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20) Jackson State’s student orchestra played a role in history when it performed for festivities celebrating the inauguration of President Barack Obama.


This campus research center keeps African-American history alive with its expanding collection, community programs and a digital makeover.

Five Jackson State University staff members received the Jacksonian Professionalism Award at the 2008 Faculty and Staff Yuletide Luncheon in December.

Jackson State University Student Government Association President Dillon Robinson and Miss Jackson State 2008–09 Alicia Brumfield talk about their lives as leaders.

The Williams brothers have tasted the fruits of success as scientists. Now they lead a new generation to achievements in physics at Corning Inc.

Two members of the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center earned lifetime memberships.

ON THE COVER: Jackson State University orchestra directors Dr. Robert Blaine (center) and Rachel Jordan (right) along with student musicians .

The Jacksonian is published ANNUALLY by the Office of University Communications at Jackson State University.

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Contact the Office of University Communications at P.O. Box 17490, Jackson, MS 39217 601-979-2272 (phone) 601-979-2000 (fax) Visit the Office of University Communications at 1400 John R. Lynch St. Administration Tower, Second FlooR. DIRECTOR OF UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS ANTHONY DEAN MANAGER OF PUBLIC RELATIONS TOMMIEA P. JACKSON SENIOR EDITOR/WRITER Jean Gordon Cook

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Marietta Reading Center fights illiteracy   4 Black chemists earn Ph.D.s   5 Textbooks for African students   6 Mass communications enters new era   8

Photo exhibit at Alexander Center Virtual class becomes reality Edelman celebrates Kids Kollege Rod Paige Room dedicated Sisters stand against domestic violence Homeland Security center opens

Small businesses grow Lights shine on new relationships Top chef spices up dining

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Webmaster of bands Secret life of Kathy Elam

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Former drum majors Cyber hangout for alumni

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‘Student-athlete’ redefined


Class Notes College/division briefs

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Dr. Patricia Grierson Alzinia Brown Kendika Brown Dr. Joseph C. Enos


CONTRIBUTORS Pamela Berry-Palmer Riva Brown Andrea W. Dilworth Whitney Everett kamesha hill Darnell Jackson Caitlin Kitchens Alysia Lajune constance Lawson Spencer McClenty Dominique Moore Ciera Tabb PHOTOGRAPHERS Freddy Norman Mic fontaine Frank WIlson, JR. GRAPHIC DESIGN CERCLE DESIGN STUDIO, LLC

3 Dear Jacksonians: Whether the focus is local or international, Jackson State University lives up to its motto of “Challenging Minds, Changing Lives.” Locally, our students are helping residents of the neighboring Washington Addition community save money and the Earth by using energy-efficient light bulbs. The Marietta Reading Center in Jackson’s Virden Addition community has not only given students the skills they need to read better, but in the process has inspired them to learn more. Even if you travel more than 8,000 miles to Zambia, you will again find Jackson State’s mark as faculty members have produced more than half a million textbooks for the children of the sub-Saharan African country. You will read about those and other interesting stories in this edition of The Jacksonian. The cover story features members of our student orchestra who traveled to Washington, D.C., to help celebrate the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama. The campus to community section profiles Jackson State’s new chef and his work in what has become the crown jewel of our main campus – the Jackson State Student Center. As the home to a new bookstore, movie theater, multimedia meeting space and perhaps one of the best dining facilities in the city, the Student Center has become more inviting to the larger Jackson community. Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, I invite you to learn more about Jackson State University. Visit our Web site at Visit our campus. Enjoy this magazine. Respectfully,

Ronald Mason Jr. President, Jackson State University

ACADEMICS Mary Etta Sutton founded the Marietta Reading Center.

Amy Berry, director of grants and special projects in the College of Education and Human Development.

Marietta Reading Center fights illiteracy BY SPENCER McCLENTY


o other child should struggle with reading like her son did. That feeling motivated Mary Etta Sutton to help other children to learn to read. She started at her kitchen table in Detroit with two students in 1975. “It grieved my heart that I was not able to help our son with reading, even though I was very successful as a teacher helping everybody else’s child,” she says. “So we sent him to a reading center, and I decided that I would open a reading center myself because I never wanted another parent to go through what I had gone through.” Since then, Sutton’s personal passion has grown into the Marietta Reading Center. Sutton created the name for the center by combining her first and middle names. The Jackson State University-sponsored literacy program is housed at the Jackson Medical Mall in Jackson, Miss., and teaches children the fundamentals of reading. Today, the after-school center – operating through JSU’s Department of Education and the Mississippi Learning Institute – tutors students of all ages. Sutton, a 75-year-old retired teacher, moved her reading center to Mississippi in 1992 when her husband became president of Christ Missionary & Industrial College in Jackson. She ran the program from a classroom at the school

while she developed a curriculum tailored to tion and Jackson Public Schools, MLI works to address the needs of each student. improve education from kindergarten through “It’s an individual plan of 119 skills that every the master’s level. child must know, involving phonics, comprehen- Retired high school principal Mark Calhoun sion and study skills,” she says. “With the Sut- especially appreciates the center. ton structure, students improve their self image “My son attended the Marietta Reading Cenby being able to read with a desirable rate of ter when he was 8 years old,” Calhoun says. speed and comprehension.” “His classmates were moving on and he was In 1994, Sutton moved the center to the Jack- struggling miserably.” son Medical Mall. But after a few years, the After trying other tutorial services, Calhoun tutoring program faced financial trouble due, in and his wife learned about the Marietta Readpart, to low enrollment. ing Center from a television commerical. Soon, JSU National Alumni Association presi- “Mrs. Sutton did diagnostic tests and targetdent Dr. Hilliard Lackey and other members of ed those areas where my son struggled and he the center’s board stepped up to help save the began to catch on,” Calhoun says. “He not only center from closure. became a proficient reader, but he also made In the summer of 2007, Lackey, chairperson of the honor roll and received the award for stuthe board since 2006, pushed Jackson State to dent of the quarter. It was nothing short of a fund the Marietta Reading Center. miracle.” An early supporter was Amy Berry, the direc- Over the past two years, the Marietta Reading tor of grants and special projects in the College Center has proven to be a vital asset to Jackson of Education and Human Development. State. However, due to the uncertain nature of “We did have some grant money that we federal grants, there is never a guarantee that could associate with it,” Berry says. “And we money will be available to carry the reading needed an outreach reading center as part of center from year to year. the Mississippi Learning Institute.” “We write proposals with the intent of receiv For that reason, Berry secured funding for the ing funds,” Berry says. “However, our relationcenter that is filtered through the university’s ship with the reading center will not end if fundgrant for the MLI. As an educational partner- ing is no longer provided. It’s just the financial ship with the Mississippi Department of Educa- relationship that we’re uncertain of.”

JSU adds more black chemists with Ph.D.s to America’s labs BY RIVA BROWN


ince admitting its first Ph.D. students in 1999, Jackson State University’s Department of Chemistry has envisioned itself as being the national leader in producing AfricanAmerican chemists with doctorates. Over the past nine years, 10 African Americans have earned terminal degrees in chemistry from Jackson State, including Dr. Charity Mosley Foreman of Virginia Beach, Va., and Dr. Gernerique “G” Stewart of Selma, Ala., who graduated in August 2008. “We look forward to graduating an average of three African-American Ph.D. chemists per year in the next few years, and five or more after that,” says Dr. Hongtao Yu, chair of the Department of Chemistry and director of the Ph.D. program. This goal is among several the department has to increase the number of African-American Ph.D. chemists, who are under-represented in the field. From 1997 to 2004, an average of 1,307 Ph.D.s in chemistry were awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, according to a 2005 National Science Foundation survey. However, only 44 graduates, or 3.4 percent, were African Americans, who make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. “We strive to fill in the gap since we have the tradition and nurturing environment for African Americans and an extremely strong faculty that is among the best in the country,” Yu says. Stewart, 34, now an assistant professor of chemistry at Grambling State University, says it is “a blessing and a great responsibility” to be

in the small group of African-American chemists with Ph.D.s. “If you look at the number of minorities with Ph.D.s in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), then the numbers decrease further. It’s an honor to have a Ph.D., but I also realize that I have a lot of work ahead of me,” says Stewart, who has served as a research mentor to students in two programs at Jackson State – Science and Technology Access to Research and Graduate Education and the Science Education Partnership Award program. “The first thing I will do now that I’ve graduated is to establish myself as a quality researcher, professor and scholar in the field of chemistry,” adds Stewart, who was born in Jackson, Miss. “I plan to continue mentoring students, and hopefully serve as an example they can follow.” Foreman, 27, says now that she has earned her doctorate in chemistry, it is her duty to contribute to increasing that number. “I did not achieve this goal on my own; I had a strong network that supported and helped me along my journey,” says Foreman, now a forensic chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration. “Now that I have graduated, I am obligated to go back into my community and expose young people to the endless career opportunities in the sciences. I believe educating young people at an early age plants a seed in their mind that there are other career choices available if they apply themselves.” Mass communications major Darnell Jackson contributed to this article.

Dr. Hongtao Yu chairs the Department of Chemistry and directs its Ph.D. program.

Dr. Gernerique “G” Stewart, an assistant professor of chemistry at Grambling State University, earned both an M.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry from Jackson State University.

Department of Chemistry Highlights

From 2007 to 2009, the department reached a major milestone with 13 Ph.D. graduates, including six African Americans and five women. The department graduated the most master’s and Ph.D. students in Mississippi in academic year 2006–07. Faculty each published an average of 6.4 peer-reviewed papers per year. The department ranks No. 1 among 115 historically black colleges and universities and on the same level as the nation’s top chemistry departments, based on reports listed in the American Chemical Society’s Directory of Graduate Research in 2005 and 2007.

Dr. Charity Mosley Foreman, a forensic chemist with the Drug Enforcement Administration, earned both an M.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry from Jackson State University.

Over the past three years, Dr. Vivian Taylor, professor of education in Jackson State University’s College of Education and Human Development, has had an extraordinary “tour of duty” on the continent of Africa. As director of the Textbooks and Learning Materials Program in Zambia, she has gained a first-hand, cross-cultural perspective of education. Taylor, former associate dean in the College of Education and former director of the Teacher Quality Enhancement Program, has expanded her service across borders to help improve the quality of education for students in sub-Saharan Africa, where primary school enrollment is among the lowest in the world and education is affected by limited funds and a lack of adequate teachers, classrooms and learning materials.

The Jacksonian: What is the Textbooks and Learning Materials Program? Taylor: The Textbooks and Learning Materials Program is a three-year, capacity-building grant program awarded to the Mississippi Consortium for International Development to increase access and availability of textbooks and instructional materials for children and teachers in Zambia, Africa. The Ministry of Education, the local mission and MCID work together. The program is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C. TLMP is a component of the African Education Initiative, which is a $600 million, multi-year effort started by former President George W. Bush that focuses on increasing access to quality, basic education in sub-Saharan Africa through scholarships, textbooks and teacher training programs. It integrates themes of gender equity and HIV/AIDS, which are serious problems across the continent. The Jacksonian: What is the Mississippi Consortium for International Development and its relationship with Jackson State University? Taylor: Established in 1989, MCID is a partnership led by Jackson State and includes Tougaloo College, Mississippi Valley State University and Alcorn State University. Its mission is to develop and implement international development projects and exchange programs to enhance the

quality of life for citizens around the world. Each institution holds a seat on the MCID board. President Ronald Mason Jr. serves as board chairman, and Dr. Ally Mack, dean of Jackson State’s Division of International Studies, serves as executive director.

Dr. Vivian Taylor

The textbook, Enjoy Basic Mathematics 4, was made possible through a grant to the Mississippi Consortium for International Development.

The Jacksonian: Tell us about the program’s focus and activities in Zambia. Taylor: In Zambia, there are numerous critical needs in the education sector, such as an alarming ratio of one book per eight children. Given this statistic, we are working to bridge the gap between access and availability of textbooks and learning materials that are relevant, culturally responsive and aligned to the national syllabus. Our program focuses on training writers to author books and related instructional materials, field-testing those materials, then publishing and distributing them to districts and schools across all nine provinces in the country. In fact, by the end of September, we produced more than 600,000 copies of materials including pupils’ books, teachers’ manuals, instructional posters and CDs. All materials are developed collaboratively between trained, indigenous writers, graphic artists and editors in Zambia in partnership with the MCID staff and faculty. Their dedication, commitment and numerous contributions have been invaluable.

The Jacksonian: How did you get involved in the program in Africa? Taylor: The answer to that question is simple: Dr. Ally Mack. Anyone who knows her knows that she does not take no for an answer. She invited me to serve as project director for the program. The invitation came at a time when I had decided to give up administration, focus on teaching and involve myself more in community-based endeavors. Despite my initial reluctance to travel to Africa and take on such a multifaceted and challenging program, it has been one of the most gratifying professional experiences of my career. The Jacksonian: What has been the reaction of students, teachers, parents and stakeholders in Zambia? Taylor: They have all expressed deep and heartfelt gratitude for our efforts. They have been singing, dancing, chanting, clapping and “hissing” with appreciation. There also have been many emotional moments, on both sides, with tears of joy. The faces of the children especially tell the story. I’ve never seen children get so excited about books!

My experience has empowered me to use my voice whenever and wherever possible to raise awareness of the atrocities in Africa, and to forever be involved in development efforts. I’ve become an advocate for change and have made strides toward getting others involved. For example, I’ve initiated the “pencil, paper and Popsicle sticks” drive – or PPP – which has amassed a number of supplies for schools. Last year, I helped to organize a local mission group from Greater Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss. The group traveled to Zambia for mission work and adopted the Jaccaranda Basic School, which they will continuously support. I’m also hoping to work with MCID to launch a public campaign for service, social, civic, faith-based and other community-based organizations, groups and agencies to adopt and/or build schools in Africa; build libraries; provide birthing kits for pregnant women; and continue to provide learning materials for children and teachers.

The Jacksonian: What would you most want the public to know regarding your experience? Taylor: In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I The Jacksonian: What impact has this experience had on would like them to know that each person can make a differyou personally? ence in educating children in Africa. Taylor: I have met some incredibly proud, loving, hard working, You don’t have to be an Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Keys, Angelina tenacious and praying people. They have touched the very core Jolie, George Clooney, Madonna or Bill Gates to care and get of my soul and have taught me to be more humble and grateful involved. Ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference. for each little blessing that we in America too often take for Our students, faculty and staff at Jackson State and the consorgranted. I especially have a greater appreciation for the free- tium universities have made remarkable efforts to lend a helpdom I enjoy as a woman in America where I don’t have to worry ing hand for Africa. For information on how you can get involved, about inhuman practices against women like those that invade contact MCID at 1225 Robinson Road, Jackson, MS, 39203, or many parts of Africa. call 601-979-8652.

Dr. Vivian Taylor, director of the Textbooks and Learning Materials Program, works with students and teachers in Zambia.



hen asked about his vision for the Mass Communications Department at Jackson State University, Dr. Dwight Brooks says he wants to prepare his students for 21st century newsrooms. “It’s artificial to tell a student either you are a print journalist or a broadcast journalist, which leaves out online, where most journalism is actually done,” says Brooks, who became the department’s chair in July 2007. “Now you cover a story, you produce it for your newspaper, produce it for your newspaper’s Web site, and you will probably be asked to do a standup for the local station.”

Brooks’ new charge for the department comes with a new place to lead that charge. During the fall semester of 2008, the Mass Communications Department relocated from the historic Blackburn Language Arts building on the main campus to the off-campus Mississippi e-Center @JSU. The move was necessary, Brooks says, because the Blackburn building is one of the oldest structures on campus and was plagued by major heating and cooling problems. The infrastructure woes damaged the department’s computers and camera equipment and drew concerns from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. “Many of the e-Center tenants are involved in communications activities,” Brooks says of the added bonus to relocating. “The move allows the department to partner with the university’s commercial TV station TV23 in producing high-quality programs.” Senior mass communications major Anita Bonner sees benefits to the move. “There is more space and a closer proximity to a great learning environment for the students,” Bonner says. While the relocation addressed the department’s physical problems, Brooks says he also faces academic challenges. Prior

to Brooks’ arrival several years ago, the department struggled with ACEJMC re-accreditation. Jackson State first received accreditation for its Mass Communications Department in 1985. It was the second historically black college or university in the nation to earn the designation. Since then, the university has continued to undergo an onsite review for re-accreditation every six years to determine whether it still meets the council’s high quality standards for mass communications programs. Brooks says the department has “gotten away from tradition,” and as a result, the curriculum needs an overhaul. Currently, mass communications students choose one of five concentrations – advertising, public relations, print journalism, broadcast journalism or production. The proposed program will combine advertising with public relations, and print journalism with broadcast journalism. The production concentration would be called digital media production, a field of interest to many mass communications students. Other possible changes include adding new classes and redefining course concentrations. Students also would have more

writing requirements, the media law and ethics class would be split into two courses, and a new media diversity course recognizing the accomplishments of African Americans in the field would be offered. Eventually, Brooks says, the department would launch assessment procedures, including a pretest to measure students’ skills when entering the program, and a test before graduation to determine what they’ve learned during their studies at Jackson State. The proposed changes are currently being considered by the university’s curriculum committee. Bonner believes Brooks should focus on building more structure and better unity within the department. “Dr. Brooks has to bring together the talented faculty, staff and students in order for the department to realize its full potential,” she says. Dr. Olorundare Aworuwa, a mass communications associate

professor, agrees the department must take strides toward improvement. “Stable leadership and redesigning the curriculum will enable the department to better prepare the students for the current developments and demand of the communications industry,” says Aworuwa, who served as the department’s acting chair before Brooks’ arrival. Brooks says he knows the needed changes won’t happen overnight, but he’s determined to see the department reach its full potential. “My main goal was to restore the department back to that prominent place where it had been, and if possible, exceed that,” Brooks continues. That will be accomplished, he says, by serving the students, giving them their money’s worth, and by maintaining all the standards set by ACEJMC.

Mass communications undergraduate Calvin April and graduate student LaKeisha Watson talk with department chair Dr. Dwight Brooks.


s the oldest building on the historically black campus of Jack- The future son State University, it’s fitting that century-old Ayer Hall is home to The future of the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center. Center involves using technology to collect and share information The center prides itself on being the keeper of the records for via the Web. A $100,000 Ford Foundation grant has allowed staff to African Americans who want to learn from the past. It holds more implement a pilot program to digitize Alexander’s works and share than 1,500 linear feet of manuscript collections, oral histories, knowledge with other historically black colleges and universities. newspaper clippings, photographs and artifacts. The center recently unveiled its newest exhibit, “The Rod Paige The center also is a tribute to Alexander, known internationally Room,” honoring the 1955 Jackson State graduate and former footfor her writings, including the poem, “For My Peoball coach who earned a spot in history in 2001 ple,” and the narrative, Jubilee. when he became the first African-American U.S. “She was an outstanding writer, person and Secretary of Education. intellectual,” says center board member Rosia The center also will soon house Julius ThompWade Crisler, a founding member of Daughters of son’s collection of newspapers and African and Margaret, a performing arts group that brings to African-American history and literature. The late life the works of Alexander and other artists. scholar and poet taught at Jackson State from Born in Birmingham, Ala., Alexander was an Eng1973 through 1981. He was director of black studlish professor at Jackson State from 1949 to 1979. ies at the University of Missouri-Columbia before Those who remember her say she was passionate his death in October 2007 and was an Alcorn about writing, learning and preserving history. State University alumnus who earned his master’s Alexander laid the foundation for the center in and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. 1968, with the Institute for the Study of History, Alexander in her late 20s. Even in retirement, Harrison’s passion for the Life and Culture of Black People. Margaret Walker Alexander National Research “Her whole focus was black studies,” says Dr. Alferdteen Har- Center is continuing. She returned in the fall as a consultant and rison, who became head of the institute in 1979 after Alexander’s will work with the center until a new director is in place. retirement. It was during Harrison’s leadership in 1989 that the institute be- History came a center. Recently retired herself, Harrison looks back at her Ayer Hall has seen some significant changes in the past 106 time with the center with a sense of accomplishment. years. It suffered a major fire in 1938, resulting in the removal of She is most excited about Ayer Hall’s restoration, the center’s the fourth floor. The structure was restored with $1.5 million in holdings and its potential for growth. renovations from 2003 through 2007. The building is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a Mississippi landmark.

Dr. Alferdteen Harrison has led the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center since 1979.

The center’s Web site describes Ayer Hall as “a four-story Colonial Revival building, raised above a full basement, with a hipped and gabled roof.” Built in 1903, it once included a chapel, president’s office, library, bookstore, post office and male and female dormitories.


Today Ayer Hall houses Alexander’s papers, as well as exhibits, private listening rooms, offices, and a gift shop. Two years before the author’s death in 1996, she deeded her literary papers, including manuscripts, books and photographs, to the center. “Visitors can see the edited versions of her work and the unedited copies,” archivist Angela Stewart says. “They can follow her creative process from her notes to the published book. “The center is a tremendous resource of primary information of African-American culture,” Stewart says. “It gives you a glimpse of what life was like in the 60s, 70s and 80s through oral histories and manuscript collections.” Such collections include audio and other materials from Robert G. Clark, the first African-American elected to the Mississippi legislature since Reconstruction; Piney Woods School, one of the country’s few remaining historically African-American boarding schools; and Women Power Collection. The center actively works not only to collect information, but also to bring young people together with more seasoned members of

the community to share information and experiences. Regular programs include: • Second Tuesday lecture series of African-American history and culture, which allows faculty, staff, students or community members to share research. • Annual dinner theater, which serves as the center’s largest fundraiser. • Robert Clark Symposium, which explores Mississippi politics. • Annual Martin Luther King Jr. convocation, which welcomes national speakers to celebrate the slain civil rights leader’s legacy. • The Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy and the Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement both provide seminars and workshops and opportunities for the larger community to record oral histories. Recording the oral histories of civil rights veterans is a priority, says College of Liberal Arts associate dean Dr. Mary Coleman, who hopes their voices will not be lost to secondary sources. “Nearly 50 years ago, their original testimony enlivened the country’s consciousness,” Coleman says. “Now that testimony must be a part of the popular print culture.” To learn more about or to become a member of the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center, call 601-979-2055 or visit

Alumphotos exhibits at Alexander Research Center BY SPENCER McCLENTY Photographer and Jackson State University alumnus Ralph Jones told his friends about a million-dollar dream after earning his bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 1981. “People laughed when I said I’d bring a million-dollar check back to JSU,” the new graduate pledged. “But I was serious.” Though he hasn’t yet amassed that $1 million, Jones, 53, has established an impressive photography career that has enabled him to travel the world pursuing his goal. His extensive catalog includes photographs of President Barack Obama, the Rev. Al Sharpton, actor Morgan Freeman and Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr. The Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center, located on the Jackson State campus in historic Ayer Hall, has played an important role in Jones’ career. In 2004, after talking with the center’s former director Dr. Alferdteen Harrison – who calls his work “an excellent look at the Mississippi Delta” – Jones displayed his first photo exhibit at the research center. Harrison recalls Jones fondly. “He is an enthusiastic Jacksonian who wants to make a lasting contribution to his alma mater,” she says. For the Greenville, Miss., native, having his photos exhibited at the research center is an honor. “I felt like I won an Oscar,” Jones recalls. “Having a person say, ‘I saw your exhibit at JSU,’ and having people recognize your work is the

The Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at Bethel Baptist Church in Mound Bayou, Miss., in 2003.

ultimate gratification.” Jones’ first photo exhibit, titled “Boogaloo,” contained intimate photographs of famous Mississippi Delta blues pianist Abie “Boogaloo” Ames and his protégé, Eden Brent. His second and third exhibits, titled “My Peoples,” and “The Mississippi Delta through the Eyes of Ralph Jones,” were displayed in 2005 and 2006.

Photographer Ralph Jones is a native of the Mississippi Delta.

The “My Peoples” exhibit was a collection of black-and-white photographs of well known people and events in the Delta, including photos of legendary musician Ike Turner performing at Delta State University and the Emmett Till Memorial Highway sign unveiling. “The Mississippi Delta through the Eyes of

Ralph Jones snapped a picture of Bobby Rush, Willie Clayton and DJ Sweet Tan Love at the 2005 Homecoming Festival in Indianola, Miss.

Ralph Jones” exhibit was a collection of color photographs taken to capture the essence of life in the Delta. The collection included photos of famous Chicago educator Marva Collins speaking at Mississippi Valley State University, Willie Clayton at his annual homecoming celebration and concert in Indianola, Miss., and Bobby Rush at a concert he headlined at the Grand Casino Resort in Tunica, Miss. The fourth exhibit, titled “Black Politics,” is currently on display in the research center. It is a collection of mostly color photographs of local and national political candidates and political campaign paraphernalia. This collection includes photographs of Heather McTeer Hudson, the first African-American female mayor of Greenville, Miss.; Willie Simmons, a Mississippi state senator from Cleveland, Miss.; and Mississippi Supreme Court Justice James E. Graves Jr. Jones’ fifth photo exhibit, focusing on love, will be displayed at the research center in February. Though Jones is still working on his milliondollar goal for JSU, his most valuable contribution may not be money. In his last will and testament, Jones has vowed to donate his entire picture catalog to the research center. “That contribution is very important because it documents life in the Mississippi Delta in the 21st century,” says Angela Stewart, archivist for the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center.

Ralph Jones photographed Emmett Till’s family during the Emmett Till Memorial Highway sign unveiling in 2005.

Mass communications graduate student Wen Weng

Dr. Teresa Taylor, assistant mass communications professor

Virtual class becomes reality for JSU students BY DOMINIQUE MOORE Last fall, Jermaine Patrick took a graduate course at Jackson State University called “Race, Gender and Media,” but rarely saw his teacher and fellow classmates in person. His class met only online. “I am able to meet with the professor if needed,” says Patrick, a mass communications graduate student. “We have class online and I can email questions to the professor.” Under a pilot program, the Jackson State mass communications class has joined a national trend at colleges and universities where students are allowed to attend classes in a virtual setting. The virtual classes differ from earlier online classes because instead of just receiving and sending assignments from teachers via computers, virtual classes actually meet during a designated time, and students interact in real time with each other. In addition to exploring group and individual learning activities, the virtual class also allows students to take quizzes and participate in surveys. Dr. Teresa Taylor, assistant mass communications professor, says the virtual setup allows her to teach her students just as if they are in a physical classroom by using a computer, telephone and sometimes a webcam. Taylor says she decided to explore the use of a virtual class after noticing that Patrick and many of her other mass communications graduate students were non-traditional and struggled to attend her 1 p.m. Wednesday class. Wen Weng, a mass communications graduate student from Zhejiang, China, said she enjoyed Taylor’s online class because it was convenient. “I’m an international student and I don’t have a car,” Weng said. “Being online meant I didn’t have to struggle or rush to get there. Also, sometimes when she (Taylor) was talking to the class and I didn’t under-

standing something, I was able to look up the information online since I was at the computer. It was good for me.” Although Jackson State has had the ability to offer virtual classes for several years, there was never enough interest to pursue it, Taylor says. But with students facing greater challenges in attending classes, Dr. William McHenry, executive director of the Mississippi e-Center @ JSU, says it was only a matter of time before virtual classrooms became a reality for Jackson State students. “It’s becoming more popular than ever because of challenges that students face on and off campus in attending class,” McHenry says. The pilot program was made possible through a National Science Foundation grant designed to enhance distance and classroom learning. “Ten virtual rooms were purchased,” McHenry says. “The only thing that Jackson State had to do in order to utilize this technology was to renew the WebCT license.” According to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, Jackson State has the highest number of distance learning online courses among historically black college and universities in the state. Academic instructional technology specialist Emily A. Miller-Bishop, says Jackson State also is the only HBCU in Mississippi to team up with Apple iTunes – an online music, video and podcasting service – to offer some of its public and private podcasts online. With the use of technology growing every day, McHenry says he’s anticipating Jackson State’s online offerings to grow as well. “It’s going to be big! In two respects…one, this program will reach more of our students, and two, the nature and type of students will be more broad,” he says. “Everyone is using technology today in their everyday lives.”

Marian Wright Edelman

President, Children’s Defense Fund

Marian Wright Edelman speaks during the 25th anniversary of Kids Kollege in October. Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund and the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar, directed the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund office in Jackson, Miss., during the 1960s.

Rod Paige

Former United States Secretary of Education

Former United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige listens to an October presentation during the dedication of the Rod Paige Room at Ayer Hall. The 1955 Jackson State alumnus served as a member of former President George W. Bush’s cabinet from 2001 to 2005. His official chair, writings and other correspondence are part of the room’s permanent exhibit.


Denim Day Rally

Participants in the Project S.T.A.R.S. (Sisters Taking a Radical Stand) Denim Day Rally hold hands in a sign of solidarity against domestic violence.


U.S. Representative

U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi talks with local media at the grand opening of JSU’s new Center for the Study of Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure and Emergency Management. U.S. Department of Homeland Security undersecretary for science and technology Jay M. Cohen looks on.

1. What made you decide to run for Student Government Association President? A My decision to run for Student Government Association President was very easy. As a student leader here on the JSU campus, I realized that it was simply time for a new style of leadership. 2. What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure? A With help from the 2008–09 administration, I hope to boost student morale and participation and work to improve campus safety. Also, we are working with Facilities and Construction Management and the Industrial Technology Department to introduce the “Blue, White and Green” recycling campaign.

5. What made you decide to “Choose Jackson State”? A I was a member of the Jackson State University family before I stepped onto the campus as a freshman. I attended the Upward Bound Program here, as well as summer science programs in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. My prior experiences with the university and its nurturing environment directed me here.

3. What is the average day like for you? A An average day for me is very busy. I’m taking 17 hours this semester. When I am not in class, I can be found in the SGA office suite, around the campus in various meetings, participating in events at local schools or simply hanging out on the yard. 4. What do you tell students who are hesitant about getting involved on campus and in the community? A It is very important to be active and make a difference in the lives of those surrounding you. However, I also warn students to balance their time between campus and community. We are all here to receive degrees in our respective fields and no matter what, excelling in academia should always be number one.

7. What is the best part about being the SGA President? A The best part is representing a student body and an institution that you truly love. I enjoy meeting, supporting and interacting with the JSU student body. 8. Whom do you most admire and why? A I most admire my mother, Mrs. Sandra Robinson. Since my father’s passing in my early childhood, it has always been just my mother and I. She is always there praising me in the good, and consoling me through the bad. She has raised a young African-American boy in today’s society and molded him into an intelligent and goal-oriented young man with high morals and ethical standards. Everything I am today, I owe to her. 9. What is one fact Jacksonians might be surprised to find out about you? A One thing that Jacksonians may not know about me is that I’m actually a shy person and I’m definitely a “mama’s boy.”

6. What activities are you involved in on campus? A I am a member of Tiger P.R.I.D.E. Connection, Student Leadership Institute, Blue Key National Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society, and the Sigma Alpha Pi National Society of Leadership and Success.

10. Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? A After graduating from Jackson State University, I plan to attend medical school and become a pediatrician. I also plan to give back to my community through a male after-school program to keep young AfricanAmerican males from making mistakes that may hinder them from reaching success.

1. Why did you want to become Miss JSU? A Ever since I was a little girl, I would go to the football games with my parents. I would see Miss Jackson State and she was always so pretty. I would say to myself, “That is going to be me one day.” I also wanted to run because I want to make a difference and help the students here at Jackson State. 2. What do you hope to accomplish during your tenure? A I hope to get more students involved on campus and in the community. I also want to encourage all of the students to live a healthy and safe life. 3. What is the average day for you? A I begin my day at 8 a.m. I’m always conscious of balancing my academic life – I’m taking 15 hours during the fall and spring semesters  – and my life as Miss JSU. As Miss JSU, I may have four meetings and/or appearances a day. Then I work in my office in the Student Center before heading to my room in Alexander Hall. There, I plan for the next day, do homework and go to sleep. I’ll do it all again the next day. 4. What do you tell students who are hesitant to get involved on campus and in the community? A I tell them that you can make a difference just by getting involved and helping out. There are so many opportunities on campus where students can help out. 5. What made you decide to “Choose Jackson State”? A My parents, Tommy and Cynthia Brumfield, are both 1974 graduates of Jackson State. My older bother, Tommy II, also went to Jackson State and finished in December 2008. I pretty much knew that I would be at Jackson State also. I love it here. 6. What activities are you involved in on campus? A I am affiliated with Tiger P.R.I.D.E. Connection, Young Forward Lookers, Sigma Tau Delta English honor society, Chi Alpha Epsilon Academic Honor Society; Sigma Alpha Pi National Society of Leadership and Success, Student Leadership Institute and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 7. What is the best part about being Miss Jackson State? A The best part about being Miss Jackson State University is that you get to know all of the students and you get to help others. 8. Whom do you most admire and why? A I admire my parents the most. They both taught me that you have to work hard to be successful in life. They are living proof of that.

9. What is one fact Jacksonians might be surprised to find out about you? A That I am a very shy person. It is very hard for me to get up there and speak in front of everyone. I get very nervous about that. I am getting used to it though. 10. Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years? A In five or 10 years, I see myself as a television reporter and helping out my community.

As a 23-year-old black man from the Deep South, Christopher Crump did not participate in the civil rights marches of the 1960s. He was never denied a ballot at a polling place and never forced to sit at the back of the bus. Still, Crump had a significant role in the remaking of America’s racial story. “It was joy if nothing else,” says Crump, one of the millions of Americans to descend on the nation’s capital in January to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama. “There are few things that could rival this experience.” Crump was one of 16 students from Jackson State University who also had the distinction of performing at three inaugural events sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, the United Negro College Fund and the Church of Epiphany in Washington, D.C. “Through this experience, they’ve had an opportunity to share in the groundbreaking history of our country,” says Dr. Robert Blaine, director of orchestral studies at Jackson State. “As one person said to me during the trip, ‘This time we are all history majors.’ And they are literally living history.” The group was invited to perform as part of the inaugural festivities by U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson. The Mississippi native and JSU alum performed a musical selection with the orchestra during a 2007 concert at the Library of Congress. Thompson’s invitation for the group meant relentless practices – mornings and evenings – which began immediately following the winter break. The invite also meant Blaine and Rachel Jordan, director of strings, had to find the perfect pieces of music, fitting for a president who has inspired an entire country. So Jordan and Blaine chose, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and “The Lark Ascending.” Blaine’s arrangement of the Negro National Anthem included a soulful saxophone solo by Courtland Saxon, a senior music performance major from Augusta, Ga. During its performance, the JSU orchestra was accompanied by gospel singing group Mary Mary. Jordan said the performance – specifically Ralph Vaughan WilString bassist Timila Echols says she was honored to perform during inauguration celebrations for President Barack Obama.

liams’ “The Lark Ascending” – drew tears from the crowd. “The lark is one of those birds that flies in the open plains,” says Jordan, an assistant professor of music at Jackson State. “It has to rise very high to be able to send out calls that can be heard from great distances. It marks the whole rise of Obama.” In addition to performing for crowds of more than 1,000 people at several events, the orchestra also performed for such dignitaries as Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu, who was the guest speaker for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Ecumenical Prayer Service, and U.S. Representatives James Clyburn of South Carolina, Barbara Lee of California and Kendrick Meek of Florida. Crump, a senior history major from Jackson, says he was especially excited to perform for Tutu. “How often do you get to perform for one of the great leaders who helped end apartheid in South Africa?” he asks. “That is truly a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity.” Following two performances on Monday, the students got to attend the inauguration on Tuesday. Ricketa Harvey, a sophomore computer engineering major from Memphis, says it was a moment she will never forget. “There were people of all races,” she says. “Everybody was friendly. We were there for the same purpose.” Timila Echols, a senior English major from Kansas City, Mo., shared Harvey’s sentiments.

History major Christopher Crump says few things in life could rival his experience at the inauguration.

“I was honored that I was able to be in Washington, D.C., let alone play at a few inaugural events and actually attend the inauguration,” Echols says. Reflecting on the experience, Blaine says his students – some with whom he’s worked with for five years – demonstrated pride about their performance in a way he’d never seen before. “This experience gave them a challenge to represent themselves in the most positive and professional light,” Blaine says. “I am extremely proud of the way they rose to the occasion.”


Payton center rewards members with lifetime memberships In 2008, the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center granted lifetime memberships to April King and Vernon Young because they inspire others to get fit. The pair are now official ambassadors for the center. “Several key factors contributed to them being worthy of the lifetime membership,” says center director Chondra Johnson. “Both exhibit extremely high levels of coachability, eagerness and willingness to learn and be healthier.”

april king


t is one thing to go on a diet. It is something totally different to try and lose weight as the country watches. Last year, Jackson State University alumnus April King did just that. As one of eight Mississippians participating in People magazine’s Weight-Loss Challenge, King set out on a nine-month journey for all to see. People introduced King in its Jan. 14, 2008, edition, when the accountant carried 268 pounds on her 4'11" frame. In October, the magazine pictured King – minus 23 pounds. “I was excited because they were going to provide me with a trainer and nutritionist, which is what I wanted,” says King, 30, about People’s weight-loss challenge. “The fact that millions would watch me never really crossed my mind.” King’s efforts to lose weight did not begin in 2008, however. She remembers going on her first diet at age 13. During that summer, King drank Slim Fast shakes, hoping to begin the first day of school as a trim new person. That summer and several school years passed as King endured a seemingly unending list of failed diets. “I tried all of the fad diets,” says King, who got her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Jackson State in 2000. “I tried Jenny Craig, South Beach, Mayo Clinic, a Dolly Parton diet and even liquid diets.” The People magazine challenge was an answer to her dream. The opportunity meant hours of vigorous exercise six days a week and changes in her diet. Fried foods were out. Fresh fruits and vegetables were in. A member of the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center since 2006, King officially began working out with Payton Center trainer Rod Wilson in July. “I was nervous about working with him,” King says. “I knew he could help me get the weight off, but I was afraid it would be too intense, that I couldn’t keep up with him.”

People magazine motivated April King to lose weight.

During their sessions, King would warm up on the treadmill or elliptical machine before lifting weights or bending for lunges. She says she dreaded one exercise. “Rod calls it the ‘scoot’ where you squat and hop across the room,” she says. “I would feel it for days.” But King realized that the exercises were building up her endurance. For the most part, she’d always liked the eighth-floor view from her downtown Jackson, Miss., office building  – except on the day of fire drills. “I would be out of breath by the fifth floor,” she remembers. “Now I can go down and come up with no problem.” King’s new figure began to emerge after a few months. Clothing that was once too small, hidden in the back of her closet, now fit. And

with the drop in two dress sizes came a new confidence. After years of taking belly-dancing classes at a local college, King danced in her first recital. Wearing a fitted spaghetti-strapped top and a black and gold skirt, King swayed her hips before an audience filled with family, friends and strangers. “I was nervous,” she says. “I didn’t know how others would perceive me, but I had fun.” Well on her way to reaching her goal of dropping 100 pounds, King hopes her weight loss will lead to a new outlook on life, and more courage about dating. That’s because she won’t let her size get in the way of pursuing a romantic relationship. In 2009, she’s looking to lose weight while growing her self image and

her social calendar. “I’m more encouraged now to continue,” she says. “This is the most weight I’ve ever lost and don’t want to let that go to waste.” King’s lifetime membership at the Payton Center will help her reach her fitness goals. “I do not have any excuse not to exercise,” she says. “I have been given an opportunity and I intend to take full advantage of it.”

APRIL’S TIPS *Find a physical activity you enjoy. *Find a partner. *Give your body time to adjust.

ve r n o n yo ung a residence hall on campus, er, more frequent meals. Young now cooks his he qualified for the univer- meals at night. Dinner might include baked sity’s employee discount at chicken or fish and a green salad. The lunch bag the Walter Payton Recreation he carries around with him is usually filled with and Wellness Center, giving almonds, tuna and protein shakes. him access and no excuses. Now back to his junior high school size of a Three years and countless 36-inch waist, Young says he still follows Dahours in the gym later, Young vis’ diet plan, even when he’s eating out with shed 132 pounds, trimming friends. He skips fried food and goes for salads his 6-foot frame down to 253 and baked meats and chooses water instead of pounds. “I’ve shed a whole soda. person,” Young says follow- Although Pusha no longer works at the Paying a Sunday afternoon work- ton Center, she’s still one of Young’s biggest out at the center. motivators. At 6 a.m., Young, Pusha and several Young credits former Pay- Jackson State employees meet for their two- or ton Center trainer Tasha three-mile run. On Sundays, Young does what Pusha with helping to jump- he calls his “long run” where he may go four Vernon Young has lost more than 100 pounds while working out at start his transformation. He miles. the Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center. began attending Pusha’s “I don’t quit,” says Young, wearing a T-shirt aerobics and spin classes. with his favorite saying, “Impossible is notht the age of 13, Vernon Young was a sev- “I tried to complain, but it didn’t work with ing.” enth-grader who weighed 250 pounds. her,” Young says with a laugh of Pusha’s at- Others have noticed Young’s fitness makeAs a football player in his hometown titude and no-nonsense approach to training. over. of Greenville, Miss., Young’s large size was “Tasha didn’t let you cheat. She will not let you “At least 10 people come to me daily and say, accepted. Years later, when he became a 310- do that to yourself.” ‘I look up to you. What can I do?’ “ he says. “I pound defensive tackle for the Jackson State Payton Center trainer Rod Davis sketched out say you’ve got wonderful people right here. University football team, the extra pounds were a meal plan that required Young to forgo some Come join us at the Walter Payton Center.” even considered an asset. of his favorite foods. Young typed it up and car But when his football career ended in 2001, ried it around with him like a toddler with a seYoung’s weight spiraled out of control. “By the curity blanket. VERNON’S TIPS time I graduated, I’d gained 25, 30 pounds,” the “I kept that piece of paper with me all of 31-year-old says. “I wasn’t doing anything in the time,” he says. Now a mature fitness buff, *Drink water instead of 2002, 2003, 2004 or 2005. Then I started to de- Young has committed the plan to memory. “Besodas or tea. velop a breathing problem. I got on a scale and fore I would eat a whole cheesecake,” Young *Walk 30 to 45 minutes a day I was like 392 pounds.” says. “Pizza? I could eat a large by myself. *Don’t give up. Young set out on a mission to improve his I could go to a Chinese buffet and go to work.” health. As the assistant community director of Excessive eating has been replaced by small-


BY ALYSIA LAJUNE Ask a group of entrepreneurs what motivated them to start their own businesses, and they’ll tell you the same thing: “We had a dream.” The same is true for local business owners who have benefited from the free services provided by the Jackson State University Small Business Development Center. The JSU/SBDC is a part of the Mississippi Small Business Development Centers, a network of nine university-based centers that offer technical assistance and education to small businesses. The University of Mississippi houses the state office, which disperses funds from the Small Business Administration to the other centers throughout Mississippi. Established in 1989, the JSU/SBDC is the largest in Mississippi and serves the highest concentration of small businesses in the state. Director Henry Thomas has led the initiative for 15 years. In that time, the JSU/SBDC budget has increased from $35,000 to $200,000, and its annual clientele has jumped from 100 to nearly 600. The JSU/SBDC serves Hinds, Madison, Attala, Holmes and Yazoo


counties. Like all MSBDCs, the JSU center also is federally mandated to serve minority and disadvantaged businesses. “We do feel like we have a special calling to serve them,” Thomas says. At least 80 percent of the JSU/SBDC clients are African American. Many of the estimated 6,000 aspiring business owners visiting the center come only for general information. Others have misconceptions about grants and loans and are not quite ready to get started. “We save them from making mistakes, like quitting their jobs or exhausting their savings to start a business,” Thomas says. In 2007, the JSU/SBDC helped businesses obtain $4.4 million in loans and $6.3 million in capital investments. Clients of the JSU/ SBDC also created 211 jobs and retained 343 jobs. “When you help somebody start a business and later on after you helped them, you can see it’s a success—that’s the most rewarding thing to me,” Thomas says.

t took Nancy Moses-Odell 14 years of working with the JSU/SBDC before she opened her day-care center. Despite having perfect credit, she repeatedly was denied business loans, and she struggled to acquire a facility for her center. But she refused to give up. She and SBDC director Henry Thomas worked diligently to develop her business plan, revising it seven times. In December 2005, Moses-Odell opened her Sunrise Development Center in south Jackson. “(Henry) kept saying, ‘We’ll just keep trying. We’ll get there,’” MosesOdell says. Moses-Odell, who earned degrees from Jackson State in social science education and early child care and family education, says she always wanted to establish an unconventional kind of safe haven for children. “I kept seeing all the bad things happening to children,” Moses-Odell says, “so I thought if I constructed a 24hour day care, maybe it would help cut down on abuse.” Moses-Odell believes, “Any person — whether they graduated from JSU or not — needs to find someone to put them in the right direction or help them with a business plan.” The JSU/SBDC is “the best place to go to get good direction. It helped me get to the point where I am today.” The Sunrise Development Center is located at 2101 W. McDowell Road in Jackson.


ith more than 30 years experience in business management, Nathaniel Blount consulted with the JSU/SBDC and assumed ownership of Jackson’s Country Fisherman Restaurant in 2004. “It’s a very useful resource for anyone looking to go into business,” Blount says. “Henry Thomas is just phenomenal. He helped me put together my business plan and helped me put the budget together. He was definitely a resource.” As a client of the center, Blount was challenged to answer difficult questions about his business goals and address a wide range of potential obstacles he had not considered. Blount took full advantage of the center to research grants and loans. Although some limited funding is available to minority businesses, he was able to receive general loans that were not minority related. “Having 30 years experience and a good track record helped me a lot,” he says. “It was a really good situation and I’m very successful.” Blount is very grateful to the SBDC and gives back to Jackson State by donating to the Athletics Department, catering engagements, and offering exclusive use of his restaurant for special events. The Country Fisherman Restaurant is located at 3110 U.S. 80 West in Jackson.


n 1975, Monday Agho left his home in Nigeria to attend Jackson State. Four years later, he received a bachelor’s degree in finance and later earned a master’s degree in general business. An entrepreneur at heart, Agho has owned Monte’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant since 1991. He also opened a wine and spirits store with the help of the JSU/SBDC, which he sold in 2002, the year he moved his restaurant to Lakeland Drive in Jackson. The restaurant industry has one of the highest failure rates among businesses, but Agho has done well for 17 years. “You really have to know about this industry before you try to open a restaurant,” Agho says. “You have to be dedicated because the restaurant business is very time consuming.” In the spirit of entrepreneurship and customer service, Agho is making plans to open a diner within a few months. In light of the nation’s weak economy, Agho’s new restaurant will serve food for under $10 and offer a less formal atmosphere for people who want to come by after work, regardless of attire or occasion. He is taking full advantage of the JSU/SBDC’s free services to make his second restaurant as successful as his first. “I have been working with Mr. Thomas for about two months,” Agho says. “He is helping me get the business plan together because I am too busy to do it by myself.” Monte’s Steak & Seafood Restaurant is located at 1855 Lakeland Drive, Suite N-10 in Jackson. The JSU Small Business Development Center is located in the e-Center at 1230 Raymond Road in Jackson. For more information, call 601-979-2795 or visit




RELATIONSHIPS BY RIVA BROWN Jackson State’s Center for University-Based Development is working to incorporate teaching, research and service into its efforts to improve town and gown relationships. The popular Internet-based encyclopedia Wikipedia defines “town and gown” as the two distinct communities of a university town. Town is the non-academic part, and gown is the university portion. “Colleges and universities across the country have seen the benefits of using resources to reach the neighborhoods and realize that as they go through the process of helping those neighborhoods, they’re also helping themselves,” says Harvey Johnson Jr., founder of the center and former mayor of the City of Jackson, Miss.

The center was formed in January 2008 to spearhead neighborhood development around Lynch Street/Metro Parkway, University Place of Jackson, Washington Addition and e-City. It is under the office of Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr. Johnson says helping to improve the conditions of these neighborhoods will help attract more parents and students who are looking for a quality education. “On campus, you look for a strong faculty and a good staff, but you also look for an environment that is safe, attractive and appealing, not just on campus, but in the community,” he says The center is looking more closely at formal and informal relationships and involving students and faculty in its projects, Johnson says. During the fall 2008 semester, approximately 250 incom-

ing freshmen delivered energy-saving light bulbs and energy conservation kits to more than 850 households surrounding the university. The Center for University-Based Development partnered with Entergy and Jackson State’s Community Service/Service Learning Center on the project. “The students gave back to the community they were staying in and helped to ‘green’ the neighborhood,” Johnson says. Johnson also wants students to undertake a research project to track energy cost savings that result from residents using the light bulbs. “Students can use what they learn in class, apply it to real life and do it in the community surrounding the campus,” Johnson says. Some history students did just that last summer when they began an inventory of historically significant sites in the University Park and Olin Park neighborhoods, which will become University Place. Those sites include the homes of former Jackson State presidents, faculty and others. The center plans to develop plaques and signage for these sites, Johnson says. “Many important historical events happened in this area, and the university has the resources and research methods in place to tell those stories,” Johnson says. But that’s just part of the center’s efforts to help preserve history. A future project includes renovating the Council of Federated Organizations, or COFO building, on John R. Lynch Street and turning it into a civil rights movement educational center. “We’ll get the civil rights veterans involved in the educational center, and the students will have a role in research and staffing the center as community service,” Johnson says. COFO was the umbrella organization for the Congress On Racial Equality, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP. The COFO building was the headquarters of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project, which registered African-American voters. WOKJ-AM, the state’s first black-programs radio station, also broadcasted there. In addition, the COFO building would house a student-run business enterprise funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. “Students would work with the Department of Entrepreneurship and learn first-hand how to run their own business,” Johnson says. Johnson foresees students and faculty conducting research that will assess facility needs and available sites in west Jackson. A Web site,, would allow small business owners to look up available sites where they could relocate. Says Johnson: “We’re going to be looking more closely at formal and informal relationships and how to involve students and faculty in projects.”

A Jackson State freshman presents energy-efficient light bulbs to a Washington Addition resident.

Jackson State students deliver energy-saving light bulbs to Washington Addition residents along Dalton Street.

Chef Godfrey Morgan stands proudly in his new home.





Take one new university campus dining facility, add a masterful chef, a revamped menu, mix well and what do you get? At Jackson State University, such changes at the Legacy Dining facility have meant increasingly larger lunchtime crowds, more off-campus customers and hopefully, a boost in revenue. It’s exactly the scenario Chef Godfrey Morgan says he hoped for when he joined Jackson State’s Dining Services in July 2008.

Since then, the five-star-resort-trained chef has set out to offer Legacy customers a true destination dining experience by infusing Caribbean-inspired dishes with appealing presentations and enhanced customer service. “Jackson State hired a chef because they were looking for something special…something more. And that’s just what I am going to give them,” says Morgan, who at the time was looking for a reprieve from late-night commutes with his previous chef’s post in Vicksburg, Miss. “We’re going to have something real eclectic and we’re going to be all about flavor and presentation,” he says. “We’ll offer foods like pork chops with pineapple butter, mango-orange vinaigrettes, cinnamon-butter glazed potatoes, gumbo and even a special dressing made from scratch. I always tell my staff people, ‘Taste food first with their eyes.’ ” Morgan, the son of a farmer and a nurse, says his unique approach to cooking originated with his childhood in Kingston and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, when he watched his grandmother prepare island-inspired dishes to sell at market. As a young culinary aficionado, Morgan later gained an apprenticeship with Boscabel Beach Hotel in Ocho Rios, where he worked his way up to kitchen supervisor. The job eventually landed him a position at Beaches Grand Sport, a five-star resort in Ocho Rios where he was promoted to sous chef. “I trained in the European style with chefs from all over the world in different techniques and styles of cooking,” Morgan says. It was also at Beaches Grand Sport, Morgan says, that he met his wife, Dr. Wanda Macon Morgan, a Jackson State assistant English professor who was vacationing at the resort. Following a whirlwind romance, the

Timothy Blockmon serves up fresh salads.

two were married and Godfrey Morgan relocated to Mississippi. Since arriving in Mississippi, Morgan has honed his skills at myriad eateries, including some of metro Jackson’s most popular restaurants and two of the state’s largest casino resorts. The chef, locally acclaimed for his elaborate and edible fruit and vegetable carvings and displays, also penned a recipe book called “Caribbean Cuisine for All Seasons.” Beyond other enhancements, such as professional cook uniforms and menu additions like jerk chicken and bread pudding, the chef says his next priority is more culinary training for his kitchen staff. “Right now I’m hoping to get my staff to a level where they can perform the type of prepping and tasks that I need,” Morgan says. “Most of the team members I work with are used to a certain type of cooking where they had things precooked from the can and it was heat and serve. We’re focusing more on cooking things from scratch.” One of those benefiting from the chef’s expertise is cook Pernell Stewart. “I’m excited about Chef Morgan being here,” says Stewart, a three-year JSU employee who has training in culinary arts through a youth job-training program. “I’m learning a lot and hopefully, he can teach me more.” Although he’s gained lots of new fans with all the enhancements, Morgan says Jackson State campus diners should know the best is yet to come. “Everybody has loved what we have done so far,” he says. “I’m trying to take it one step at a time. But my ultimate goal is to really put Jackson State in the culinary community where people will say, ‘Wow, look what they are doing.’ ”

Cashiers Khadija Plowden, Nikki Hunter and Ebony Hunter serve up smiles.



A band kid reared in the jazz-drenched gut of New Orleans’ 7th Ward, Gerard Howard has long had an intense relationship with music. When Lawrence Jackson, Southern University A & M College’s band direche was in the third grade, the 31-year-old Jackson State University gradtor, credits the Web sites with being one of his strongest recruitment uate started taking music lessons on a snare drum. By seventh grade, tools for new band members. “The best thing that could happen to us Howard says he was marching in his junior high school was,” Jackson says. “Before, we band. It was during that time his reverence for marching were mainly just reaching kids within a 200-mile rabands – and the passion and intensity they can inspire – dius of our campus by word of mouth, and we would all began, he says. “Junior high school for me is where rarely go to places like Detroit or Georgia because we it all started. Gerard Howard – the band head,” he says. could really only afford to stay in state. But since our “I had no idea what I was getting into. I was seduced by half-time shows are on the Web site, band students it.” in other states get in contact with us because they Fast forward nearly two decades later, and the young saw the clip on It’s really helped band head has grown into a man credited with foundour recruiting.” ing two of the largest and most popular marching band In addition to the recruitment boost, Jackson says related Web sites in the United States. The Web sites, he’s impressed with the level of information given and sister site, marchingnetwork. about different bands on the Web site. Gerard Howard’s popular band Web tv, have perhaps the largest collection of band videos sites have more than 10,000 mem- is a site that allows visitors to online. With more than 150,000 videos getting viewed bers across the country. view online videos of band performances and upload daily and averaging about 40,000 visitors each month, their own as well. On, visitors Howard’s sites are the YouTube of marching bands. receive information about band workshops, band camps and training op-

portunities across the country. Jackson says although Howard is a JSU graduate and Louisiana native, the site offers an unbiased window into the marching band world where everyone is represented. “Gerard Howard is a very innovative person,” Jackson says. “He’s expanding the horizons of marching bands using technology. He’s a young man who is a visionary and is always trying to find ways to improve band programs at HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities). And this is a free service … he’s not charging us, so I don’t see anything but positive.” Despite the sites’ explosive popularity, Howard, who is the webmaster for Jackson State University’s Information Technology Department, says he never set out to become the king of marching bands online. After playing in the marching band through junior high and high school, Howard says he was awarded a band scholarship to Jackson State University to play bass drum. “I marched one year…my freshman year in 1995,” Howard says of his stint in the Sonic Boom of the South. “I played in the concert band the year afterward and then I got an academic scholarship.” Still harboring an emotional connection to the band, Howard, a computer science major, says he wrote the band directors a letter thank-

ing them for the opportunities he’d received and offered to continue working with them in other ways. “It turns out that (JSU Music Department Chair) Dr. (Jimmie) James is a techie (technology fan) and he asked me to build their Web site,” Howard says. “So I still got a chance to work with the band and from ’96-’97 I took photos and built the site. That was the Sonic Boom’s first Web site.” Part of the original Web site, Howard says, included a guestbook that allowed visitors to leave comments. It was an instant hit, but soon band members from other colleges and universities began leaving unflattering comments about each other and their rivalries. “(JSU Band Director) Dr. Lewis Liddell talked to me about the comments and asked me to handle it,” Howard says. “It soon became obvious to me that these people needed a place to go and express themselves about marching bands and that’s how I started, which is now” James says he’s been impressed with the Web sites. “Gerard has always come to me for advice about his Web sites,” James says. “I’ve always been impressed with his aggressiveness. I think Gerard is very professional in his development of the Web sites, and I think they have quite a bit of an impact on the band community.”

Howard says to understand what drives him to put in countless hours updating the Web sites and gathering information, you’d have to travel back to his early days as a band head in New Orleans. “Where I come from, it’s the sound intensity of the band that matters most,” Howard says. “It’s not just about feelings, but you can tell the tone of what is being brought through the instruments – our tone was a very furious tone.” In a city where street violence was a common factor, Howard says high school band members were often “bloodthirsty monsters” who used their instruments as weapons. “We were ravenous about conquering and destroying all those standing with music,” he says. “It was a very savage place, and we loved every minute of it. But the bad thing is the only time we saw college bands was at the Bayou Classic. That is why I do what I do and why making a Web site was so important. I am a representation of that and simply a foot soldier in the army of band heads and this is my contribution back.” Although Howard admits he’s found a niche in online band head Web sites, he continues to pursue an exhaustive list of other interests, including photography, a television show and even other Internet sites, such as, a social networking site. Since 2007, Howard has hosted a marching bands TV show via cable pub-

lic access stations in three cities, including Jackson, New Orleans and Baton Rouge. “It’s basically a televised version of and some of the content has even aired in New Zealand,” he says. Also, the driven innovator is working on self-publishing a book, “The Marching Sport Experience,” that will showcase some of his marching band photos. “It’s going to be a pictorial documentary of the site,” says Howard, whose skills as a photographer garnered him coveted exhibitions at two local art galleries since 2007. One of Howard’s most recent endeavors has been designing a news and information Web site for all historically black colleges and universities called Black College Voices. “What makes this site different from others is there is no one centralized place to get information from all HBCUs,” he says. “The information I provide is uploaded by various universities’ public relations offices. I wanted to make sure to offer credible sources for information, and it works out because I don’t have to have any writers,” he says. What’s next for Howard? He’s not sure, but whatever it is, he says he knows it will come with the same intensity and passion as all his other projects.

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’ amist g ‘curre and businesswoman BY SPENCER McCLENTY Kathy Elam’s job is key to the fiscal health of Jackson State University. As the associate vice president for business and finance, she’s responsible for payroll, administrative services and University Strategic Sourcing Services, and helps oversee other units in her department. “My responsibility here is actually to monitor the finances and assets of the university,” she says. That’s a serious position for someone who aspires to a more fun-loving career. “I really want to go to clown school to become a clown,” the 52-year-old wife and mother of two says. Elam isn’t kidding. The former member of the American Business Women Association and Lincoln Parish NAACP in Ruston, La., is already a balloon artist and crafter – or a “curregamist.” She coined the term “curregami” by combining the word currency with origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. Elam began practicing balloon art in 1998 after helping her daughter create a gift for a friend. She got into curregami after reading a magazine article describing a method of creating roses from dollar bills. The money is fragranced, folded into

the shape of a flower and connected to a decorative stem. “I left the magazine lying around the house for six months or so,” she says. “Then one day, I took it out, and took some bills out of my purse and I tried it. After I did it, I brought it to work and showed it to people, and it started to catch on.” Eleven years later, Elam has turned her creative talent into a profitable business called Sustaloons, complete with employees and a Web site. She has expanded her curregami to include boutonnières, corsages, small bushes and “basically anything people want.” She also creates custom balloon art and designs for such events as proms, family and class reunions, and wedding ceremonies and receptions. The businesswoman is used to venturing into new territory. At Dubach High School in Dubach, La., she became the first African-American cheerleader. While Elam has enjoyed the success of her business, she is now preparing to take her growing empire to the next level. “The ultimate goal is to move from a home-based business to a store,” Elam says. “In five years, I see the business as striving enough to provide jobs to others, as well as sponsor some charitable activities like book scholarships for college students.”


Jackson State awards outstanding staff

Five Jackson State University staff members received the Jacksonian Professionalism Award at the 2008 Faculty and Staff Yuletide Luncheon in December. Granted by the university and the President’s Office, the annual honor recognizes outstanding employees for “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious and businesslike manner in the workplace.” Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr. established the award in 2005.

Mae Austin, financial aid counselor, Office of Financial Aid Jackson State alum Mae Austin first joined the university’s Office of Financial Aid in 1978, and three decades later, she’s right where she wants to be. “Some people are predestined to be in a certain place,” says Austin, who left JSU in the 1990s for several years to work in the insurance business. “I truly believe I’m supposed to be at the Office of Financial Aid at Jackson State.” Austin, who is one of 15 siblings, says she returned to her job as a JSU financial aid counselor because she loves serving students. “I try to provide a service that I would like to receive if I was on the other side of the desk,” she says. “We have a unique population of students, and it’s forever gratifying to know you helped someone.” During her tenure at the university, Austin returned to the classroom herself to earn a master’s degree in counseling. “Those free classes are something else,” she says. Office of Financial Aid director B.J. Moncure said Austin was nominated for the professionalism award because of her businesslike demeanor. “She’s a very consistent person,” Moncure says. “She’s a very, very strong team player.” When Austin is not at work, the Kosciusko, Miss., native loves to fish. She got hooked on the sport in 1978 because it was the best way she could spend time with her first husband, who loved to fish and hunt before he died. Though she’s an avid angler, Austin, who has remarried, doesn’t have a taste for the fresh water fish she captures. “My husband cleans and cooks and eats them,” she says. “I just love the sport.”

Brenda Campbell, executive assistant to the vice president for research Brenda Cottrell Campbell is always looking out for young people. “I’m a nurturing, caring person like a mother,” says Campbell, executive assistant to JSU’s vice president for research. “I always thought whatever way I would want my children to be treated, I want to treat other people’s children the same way.” The Terry, Miss., native came to Jackson State 13 years ago and has been working for vice president for research Dr. Felix Okojie ever since. “She’s as good as it comes,” Okojie says. “She basically runs my office.”Campbell monitors the administrative work related to all of the university’s grants. “We do a lot of paperwork for students to make sure they get paid,” she says. “The main thing is working with the students to make sure their dreams come true.” The mother of three, including an 18-year-old son who will enroll at Jackson State in the fall, Campbell says she considers the university a family. She holds a paralegal degree from Mississippi College, a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Jackson State and is a young adult Sunday school teacher at her church. She’s working on a second master’s degree at Jackson State in health education. “All of it kind of links together,” Campbell says “The counseling as well as the law.”

Angie Jackson, administrative assistant, Graduate Engineering Program Angie Jackson knows every graduate engineering student – past and present. “They stay in touch,” says Jackson, who joined Jackson State in 2004 when the Graduate Engineering Program was established at the university. “I go to their weddings.” The Greenville, Miss., native found a home at JSU after the engineering program moved from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning to the university. “I found after arriving at Jackson State that we had tremendous support from the administration,” says Jackson, who had been working with the program’s director, Dr. William Blair, for six years before moving to JSU. “ Blair says Jackson is key to the program, even though she doesn’t have an engineering background. “It’s amazing to me all the things she does without anyone telling her,” he says. “She started to help decide which classes we need for the next semester.” The students in the program treat Jackson “like a second mother,” Blair says, and she’s generous with her motherly advice. Jackson also is nurturing outside of work. She enjoys gardening and cooking meals for her husband with fresh ingredients from her herb garden. “My husband is Italian (American) so I cook big Italian meals,” she says.

Mario Johnson, residence hall maintenance supervisor, Facilities and Construction Management As Jackson State’s residence hall maintenance supervisor, Mario Johnson makes sure that the more than 2,100 students who live on campus have safe and comfortable housing. “I oversee the day-to-day operation of the maintenance of the residence halls,” he says. “If something breaks, we try to oblige.” That could mean anything from fixing an overflowed toilet to rewiring a building’s electrical work. Johnson, a Jackson native and graduate of Lanier High School, manages a team of painters, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning technicians who keep the dorms up and running. The married father of three daughters – ages 5, 7 and 9 – joined the JSU staff as a warehouse worker more than six years ago. As he learned more mechanical skills, he moved his way up to a supervisory position. “He’s really helping to set the bar amongst other supervisors within our operations,” says JSU’s director of operations Jennie B. Griffin. “He really understands department operations and he’s really a great team player.” Johnson says his professionalism award is a tribute to his staff. “I work around a bunch of very good guys who in my book all could have gotten the award,” he says. “It’s really an award for the whole team.”

Anitra Mims, events coordinator, Office of Accountability and Coordination During her two years at Jackson State, events coordinator Anitra Mims has coordinated visits from President Barack Obama, megapreacher Bishop T.D. Jakes and R&B singers Chante Moore and Kenny Lattimore. “Events are always evolving” she says. “When one is finishing there are three up the road.” The Grambling State University graduate started working at JSU when she returned to the South after 18 years in Chicago. She worked in corporate marketing for most of her career before moving into higher education. “Anitra has been a natural fit,” says Curtis Johnson, director of the Office of Accountability and Coordination. Mims says she could tell Jackson State was thriving shortly after she joined the staff. “I’ve been in the corporate sector for years and you can almost see where a company is going in the first quarter,” she says. “Here, I only see unlimited possibilities.” When not at work, Mims keeps busy with her 5-year-old son. “He’s the joy of my life,” she says.

Brothers Gregory and Quinton Williams actively recruit and mentor Jackson State students.

Williams brothers mentoring, training future physicists BY DR. ANDREA W. DILWORTH When Dr. Quinton Williams reflects on events that helped shape his educational journey, one in particular stands out. Nearly three decades ago, big brother Gregory — home visiting from college — was schooling his baby brother, a sixth-grader at the time, on lessons in algebra and calculus. Gregory started talking about Jackson State University. “He told me he knew a place that can make you think properly, not just earn a degree,” the Indianola, Miss., native remembers. “That was Jackson State. That was profound.” That Quinton would follow his brothers’ lead to Jackson State – Gregory earned a bachelor’s in physics in 1979; oldest brother Jimmie graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry in 1975 — required little deliberation. In 1990, Quinton graduated with a degree in physics, and like his brothers, went on to earn a doctorate.

The caliber of JSU graduates

Now 40, Dr. Quinton Williams chairs the Department of Physics, Atmospheric Science and Geoscience, and during his six-year tenure, has led the charge in several successful initiatives, including a partnership with Corning Inc. that provides $25,000 annually to the department. Corning, which made its first contribution in 2005, has donated $100,000 to date. The funds help pay for scholarships, research expenses and stipends.

The two elder Williamses, both Corning scientists, convinced the New York state-based, diversified technology company to invest in JSU’s future physicists. “There were three of us from JSU, including my wife (Melcenia Williams, a 1979 biology graduate), and Corning has reaped the benefits of our work,” explains Dr. Gregory Williams. “And so we saw that they had those other relationships, but by golly, we also went to those other majority institutions for advanced degrees. That was a talent-feeder pool for the institutions, and it came from JSU. It showed the caliber of graduates JSU was producing.” Dr. Jimmie Williams, senior research associate and Catalysis Technology leader at Corning, says the two tried to convince the company to target JSU as a recruiting pool for 20 years. “Our relationship with Quinton and his relationship with people and management at Corning over the years helped solidify JSU as our choice,” says Williams, who’s been with the company for more than 25 years. The fact that Jimmie and Gregory have been such prolific scientific researchers during their tenures at Corning sure didn’t hurt. Jimmie has 22 patents in areas including ceramic materials processing. Gregory’s four patents are in optics and photonics.

Partnership provides paid internships

The partnership also provides two paid internships each summer. Gregory Eskridge says while Dr. Quinton Williams introduced him to the world of optics, it was Dr. Gregory Williams’ tutelage at Corning that equipped him with the confidence to be competitive outside JSU. “The truth is that our physics department is not as big as the white schools,” says Eskridge, who just completed his fourth internship at Corning before heading to the University of Central Florida to pursue a doctorate in optics. “But it’s the same information, and if we are out there in the world and the work force, and perform as well or better as the students at the Ivy League schools, it doesn’t matter if they turn their noses up at us.” Eskridge, of Fairburn, Ga., says his chair made sure the department’s limited resources did not leave students with limited knowledge. “Maybe we couldn’t afford to offer a certain physics class,” the 20-year-old future Ph.D. admits. “He would call each of us into his office for regular updates and make up assignments on his own, taking away from his job as chair, going over things we would need to know.”

‘Their supervisor, mentor and coach’

At Corning, Dr. Gregory Williams, manager of Business Development and Global Lab Support, picks up where Quinton left off. “Though they’re not directly reporting to me, as a product supervisor, I still am their supervisor, mentor and coach,” says the 22-year Corning veteran. Each week, interns present research to Williams, who in turn coaches them on technical concepts, graduate school and career options, and how to conduct themselves in a corporate environment. Sophomore Ashley Jones, who aspires to become a medical physicist, says those meetings were the highlight of her internship experience. “You could know how to do a lot of things, but what’s the point of knowing if you can’t explain to somebody else?” asks Jones of Saginaw, Mich. “He drills me, asks me all those questions. It’s not a matter of whether we’re smart. But can we portray and communicate that to other people.” Eskridge calls the intense sessions — his greatest challenge so far — indispensable. “I’ll prepare a report for him, and he will pick it apart because he knows so much about this field,” he says. “You can’t sort of know. You have to know.” The mentorship is just one of the myriad ways hers was not a typical science internship, says Jones, whose best friend, a chemistry major, interned at a university. “For my best friend, it was just like being in school,” Jones explains. “At Corning, it’s like having a job and collaborating with people.”

Mentorship keeps him going

Dr. Quinton Williams, who also spent five summers as a Corning intern, says the partnership produces tangible results, and the funds are put to good use. “It’s not like the money is going down a black hole,” he says. Two JSU students, for example, co-authored a paper that was published in a top applied, peerreviewed journal in November. The research was funded by the annual gift. Having had mentors like the Williamses, first-generation college graduates themselves who come from a family of 11 siblings, Jones and Eskridge deem it their personal responsibility to coach the next generation of black scientists. Mentorship, Quinton Williams says, is what keeps him going. He recalls the day he graduated from JSU when a professor asked the graduate school-bound Quinton to promise that he would one day return to his alma mater and give back a year. “I said ‘All right.’ I thought I’d be in my 50s by then. But that promise stuck in my head. “I say the same thing now to all of my students: ‘Make this promise to me that you will come back because we need you.’ ” Dr. Andrea W. Dilworth is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communications.

Jackson State graduate Dr. Jimmie Williams worked with his brother to help start a partnership between JSU and Corning Inc. Williams works at Corning as a senior research associate and Catalysis Technology leader.

Jackson State graduate Gregory Eskridge (left) and student Ashley Jones (right) interned at Corning Inc. in the summer of 2008. They are pictured with Gregory Williams at the National Society of Black Physicists meeting in February 2008 in Washington, D.C.

Gregory Williams listens to his brother Quinton’s ideas for JSU students competing internationally.

The Jacksonian caught up with three former Sonic Boom of the South drum majors from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Here’s what they are doing now.




r. James Berry held several leadership positions after being a drum major for the Sonic Boom of the South in the 1980s. Now a principal at Atherton Elementary School in Decatur, Ga., he once served as band director at Southwest DeKalb High School in the same city. The band performed in the 1996 Summer Olympics and the 1997 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. They also appeared in the motion picture Drumline. Berry’s days as one of the Boom’s “Three Horsemen” helped prepare him to lead. “We would never stop; we had the endurance of a horse. We made the band want to march,” says Berry, who helped lead the Boom during his sophomore, junior and senior years. “We started the ramp performance and doing the kick with the turns coming back up to the stands after a show.” Berry can still hear announcer Dr. Jimmie James Jr. saying, “Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see?” Then the band would begin marching in, “Dun-Dun Dun Dunt-Dunt,” he hums gleefully. “Every time I performed in front of 40,000 to 50,000 people, entering the field to ‘Get Ready,’ ... it gives me chill bumps still to this day,” says the 1987 Jackson State music graduate. “The experience changed my life. The experience was just phenomenal.” –Whitney Everett and Darnell Jackson




rowing up believing in the Tiger pride tradition, Oliver Thompson knew he had no other choice but to attend Jackson State University. “My family is from Mississippi and has been part of JSU,” says the 32-year-old Detroit native. “It would not be right for me to break that legacy.” Thompson fondly remembers watching two slender men take control of the Sonic Boom of the South during the 1984 Jackson State homecoming parade. “I knew then that I wanted to perform like those men.” Thompson, a saxophone player, became a member of the Boom in 1994. A year later, he earned the privilege of being part of the drum major line. For three years, he led the Boom as part of the “Fabulous Four


Horsemen.” One of his most memorable moments was the 1994 Florida A&M University game. “That was our first game at Florida A&M in 15 years,” he recalls. “We gave them a show like no other. The crowd gave us so much gratitude for our performance.” Thompson graduated in 1997 with a marketing degree and later took acting classes. He now can be seen in national commercials, theater plays and television shows. Thompson recently appeared on BET’s latest hit dating show, “The Boot.” –Catlin Kitchens and Darnell Jackson



ackson, Miss., native Hubert Tate knew he would one day be a part of the phenomenon known as the Sonic Boom of the South. The trombone player joined the legendary band in 2003 and earned a drum major position a year later. As part of the “Elite Five,” Tate felt he was living out his greatest moments. “Just being part of all the excitement made me feel like a kid living out his dreams,” says the 2007 mass communications graduate. One of his proudest moments as a drum major happened during a practice session. Dr. Lewis Liddell, the band director, asked him to lead the Boom. “I came up and led the band to the best of my abilities.” Although Tate loved being part of the band, he had to think about his major and his future. The following year, Tate made the decision to leave the band and concentrate on his major. These days, he is a general assignment reporter at WALA FOX 10 in Mobile, Ala. –Catlin Kitchens Whitney Everett, Darnell Jackson and Catlin Kitchens are mass communications majors.

new alumni hangout BY SPENCER McCLENTY

If you are a Jackson State University alumnus and are not

a member of the JSU Cyber Plaza, you could be missing out on a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends. The JSU Cyber Plaza is an alumnifocused social network created by Tiffany Carter in March 2008. Carter, a human resources manager in Atlanta, created the site after talking with a friend who’d started a social network for her high school on Ning, a popular Web site that allows users to invite others. “I e-mailed her and said, ‘What is this?’” she recalls. “I wondered if I should do it for Jackson State. I had always wondered, what happened to this person, what happened to that person? She said that this is a perfect tool. ” Carter, 36, created the alumni network using the Web site Hoping to find acquaintances from 1988 through 1995, Carter sent the Web site’s link to about 30 friends. She found more than she anticipated. “I never thought about them forwarding it,” she says. “But, before I knew it, within a week or two, there were over 600 members. So I had to sit back and say, ‘Oh my God, what did I start?’”

Growth of Cyber Plaza In less than six months, the Web site Carter created grew to more than 3,000 members from all over the world. Some are current and former JSU faculty and staff, band members, athletes, fraternity and sorority members, doctors, lawyers, bankers, writers – even former class clowns. There are even members from the JSU class of 1955! Class of 1965 member Dr. Hilliard Lackey III joined the site in April.

Cyber Plaza creator Tiffany Carter has been credited with bringing together thousands of Jackson State University alumni.

“I saw that there were lots of graduates on the Cyber Plaza, and I wanted to communicate with them,” says Lackey, JSU National Alumni Association president and adjunct professor of history and geography. “My mission, my inclination, is to communicate with Jackson State graduates in whatever medium they choose.” Jackson State alum Montique Clark says she enjoys connecting with friends online. “I found out about it from a friend,” says Clark, who works as a secretary in the Jackson State University Small Business Development Center. “I joined it just to keep in contact with the old friends that I made and with new friends that I’m going to make.”

Features of the Cyber Plaza The site’s homepage is a vibrant and colorful ode to Jackson State, complete with a ferocious tiger positioned next to a bold and colorful JSU Cyber Plaza banner. In the months before homecoming, a small blue box – just underneath the Tiger’s feet – counted down the days, hours, minutes and seconds leading up to one of the university’s most popular annual events. In the center of the page is a slideshow displaying some of the site’s more than 10,000 pictures of Cyber Plaza members, their families and friends. Members can create groups or forum discussions for almost anything. Some of the Cyber Plaza’s groups are: JSU Business Owners, Miss Jackson State and Writing Tigers. Lively discussions are common about a variety of topics including politics, religion and alumni giving to the university. The discussions and groups are popular, but members love posting and looking at each other’s photos. “Members can put a slideshow on their page of different pictures,” says Carter, one of two current administrators for the site. “A lot of people post pictures from back in the day at JSU. They can post different videos or create a discussion pretty much about anything that they want. We’re even about to add an instant messenger feature to the site.” The Future of Cyber Plaza

Today, the Cyber Plaza site is an important instrument for many entities associated with Jackson State. Some of JSU’s departments and divisions have begun to make announcements and post events on the site. Alumni chapters have begun using the site to recruit new members and to encourage payment of dues. “At one point I was the youngest person in the Memphis chapter and I’m almost 40,” says Derrick Henson, president of the Memphis Chapter of the JSU Alumni Association. “But we found some younger people who love the Internet. We’ve actually increased our membership. I know people that came on board this year only because they saw a message on the site.”

Jackson State staffer and alum Montique Clark connects with friends through Cyber Plaza.

Although she has enjoyed the success of Cyber Plaza, Carter says managing the site can be time consuming. “I don’t envision running the site forever,” she says. “This is something that can be a resource for Jackson State to reach out to the masses. But, I’m going to have to find somebody to manage this.” Carter may not have foreseen what the site would become when she created it, but according to Lackey, all Jacksonians should appreciate Carter and the Cyber Plaza. “Tiffany is a kind-hearted person who is committed to wanting Jacksonians to be in touch,” Lackey says. “I respect and admire her for that, and everybody who went to school here or who wants to go to school here should get on something like this.”

To become a member of the JSU Cyber Plaza, visit, and click in the ‘Sign Up’ box.

BY ALYSIA LAJUNE At some colleges, student-athletes are known for caring only about their sport or doing just enough to maintain academic eligibility. But whoever coined the term “dumb jock” never met senior Kimberly Hendon of Houston, Texas. Not only is she a winner on the volleyball court, but also in the classroom, in the community, and even overseas. Last summer Hendon taught children in Costa Rica. DuringThanksgiving she took a teaching course in South Africa. In January she taught in Spain. And when she graduates in May, she’s planning to teach in Europe through the U.S. Department of Defense. “I came. I saw. I conquered.” That is what Hendon wants us to remember about her when she leaves Jackson State. She came on a volleyball scholarship. She saw all the opportunities available to students. She conquered the stigma of being an athlete by easily maintaining a 3.34 GPA. A self-described “amazon,” Hendon stands 5'10" and has played volleyball since seventh grade. She led her high school club to first and third place victories in the nationwide Junior Olympics. Hendon rejected scholarships from four universities to sign with JSU in 2004 because she felt immediately “at home” with the team during her recruitment visit. Her teammates nicknamed her “Can’t-Get-Right” because she had an injury every season for four consecutive years. Hendon didn’t let those injuries stop her. She was recruited to play defense for the Lady Tigers — and that’s exactly what she did. “I love blocking. That is my favorite thing to do  — stuff a ball in a girl’s face,” laughs Hendon. Her aggressive play led to her being named Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and 2008. But the volleyball court is the only place you’ll see aggression from Hendon. Off court she is quiet and humble. She loves The Lion King movie, Mickey Mouse and children. It is her love for children that led her to pursue a teaching career. “I really take great pride in helping others,” Hendon says. “I’ve never had a real job. Everything I’ve done since high school has been volun-

teer work with children or with the community. I figured the best way to give back to children and the community is through teaching.” Hendon chose to major in education for kindergarten through eighth grades with concentrations in reading and special education. She’s also president of the JSU chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. She knew she wanted to teach before coming to JSU, but her desire to teach internationally was born from the experiences she gained through JSU’s Division of International Studies and Community Service/Service Learning programs.

During her first study-abroad in Costa Rica, young ladies willing to venture out of the norm Hendon taught math, science and English to to gain the type of experience that she is getSpanish-speaking students—without initially ting at home and abroad, and at the same time speaking any Spanish herself. “The best way to spreading JSU around the world.” learn a language is to be immersed in it,” Hen- When it comes to being a student-athlete, don says. “Can’t-Get-Right” got everything right. She She credits her Costa Rican students and thrived in her sport, took her classes seriously, host family with helping her learn the language and experimented with all the opportunities and now she can hold a full conversation with available to JSU students. She encourages a Spanish speaker. Hendon will complete her other athletes to do the same. “Don’t limit yourminor in Spanish this spring at the Malaca In- self to just being an athlete,” she says. “There stituto in Málaga, Spain. are countless, unlimited opportunities out there. Volleyball head coach Rose Washington is Being a student-athlete is just a privilege. We especially proud of Hendon. “It is nice to see are all multitalented.”

’60s Rudy Daniels, (’69), received the 2008 Val Joshua Community Activist Award from the Vancouver NAACP branch. The North Bend, Wa., resident visits students in underserved communities, teaching them about natural resources, global planning and goal planning. He recently retired from the U.S. Forest Service. Robert Braddy, (’64), athletics director at Jackson State University, was honored by the City of Jackson, Miss., at City Hall. Braddy received a resolution honoring and commending him for being an influential part of the Jackson State University Athletics Department, the City of Jackson and the State of Mississippi.

’70s Michelle B. Releford, (’78), has been appointed dean of the University College at Winston-Salem State University. Releford’s duties will include increasing student retention and success by providing first-year students with help adjusting to college.

’80s Rhea Williams-Bishop, (’89), was appointed to the Mississippi State Early Childhood Advisory Council by Gov. Haley Barbour. She currently serves as deputy director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office. Keith Adams, (’83), is currently serving as the acting superintendent of the Pole Bridge Advance Secondary Treatment Plant in Georgia. Adams has more than 22 years in the field with the highest class license, Wastewater Class 1.

’90s Florence Cocroft, (’98), has been named the new principal at Sherard Elementary School in Clarksdale, Miss. The Carthage native served as a guidance counselor in the Carthage School System for two years. She holds degrees from Jackson State University and Mississippi State University. Dr. Brian E. Anderson, (’95), was elected as a board member of the Mississippi Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Anderson is the social work program director at Mississippi College in Clinton, Miss.

’00s Dr. Virginia Cook Tickles, (’06), was chosen to participate in NASA Administrator’s Fellowship Program, where she will teach cost estimating and analysis for both undergraduate and graduate programs during her concurrent fellowships at Alabama A&M and Tennessee State University at Nashville. She also will develop and implement a cost-estimating capability for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Conservation Research Center in Jackson, Miss. Tickles has been employed with NASA since 1989. Dr. Tonjanita L. Johnson, (’06), was hired as associate vice president for marketing and communications at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tenn. She works closely with the Office of the President on executive communications. Joshlyn Anthony, (’05), earned a law degree from Mississippi College, graduating in the top 25 percent of her class. Anthony also passed the Illinois State Bar on her first attempt. – Compiled by Constance Lawson

COLLEGE OF BUSINESS Since the inception of its Ph.D. program in 1998, the College of Business has graduated 28 Ph.D. students. Each is employed in tenure track positions in higher education with salaries ranging from $68,000 to $90,000. The college celebrated its 25th Annual Awards Banquet in April 2008. Recognitions included: Dr. Cynthia Blackwell, Teacher of the Year; Dr. Alisa Mosley, Faculty Achievement in Research; Dr. Rameshwar Gupta, Faculty Achievement in Service; Dr. Patricia Freeman, Academic Advisor of the Year; Dr. Quinton Booker, Administrator of the Year; Montique Clark; Support Staff of the Year; and BankPlus, Corporate Partner of the Year. COLLEGE OF EDUCATION AND HUMAN DEVELOPMENT Faculty, graduates and undergraduates in the College of Education and Human Development have begun a coordinated research effort in dropout prevention, literacy, online programs, and health and wellness. The college will become a center for collection and disaggregation of data and will seek to improve learning for all students, especially those from underserved communities. Nearly 70 teachers became part of the New Teacher Induction Program in September 2008. Through a grant from the Teachers for a New Era and the Learning Network, the college provides three years of professional development including mentoring, computer software training and coaching.

COLLEGE OF LIBERAL ARTS Associate dean and professor of political science Dr. Mary DeLorse Coleman is the principal investigator for a $1.6 million civic education project in Morocco, Lebanon and the West Bank. The Middle East team consists of Jackson State retired aviation professor Col. Benjamin Wesley and faculty members Dr. Hussain Al-Fadhli and Mahmoud Nabulsi. The Department of Mass Communications has completed its first phase of reorganization, which addressed core values and competencies. The work included understanding the history and role of professionals, how the diversity of the global society affects communications, and tools and techniques of communications. COLLEGE OF LIFELONG LEARNING The college received $675,000 from Mississippi’s Department of Human Services to help 1,900 child care teachers better implement Mississippi’s Early Learning Guidelines. Through the College of Lifelong Learning, Jackson State has become one of two universities nationwide approved by the American Public Works Association to offer the Mississippi Public Works Leadership Institute – a non-credit certificate program that provides training to new and experienced public works leaders. COLLEGE OF PUBLIC SERVICE The Department of Urban and Regional Planning, School of Policy and Planning will celebrate its 10-year anniversary. With 16 new master and Ph.D. students, the department has recorded its largest enrollment of graduate students. The Council on Education for Public Health accredited three of the four degree programs in the School of Public Health: Health Policy and Management, which awards the bachelor’s degree in health care administration; and the departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Behavioral and Environmental Health, which award master and doctoral degrees. Jackson State is the only Mississippi institution of higher learning that offers the doctor of public health program. College of Science, Engineering and Technology The National Science Foundation Math and Science Partnership Program has granted more than $8.7 million to Dr. Mehri Fadavi, physics professor and director of the Mississippi Science Academy for Science Teachers at Jackson State. The first and only one of its kind, the partnership will focus on improving K-12 student achievement in mathematics and science in 41 Mississippi school districts.

Dr. Farshad Amini, professor and founding chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was named a fellow by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2008. DIVISION OF GRADUATE STUDIES In collaboration with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and the National Center for Academic Transformation, the Mathematics Department is piloting a funded course redesign in college algebra in the spring semester. The redesign will employ the Replacement Model, which decreases the time spent in class lectures and replaces it with technology-intensive activities that promote conceptual understanding. Anticipated outcomes include higher achievement and interest in mathematics. DIVISION OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES The Division of International Studies hosted 10 students in the Near East and South Asia Undergraduate Exchange Program. Sponsored through a grant from the Department of State and Georgetown University, the program included participants representing Bangladesh, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Oman and Morocco. NESA’s objective is to increase understanding between young emerging leaders from the Near East and South Asia and the United States by providing meaningful cultural experiences at U.S. academic institutions. The International Visitors Center of Jackson State hosted five social workers and community service organizers from South Africa who work in HIV/AIDS prevention and care. DIVISION OF STUDENT LIFE The Latasha Norman Center for Counseling and Psychological Services sponsored the inaugural Latasha Norman Memorial 5K Run/Walk in November 2008. The event’s theme was “A Celebration of Life: Putting an End to Domestic Violence.” The Office of Student Publications released it premier edition of Experience, a magazine dedicated to student life. An electronic version of the magazine can be found at DIVISION OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDIES The Division of Undergraduate Studies and the Department of Mathematics received a $100,000 grant from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning to redesign math classes for greater student outcomes. It implemented the courses in spring 2008. Patricia Sheriff-Taylor, director of The First-Year Experience, was selected as a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Pathways Fellow. The fellows program provides training and certification in Strengths-Based Leadership and includes engagement activities and leadership development for freshmen. MeShonya Wren-Williams, coordinator of advisement, made presentations at the annual Mississippi Advising Conference and the March 2008 National Academic Advising Association Region IV Conference in Mobile, Ala. Both presentations demonstrated Jackson State’s Dual Academic Advising Model, which pairs first-year faculty advisors with professional advisors to advise first- and second-year students. DIVISION OF LIBRARY & INFORMATION RESOURCES The H. T. Sampson Library was one of 776 museums, libraries and archives across the country to receive the Institutes of Museum and Library Services Connecting to Collections Bookshelf designation in August 2008. Selected by a blue ribbon panel of conservation experts, the collection includes books and online resources that offer instruction on preserving and rescuing materials that are vital to libraries. OFFICE OF RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND FEDERAL RELATIONS Jackson State has received a combined total of $2.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Mississippi Department of Education for projects that focus on mathematics, science, engineering and technology education that support improved student achievement and/or enhanced training for teachers.

“In Our Memory of You” by C. Liegh McInnis* The warmth of your memory is a cup of hot cocoa on a winter’s day as your words and deeds continue to ring like our favorite tune, playing forever in the radio of our minds. We thank you for the seeds that you have planted; your life is a testament that loving is the same as gardening, as you have motivated us to stretch our branches to the sun, proving that true leaders must be willing to wash the people’s feet. Your absence will be filled by the weight of your work that allows our lives to stand firm on the concrete foundation of you. Your legacy of love leaves an umbrella to shield us from the pain of missing you. In the pockets of our hearts dwell the keepsake of your kindness. Your sunshine of smiles made this often frigid world an oasis where our minds and bellies could be fed with charity. So now we pay it forward by recycling the gifts you gave to us. C. Liegh McInnis is an instructor of English at JSU, author of seven books, and editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal. He wrote this poem in remembrance of the Jacksonians who passed away in 2008.

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Jacksonian Spring 2009  
Jacksonian Spring 2009  

Jackson State University magazine