he received calls from director of women's basketball operations Maryann Baker, director of men's basketball operations Mike Moynihan, director of softball operations Jessica Cooley and then ran into the director of football operations Jon Clark after the meeting. All asked about different equipment questions they had for the respective athletes. Such is the life of MSU's new Assistant Athletic Director of Administration and Equipment.
David McFatrich plans to keep building Mississippi State volleyball
David McFatrich isn't going to make any bold statements about the 2017 season. It's not that Mississippi State's third-year volleyball head coach isn't optimistic about the campaign, which officially begins Monday with the start of practice. It's just that McFatrich has been coaching long enough to know there are a lot of pieces that go into a program reaching the NCAA tournament. Still, McFatrich smiles when asked about the lead-up to the 2016 season and how senior Jazmyne Johnson said she wanted to be part of history and help MSU make the NCAA tournament for the first time. McFatrich hopes to continue to "build" MSU into a program that can realize Johnson's aspirations. The volleyball team will participate in MSU's annual Fan Day from 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19, at the Palmeiro Center. The football, women's soccer, and golf teams also will be there. Doors will open at 3:30 p.m. for the event.
Former Bulldog Ally McDonald posts best professional finish at Women's British Open
Former Mississippi State All-American Ally McDonald wrapped her first RICOH Women's British Open by posting her best finish since joining the LPGA Tour. McDonald, who qualified for the championship on Monday, finished the week tied for 16th with an 8-under-par 280. "This is what you hope for your graduates, that they believe in themselves enough to qualify on Monday and be in the conversation about a future Solheim Cup spot by the end of the week," MSU head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "You want to see them work hard, and even though conditions might be tough, they don't allow it to set them back. We are so proud of Ally for the way she competed this week. She has all the pieces to be successful with the way she prepares when she's here at Old Waverly and Mossy Oak and her ability to embrace the challenges. She is a star!"
Fulton's Ally McDonald records best finish as a pro
Fulton's Ally McDonald picked a big stage for her best finish as a professional golfer. After three days among the top 10 golfers at the Women's British Open in Scotland, McDonald shot a 2-over 74 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 16th. It's the first top-20 finish of her young pro golf career. And it delighted her former coach at Mississippi State. "This is what you hope for your graduates," MSU's Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "You want to see them work hard, and even though conditions might be tough, they don't allow it to set them back. We are so proud of Ally for the way she competed this week." McDonald won $39,943 in a seven-way tie for 16th, boosting her season earnings to $111,299.
New safety measures for USM athletic events
Fans need to be aware of two updated safety measures before heading to The University of Southern Mississippi for any athletic event this year. USM announced both a clear bag and golf cart policy to go into effect September 2, 2017, when Southern Miss Football hosts Kentucky at Carlisle-Faulkner Field at M.M. Roberts Stadium. According to USM, the updated clear bag policy enhances safety and expedites fan entry at Southern Miss athletic events. "This new policy will allow for an extra level of security and protection for those attending events, but will also decrease wait times at entry points and dissuade those who may attempt to bring items into the event which would prevent them access," said University Police Chief Bob Hopkins in a press release from Southern Miss Athletics. The university is also implementing a new golf cart policy, restricting golf cart access on campus three hours prior to that day's kickoff.
College football's grip on South stronger than ever
William Faulkner once wrote about a fictional former University of Mississippi running back who'd spent Saturdays carrying "a trivial contemptible obloid across fleeing and meaningless white lines." This is, shall we say, a sentiment not widely shared in the South, where the chalk outlines of college gridirons carry an immensity of meaning that fans elsewhere can scarcely comprehend. Faulkner spent most of his writing life in Oxford, Miss., in a home now owned by the university, where these days the tale of a Mississippian who tweeted Bible verses and dialed an escort service is a plot twist of Faulknerian scale. The rise and fall of Hugh Freeze remains the talk of the Southeastern Conference as another football season beckons with its crucible of regional rivalries. College football in the Bible Belt is so often called a religion as to be a cliche, though it offers the distinct advantage of being true.
Houston Nutt offers to settle defamation lawsuit vs. Ole Miss
Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has offered to settle his defamation lawsuit with the school in exchange for a public apology and $500,000 to fund the creation of an integrity for college sports commission in Mississippi, a person with knowledge of the case told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter. Nutt would not benefit financially from the settlement as proposed. Nutt's attorney, Thomas Mars, has maintained that Ole Miss' failure to apologize to Nutt has been at the core of his drive for public records, which resulted in the discovery of information that led to the resignation of Hugh Freeze as football coach.
One year in at Mizzou, AD Jim Sterk finds a fit in Columbia
Jim Sterk and Scott Stokes have been best friends long enough -- since seventh grade -- that Stokes recognizes the tone Sterk gets in his voice when he's about to drop some big news. Sterk had that tone when he called Stokes around this time a year ago. "I always kid him and say, 'OK, should I sit down? You're moving again, aren't you?'" Stokes said. Sterk was, indeed, on the move. It hadn't been announced yet, but he was accepting the athletic director position at Missouri and leaving his post at San Diego State to do so. Stokes reacted on the phone the way some others did after Sterk's hire became official. "I said, 'You're leaving San Diego to live in Missouri?'" Stokes said. Yes, Sterk was leaving a beach city with glorious weather to come to Columbia. He'd checked out Missouri and liked what he saw. "He said, 'It's my kind of place,'" Stokes said. "To hear him talk about it, I thought, 'Yeah, it's much more like your kind of place.'" Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of Sterk's hire.
Vanderbilt football fans say no to off-campus stadium with MLS
Vanderbilt fans don't want to share a new off-campus football stadium with a potential Major League Soccer expansion franchise. That sentiment was repeated loudly by any Commodore fan willing to speak on the hot topic at Saturday's Dore Jam, the annual Vanderbilt football fan event. "College football is meant to be played on campus," said fan Chris Gleason. "And you can't tell me that it would be the same off campus. No one here actually believes that." Nashville is one of 12 cities vying for four MLS expansion franchises. If an MLS club comes to Music City, Vanderbilt is exploring the possibility of sharing a new stadium with the soccer team for its home football games at the Metro-owned Fairgrounds Nashville. The first two expansion cities will be chosen by the league's board of directors as early as December.
Nebraska regents will consider deal with Adidas worth nearly four times more per year than current contract
Nebraska athletics has been outfitted by Adidas for more than two decades. Pending University of Nebraska Board of Regents approval next week, NU will extend that partnership into a third decade. On Aug. 11, Regents will consider a new sponsorship agreement between Husker athletics and Adidas that would cover 11 years and more than $128 million. The deal would include $64 million in cash and nearly $64.7 million in athletic apparel and equipment products. If passed, the proposed agreement will replace the final year of the current contract -- a five-year extension that was signed March 15, 2013 -- and go into effect immediately. NU football first started wearing Adidas uniforms in 1995. The current five-year agreement between Nebraska and Adidas was worth $15.53 million and followed an eight-year contract signed in 2005 that totaled $22.7 million.

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