Monday, May 2, 2016  SUBSCRIBE   
Mississippi State pushes fundraising goal to $1 billion
Mississippi State University officials extended the school's most successful fundraising campaign's goal to $1 billion by 2020 after Infinite Impact reached its original $600 million goal in December. The new goal represents the largest ever set by a Mississippi institution of higher learning, said MSU President Mark Keenum at an announcement ceremony Thursday at The Mill. "We take great pride in being the state's flagship research university, but you have to have talent to do that," he said. "You have to have brilliant scientists and researchers bring their energy and experience into the laboratories and testing facilities, and then take that first-hand knowledge and put it in the classrooms with our students. Infinite Impact is going to help us attract world class faculty, bring in quality students, enhance our facilities and construct new facilities. It's amazing to see the generosity of so many of our donors, who stepped up and gave their own personal resources."
Higher ed commissioner Glenn Boyce to speak at Mississippi State graduation
Mississippi's commissioner of higher education will speak at the spring graduation ceremonies at Mississippi State University. Glenn Boyce will address the graduates during the 7 p.m. program May 6 and the 10 a.m. program May 7, both at Humphrey Coliseum. More than 2,600 are expected to receive their degrees.
Wayne Henson to give MSU-Meridian commencement address
Wayne Henson, East Mississippi Electric Power Association's CEO, will be the spring 2016 graduation speaker for Mississippi State University-Meridian. The Friday commencement program begins at 11 a.m. at the MSU Riley Center for Performing Arts and Education. Some 110 students are candidates for degrees. A Kemper County native and longtime Clarke County resident, Henson graduated from Zack Huggins High School in Quitman. He went on to Mississippi State University, where he earned an electrical engineering degree in 1974. During a more than four-decade-long EMEPA career, he has been CEO for the past 11 years. He also owns Meridian-based Engineering Support Services LLC.
Mississippi State Faculty Recognized
Two longtime Mississippi State researchers and administrators are receiving the university's highest faculty recognition. Richard L. Brown and Alan I. Marcus formally were named William L. Giles Distinguished Professors during the 2015-16 Faculty Awards and Recognition Program. Also during the awards program, associate professor Kelly A. Marsh officially was designated a John Grisham Master Teacher, the tribute to classroom instruction excellence named for the MSU alumnus and internationally recognized author. "We have so many talented and hardworking faculty members, and I think the university is blessed in this sense," said Julia Hodges, interim provost and executive vice president. "The strengths of a great university always are in its people.
Eight faculty, staff members receive major Mississippi State honors
Two longtime Mississippi State researchers and administrators are receiving the university's highest faculty recognition. Richard L. Brown and Alan I. Marcus formally were named William L. Giles Distinguished Professors during the 2015-16 Faculty Awards and Recognition Program. Brown, who has spent his entire 36-year academic career at the land-grant institution, directs the Mississippi Entomological Museum, a campus repository of approximately 1.5 million specimens that regularly attracts researchers from around the world. A Cornell University doctoral graduate, Brown also is a specialist in insect taxonomy and systematics in the biochemistry, molecular biology, entomology and plant pathology department of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Since 2005, Marcus has led MSU's history department in the College of Arts and Sciences. A University of Cincinnati doctoral graduate, he widely is considered to be among a select group of academics whose research has had a major impact on the history of science and technology.
Mississippi State architectural unit honored for Tanglefoot project
Mississippi State University's Carl Small Town Center is the American Planning Association's selection for the 2016 James A. Segedy Award for Outstanding Student Project. The award is among several bestowed by APA's Small Town and Rural Division. Two years ago, MSU architecture majors and Carl Center professionals helped the City of Houston organize a workshop to gather local ideas for enhancing the southern terminus of the Tanglefoot Trail cycling and pedestrian pathway. "Start Dreaming, Houston..." was the workshop theme. The MSU team helped prepare interactive activities, plans and maps, as well as organize group discussions, during the three-day workshop funded by the Citizens' Institute on Rural Design, a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative.
Registration open for Mississippi State summer art camp
Mississippi State's art department again is inviting creative upper-level high school students to participate in its annual INvision summer camp. Taking place June 13-17, the visual arts experience is designed for students age 16 and older, including incoming freshmen at the university. Now in its fourth year, the program offers an enriching introductory for both specific academic programs and post-graduate career paths in the studio fields of art and design. Part of the College of Architecture, Art and Design, MSU's art department is the longtime home of the Magnolia State's largest undergraduate studio art program.
MSU recognizes service and advocacy for Social Work Month
Photo: In observance of National Social Work Month, the MSU-Meridian Social Work program recognized the following students with the Service Award: front row, from left, Stevie Pace, Allison Roach, Dianesha Henderson, Yolanda McAlpine, Ronnica Rush, Glenda Rush, Anita Wilkerson and Teresa Lynch; back row, from left, Alesha Stennis, Gelisa Patrick, Colby Irby, Emily Smith, Laurie Henderson, Brierra Smith and Marcus Gladney
Oktibbeha supes to discuss site development guidelines, process
Oktibbeha supervisors could call for public hearings to be scheduled Monday for the county's first set of site development guidelines and regulations. Supervisors are expected to review a proposal developed by County Engineer Clyde Pritchard after wrestling with how to develop subdivision rules for more than a year. If a majority of the board is satisfied by the proposal, public hearings would then be required before it becomes law. The board is also expected to meet behind closed doors with representatives of the Golden Triangle Development LINK and discuss three industrial park proposals. LINK Chief Operating Officer Joey Deason said his organization's report is strictly informational, and the economic development authority is not looking for supervisors to take action on a plan or issue a bond intent notice.
State taskforce cracks down on Delta Ag copper thefts
In an effort to stop the theft of copper and other losses in agriculture, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann recently announced the launch of the Mississippi Delta Agricultural Theft Task Force, which will link law enforcement, scrap metal recycling yards and other interested parties. The task force will implement an early alert system that will be administered by the Secretary of State's Office through LeadsOnline. "It's a tremendous advantage to Delta famers because criminals go out and steal stuff from them in the evenings and these farmers are trying to keep people from tearing up equipment. About one-third of all farm losses in the Delta are from stolen equipment and it's a major problem for our Delta farmer friends," Hosemann said.
State agencies pondering cuts, layoffs with new budget
In order to cobble together a "balanced" budget amid shortfalls and deficits, Mississippi lawmakers shifted and raided so many accounts that state agency leaders are still trying to figure out exactly how much their budgets have been cut and how they'll operate. "We need guidance from someone," said Dr. Mary Currier, head of the state Health Department. "...We've got lots of questions." For some agencies, the cuts are shaking out to be in the double digits percentage-wise, as bad as or worse than during the Great Recession and likely to cause layoffs and reduced services. With new budget rules, the Legislature also appears to have cut off some agencies' access to federal money. The state's adequate education program -- state per-pupil money for local school districts -- was "level funded" for the coming year, but other K-12 budgets were cut, as were universities and community colleges.
Bond commission could nix some projects
Some communities around Mississippi may be disappointed after the three-member state bond commission meets this summer to consider the $308 million bond bill lawmakers passed. "It'll be our duty to look at these projects (individually) instead of looking at them at them in a lump sum," state Treasurer Lynn Fitch told Mississippi Today. Fitch has been among the most strident critics of the bill lawmakers passed in the waning hours of the legislative session. A letter Fitch sent to Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn sparked a war of words between fellow Republicans Fitch and Reeves and left in limbo the fate of some of the projects detailed in the more than 600-page bill.
LGBT rights supporters protest Mississippi law, march to Capitol
Hundreds of supporters of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender rights protested Sunday against a new Mississippi law they call discriminatory, saying they're not giving up their fight. The law, which takes effect July 1, is to allow religious groups and some private businesses to deny services to same-sex couples and transgender people. More than 300 people marched from the state Capitol to the governor's mansion in Jackson, the capital city, bidding to keep up pressure on Gov. Phil Bryant and other Mississippi leaders who support the law.
How Zika Could Bite the GOP
It could take just one pesky mosquito bite to put the public against Senate Republicans. Or so says one of the GOP senators involved in drafting supplemental legislation to address a public health response to the Zika virus, an illness that's been shown to cause serious birth defects. "Now, we're going to take care of the public when it comes to Zika. We're going to see how much money can realistically be spent and where it needs to be spent to be effective," said Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "In the meantime, in the few days that it takes to come up with something that is effective and realistic and cost-effective, there is sufficient money to get us stopgap protections."
Scalia's death affecting next term, too? Pace of accepted cases at Supreme Court slows
The ways in which Justice Antonin Scalia's sudden death are altering the current Supreme Court term have been widely chronicled. But it appears the absence of Scalia will be felt on the court's work next term, as well. The number of cases the justices have accepted has fallen, meaning that a docket that in recent years has been smaller than what is traditional is shrinking still. The court has accepted only six cases since Scalia died Feb. 13. The number is low compared with the average, editor Amy Howe said at an event last week reviewing the Supreme Court's work.
AP Exclusive: Migrant Children Kept From Enrolling in School
The Associated Press has found that in at least 35 districts in 14 states, hundreds of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have been discouraged from enrolling in schools or pressured into what advocates and attorneys argue are separate but unequal alternative programs -- essentially an academic dead end, and one that can violate federal law. In Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina, social workers and attorneys told AP that migrant students have been barred from enrolling, kept out of class for months due or routed to reform schools and adult programs.
Mississippi University for Women renames three degrees to strengthen student's success
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning has approved the renaming of three degrees at Mississippi University for Women. "We expect the name changes for the three degrees to clarify our degree offerings and to be more appealing to prospective students," said Dr. Thomas Richardson, provost and vice president for academic affairs at The W. "We expect to see all three programs grow as a result of these changes, and we appreciate the support of the IHL Board in renaming these programs." The renamed degrees are the bachelor of applied science in business administration, bachelor of arts in theatre and master of business administration.
Project To Spur Minority Business Ownership in Delta Targets HBCUs
Six historically black colleges and universities in the Delta region will be selected to take part in an initiative to promote interest in entrepreneurship. The Delta Regional Authority is partnering with the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute in Georgia, and Mississippi Valley State University. Chris Masingill, with DRA, says they want talented students to stay in Mississippi and help grow the economy. "To expose young people, particularly young people of color about the opportunity and giving them the know how and the resources and the mentoring and programming to say you can be an entrepreneur, you can own your own businesses," said Masingill. DRA's coverage area includes the Delta regions in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. Any HBCUs in those areas are eligible to apply to participate. Mississippi Valley State University Professor Curressia Brown is coordinating the year long project.
NBC News chairman delivers Tougaloo College's Commencement Address
Tougaloo College Eaglets leave the nest soaring to the next level following commencement ceremonies Sunday morning in Jackson. Rain forced the 2016 graduation ceremonies indoors, where 147 graduates received degrees in education, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Andrew Lack, the Chairman of NBC News and MSNBC was the commencement speaker. Lack began visiting Tougaloo during the conference on 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Civil Rights movement and said the college has an extraordinary history and legacy. Tougaloo College President Dr. Beverly Hogan said more than 60 percent of those receiving degrees Sunday are slated to attend graduate and professional schools.
Students host Earthfest at Auburn University
Auburn University students and residents came out to spend a day in nature Saturday at Earthfest at the Donald E. Davis Arboretum. The annual event is hosted by the Environmental Awareness Organization at Auburn University. During the event, there was live music and vendors with gardening and other items people could browse or purchase from at the event. Auburn University students Emi Smith and Savannah Duke liked spending the day outside. "This is a perfect day for it," Smith said. "It's really nice to relax now that the semester is over."
'Golden parachutes' at Louisiana universities under increased scrutiny
Critics call them "golden parachutes." They're the lofty protections built into contracts that give university presidents and chancellors a high-paid, back-up position on the faculty at the same institution in case they are fired. It's standard operating procedure for university leaders, but it has drawn scrutiny in recent months as money for public universities in Louisiana continues to shrink. At the same time, several Louisiana universities have endured a revolving door of top administrators. For example, since 2005, both LSU and Southern University have switched leadership at the top four times, not including interim leaders. Speaking for LSU, Jason Droddy, vice president of policy and external communications, said the safety nets are necessary to attract competitive candidates.
U. of Florida President Kent Fuchs: Power of connectivity gives graduates an edge
University of Florida President Kent Fuchs told graduates that being a member of the "selfie generation" would serve them well in life, part of a broader message in a commencement speech Saturday that highlighted the benefits of constant connectivity. "Because you are the most human-connected and global-reaching graduating class in history, you also have the most promising potential of any class before you," Fuchs said in his 15-minute speech Saturday evening, suggesting that the class of 2016 graduates will be able to use their heavy reliance on digital technology to maintain friendships with classmates, build connections and network with employers. Thousands of people packed Ben Griffin Hill Stadium for Saturday evening's commencement ceremony, one of several scheduled over the weekend.
Pay is climbing fast for Texas university leaders, including A&M's Sharp, Young
With tuition costs growing, Texas university presidents and chancellors have strived to make clear that they're working hard to keep expenses down. But there's at least one area where spending has spiked in recent years: The salaries of chancellors and presidents. In the past four years, total pay has grown 70 percent for the leaders of Texas' six university systems and presidents of those systems' namesake schools -- the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, the University of North Texas, the University of Houston and Texas State University. In 2012, their average compensation was $565,000. In 2016, it's $955,000, according to data from the Legislative Budget Board.
Texas A&M 'Viz Lab' ranked third-best public animation program in the country
The head of Texas A&M's Department of Visualization says he's not surprised it's one of the best places in the country to learn animation. But they're not after high rankings, he said. He wants to empower students to do what inspires them. Through the "Viz Lab," as it's called on campus, Texas A&M graduates have helped design computer-generated imagery on several major movies -- Disney-Pixar's Brave and Disney Animation Studio's Zootopia are some recent ones. There were also some Aggies who worked on the visual effects for Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies. Texas A&M was ranked the third-best public animation school in the country by Animation Career Review -- an online career resource for aspiring animators, game designers and visual artists.
U. of Missouri campus diversity chief Chuck Henson to resume role at law school
Chuck Henson, tapped to lead the University of Missouri's response to student protests over racial issues, will return to the School of Law at the beginning of the fall semester, interim Chancellor Hank Foley wrote in a memo sent Friday to faculty, staff and students. Henson has been interim vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity since Nov. 10, when he was appointed to the position created after the Concerned Student 1950 protests. Among other things, the students said in a list of demands that they wanted a "comprehensive racial awareness and inclusion curriculum throughout all campus departments and units" and funding to "increase retention rates for marginalized students, sustain diversity curriculum and training, and promote a more safe and inclusive campus."
Why colleges' brands look so similar
In its brochures, a college is never just a college. A college is a gateway, or a launchpad, or a training ground. Condensed into a few words, colleges' missions are similar, and the concrete elements of college life become less so: "Attending SF State is more than an education -- it's an experience," the university's website reads. "Leadership isn't just an elective. It's a way of life," reads the University of Virginia's. But it's that brevity -- a tagline, a logo, a mission statement -- that sells. Colleges want to stand out, but they also want to be pithy. The effect is often grandiose, stylized and crushingly cliched. Beyond tagline language, higher education marketing has its own aesthetic: students under trees, throwing Frisbees, wearing lab coats. Most branding experts will say that a degree is an emotional purchase.
In a sign of changing times, U. of Louisville tears down a statue
After facing decades of protest against a statue commemorating Confederate Civil War soldiers, the University of Louisville, Kentucky, announced Friday that the monument would be moved. The announcement that the statue would be removed delighted many who have spent years advocating for its removal. "I can't tell you how happy I am," said University of Louisville professor Ricky Jones after Friday's announcement. "I think this statue being on the campus is somewhat akin to flying the Confederate flag over the [university's] administration building." The decision by the University of Louisville to remove this statue follows a long line of decisions by other institutions to remove similar symbols of the Confederacy.
Why So Many Chinese Students Come to the U.S.
Fan Yue looked into the future and didn't like what she saw. As a high-school student in Yanzhou, an eastern Chinese city of 4.6 million, she dreamed of going to college and studying education. But most Chinese universities are uninspiring, she said. She heard cheating was pervasive and that many people skip class. Students are required to study "Mao Zedong thought." Just getting in takes years of study for the gaokao entrance exam, which is like the SAT on steroids. There was another option: America. She had heard it was dangerous and wondered if she'd need to carry a knife. Her parents were against it. Yet on a brief visit to the U.S., she was inspired by the leafy campuses and sense of academic freedom. She applied to the University of California, Irvine, and got in. As the number of foreign students surges on U.S. campuses, more are coming from middle-class backgrounds like Fan Yue's.
Most 12th graders are not college or career ready
Syndicated columnist Bill Crawford of Meridian writes: "'Most High School Seniors Aren't College Or Career Ready, Says Nation's Report Card,' read the headline. A look at 'The National Report Card' for 2015 produced by the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) shows just 25% of U.S. 12th graders scored proficient or higher in math and just 37% in reading. ...No wonder new industry prospects question the readiness of Mississippi's workforce for advanced manufacturing and high-tech jobs. No wonder major Mississippi industries have to sort through hundreds of applicants to find a handful who are qualified for employment. No wonder solving this dilemma was the top priority of the recent session of the Mississippi Legislature. Huh? Oh, that's right. Legislators focused on bills addressing issues that were much more important, bills columnist Charlie Mitchell described as, 'Reactionary bills. Defensive bills. Shallow bills. Bills for their buddies.'"
2019 right around corner on political calendars
The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender writes: "On a regular calendar, 2019 might seem far distant, but state politicians and politicos are already pondering and maneuvering for what promise to be some free-for-all state races. Here's some of what the chattering classes have been chattering about lately for the top state offices..."
Biggest fantasy in 'fantasy sports' is that it isn't gambling
Syndicated columnist Sid Salter writes: "Is everyone who plays fantasy sports a gambler? Of course not, just as not everyone who plays poker or blackjack is a gambler. But are fantasy sports considered gambling by a substantial portion of the people who play it? Absolutely. Ask Joe Asher, operator of Nevada sports book operator William Hill U.S., who told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2015: 'You put up of something of value, cash, to win something of value, cash. It's the classic definition of gambling.' A bill that would make playing fantasy sports legal in Mississippi is now awaiting Gov. Phil Bryant's signature. Earlier in the 2016 session, the bill was amended to include authorization of a lottery in Mississippi -- something that has been bouncing around Mississippi's political landscape for the last 25 years or so."

Bulldogs claim fourth SEC road series
Mississippi State won its fourth straight SEC road series this weekend and have now claimed six of their first seven conference series overall. But the fourth-ranked Diamond Dogs didn't leave Alabama's Sewell-Thomas Stadium as happy as they would have liked on Saturday. MSU dropped the first game of a doubleheader 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth before bouncing back with a 2-1 victory in seven frames to take the series. "We've been very successful on the road and I credit our kid's toughness," said MSU skipper John Cohen. "But man, the greed in me says we let one slip through our fingers today. We could've swept a good Alabama club on the road and we let it slip through our fingers. That one's gonna burn us for a while."
Bulldogs take road baseball series from Crimson Tide
Saturday's first loss was tough for John Cohen to take. The Mississippi State baseball coach saw his team take a lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of the first game of a double header against Alabama. But the Crimson Tide got a walk-off RBI single from Chance Vincent to take the victory. The second game was going to test the Bulldogs, but they held steady. Konnor Pilkington threw a career-high 5 2/3 innings and struck out a career-high seven to help No. 3 MSU beat Alabama 2-1 in a shortened seven-inning game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium to take its fourth Southeastern Conference series on the road. "We have some really competitive kids and Pilkington's one of those guys. He wants the baseball," Cohen said.
Dallas Cowboys select Dak Prescott in fourth round
College programs overlooked Dak Prescott before he signed with Mississippi State. History repeated itself during the NFL draft. The former MSU quarterback fell to the fourth round on Day 3 of the draft on Saturday. The Cowboys scooped up Prescott at pick No. 135. Many projected as a second or third round pick. Dallas worked out Prescott more than any quarterback in the draft. MSU's best player in program history grew up a Cowboys fan. "I got a good feel for the coaching staff," Prescott said in an "I couldn't be happier with where I am."
Cowboys draft Mississippi State quarterback Prescott; Jones, Redmond also taken
The Dallas Cowboys have drafted a quarterback for the first time since 2009 and added a Baylor basketball star who last played football when he was in eighth grade. The Cowboys took Mississippi State's Dak Prescott with the 135th overall pick in the fourth round of the NFL draft Saturday, adding to the group competing to be the backup to Tony Romo. Prescott said the Cowboys brought him in for a visit fairly late in the pre-draft process, and he had spent time with the coaching staff at the Senior Bowl. Dallas quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson went to Mississippi to see Prescott. It's the first time Dallas has drafted a quarterback since taking Stephen McGee, also in the fourth round, in 2009. And it's just the third QB drafted by the Cowboys since 2001. Romo was undrafted in 2003.
NFL Draft: Former Bulldog Chris Jones excited for opportunity with Kansas City
Chris Jones didn't have to wait long to hear his name called on the second day of the NFL draft. Jones had hoped to get a call in the Thursday's first round. Many analysts had him going in the first 31 picks, and it was only six picks later that Jones was taken No. 37 overall in the early second round by the Kansas City Chiefs. "If you get invited here you always expect to go in the first round," Jones said. "Everybody wants to walk that stage before anybody and be that guy to hug the commissioner first. Everybody's path is different. It's not about who gets drafted first. It's about whatever they do where they get drafted." In a sense Jones is a first-round pick.
Undrafted former Bulldogs sign with NFL teams
The NFL draft ended on Saturday with a handful Mississippi Sate players still available. They soon found homes at the next level by signing undrafted free agent deals. Former defensive end Ryan Brown announced his deal with the Cincinnati Bengals first. Beniquez Brown, who declared early for the NFL, inked a deal with the Green Bay Packers. De'Runnya Wilson, who also had eligibility remaining, signed with the New England Patriots. Corner Taveze Calhoun will continue his career with the Chicago Bears. Former punter Devon Bell will report to rookie mini camp this week with the Indianapolis Colts. Former offensive lineman Justin Malone signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Broadcaster Matt Wyatt awarded 'Top 50 Under 40'
Matt Wyatt, sports broadcaster, talk show host and former Mississippi State University quarterback, recently was named "Top 50 Under 40" by the Mississippi Business Journal, along with Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton and the Tupelo Convention & Visitors Bureau's Jennie Bradford Curlee. Wyatt hosts a three-hour daily talk show called "Head to Head" where he reacts to news in sports and tells stories. He also does a one-hour daily talk show called "Trending Now," a podcast called "Needle," broadcasts Mississippi State games and analyzes baseball and men's basketball for the SEC Network. He did not expect to be included in the "Top 50" list, but he felt honored. Wyatt sets himself apart by offering real-life experiences from when he played football at MSU and his "gift of gab."
The Braves Play Taxpayers Better Than They Play Baseball
Sometime in 2003, when he was the mayor of Pearl, Miss., Jimmy Foster got a visit from a man he'd never met. The stranger, Tim Bennett, came to City Hall, an old brick schoolhouse on Pearl's church-lined main street. "He just showed up in my office that day," says Foster, "and started talking about baseball." Specifically, Bennett wanted to know if Pearl might be interested in building a stadium for a minor league team. A ballpark, it turned out, was just the kind of project Foster was looking for. Now 62, with gray hair and a potbelly, Foster, who spent 19 years as a policeman in Pearl before becoming mayor, was desperate to help his hometown shed its reputation as a poor neighbor of Jackson. Over the last 15 years, the Braves have extracted nearly half a billion in public funds for four new homes, each bigger and more expensive than the last.

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