Vision Magazine

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Vision 2021

A D A P T I N G I N T H E FA C E O F C H A N G E A publication of the College of Arts & Sciences at Mi

s s i s s i p p i




n i v e r s i t y





“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.” This quote is

2020 was the most challenging year we have faced as

credited erroneously to Charles Darwin. Though he never

College of Arts and Sciences had the largest task on

said it, that statement is important to me as the dean of

campus. At the time, we had 468 different teachers,

the College of Arts and Sciences. By our very nature

teaching 1,671 different lecture or lab sections—and

as a college, we are dedicated to providing our majors,

counting students enrolled in multiple Arts and Sciences

and indeed all students at MSU, with a broadminded

courses, we had a total of 44,370 student enrollments—

education, which will facilitate intellectual development

all of which had to be migrated to online formats in ten

and stimulate a life-long pursuit of knowledge. As a

days. In July and early August, we had to remake almost

college, we are stalwart in our belief that it is our mission

completely the fall schedule to adapt to a combination of

to prepare students for a lifetime of challenges in their

online and face-to-face, socially distanced classes. This

professional and personal lives and the most important

included changing class times and locations, installing new

attribute they can learn is just that—the ability to learn.

teaching technology, mastering new teaching techniques,

educators. In March of last year, when the university suddenly shifted to an all-online teaching format, the

This long, seemingly unrelenting year of COVID-19

developing new safety protocols, and working with

has forced all of us to adapt quickly. This issue of Vision

countless students as they also needed to change their

is driven in part by the unique challenges presented by

schedules. Though I cannot say that our responses were

the pandemic and other societal trials we experienced

perfect for all of these classes, the number of missteps we

in the last year. Inside you will find several pieces that

made was extremely small.

illustrate some of the ways we have leaned forward as we

In a note I sent to our faculty at the end of the

help respond to various issues we face as a society. Our

spring term last year, I recited those numbers above but

scholars play an integral role in addressing basic issues

reminded them that the most important takeaway was that

related to the scientific and societal implications of the

we had ONE remarkable faculty—a faculty that met the

coronavirus pandemic. Our faculty also are vital as we

challenge of adaptation.

continue to wrestle with challenges based in the ongoing

As always, and even more so now, when life returns

inequality that exists in our justice and law enforcement

to normality, please come and visit us. And, thank you

systems and with a political system that seems determined

for your continued support of the College of Arts and

to reawaken the ghosts of Lincoln’s “House Divided”

Sciences and our students and faculty. I couldn’t be more


proud of our college and its accomplishments in 2020.

As a college, we remain committed to the core principles found in our mission statement including the ideas that our students should examine the social, historical, political, philosophical and economic dimensions of the human condition—that they should learn the use of quantitative and scientific methods in order to comprehend natural

Hail State!

phenomena. Though the challenges of 2020 have unique variants, the fundamental questions facing humans change little. So too does the mission of the College of Arts and Sciences as we strive to ensure that our students can learn,

Rick Travis Dean, College of Arts & Sciences

adapt and apply their knowledge beneficially and ethically as they become the leaders of our society. I close by noting that in my quarter century at MSU,


Table of

CONTENTS MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences responds to COVID-19


Mississippi State responds to racial inequality in the U.S.


Alumni Spotlight


Making chemistry accessible for next generation


Trying to leave something behind



Humanities and science merged by COVID-19


Podcasts add new ‘Vision’ for communication


From the Trenches: Teaching during a global pandemic

Supporting others through social work degree


MSU faculty member’s research garners attention during COVID-19 pandemic


Honoring Professor Emeritus Charles L. Wax



29 30 31


Dean’s Executive Advisory Board

College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors


Letter from Sara Jurney Frederic

Phi Beta Kappa


Donor List

Faculty Awards




DR. GISELLE THIBAUDEAU (MUNN) Associate Dean for Research

DR. TOMMY ANDERSON Associate Dean for Academic Affairs DR. GISELLE THIBAUDEAU (MUNN) Associate Dean for Research DR. MELANIE LOEHWING Dean’s Administrative Faculty Fellow DR. KATHY SHERMAN-MORRIS Dean’s Administrative Faculty Fellow ALISA SEMMES Administrative Assistant to the Dean ACADEMIC AFFAIRS: DR. TOMMY ANDERSON Associate Dean for Academic Affairs TRACY BRITT Academic Coordinator EMILY CAIN Academic Coordinator KASONDRA HARRIS Academic Coordinator HANNAH BATEMAN Admissions Coordinator KATE SAWAYA Administrative Assistant

SILAS KNOX Contract & Grant Specialist ASHLEY MILLER Contract & Grant Specialist KEISHA KNOX Business Coordinator SAM KEALHOFER Coordinator, Communications & Research Support



Direct comments or questions to: KARYN BROWN | 662.325.6650 P.O. Box AS | Mississippi State, MS 39762




KARYN BROWN Director of Communication




JOHN BURROW Communication and Institute for the Humanities Graduate Assistant


AVA RICHARDSON Communication Student Worker MARY HUNTLEY BUTLER Student Graphic Designer


DEVELOPMENT & ALUMNI RELATIONS: SARA FREDERIC Director of Development NIKKI ROBINSON Advancement Coordinator REAGAN RUFF Student Graphic Designer



MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences

RESPONDS TO COVID-19 By Sarah Nicholas

When COVID-19 unexpectedly shuttered Mississippi State’s campus in March of 2020, faculty, staff and students in the College of Arts and Sciences and across the university had to quickly adjust to new methods of teaching delivery as the nation grappled with how to move forward through a pandemic. In fields ranging from mental health to chemistry, from the physical side of the virus to the social side of the pandemic, the College of Arts and Sciences provided insight and adaptions to help during an unprecedented time. “Our faculty have demonstrated the great breadth and depth of their expertise,” said Rick Travis, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “They demonstrated this in



Dr. Anthony S. Neal

their research and its application in respect to the biological, psychological and communication issues related to COVID. They have lent their expertise to address pressing issues that people have faced and are still facing during this period. They also have leaned forward to work on the next steps that need to be taken to assist students and others as we continue to navigate these challenges. “There is a dogged determination among our faculty to make things better. I am very proud of them,” Travis added. The pandemic caused the cancellation of many activities but not the work of those in the college. These COVID crusaders pioneered in their research, teaching and service during a great time of adversity.

In the Department of Biological Sciences, Assistant Professor Jean-Francois Gout is part of an international team working to understand and predict coronavirus genetic mutations. With support from the National Science Foundation rapid response funding, Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Gout is a coprincipal investigator working with faculty at the University of Southern California and Utrecht University in the Netherlands to aid in the development of potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Gout and his associates will study how frequently genetic mutations occur in the new coronavirus genome, and then examine the effects of different mutations. After examining

thousands of mutations, Gout hopes to identify which ones are critical to the virus life cycle. Coordinating with colleagues across a nine-hour time zone difference has not been easy, Gout said, but they are “progressing in growing the large amounts of viruses required for the experiment.” “We are currently fine-tuning our protocol on inactive viral RNA to allow for measurements using as little RNA as possible. Solving these last technical challenges should allow us to release the first results soon,” Gout said. “We are especially excited about tracking the evolution of some mutations which have become more prevalent in cases observed worldwide since the summer.”

A doctoral student in the Department of Geosciences used a personal experience with severe weather in the middle of the shelter-in-place quarantine to develop the path of his dissertation. Craig D. Croskery, a Ph.D. student in earth and atmospheric sciences, sought safety at a local safe room during a tornado warning in April 2020. The experience motivated him to modify the focus of his dissertation research about how the general population makes physical safety decisions amid competing risk factors. Croskery said dealing with multiple threats at one time creates “difficult decisions and balancing risks.” He said

individuals must “determine the element of risk involved and whether it is more beneficial to take shelter even if it means being close together.” To gather data for his dissertation, Croskery developed a survey to learn how respondents reacted to tornado warnings last spring and whether or not their responses are different during the time of a pandemic compared to other years. Croskery intends to have his work peer reviewed and also will seek publication in a meteorology journal with hopes that his research may impact standard operating procedure during severe weather events.

A member of Mississippi State’s Department of Chemistry gained a national online presence through her innovative chemistry lab videos designed to help educators provide lab instruction in the face of COVID-19. Teresa Brown, an MSU instructor and lab coordinator, created dozens of videos, with national viewership reaching approximately 21,000 students and educators and more than 1,600 hours of watch-time logged. Brown said she began creating videos for online lab conversion at the beginning of MSU’s response to the pandemic by uploading videos to her personal YouTube

channel. However, she recognized instructors across the country were in the same situation and decided to make her videos public. “Going online helped me rediscover the beauty of chemistry for myself,” Brown said. “I am compelled deep within to share my excitement and see others make a connection to the material. That is what drives me as a teacher. Being able to share it with other educators is just a bonus.” To view Brown’s YouTube channel chemistry videos, visit UCjx8bWzK265GUefqpfPjOkw.



A faculty member in Mississippi State’s Department of Communication was able to parlay her expertise on how to efficiently and effectively evaluate public service announcements—brief informational messages designed to raise awareness on important issues—during a television interview in which she addressed COVID-19 PSAs.

A Mississippi State faculty member specializing in behavioral sleep issues used a national platform to discuss nightmares induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. “CBS Sunday Morning” interviewed Michael R. Nadorff, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Psychology, about his thoughts and expertise related to the global pandemic and its effect on sleep patterns, specifically dreams. Nadorff directs the university’s Sleep, Suicide and Aging Laboratory and also leads the department’s clinical Ph.D. program.

Nadorff said he views odd or disturbing COVIDrelated dreams “as being related to anxiety, stress and rumination.” He added that during the quarantine period, people encountered new worries and anxieties, which impacted their dreams. Nadorff currently serves on the board of directors for the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine where he serves as a member of a COVID-19 task force currently writing a paper on sleep advice and guidance during the pandemic. Nadorff is a licensed psychologist on the Behavioral Sleep Medicine roster of practitioners in Mississippi.

A new memorandum of understanding between Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences now allows students to earn an MSU bachelor’s degree in medical technology and also a UAMS bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory sciences. The dual degree program began in the fall of 2020. The program equips graduates for careers as medical technologists, an in-demand profession experiencing shortage levels according to statistics for 2019 worker volume from the U.S. Bureau of Labor.

provide additional laboratory scientists to that end is vital,” Dawe said. Medical technologists are instrumental in conducting tests to determine if people have illnesses, such as COVID-19. Dawe said that although the coronavirus is prominent in the news, “urgent diagnoses for other diseases are still required and the numbers of skilled personnel available to perform those tests is limited.”

Angus Dawe, professor and head of MSU’s Department of Biological Sciences, emphasized the importance of this field. “While testing for COVID-19 during the pandemic makes headlines, being able to


Hearst Chief National Investigative Correspondent Mark Albert interviewed MSU Assistant Professor of Communication Holli H. Seitz, who shared her insight on the effectiveness of various COVID-19 PSAs. The discussion aired on Hearst Television and radio stations across the country, including WAPT-TV in Jackson. For more on Seitz’s work, see page 25.


Mary Celeste Reese, director of MSU’s Dr. A. Randle and Marilyn W. White Health Professions Resource Center, said an appealing factor for students is the chance to earn two bachelor’s degrees, which increases their marketability and provides more internship opportunities.

MSU’s Heather R. Jordan, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, was featured on a July webinar presented by The Scientist, a nationally recognized magazine for life science professionals, where she discussed how metagenomic studies “help uncover new and medically relevant functions of the human microbiome.” “I discussed how we used autopsy-collected, postmortem microbiome samples as a method to survey antibiotic resistance carriage in a general population,” Jordan said. “Our data from post-mortem microbial

sampling showed presence of pathogens of public health concern as well as antibiotic resistance genes for multidrug efflux pumps, carbapenem, methicillin, vancomycin and polymixin resistances.” Jordan said the data suggests that postmortem assessments of host-associated microbial communities are “useful in acquiring community specific data while reducing selective-participant biases.” To listen to Jordan’s webinar, “A Little Help from my Friends: Lessons Learned from Microbiome Metagenomics,” visit sponsored-webinars/MicrobiomeMetagenomics-67692.

Working to bridge the gap in mental health services during the pandemic quarantine period, Mississippi State’s Psychology Clinic quickly put together an option to keep clients plugged in to their mental health appointments. “Telehealth at the Psychology Clinic” was created by Emily Stafford, assistant clinical professor and director of MSU’s Psychology Clinic. The telehealth program now utilizes an online format and includes individual, couples, group, family and behavioral sleep therapy services. Stafford said the psychology department wanted to offer a bridge to help people reconnect with a professional support system and set of mental wellness skills at a time “when the world turned upside down.” The clinic committee, comprised of faculty within the department and doctoral students within the American Psychological Association-accredited clinical psychology doctoral program, administers the telehealth services designed for clients across Mississippi, especially those whose access to affordable mental health services is limited

because of travel, childcare, scheduling or other barriers. To initiate services, individuals can call the clinic at 662325-0270. For more information, visit www.psychology. The Mississippi Department of Mental Health and MSU’s psychology department this year received a federal grant for youth suicide prevention. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stafford and faculty members Michael Nadorff and Rachel C. Franklin created a free video about youth suicide prevention and The Alliance Project. View the free video at com/watch?v=pRKecOce7AA& The grant also offers trainings for groups interested in suicide prevention. For more information, contact Franklin at In collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, the psychology department’s Alliance Project hosted the Fourth Annual Suicide Prevention Symposium in September. More than 1,000 participants gathered for the virtual training.

For parents seeking guidance on how to talk to children about COVID-19, a free downloadable fact sheet is available from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health


Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at



Alumni Spotlight: Richard Clatterbuck By Sarah Nicholas

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about the daily practice of medicine,” said Richard E. Clatterbuck, a 1987 Mississippi State alumnus who today works as a neurosurgeon at the Hattiesburg Clinic Department of Neurological Surgery and Spine Center. “From wearing a mask all day, every day— not just in the operating room—to testing all patients for coronavirus prior to elective surgeries, very few aspects of my day have not been touched by the pandemic.” Clatterbuck said the pandemic has altered access to care for many patients. “From mundane issues such as disclaimers in all documentation and checking temperatures on every patient at the door of the clinic to matters of who can or cannot have a needed surgery, we have been profoundly affected in our delivery of health care,” he said. “When the Mississippi State Department of Health put a moratorium on elective procedures early in the pandemic to decrease the demand for needed personal protective equipment in preparation for a surge in COVID-19 cases, many patients with painful conditions had to wait to have simple spine procedures performed,” Clatterbuck said. These procedures, he said, “dramatically decrease the burden of human suffering from chronic spinal disorders.” After a 24-year career as a U.S. Army neurosurgeon with the Army Reserve



Medical Corp—including a combat tour in 2008 in Iraq—Clatterbuck was well-equipped to adjust to the stress of practicing medicine during the pandemic. “Working with a combat medical posture is all about being proactive and leaning into a crisis to lead rather than taking a passive reactionary stance,” Clatterbuck said. “Facing a civilian medical crisis such as a global pandemic requires a similar skill set. “I think the biggest takeaway from COVID is that most of us do not appreciate all of the little ‘miracles’ that make up our everyday lives until they are disrupted or taken from us.” Adjusting to the new normal, Clatterbuck said his years at MSU prepared him to be a “critical thinker.” “State prepared me well for the rigors of medical school by giving me a great education. It also provided a wonderful environment to grow socially and prepared me to be an empathetic health care provider and more than a singledimensional person.” Clatterbuck majored in physics and pre-medicine at MSU and then attended Johns Hopkins University for medical school, where he met his wife, Victoria, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Radiology. After earning an M.D. and a Ph.D. in 1995 from Johns Hopkins University, Clatterbuck continued to complete a

general surgery internship followed by a neurosurgical residency from 1995 until 2002, and then a cerebrovascular fellowship at the Barrow Neurologic Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, from 2002 to 2003. He returned to Johns Hopkins as an assistant professor in the operating room and the classroom until 2007. That year, Clatterbuck moved to Hattiesburg and is a neurosurgeon at the largest multispecialty health care clinic in south Mississippi. For part of the year, the Clatterbucks share their home with their nephew, a current MSU sophomore majoring in pre-medicine. Today, Clatterbuck is partnering with his alma mater, eager to give back to the institution with which he holds strong ties. He will be working with the Dr. A. Randle and Marilyn W. White Health Professions Resource Center. The HPRC aids students seeking post-graduate health-related careers through internships, research opportunities, application and interview assistance, and course selection. “MSU did so much for me during a very formative period in my life, and it would be right to pay some of that forward,” Clatterbuck said. “It was the summation of all the little things positive that happened every day while at MSU that impacted who I have become.”

Alumni Spotlight: Gary Permenter By Sarah Nicholas

For 1987 Mississippi State alumnus Gary Permenter, one ordinary encounter from his college days led to a career in ministry. “I can trace what I’m doing now all the way back to one relationship at Mississippi State,” Permenter said. “A friend whose father was a pastor told his dad about me. My friend’s recommendation led to a summer internship, which then led to a full-time job at that church. The experience I gained there and the connections I made through that position led to the work I do now.” Today, the West Point native lives in Columbus where he leads Gary Permenter Ministries, teaching people across the U.S. how to become people “they are meant to be so they can do what they were created to do.” “I speak and teach in all kinds of contexts. Of course, I understand that some people reading this don’t share my faith background, but I try to make investments in people so they can become who God intends for them to be and carry out His purposes for their lives.” When the COVID-19 pandemic caused churches to shut down or limit in-person services, Permenter was forced to adapt his ministry, opting to focus on connections with individual ministers. Permenter said COVID taught him “the need to be more adaptable to changing circumstances.” “Many of us can coast along with such a consistent pattern that we settle into a rut without even realizing it. Being forced to look at some new ideas during COVID has helped

me discover some opportunities that I really have enjoyed.” Personal experiences as an MSU student, Permenter said, were “instrumental” to the person he has become. “If we were walking on campus, I could take you to the exact place where my life changed forever. One May night after a campus activity, a girl asked me to join a discipleship group she planned to lead the following school year. I’m not sure that I can describe the impact that group had on me. The lessons that I learned help me ‘grow up,’ which helped me make the most of my years at Mississippi State.” Permenter said his bachelor’s degree in communication, with a concentration in communication management—today communication studies—was perfect training for his ministerial career. However, even more powerful than the lessons he learned in the classroom, he said he was greatly impacted by mentors such as former professor Hank Flick and former university president Donald Zacharias. “So much of who we are and who we become is the result of the people that are closest to us. I met lifelong friends and mentors at State who have been a part of my journey and helped steer me to the work I do now,” said Permenter, who earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary after his undergraduate years at MSU.

A first-generation college graduate, Permenter said financial aid was key to his earning a degree. Today, Permenter is active in giving back to MSU through Loyalty Scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences. These provide $1,000 per year for four years to incoming freshmen or transfer students who demonstrate leadership capabilities. “My four years at Mississippi State may be the period of time that has had the most profound impact on my life. At State, I learned life lessons that still direct me today. I’m not exaggerating when I say I really don’t know where I would be without those four years. Every time I make a contribution to MSU, I hope that in some way that financial assistance helps someone have the same type of experience that I had in college.” “Mississippi State is special for lots of reasons, but there are people on that campus who change lives. I want to be a part of that.”

To learn more about giving to the College of Arts & Sciences, please call Sara Frederic at 662-325-3240 or email



Mississippi State responds to racial inequality in the U.S. By Ava Richardson

Jailyn A. Myers, 2020 MSU graduate



Not long after the global COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the United States in March of 2020, another pressing issue also took center stage— racial inequality. The discussion of race and police violence in the U.S. was revived in May when George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was killed in Minneapolis while in police custody and lying face down in handcuffs. Floyd’s death sparked an eruption of protests, rallies and civil unrest across the country on a scale not seen since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. National unrest prompted Mississippians to also discuss race and police violence, a conversation leading many to call for the removal of the state flag, originally adopted in 1894 and depicting a Confederate symbol. In June, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement, with support from the NCAA, that the conference would not hold any championship events in Mississippi until the Confederate flag was changed. Mississippi State University, under the leadership of President Mark E. Keenum, along with seven other public universities and their respective presidents, supported the SEC decision, saying, “… we are committed to continuing to do our part to ensure Mississippi is united in its pursuit of a future that is free of racism and discrimination. Such a future must include a new state flag.” MSU’s efforts to create greater equity, justice, tolerance and reconciliation on campus and in the Starkville community included pursuing a new state flag, along with numerous other measures. “Over the past months, MSU has stepped up to address issues that

have historically divided our state and nation,” Keenum said. “During the 2020 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature, the Bulldog family helped bring about a change of the 1894 state flag,” Keenum said. “We were effective as part of a number of Mississippi stakeholders in making this change possible. We have also joined a local coalition committed to seeking solutions to racism and paths to racial reconciliation. It includes Starkville Stand Up, the City of Starkville, Oktibbeha County, the Oktibbeha County NAACP chapter, Starkville Oktibbeha County School District, members of the area legislative delegation and MSU.” MSU has taken additional steps to address the issues of race and police violence, including MSU Police Department officers joining with the Starkville Police Department for expanded professional development training on culturally responsive policing strategies. MSU’s Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion also have hosted a series of “Racial Roundtable Conversations” for students, faculty and staff. Two “Understanding Racial Trauma” workshops were held for supervisors as well. “Moving forward, we plan to continue to offer programming and speakers that address the importance and value of diversity and that shed light on the challenges we face as a society,” Keenum said. Starting with the Fall 2020 semester, MSU implemented a sociology-based curriculum through its criminology program that raises inequality awareness through a Department of Sociology bachelor’s degree that “emphasizes

the study of types, patterns, and trends in criminal behavior; social causes; and social response to crime and its effect on society.” Keenum believes this will enhance students’ understanding of social inequalities and will be beneficial because many of the students in the program are future law enforcement officers and leaders. Recent MSU graduate Jailyn A. Myers, who earned a degree in criminology, had the opportunity to take some of the classes offered within this curriculum such as CRM2003 Crime Justice Inequality; SO3353 Race, Crime and Justice; and SO3343 Gender, Crime and Justice. “These classes were very rewarding,” the Jackson native said. “They really change your thought process when learning how society functions based on social constructs that ultimately mean nothing. By showing that the system was giving value to these social constructs, my professors really established a good learning foundation with America’s history of allowing inequality to exist for so long.” “These courses will be more than just helpful to our future leaders,” Myers said. “The classes are teaching our students how to be impartial and knowledgeable about the injustices that are taking place in America today.” Myers said she appreciates the measures the university has taken to address the challenges the U.S. faces because these steps “create great leaders.” “When leaders have this education embedded in them, they make better decisions, America receives better laws, and this country becomes a better place for everyone,” Myers said.

Ava J. Richardson Ava is a senior communication major with a concentration in public relations




Flowood native currently serves as a student worker within MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences for the Director of Communication. After graduation in April 2021, Richardson hopes to work in the fields of education or health through public relations.



Sam McKinnon, a former undergraduate student at MSU, worked closely with Colleen Scott, an associate professor of chemistry.


More than $1.3 million is now helping two Mississippi State assistant professors who aim to make the field of chemistry more accessible to underserved areas of Mississippi. With a grant from the National Science Foundation Early Career Program, the project will promote chemistry’s importance, as well as its entertaining attributes, to the state’s youth. Xin Cui and Colleen N. Scott are receiving the 2020 CAREER awards from the NSF’s prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program, which recognizes outstanding faculty exhibiting potential as academic role models in research and education. The award also is given for leadership in advancement of departmental or organizational missions. “The NSF-CAREER Award is the pinnacle achievement for junior faculty and today remains the single most prestigious and central pre-tenure goal, measure and validation of our research and education competitiveness,” said Dennis W. Smith Jr., MSU Department of Chemistry professor and head. Cui received the CAREER award, in part, for his efforts to spotlight chemistry education, encouraging young students who need help with chemistry coursework and want to pursue STEM degrees and careers. He has a specific focus of reaching students from underserved regions in Mississippi, which he said exhibit much larger gaps in educational performance from the national average. “To grow the economy, advance the infrastructure, attract more populations are all generations-long efforts. This calls for education as its foundation. Particularly, STEM is directly related to the production, construction and innovation that leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy,” Cui said. In addition to the chemistry department, Cui partners with the



departments of chemical engineering and geosciences, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and the T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability, while also seeking alliances with organizations beyond the university. Using a “student-to-student” format, Cui said the goal of his outreach effort is to popularize modern organic chemistry concepts and familiarize youth with real-life applications, while also encouraging MSU and other university undergraduate students “to grow into experienced future educators.” Because of COVID-19, Cui said he is focusing on popularizing scientific topics by using internet platforms, including online meetings and videos. Cui said the appeal of synthetic organic chemistry is to impact and improve quality of life, and he hopes to impact diverse groups of young generations. “The preeminent goal of synthetic organic chemistry is the efficient construction of molecules from readily available starting materials,” he said. “Obtaining new molecules brings new opportunities for the widest spectrum of developments humans are pursuing, from new pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals to next-generation materials.” “With pharmaceutically important and biologically active molecules as targets, our research investigates three-dimensional behavior of chemical transformations, which is key to stereoselective production of drug candidates and bioactive molecules,” Cui explained. Like Cui, Scott received the CAREER award for her efforts in making chemistry impactful, accessible and understandable to the next generation. Her research aims to extend the longevity of materials used in

Guery Saenz, an MSU graduate student in Dr. Scott’s group in the chemistry department, presents his research on sustainable approach to polymeric materials.

Cui’s MSU student Jacob Istre mentors two undergraduates from Mississippi University for Women, Ishan Lamichhane and Ashruti Pant, who participated in a previous summer research program at MSU.

photos were taken pre-covid

common, everyday devices such as TVs, cell phones and medical devices. She said her research is fundamental to the advancement of technologies used to improve and promote human health, prosperity and welfare. “Longevity in the materials translates to longevity in your devices,” Scott said. “For example, the battery in your phones and laptop computers produces a lot of heat that can, in turn, damage the materials that compose the circuit board. If the circuit board is damaged, then your device will malfunction.” Scott explained that the conductive materials that make up the circuit board and the emissive materials that provide color in OLEDs are required to be cycled back and forth thousands of times. However, if those materials get damaged during each cycle, then their longevity will decrease. “Our goal is to increase the stability of these materials to increase their longevity,” she explained. Scott said she also hopes to motivate and inspire at-risk students to persevere and not only finish their primary education, but also pursue a secondary education and become productive community citizens. “We all know the contribution Marie Curie has made to the physics world when she was probably only one of a very few, if not the only, renowned female physicists at that time. As more corporations are looking to hire more women in the STEM field, the number of women actually getting to that point is very low,” Scott explained. “Therefore, we need to encourage more ladies to become involved in STEM from an early age and to continue their education to the highest level. Women in STEM are important to corporations because they help change many policies and practices that are harmful to women’s health.”

Scott’s current implementation of “Science with Dr. Scott” at Ms. Smith’s Educational Service in Starkville has integrated polymer chemistry activities for at-risk students into a K-12 learning environment through a summer and after-school tutoring and alternative graduate services program. “The program is still ongoing and has continued through COVID-19 to help parents who were working on the frontline,” Scott said. “Also, the continuation of the program during this time has ensured that the students did not fall behind in their academic work, which is so important for these students.” During one summer session, Scott organized a chemistry activity where the students made conductive paper from a silver conducting ink pen to light an LED bulb using a 3V battery. “The kids, even the older ones, were very engaged and excited when their paper lit up,” she said. “Such activities engage student curiosity, increase enthusiasm for science and motivation to continue their education, and ultimately create an informed citizenry excited about discovery and innovation.” Scott refers to work in her laboratory as “highly interdisciplinary,” exposing students and post-doctoral fellows to a wide variety of equipment and characterization techniques. Her polymer research has a range of application from adhesives, coatings and industrial fabrics to structural components in construction, biomedical and aerospace industries. “I am biased,” Scott said. “I believe chemistry is the central science as it contains math, physics and biology. Chemistry is so intertwined with the other sciences that I think it’s very important for all.”

continued -->



Xin Cui


Colleen Scott

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Associate Professor of Chemistry

Xin Cui’s CAREER-winning proposal, “RutheniumCatalyzed Stereoselective and Site-selective Functionalization of Carbon-Hydrogen Bond,” is funded with a five-year $650,000 NSF Division of Chemistry award. His award will help develop new ways to access organic molecules and effective approaches to fill the long-standing gap in the chemistry of stereoselective carbon-hydrogen bond functionalization. A native of China, Cui received his Ph.D. in 2008 and bachelor’s degree in 2003, both in chemistry, from the University of Science and Technology of China. In 2012, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in chemistry at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He joined MSU’s faculty in 2016.

Colleen Scott’s $675,000 CAREER award for “Design and Synthesis of Heterocyclic Aryldiamine Polymers: Towards a New Class of Processable and Electrochemically Stable Conducting Materials” is funded for five years by the NSF Division of Chemistry. Scott’s award will allow her to pursue research ideas for developing materials to be used in a variety of areas of organic electronics, such as sensors, organic magnets, electromagnetic interference shielding and electrochromic materials. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, Scott earned her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 and bachelor’s degree from Auburn University in 1998. She joined MSU’s faculty in 2015.


Whitley’s job as a utilities plant supervisor with the National Science Foundation took him to the McMurdo Research Station on the continent of Antarctica.

MSU Distance Education student ‘trying to leave something behind’ with master’s degree, opportunities in education by JoLee Clark The median age of a typical graduate student now is 33. So what would make someone nearing retirement decide to return to school to pursue a graduate degree? For James Whitley, 67, a California resident, the answer can be found in a line of one of his favorite songs. It says, “I’m just trying to leave something behind.” The words inspired Whitley to pursue a Master of Science degree in geosciences with a concentration in environmental geosciences at Mississippi State. The degree will allow him to teach after he retires from the

electric power industry in the next few years. Whitley was born in New Orleans, where he spent a great deal of time with his grandmother and family. “A lot of how my character and demeanor was formed by life with that kind, wise, but strict old Southern Baptist woman,” Whitley said. When he was 9-years-old, Whitley’s mother married and the family relocated to California. His stepfather became a guiding educational influence in Whitley’s life. “Right after getting my California

driver’s license, when many of my friends and classmates were getting keys to automobiles, I was presented with the entire bound set of the 1970 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica with an atlas and its own wooden case,” he said. Whitley’s said his meager allowance in those days depended on being able to discuss at the family dinner table the topics he found interesting in the encyclopedias. He admits the gift turned him into a bit of a “geek,” although he also was an award-winning cross-country, wrestling and track star in high school.

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“I was lucky to have a brilliant man, my stepfather, push me to be a learned man,” Whitley said. His stepfather, a geochemist, also kindled his interest in geosciences. “Besides the models I made and comic books, my bedroom was strewn with rocks that he often brought me,” he said. Nevertheless, geoscience studies would have to wait until Whitley was much older. He entered the U.S. Navy just four days after his high school graduation with the intention of taking advantage of G.I. Bill benefits to help pay for college. “In hindsight, I can say I had no intention of my Navy experience becoming a career. Twenty-two years, six months and eleven days later, having crossed the equator eight times, been to 12 countries and sailed every ocean except the Artic, I retired from the Navy as a Senior Chief Petty Officer,” Whitley said. Trained as an electrician and engineer, Whitley has worked in the electric power generation industry since his naval retirement. He said his second career has taken him to some interesting places as well. “I lived and worked at a powerplant in Bermuda for three years. But the coolest job I’ve ever held was spending 11 months as



the utilities plant supervisor for the National Science Foundation at their McMurdo Research Station on the continent of Antarctica,” Whitley said. When Whitley decided to pursue a graduate degree, he knew he wanted to try something new—something that would allow him to move toward opportunities in teaching. He strongly believes the human

impact on the environment must change. He argues that such change cannot come from his generation and likely not his children’s generation. “I contend, at least from my own life experiences, that the key to any such change needs to happen by inspiring, educating and guiding our youth,” he said. Whitley expects to retire from the electric power industry in

the next four years. He hopes to make a career move to education at that time. Taking his education and experiences into a classroom of young people will be the fulfillment of his desire to “leave something behind,” just as his parents did. Whitley attributes his lifelong desire to learn to his parents, who he said continued their educational pursuits well past the typical age. His stepfather earned his bachelor’s degree at 60 and his mother a bachelor’s and master’s at 63 and 74, respectively. His mother was working on her doctorate at the time of her death. Whitley says he can feel them with him each time he logs into classes with Mississippi State Online. “I tell anyone whose ear I can bend, that my educational achievements could have never been accomplished as a full-time working adult with family and other life obligations without online classes,” Whitley said. For someone who already has had a two-decade career in the U. S. Navy and is a few years shy of retiring as an engineer, beginning a graduate journey in geosciences might seem unexpected. However, James Whitley is determined to leave his mark on “planet earth.”

College of Arts & Sciences Online Mississippi State University Online @msstateonline @msstateonline Mississippi State University Online

Certificates • Aeronautical Meteorology Forecaster Certificate • Broadcast and Operational Meteorology Certificate • General Biology Certificate • Geospatial and Remote Sensing Certificate

Bachelor’s • BA in History • BS in Geosciences — Broadcast & Operational Meteorology • BS in Interdisciplinary Studies • BS in Psychology

Master’s • MA in Foreign Languages • MS in General Biology • MS in Geosciences — Applied Meteorology • MS in Geosciences — Environmental Geosciences • MS in Geosciences — Teachers in Geosciences COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES | VISION 2021


Institute for the Humanities virtual speaker series:


When COVID-19 emerged last spring, in-person campus events came to a crashing halt at Mississippi State. Julia Osman, director for the College of Arts and Sciences Institute for the Humanities, looked for a way to continue the institute’s annual speaker series despite the pandemic. The difficult time also presented an opportunity to show how COVID-19 demonstrates an important intersection between the humanities and science. Osman, also an MSU associate professor of history, took the series to an online platform, developing Facebook Live events featuring six sessions on the institute’s Facebook page throughout the quarantine period, each week spotlighting MSU experts on a variety of topics ranging from the environment to medicine. “The series highlighted how sciences and humanities work together to better inform and educate the public on important matters,” Osman said. “I think this interview series confirmed the humanities and the sciences are inextricably linked. The virus is not just about microbes and vaccines and antibodies, but who is affected and why.” The format allowed for participant involvement—questions asked and



answered in real time—while Osman moderated the Q-and-A-driven session. The audiences were “eager to listen to MSU experts,” offering their advice about how to handle the pandemic, Osman said. John Burrow, an Institute for the Humanities graduate assistant from South Fulton, TN, came up with the idea of interviewing MSU faculty members virtually after sharing his own interest in hearing what Courtney Thompson, a Department of History faculty member with expertise in the history of medicine, had to say about the pandemic. “We were hearing so many conflicting stories, and there was so much ‘fake news’ out there,” Osman said. “Like me, I figured many people would want to hear straight information from someone who actually knew what was going on or how to understand what was going on. There must be a lot of people who would love to be able to question an expert and get a better look at things.” The first Facebook Live event in April 2020 featured Thompson, an assistant professor and scholar of the history of 19th-century American medicine, medical humanities and the history of the mind

and body. Thompson’s presentation “Understanding ‘the Pandemic’” focused on how historians of medicine think about disease and epidemics/pandemics, and what lessons could be drawn from the past about the current crisis. “As a historian of medicine, Dr. Thompson helped us understand how COVID-19 fit into the larger history of disease and what it means today,” Osman said. Another guest, David Hoffman—an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures who specializes in environmental anthropology and conservation politics— offered insight into the environmental impacts of COVID-19 in his presentation “Is the Pandemic Good for the Environment?” Hoffman shared with viewers his thoughts on the pandemic’s “massive and overnight shift of the political economic landscape” and the impacts the pandemic is having on the environment. Hoffman’s episode highlighted the interdependent link between society, people and the natural world and whether or not humanity would learn any lessons

Julia Osman is the director of College of Arts and Sciences Institute for the Humanities and also an associate professor of history

from the shutdown period or try to return to “the way things were.” Next, Thessalia Merivaki, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, shared her perspective on the presidential and senatorial elections and provided expert analysis of the potential impacts COVID-19 could have on the 2020 political processes. In “Preparing for the 2020 Elections,” Merivaki discussed the potential ramifications of how the virus affected the news cycle and Americans’ access to political news. In mid-May, Davide Orsini, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of History, provided insight from his quarantine location in Germany. Orsini offered his perspectives on risk, how governments and people have historically handled risk, and the problems associated with risk management during COVID-19. In his presentation “Understanding Risk at the Time of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Orsini

used his international experiences to discuss his perspective of the U.S.’s handling of the virus. “While there have always been risks associated with everything we do, the virus is forcing us to revisit how we think of the risks we’re taking,” Osman said of Orsini’s presentation. Dr. Cliff Story, Mississippi State’s director of University Health Services and a physician at MSU’s Longest Student Health Center, then met with Osman to discuss “The Nature of the COVID-19 Beast,” providing his medical expertise on the complicated nature of the virus and what listeners could expect. The final speaker of the Facebook Live sessions was Anthony Neal, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Philosophy and Religion and head of the African American Studies program, for a session called “Experiencing Blackness during the Pandemic.”

Neal applied his MSU research for the Facebook event, discussing how African Americans were affected by the disease disproportionally more than other races and often confronted additional difficulties in trying to access health care. “Community members and academics alike flooded us with questions for Dr. Anthony Neal, who spoke not just about COVID-19, but about the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and the ‘experience of blackness’ in these times— asking him everything from ‘What should churches be doing?’ ‘What should we tell our babies?’ and ‘What are grassroots efforts in Starkville that can help?’” Osman said. “His interview helped the community directly engage with the moment and find meaningful ways to respond.” Visit the Institute for the Humanities on Facebook to view the archived Facebook Live videos.

As part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Institute for the Humanities promotes research, scholarship and creative performances in the humanistic disciplines and raises their visibility, both within the university and the wider community. Instagram @msstatehumanities | Twitter @Humanities_MSU | Facebook COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES | VISION 2021


Pictured are the hosts of the Discover Your And podcast, part of the College of Arts and Sciences podcast endeavors. Top, from left: Ava Richardson, MSU senior, and Hannah Bateman, Arts and Sciences admissions coordinator. Bottom, from left: Holli Seitz, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Communication, and Ellen Currie, MSU senior.

Podcasts add new

‘VISION’ for communication By John Burrow



Julia Osman (left) and Karyn Brown talk with John Burrow on a recent Vision podcast.

vision podcast

Mississippi State University College of Arts & Sciences Podcast for Faculty and Staff Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify

The spring of 2020 presented new challenges for everyone. One of the difficulties was the ability to obtain accurate information quickly as the landscape of academia was changing daily. Faculty and staff were adjusting to a new normal for teaching, learning and academic routines and were asking for facts and details. Given the constructs COVID-19 presented, the communication team in Mississippi State’s College of Arts and Sciences brainstormed ways to provide a quick communication medium, allowing audiences to hear personally from administration and experts in an intimate format. CAS Director of Communication Karyn Brown had previously investigated the possibilities of a college podcast in 2019 as the medium grew in popularity. Brown oversees public outreach for CAS and its various institutes and organizations. She also is a faculty member in MSU’s Department of Communication. “Given the need for quick distribution of reliable information, it seemed like the perfect time to create the Vision podcast,” she said. “It was the best tool to provide timely discussions on topics ranging from systemic racism and inequality to virology and theater, equipping faculty and staff with updated and ongoing information pertinent in their world.” Podcasts are similar to talk radio, but unlike radio, a podcast is a pre-recorded audio file available for downloading at the listener’s convenience. Brown said she had researched communication channel trends used by adults and discovered that podcasting is a successful avenue for reaching faculty, staff, students and alumni. “After investigating a bit further, I found that podcasts—unlike other communication platforms—have a more captive audience, with 85 percent of users listening to an entire show, or most of it,” Brown said. “It is interesting that in a time when we have so many communication mediums, faculty and staff are still waiting to know more,” Brown said of the reinvigorated podcast medium. “The podcast provides us with a great mechanism to share news and information about the college,

it’s easy to obtain, and can be listened to at one’s convenience.” Brown said the podcast has found “tremendous success,” with more listeners tuning in each week. “The Vision podcast has allowed CAS to respond to changes brought on by COVID-19, create fact-driven answers to pressing questions from faculty and staff, and discover another platform to highlight topics and research of interest to CAS in a timely fashion,” she said. According to the New York Times, more than half of the U.S. population had listened to at least one podcast episode as of 2019. The NYT also reports that as of 2018, people ages 55 and over have begun listening more frequently. The Vision podcast has featured Rick Travis, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Kathy Sherman-Morris, a dean’s administrative faculty fellow and professor in the Department of Geosciences; Athena Owen Nagel, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Geosciences and recipient of the 2020 MSU Center for Distance Education Online Teaching Award; Michael Nadorff, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and director of the MSU Sleep, Suicide and Aging Laboratory; and Leah Pylate, an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion. This podcast has had several hundred downloads since its beginning, with new participants joining after each episode. To access archived podcasts, visit visionpodcast. Along with the faculty and staff oriented “Vision” podcast, a student-centered podcast was created in 2021—”Discover Your And.” Hosted by CAS senior Ava Richardson, a communication major, and Hannah Bateman, admissions coordinator for CAS, each episode features students or advisors in the College of Arts and Sciences diving into topics such as maintaining academic success and student life at MSU. COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES | VISION 2021


From the





What do you do when you lose the paddles to your boat and are in the middle of a body of water? You find a new way to navigate. It is amazing what you can do and accomplish when you don’t have a choice. The week before spring break—March 2020—students in my public relations capstone class turned in their most challenging assignment of the semester. I told them to relax, put school behind them for one week and enjoy the break. Little did any of us know that would be the last time we would ever see each other face-to-face in a classroom and academia as we knew it would change FOREVER. After class, I left campus for the week and then met my son at his school for a weeklong school trip to Washington, D.C. with members of his sixth-grade class and a group of chaperoning parents. Prior to our trip, I had seen news stories about the coronavirus, but there were no overwhelming indications we should not travel. My husband packed extra hand sanitizer bottles for the entire group, we told the children to be more diligent about good hygiene, and we voyaged on.

During our days in Washington, D.C., it became very clear that the world’s response to the coronavirus was changing rapidly. Each day, we were alerted about more closings and of COVID-19 cases appearing in the U.S. On one of the last days of our trip we stopped to sample the best Virginia peanuts at a shop in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. As we prepared to get on the bus near the shop, our guide said she had just received a phone call informing her we wouldn’t be able to participate in the peanut tasting because the store wouldn’t allow sampling “out of an abundance of caution” because of the coronavirus. I could see the look of disappointment and concern on her face. It was one of the first warning signs to me that the ways of our world were changing. Our return home took us through the Atlanta airport. I’ve flown in and out of Atlanta since 1993 and in all those years of flying, I have never seen the airport so sparse. I could feel additional waves of concern overcoming me. This was real, the coronavirus was hitting closer to home, and life in the U.S. was changing. My son and I arrived home, caught up on much needed sleep, and began telling my husband about our wonderful trip. We told him how strange it was to see airports with so few people and that the peanut store had stopped giving out samples. He looked at me and said, “Well, it’s not looking good for us. MSU is saying we may be off the week after spring break.” Maybe it was the exhaustion from our trip, or absolute denial, but I was truly perplexed. “A week?? For what?” He replied, “To give faculty time to prepare to teach their classes online for a few weeks.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. Never did it occur to me that we would not be able to return to work or school after spring break. Then, I felt a wave of panic. My heart sank. How in the world was I going to teach a senior capstone class fully online? I could not wrap my head around the logistics. True panic. Then, a wave of sadness overcame me. My sweet students who I had enjoyed so much for two



months were mostly graduating seniors. How would this be for them? What kind of panic were they experiencing? I knew I had to do whatever it took to bring a sense of normalcy to my students in the middle of a pandemic. I was in the middle of the water, and I had no paddles. I could sink, or I could swim. I immediately thought about what communication tools I knew, which formats I would need to learn quickly, and who I knew that could help me with the rest. Although untraditional, I knew how to use Facebook and go live on that platform. At that time, I wasn’t familiar with Zoom, WebEx, Teams or any other video conferencing platforms. And, that is how I started. I created a private Facebook group for our class and emailed my students asking them to spread the word and get every member of our class to join. I made my first online post—a Facebook live video saying hello to my students and assuring them that we WOULD make it through the semester one way or another. I often wondered if they could sense the fear in my voice. I told them to check our Facebook private group often as I would be communicating with them frequently through that medium. I tried to post positive messages and funny memes to divert attention away from the overwhelming sense of crisis that was looming. Each day, news briefings brought more and more bad news. It became clear that my husband and I would not be returning to the classroom for the rest of the spring semester; we would be working from home. My son’s school contacted us to pick up his books as he, too, would not be returning to the classroom. We would be homeschooling. We had no choice—we had to find a way to balance homeschooling a 13-year-old while working full-time. Learning how to teach sixth grade to my son while simultaneously learning how to teach a college senior capstone course online, I reached out to anyone I thought could help me “crash course” online formats for teaching. I contacted several colleagues who teach primarily online asking questions that could at least get me to the end of the spring semester. I felt so bad knowing they were surely bombarded with questions. I remember the first time I heard the word “Zoom” while reading a friend’s Facebook post about how her workplace was navigating during the early days of COVID. Her post said, “Zoom was working well for them.” I quickly googled “Zoom” (which seems ages ago thinking of the number of times I’ve used the platform since April). Our graduate assistant mentioned that his wife used Zoom, and they would walk me through a tutorial.



Brown teaching remotely during quarantine.

Brown used memes to keep the mood light during quarantine learning.

Brown mastering the art of online teaching during quarantine.

Brown’s Spring 2020 public relations capstone class, pre-COVID.

I’m thankful to this day for the time people provided me early in the pandemic to have the tools necessary to teach during the most difficult semester in my academic career. I set up my first Zoom meeting using the free, 40-minute version with my class. I was so ripe on the platform I remember thinking this is probably going to be a fail! But then, one by one, I could see the little square boxes containing my students populate the screen. Part of me was jumping for joy that I made it work! But then, the tears streamed down my cheeks. I was so happy to see them! But at the same time I was deeply saddened thinking about how strange, difficult and scary this time would be for someone in their 20s instantly changing academic learning modes in order to graduate a month later and have the tools needed to be successful in their future career. I’m sure, too, part of that sadness was what so many of us felt at the onset of the pandemic—uncertainty of the future. It was a challenging semester forcing me to learn to be flexible and provide myself grace when warranted, and to create a solid work-life balance (or as one of my colleagues called it “work-life unbalance”). With a few adjustments, lots of online meetings, and a huge learning curve with technology, my Spring 2020 class finished the term. We made the best of a difficult situation, continued to focus on positives rather than negatives, laughed when we needed to, and will never forget the semester we finished completely online. Experiencing the onset of the pandemic together has created a bond we will always share. Many people have asked me, “What is it like to teach during a pandemic?” I’ve said that on many days, it feels like I’m in a circus spinning plate after plate on long, tall sticks. I’m mentally drained at the end of the day, and my mental

Brown capitalized on the “Angry Cat” memes

cache file stays full. As a teacher, there are so many more variables to think about than in the past when I could walk into a classroom and simply begin teaching. I’ve had to learn more technologies in the past year than I have in the past few years. Starting in Fall 2020, I began teaching my capstone class in a “hy-flex model”—half of my class face-to-face one day of the week while the other half of the class met virtually, then swap for the second class meeting of the week. I had to record all lectures, post all lectures, have all class materials on Canvas (our online teaching platform), ensure I had a microphone on, talk to students in person and virtually at the same time, and incorporate virtual meetings often. Teaching with masks on also presents difficulties. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to get to know my students’ names when all I could see peering over a mask was a set of eyes. I do have a few big takeaways from my experience teaching during COVID-19. First, as great as online class formats can be for many students, there truly is a difference when students and teachers don’t have a face-to-face component to the learning experience. Students learn differently, and it is important that we look for ways to have online class methods that meet those needs. Secondly, I was forced out of a comfort zone and tried new tools and techniques in my teaching that I will continue to use in the future. I probably would not have tried these tools if it were not for the pandemic. For that, I am thankful. Lastly, I learned that when faced with adversity, people can do amazing work. To my Spring 2020 section of CO 4813, we accomplished what we didn’t think was possible—you are COVID heroes to me.





Growing up, Karsten Taylor never thought about career options such as joining the military or serving others. He just wanted to stay out of jail. Taylor, a senior social work student at Mississippi State University-Meridian, was born on Tinker Air Force Base outside of Suffolk, England, where his father was stationed. The family eventually moved to Oklahoma and, after his father retired from the military, they settled in Middle City, where Taylor graduated from high school in 1995. When he was 19, Taylor became a father, dropped out of college and spent the next few years working in various bakeries around town until he was fired for being late “one too many times.” “My dad saw the road I was going down and basically told me, ‘Son, leave, join the military and don’t come back,’” Taylor said. “Although I’d always joked the military didn’t need any more Taylors, since my dad had served and two of my older brothers were serving at the time, I took his advice and enlisted, joining the U.S. Navy in 2001.”

Military Life

Mr. Karsten Taylor



Taylor’s first duty station was Kingsville Air Station in Kingsville, Texas, where, as a junior air traffic controller and facility watch supervisor, he was responsible for all activity on the airfield including the control tower. After Texas, he was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he spent three years with Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON 21) which has a mission of providing centralized planning, control, coordination and integration of amphibious and expeditionary combat air operations. While there, he was sent briefly to New Orleans in 2005 to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, completed a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf and eventually transferred in 2008 to NAS Meridian, spending five years there. While at NAS Meridian, he met LaShasta Metts whom he married in 2012. One year later, the couple transferred to Fleet Air Control and Surveillance Facility in Jacksonville, Florida, where they began working in The New Life Church prison ministry. “I’ll never forget the first time I went to this one prison and a prison guard said to me, ‘I treat these women with just as much respect as I would want because there are things I did in my past that could have landed me here but by the grace of God, they didn’t,’” Taylor said. “That stuck with me, so when I would go to help conduct services or hold Bible studies at the different facilities, I would always have that in the forefront of my mind. In a sense, I felt it was my duty, my obligation to give those

incarcerated a glimmer of hope, to let them know someone cared and better things were possible—because like that guard, there were things I did in my past that could have landed me in jail—but for the grace of God and my dad’s advice, they didn’t.”

A Second Career Taylor and his family left Florida in 2015—after his 14 and a half years in the military and an honorable discharge—and settled back in Meridian to be closer to his mother-in-law. He then began working at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton as a veteran’s service officer, scheduling services and helping families with setting up arrangements for their loved ones. It was about this time that Taylor said he really began thinking about his future. “I knew I was ready for a second career, and I thought about social work. My mom was a social worker in Georgia until she passed away in 2010, and I realized, in one way or another, I had been helping people most of my life,” he said. “By becoming a social worker, I could continue to help people better themselves and overcome their obstacles. I truly felt the situations I’d faced, dealt with and learned from might help those who felt defeated by their current life problems and issues,” he added. Three more years would pass before Taylor enrolled at Meridian Community College in 2018 to begin his prerequisite coursework for admittance into MSU-Meridian’s social work program. Determined to start the program the following fall, he finished his associate degree at MCC in one year, in part due to military credits, as well as carrying 23 credit hours his last semester. As a reward for his hard work, Taylor was one of 34 students chosen in spring 2019 for MCC’s Circle of Excellence. “When I first started at MCC, I was scared because it had been so long since I had been in school. But once I got used to the regimen, God gave me the ability to do well as far as my grades,” he said. “Starting a second career isn’t easy, but I’m here to tell others, ‘don’t ever put anything past yourself. You can be whatever you want to be; you just have to put in the time and work for it.’” Taylor’s junior year at MSU-Meridian included some unexpected challenges due to the pandemic, but it also brought some new opportunities. Angela Savage, an MSU-Meridian instructor and director of field social work, asked him to participate in a Zoom call with the Mississippi chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. As a result, Taylor was asked to begin facilitating a student-led group, with a board consisting of 13 students from MSU’s Meridian and Starkville campuses, as well as the University of Southern Mississippi, University of Mississippi, Mississippi

College, and Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State, Belhaven, Alcorn State, and Delta State universities. Together, with social work professors acting as overseers, they are working to find solutions to police brutality, systematic racism and social injustice through discussions and actively engaging students on their respective campuses. “I was really excited for this opportunity, and I’m so proud that we now have in place a student board that meets twice a month via Zoom,” Taylor said. “Our first concerted effort has been to focus on voter registration and encourage folks to cast their vote and have a voice.”

A Drive to Serve Although he hasn’t worked this past year in order to concentrate on his studies, Taylor isn’t one to be idle. He still referees private school football and basketball games. He and his wife act as spiritual advisors for Sober Living Residential, which provides safe accommodation for people who need continuous sobriety support, as well as Residents of Hope, which serves those coming out of incarceration. “I’ve really loved my time at MSU-Meridian; the small class sizes and the interaction with my instructors and professors, and the excellent staff who have helped me along the way, whether in veterans services, advising or financial aid— they’ve all been great!” Taylor said. “But I’m more of a handson person, so I’m ready to take the knowledge and things I’ve learned in the classroom and use them in my field placement this spring,” he said. Taylor was notified in early January he would be working with Wesley House Community Center, Inc. The nonprofit organization, located in Meridian, is a member of the National Children’s Alliance and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Mississippi. “I believe God has paved the way for me to be on the path I’m on. He’s blessed me with a wife who supports me and he’s provided me scholarships, so I could go to school debt-free,” Taylor said. “I believe I’m going to get to bless someone in the field of social work whether it be working with children, the prison, mental health or possibly coming back somewhere down the line as an instructor.” “That’s all I want to do,” he said. “When my time is up and when God decides to call me home, I want to be sure that I’ve done everything that He needed me to do here on earth.” MSU-Meridian primarily serves east central Mississippi and west Alabama. Learn more at MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.



MSU faculty member’s communication research garners attention during COVID-19 pandemic By Sam Kealhofer



At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Holli H. Seitz—an assistant professor in Mississippi State’s Department of C o m mu n i c a t i o n — realized her years of study and research into communication science would be Holli Seitz crucial in creating effective communication strategies and combating the spread of misinformation. “Health communication becomes very relevant during a global pandemic. Being able to clearly communicate COVID-19 risks and recommendations is a key part of helping the public understand what actions they should be taking during this time of great uncertainty,” said Seitz, who also serves as director of The Message Laboratory in MSU’s Social Science Research Center. “Much of my previous research has focused on examining how messages have their effects on audiences and how we can craft more effective health messages, and these are skills that can be used to inform how we talk about COVID-19.” Seitz’s research focuses on health communication, message effects, media effects and health equity. She sees herself as an applied communication scientist because she uses her knowledge to help organizations craft better messages so audiences might pay attention and remember them, as well as actually change their behavior because of the information. Often in her work, Seitz will help conduct formative research on the target audience to learn what they know about a given topic and how they might respond to potential messages. Seitz also has studied the effects of misinformation. All of Seitz’s efforts in science and health communication leading up to the pandemic positioned her as an expert on the renewed need for public service announcements as well as the wave of misinformation. Seitz has participated in several interviews since the pandemic began, giving advice about the phrasing of PSAs highlighting issues such as social distancing and mask wearing. She stresses the importance of modeling

the behaviors to create messages that promote selfefficacy and encourage audience members to confidently perform the behaviors. “My hope is that I can help communication practitioners incorporate evidence-based practices to make their health communication efforts as effective as possible,” Seitz said. “At the end of the day, health communicators want to prevent death and improve quality of life—that’s my goal.” Seitz shared her expertise on the effectiveness of various COVID-19 PSAs with Chief National Investigative Correspondent Mark Albert during a spring 2020 Hearst Television interview. Seitz explained that creating a concrete message and stirring emotions are important to make an announcement memorable with the potential to go viral. She also is deeply invested in MSU’s health and safety initiative Cowbell Well, which received commendations from White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah L. Birx during her fall 2020 visit to Mississippi. Seitz played an integral role in the university’s communication with the student body as MSU transitioned into the fall semester. She was part of MSU’s Healthy Behaviors Work Group, a team of students, faculty and staff who interviewed students and parents about moving forward with the semester amid the pandemic. Their goal was to better understand how to most effectively convey information regarding public health in a campus environment. The Cowbell Well campaign promotes seven essential behaviors to combat the spread of the virus. These include wearing a face covering, cleaning hands often, observing physical distance, staying home when sick, sanitizing surfaces, practicing self-care, and completing the daily screening. The university promotes frequent and varied reminders on campus and social media encouraging these behaviors. Seitz said she hopes to publish the team’s findings in the future. Whether aiding students to become better science communicators, educating the public about the harms of opioid misuse or stressing the importance of mask wearing during a pandemic, Seitz’s efforts demonstrate her field’s important role in creating more effective communication campaigns.



MSU College of Arts and Sciences adds first endowed faculty fellowship honoring Professor Emeritus Charles L. Wax By Sarah Nicholas

Mississippi State’s new Dr. Charles L. Wax Endowed Climatology Faculty Fellowship will benefit meteorology and climatology faculty within the university’s Department of Geosciences thanks to a donation by former MSU student Bruce Thomas, the chief meteorologist for the News-Press Gazette TV station in Saint Joseph, Missouri, and a consultant for Weather2020, a predictive weather modeling platform. A $100,000 gift to the MSU Foundation by Thomas establishes the College of Arts and Sciences fellowship in honor of Wax, a professor emeritus and former geosciences department head. One in three of today’s on-air broadcast meteorologists is a graduate of MSU’s nationally recognized broadcast meteorology program—which Wax helped establish in 1979 when he created and taught the first course, introduction to meteorology. He retired in 2013 after 35 years of service at MSU. He also served as the state climatologist for Mississippi for nearly 30 years. “One of the greatest pleasures a professor can have is to see their students use what they have learned to succeed in life,” Wax said. “Bruce has evolved into a highly successful and nationally known career meteorologist. I’m enormously proud of Bruce’s accomplishments, and I’m humbled by this honor he is bestowing on me and the Department of Geosciences.” Thomas said his recent gift recognizes Wax for his dedication



as state climatologist, to MSU’s geosciences department and in developing MSU’s meteorology program. “Climatology and meteorology are both truly important fields of study for the growing American and world populations, and he spent his life’s work in this field for the safety and betterment of mankind,” Thomas said. A Mississippi native, Thomas began his collegiate career at MSU at the age of 16, pursuing a major within the Department of Geosciences and was one of Wax’s first students in the 1970s. Throughout his two years at MSU, Thomas said Wax “took me under his wing and mentored me.” “I attribute my meteorology success and passion for the field to the influential impact Dr. Wax made on me as a student, and I know Dr. Wax’s impact within the meteorology field helped pave the way for thousands of other careers,” said Thomas. Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Rick Travis said, “This is what education is supposed to be about when we are doing our best job. Dr. Wax, thank you for being committed to your students for years and getting them on the right path. And Mr. Thomas, we appreciate what you have done in paying it forward for what Dr. Wax has meant in your life.” In addition to broadcast meteorology, Wax and his colleagues added a nationally respected operational meteorology program,

which today regularly places graduates with the National Weather Service, private consulting firms, military branches, educational programs and other venues. Beyond the classroom, Wax was active in a number of state, regional and national professional organizations, including the Mississippi Geographic Alliance and Association of American Geographers. He chaired the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southern Region Research Committee for Climatology in Agricultural Production and served as president of the American Association of State Climatologists. A Mississippi Delta Community College and Delta State University graduate, Wax completed master’s and doctoral degrees in physical geography at Louisiana State University. He joined what is now the MSU Department of Geosciences as an assistant professor in 1978 and served as department head from 1989 through 2001. During his career, Wax was honored by campus peers with an outstanding faculty award from the University Honors Council and a research award from the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. He was awarded the Robert E. Wolverton Legacy Award by CAS in 2016. Faculty recipients of the Dr. Charles L. Wax Endowed Climatology Faculty Fellowship will utilize resources throughout campus, including potential opportunities with the MSU High Performance Computing Collaboratory to promote future weather and climate research. A committee comprised of the geosciences department head, CAS dean and MSU provost will select the recipients, with the first to be named later this year. At the time Thomas began his educational career at MSU, the land-grant university did not offer a degree program in broadcast meteorology. Therefore, Thomas completed a bachelor’s degree in broadcast meteorology from Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado, and he pursued postgraduate studies at Texas A&M University while serving as the local television weatherman for nearly a decade in Central Texas. He has served as a marketing meteorologist and national spokesperson for Midland Radio Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri, and as president of the National Weather Association. He is an active member of the American Meteorological Society, where he holds the designation of Certified Broadcast Meteorologist. Thomas is married to Ann Macaulay Thomas and has two daughters, Betty and Tori. Betty was a presidential scholar at MSU and earned her bachelor’s degree in agribusiness in 2018 and a master’s degree in agricultural economics in 2020. Tori is a Kansas State University graduate. The Dr. Charles L. Wax Endowed Climatology Faculty Fellowship is an open fund with the MSU Foundation. To contribute to the fund, contact Sara Frederic, CAS director of development, at 662-325-3240 or email Donations may be mailed to: MSU Foundation, Inc., Attention: Sara Frederic, P.O. Box 6149, Mississippi State, MS 39762.

Mr. Bruce Thomas

Dr. Charles L. Wax



College of Arts and Sciences 2020 Faculty Award Winners During a virtual fall faculty meeting November 12, the College of Arts and Sciences announced four new recipients of the Dean’s Eminent Scholar Awards honoring “exceptionally meritorious faculty who have achieved national recognition and enhanced the quality and stature of academic programs.” “It is one of the personal highlights of my year when I get to present these awards on behalf of the Dean’s Office. They are all worthy recipients,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Rick Travis as he recognized the 2020 winners.

JOHN E. FORDE professor of communication, received the

Phil and Kari Oldham Faculty Mentor Award

Dean’s Eminent Scholar in Mathematics/ Natural/Physical Sciences

ANDREW F. LANG associate professor and graduate coordinator for the history department, was named the

JULIUS A. NUKPEZAH an assistant professor of public policy and administration, is this year’s

Beverly B. and Gordon W. Gulmon Dean’s Distinguished Professor


RINAT I. GABITOV associate professor of geosciences, is this year’s


Dean’s Eminent Scholar in the Social and Behavioral Sciences

Top row, left to right: Breelyn Davenport, Sydney Wicks, Meg Walker, Cailin Sims, Kirsten Smith, Ashley Thompson, Taylor Nanni, Ava Richardson, Ellen Currie

Second row, left to right: Megan Hanna, Kathryn

College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors As Mississippi State University’s largest and most diverse academic college, the College of Arts and Sciences seeks to faithfully and accurately represent the wide-ranging interests and concerns of its students. The College of Arts and Sciences Ambassadors (CASA), comprised of undergraduate representatives from the college’s 14 academic departments, seek to serve that purpose as a connection between the students in the college and the college’s administration. CASA represents the College of Arts and Sciences to current and prospective students. Serving alongside representatives from their home departments, the ambassadors assist at recruitment events to relay how they have discovered their path to success through the College of Arts and Sciences. Our students serve as mentors to incoming students by staying in contact with prospective students, helping them discover future opportunities as Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Slaughter, Lauren Bowlin, Vesilla Dao, Javad A’arabi, Ginni Gray, John Payne, Ainsley Gordon, Kyle Barron

Third row, left to right: Haley Palmer, JaKara Singleton, Macy McDaniel, Olivia Emmich, Lizzie Bowman, Cole O’Donnell, Mary Katherine Miller, Maeve Rigney, Maggie Shepherd

Hannah Bateman, Admissions Coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

During these unprecedented times, our ambassadors continued to prove they are among the best of the best in the College of Arts and Sciences. The ambassadors always work diligently to serve all communities within the college, and they continued to do that during one of their most challenging semesters in college. They are resilient, to say the least. The ambassadors stepped up to help prospective students, and each other, while they themselves were struggling to stay afloat in 2020. Needless to say, I am proud to serve as their advisor. Due to safety measures, they were not able to take their annual group photo, but I think the collage of their submitted photos represents them perfectly, showing they always have a smile on their faces.

Fourth row, left to right: Sofia Alvarez, Emily Chappell, Yuliya Gluhova, Carly Ferrell, Matthew Figgins, Gabbi Ferreri, Tatu Taylor, Paige Perryman, Alex Forbes



Giving + Getting the most from your assets When most people think about making a charitable gift, they think of giving cash. While we welcome gifts of many kinds to help support Mississippi State University, there are ways you can give and benefit from a gift of other assets.

• • • • •

You can avoid paying capital gains tax if you give appreciated assets. You will receive a charitable deduction for your gift which can lower your tax bill. You can make a gift today while preserving your cash for immediate or future needs. You and your family can receive benefits such as lifetime income. You may be able to make greater gifts than you ever thought possible.

For more information on how you can give and get the most from your assets, contact the MSU Foundation Office of Gift Planning. MSU is an AA/EEO university.

Wes Gordon, Director of Gift Planning (662) 325-3707 |

Phi Beta Kappa Mississippi State University became the 287th U.S. college or university to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in April 2019 with the installation of the Gamma of Mississippi Chapter. Installations of new chapters occur only every three years and follow an intensive, multi-year application and evaluation process that includes two rounds of data collection and a visit from members of the Phi Beta Kappa Committee on Qualifications. Among the criteria reviewed are the university’s educational rigor in the arts and sciences, governance structure, faculty excellence, demonstrated commitment to academic freedom, and institutional dedication to liberal arts education. The nation’s most prestigious academic honors society was founded in 1776, and its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought, and recognize academic excellence. Phi Beta Kappa inductees are among the top 10 percent of their graduating class who have completed a broad range of liberal arts and sciences coursework, including foreign language study and mathematics. 2021 PBK selections will be announced at the end of the spring semester. Please check back with the College of Arts and Sciences for updates.



dean’s executive advisory board members The mission of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Executive Advisory Board is to provide leadership and support to the dean by utilizing individual skills, financial resources, teamwork, and diversity to strengthen the academic infrastructure, faculty and facilities of the college and university.

Back Row (from left to right): Dr. Bill Hulett, Dr. Kirk Reid, Dr. John Rada, Dr. Fred Corley, Hunter “Ticket” Henry, Malcolm Lightsey, Dr. David Wigley, and Dr. Randy White Front Row (left to right): Dr. Ralph Alewine, Hank Johnston, Dr. Karen Hulett, Dr. Larry Grillot, Cindy Stevens, Laurie Williams (Chair), and Llana Smith Not Pictured: Dr. Thomas Wiley, Jr. Because of COVID-19, a 2020-2021 group photo was not taken. Tommie Cardin and Bob Bowen also are members of the Dean’s Executive Advisory Board.





Thank you Alumni and Friends It was supposed to be the year where everything came into in to support the college advancement fund. Their swift focus—2020—perfect vision and a clear outlook. Though

act allowed our dean to identify areas of immediate need to

not as anticipated, I believe this assumption came to fruition.

ensure our students, faculty and staff had what they needed

There are a few words that always will be etched in my mind

to thrive throughout the uncertain times and future.

when reflecting on 2020: Helpless. Action. Helpless. Hope.

Weeks went by and I found myself drifting back to a

Helpless. Encouraged. Helpless. Admiration. Helpless. Pride. hopeless state of mind, yearning for face-to-face contact Though many positive moments occurred, watching many of

with our many supporters. I tried to connect through phone

us experience the hardships and challenges proved difficult.

calls, text messages, email, FaceTime, Zoom, WebEx—any

But even in these darker times, the beauty and happiness

method of communication I could utilize. Through these

shines brighter.

phone calls, I found hope—especially after visiting with

I remember receiving the call to shelter in place for our

Judge Gus and Mrs. Chris Colvin. We discussed their giving

safety on March 13, 2020, as I sat on my living room floor

to the College of Arts and Sciences, the library and campus

staring at my computer. These new uncertain terms left me in beatification throughout the years, and they committed disarray, and even more so for my family, alumni and friends.

to continue giving during these unique times. The Colvins

While staring at that blank screen of my laptop, I sank with

gave me hope. Not only did they support the college, but

sympathy. I thought of those I have not seen in weeks and

they supported other important areas through campus that

of how everyone else would hold up during the shutdown.

needed the additional assistance to continue to succeed.

Before conjuring another negative thought, our College

I found encouragement as the Spring 2020 semester came

of Arts and Sciences alumni and friends jumped in to offer

to an end. All the moving parts to get everything online, keep

support. My phone started ringing with our loyal donors

everyone safe and continue to find some sort of normalcy

wanting to know how they could step in to support our

came to a close. I was encouraged by all of the faculty

students, faculty and staff during these difficult times. I will who worked all hours of the day and night to ensure their never forget the heartfelt gratitude and hope I felt from

students made it through the semester. I was encouraged by

hearing their kind voices. I remember thinking there was no

all the graduates who made it to the finish line with a huge

match to the dedication to those supporting the College of

hurdle thrown at them in the middle of their final year. I

Arts and Sciences. Action trumped woe. I will never forget

was encouraged by all the staff finding ways to log on and

Drs. William and Karen Hulett, who immediately jumped

assist others throughout campus to maintain some sort of

normalcy in a very abnormal time. I was encouraged by our

keep a smile on my face, and it is all because of your

communication, recruiting and development team in creating

unwavering compassion, support and generosity eroding the

graduation messages for our graduates to let them know how

feeling of helplessness day by day. When I think of everyone

proud we are of their many accomplishments, academic

who stepped in during the hard times to deliver prosperity

successes and reaching their academic goals.

and hope, I’m filled with unspeakable joy, pride and gratitude.

The technological ingenuity amazed me—Zoom, WebEx

As we continue to navigate the times, and you begin listing

and other similar modes of communication allowed me

places you want to visit, I hope our campus tops the list! We

to connect to people virtually to fill the need for personal

would love to host you for a campus visit while adhering to all

connection. I’m beyond thankful for this innovative

safety precautions. Come see how much campus continues

technology opening doors for more interactive visits. It made

to grow and flourish. My favorite part of a campus visit is

a positive impact and continues to do so.

seeing the university through your eyes. We look forward to

Zoom provided the opportunity to visit with Bruce

having the opportunity to visit with you soon, whether on

Thomas for the first time. What an incredible experience

campus or closer to you. In the meantime, please be safe and

that continues to be! Bruce’s dynamic, upbeat and positive know that you all make a tremendous impact on the college, outlook proved refreshing amidst these times. Bruce reached

Mississippi State University and on me.

out after reading a feature story on Dr. Charles Wax, former

As I close, I want to recognize the many alumni and

department head of geosciences, in the Alumnus magazine.

friends we lost this year. The list is longer than I can bare. To

On the Zoom call, he mentioned how Dr. Wax impacted his

the families of lost loved ones, not a day goes by that I do

life when he was a freshman at Mississippi State University not think of you all. I consider myself blessed to have had at age 16. Bruce felt forever changed by Dr. Wax’s influence. the opportunity to visit with those who passed. Please know It was on this call that the College of Arts and Sciences

their legacy continues here at Mississippi State University,

received its first faculty fellowship opportunity—in honor of

especially within the College of Arts and Sciences. All my

Dr. Charles Wax in the Department of Geosciences. Such

love to you all.

an incredible opportunity for the college and a great tribute to Dr. Wax. Through Zoom, Bruce delivered the good news to Dr. Wax himself—with a few fans cheering him on! What


an amazing moment in this year of uncertainty that proves beauty still exists in this madness. As we enter 2021, I often reflect on 2020 and still remember the helplessness I felt on a daily basis. If I am honest, it still occurs to date. Then I think of our alumni and friends and

Sara Jurney Frederic ’08, ’10, ’11 Director of Development College of Arts & Sciences

find myself overwhelmed with pride. The positive moments



COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES DONOR LIST The following list includes our generous alumni and friends who supported the college

Petroleum Experts, Inc.

Mr. Ray L. Bellande

Dr. Erin Jaye Holmes

Dr. Gavin P. Thompson and Mr. Kinsey

Dr. Shaffer

Dr. and Mrs. Hubert H. Parker IV

Mrs. Laurie R. Williams

Flight Attendant Medical Research Center

Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation Dr. Fred Corley Ms. Margaret W. Molleston BBB Foundation The Annie E. Casey Foundation Partnership for Clean Competition Dr. and Mrs. Alewine Mr. and Mrs. Lightsey

MSU Donor-Advised Fund Program OCH Regional Medical Center Mrs. Eileen Carr-Tabb Mr. and Mrs. Colvin Noble Research Institute, LLC Mr. Maury Shurlds

Dr. and Mrs. Gerald A. Emison Oak Ridge Associated Universities Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson P. Skelton Dr. Gary L. Permenter Drs. Carraway Mr. and Mrs. F. Ewin Henson, III Mr. Steven L. Mayo

Russell Sage Foundation

Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy

Dr. and Mrs. White

Drs. Richard and Patricia Weddle

Mr. and Mrs. Geolot

Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation

Ms. Anna Minor Grizzle

Mrs. Alice Carol Caldwell

McClaren Resources Inc.

Kimberly-Clark Foundation Inc

Mr. Michael C. Pace

Mr. and Mrs. Richard J. Lenz

Mr. and Mrs. Sowell

Drs. Timothy and Grace Shumaker

Mr. Homer F. Wilson, Jr.


Mr. and Mrs. Henry E. Johnston

Governor Haley Barbour and Mrs. Marsha D. Barbour

Fidelity Charitable Dr. and Mrs. Larry R. Grillot Cotton Incorporated Mr. and Mrs. Tommie S. Cardin Dr. John Rada and Ms. Llana Smith Mr. John H. Richards, Jr.

Dr. and Mrs. Behr

Rosemore Family Foundation Inc.

Mr. and Mrs. Calvin D. Johnson Mr. Chester A. Tapscott, III Drs. Wigley and Dr. Dana L. Fox Drs. Thomas The Borum Family Health Clinic Mr. Everett T. Culpepper Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey B. Conrad Dr. and Mrs. Barry W. Herring Mr. and Mrs. John A. Cohen Dr. and Mrs. John D. Davis, IV Dr. McDonald Mr. Anding Fan Dr. and Mrs. Ferguson Dr. Nancy Hargrove Mr. and Mrs. Jack M. Harris Dr. Everette I. Howell, Jr. Konstantin Family Foundation Mr. and Mrs. McWhirter

Mr. and Mrs. Guyton

Student Members of The American Chemical Society at MSU

The G. V. Sonny Montgomery Foundation

Dr. Austin & Mrs. Iris Boggan Estate

Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd A. Solomon

Dr. and Mrs. McAdory

Drs. Karen and William Hulett

Mr. and Mrs. Barker

Mr. and Mrs. Rowatt

Exxon Education Foundation

Mrs. Jeanne Boykin

American Endowment Foundation

Ms. Cynthia Stevens and Mr. Linwood Cotman

Mr. and Mrs. Brann

Dr. Mitchell E. Berman

Dr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Byrd

Dr. and Mrs. R. Kirk Reid

Mrs. Dunnell

Mr. and Mrs. Mahne


Mr. and Mrs. Johnson

Mr. and Mrs. William E. Covington, III

Dr. and Mrs. Harris

American Chemical Society


Ms. Carol J. Levy

Raymond James Charitable

Monika Dunlap Language Scholarship Fund

Mr. and Mrs. William D. Vanderbrink Mr. and Mrs. Yarborough Mr. and Mrs. Keith L. Young Dr. and Mrs. Zhou The Benevity Community Impact Fund

Dr. Sue C. Lauderdale

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

Dr. and Mrs. Douglas H. Taylor

Dr. and Mrs. Byron Clay May

Creek Run L.L.C. Environmental Engineering

Mr. and Mrs. William E. May

Dr. and Mrs. Richard C. Raymond

Lt. Col. Daniel P. McCutchon

Mr. and Mrs. McRae

Dr. and Mrs. Walter E. Phillips, Jr.

Dr. Yancy B. McDougal

Mr. John W. Nelson

Mr. Richard C. Nourse, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. Melvin McKinney

Ms. Sally Agrawal

Mrs. Lori Westphal Cook

Mr. Barry G. McMullan

Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bograd

Ammons Solutions LLC

Mrs. Jane S. McNeill

Dr. Ferita P. Carter

Mr. Ladarion D. Ammons

Ms. Carolyn C. Meaders

Mrs. Carol T. Dean

Ms. Deidra Anderson-White, Ph.D

Colonel and Mrs. Muirhead

Dr. and Mrs. Howell C. Garner

Dr. B. Dean Williams. DDS

Mrs. Christine B. Murray

Ms. Laura Hardin

Mr. and Mrs. James L. Bailey

Mr. and Mrs. Steven R. Nash

Mr. Jeffrey W. Hardy

Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Barrick

Mr. and Mrs. David Rayel O’Brien

Mr. and Mrs. Louis M. Jurney

Dr. and Mrs. Kyle S. Bateman

Mr. and Mrs. Stanley S. Owen

Mrs. Parker Smythe Kline

Mr. and Mrs. Richard K. Bell

Mr. and Mrs. Howard E. Patrick

Mr. and Mrs. Cinclair May

Mr. Stanley K. Burt

Ms. Christina M. Ramazani

Dr. Giselle T. Munn and Dr. Ian A. Munn

Dr. and Mrs. Richard Carter, Jr.

Ms. Adelle Reynolds

Dr. and Mrs. Kelly R. O’Neal Jr.

Mr. Jenner L. Collins

Mr. Richard M. Reynolds, II

Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Owens, Jr.

Dr. and Mrs. Robert L. Conn

Mr. Robert R. Roberts, Jr.

Mrs. Valerie Musick Park

Ms. Kelly Costeira

Dr. Jackie Rowland

Mr. Erik A. Proseus

Mrs. Sarah E. Danishefsky

Mr. James S. Rowles

Mr. and Mrs. Rule

Mr. Henry W. Darden, Jr. and Mrs. Carolyn V. Darden

Dr. Kathryn L. Sigurnjak

Mr. Nathan H. Elmore Dr. and Mrs. Edward E. Rigdon Mr. and Mrs. James Buckley, Jr. Ms. Nellwyne B. Hurowitz Dr. and Mrs. Chun Fu Su Mr. and Mrs. Holloway Dr. Diane E. Wall Dr. and Mrs. Edward J. Clynch Dr. Peter L. Corrigan Ms. Nancy P. Farmer Abbvie Foundation Agilent Technologies Foundation Ms. Kathleen Bond Dr. Charles D. Borum Dr. and Mrs. Leon L. Combs Mr. and Mrs. William B. Conway Dr. and Mrs. Paul G. Dixon First Presbyterian Church Mrs. Cynthia R. Greeley Mr. and Mrs. John W. Green, Jr. Miss Lee M. Hilliard Mr. and Mrs. James. C. Jenkins III Dr. and Mrs. Gordon E. Jones Lyondell Chemicals Company Mr. and Mrs. Julius McIlwain Mr. Charles J. Morris, Jr. Ms. Susan C. Palmer Mr. and Mrs. Michael L. Presley Mr. Stuart D. Roy Siemens Foundation Mr. Mark Sivik Mr. Nicholas K. Thompson Mr. and Mrs. Harold D. Walker III Dr. and Mrs. Alex G. Waterson Dr. and Mrs. Donald Q. Weaver Mr. Simmons and Ms. Gibson Mr. and Mrs. Kevin S. Hughey Dr. Sara E. Morris Mr. and Mrs. Gardner Mr. and Mrs. Speyerer Ms. Emily H. Sherman Drs. Davenport Mrs. Page D. Dickerson Dr. Skipper and Mr. Dong Mr. and Mrs. Theron V. Griffin

Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd G. Digby Mr. and Mrs. Robert K. Barnett Ms. Wendy L. Creel Dr. and Mrs. W. Lawrence Croft Col. Jeffery L. Donald Mr. Vance S. Durbin Ms. Julie S. Fleming Drs. Forde Dr. and Mrs. Charles Guyton Mr. and Mrs. White Gan Jee Mr. and Mrs. Norman L. Lanier Dr. and Mrs. David C. May Mr. and Mrs. Dennis F. Mobley Drs. Puryear Ms. Marcia Sanders Drs. Randolph and Gwen Stone Mr. Eddie Thames, Jr. Dr. David O. Wipf Dr. Willie H. Gunn Mr. and Mrs. Kirk C. Shaw Willie Howard Gunn, Attorney-at-Law Desoto County Schools Mr. and Mrs. Rybolt Mr. Earl B. Brand, Jr. Drs. C. James and Ruth J. Haug Ms. Ellen Rose H. Nichols Social Services Institute, LLC

Mr. and Mrs. Jud Skelton

Ms. Karen Davenport

Mrs. Ann Ardahl Smith

Honorable and Mrs. Jerry Davis Mr. and Mrs. George and Laura Dunn Mrs. Kayla E. Farris

Col. and Mrs. Jerry A. Thomas

Ms. Jacqueline A. Finch

Ms. Doris A. Thompson

Mr. and Mrs. Tom H. Fisher

Mrs. Amanda Jones Tollison

Ms. Jessica J. Foltin

Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Tomenchok, Jr.

Mr. Terry G. Freeze, Jr.

Mr. John E. Walker, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. Jonathon M. Geroux Dr. Glasgow and Mr. David L. Brown

Mrs. Barbara J. L. Hamilton Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas J. Hansen Mr. and Mrs. Danny Earl Hardin Dr. and Mrs. Donald Harlan Mr. Elbert R. Hilliard Mr. and Mrs. John P. Jaap, Jr. Mrs. Rebecca Harbor Jones Mrs. Tish A. Jones Mr. and Mrs. William Jones, III

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Stepansky Mr. and Mrs. Kyle T. Steward

Mr. Thomas W. Fewel

Dr. Marion C. Grubbs, Sr.

Ms. Jonnie A. Smith

Mrs. Lisa M. Wallace Mr. and Mrs. William S. Watkins Mr. Zachary L. Wible Dr. and Mrs. Cyril Wierengo, Jr. Mr. Caleb E. Zumbro Gamma Theta Upsilon Mr. Stephen and Mrs. Sara Frederic Ms. Jennifer C. Dominguez Mr. and Mrs. Allan Forbes Ms. Lauren E. Roberts Drs. Marc and Holli Seitz

Mr. Stanley King

Dr. Sherman-Morris and Mr. John A. Morris

Mrs. Brandilyn M. Bates-Langley

Mr. and Mrs. Clayton L. Williams

Dr. Katherine A. LeJeune

Mr. and Mrs. Stephen R. Kifer

Ms. Zheng Li

Dr. and Mrs. Cornell M. Ladner

Dr. Diane Roberts

Ms. Lisa N. Robinson

Mr. and Mrs. David Madison, Jr.



Lieutenant Colonel and Mrs. Robert W. Rooker

Mr. and Mrs. W. Jackson Jr.

Dr. Lee E. Williams, II

Mr. Andrew G. Fortune

Dr. Nusrat Jahan

Ms. Pat L. Williams

Mr. and Mrs. Wesley P. Gordon

Mr. Lincoln Kern

Mr. and Mrs. Ross H. Williams

Ms. Suzanne L. Greer

Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Kleckley

Ms. Lane Williams-Hoggard

Mr. and Mrs. John Holliday, Jr.

Mr. David L. Love, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Conrad

Ms. Mary E. Huddleston

Colonel Cynthia Miles

Mr. Jordan Andrew Dressman

Ms. Sarah A. Jolly

Dr. Debra A. Moore

Mr. Chevy C. Fondren

Mr. and Mrs. Steven Killen

Mr. and Mrs. William R. Morgan

Mr. Devonte C. Gardner

Dr. and Mr. King

Mrs. Heather Notvest

Mr. and Mrs. Billy B. Wilemon, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. Peter Larsen

Major and Mrs. Tommie Ray, Jr.

Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Dressman

Dr. Terrence Daniel Likes

Mr. and Mrs. Henry E. Roberson

Mr. Clayton S. Allen

Ms. Sara E. McAdory

Mr. and Mrs. Perry V. Cupples

Dr. Lorelynn M. Rux

Mr. Terrance D. Smith

Mr. William K. McBeath, III

Mr. and Mrs. Timothy C. Dalrymple

Mr. and Mrs. Ryan P. Semmes

Mr. Jeremy M. Thornton

Mr. and Mrs. Aelxander W. McIntosh

Mr. Joshua R. Dillingham

Mr. Arville O. Slaughter

Dr. and Mr. Toby Gray

Mr. Thomas A. Migliano

Ms. Dianna N. Dollar

Dr. Dennis W. Smith, Jr.

Mr. Kevin B. Bailey

Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Minor

Mrs. Amanda B. Garza-Douglas

Ms. Sabrina A. Smith

Mr. Alex Gomez

Ms. Shanna K. Moser

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Farris, III

Dr. and Mrs. Martin E. Smithers

Mr. Jonathan L. Jackson

Ms. Domenique M. Pirocchi

Ms. Tanya K. Finch

Ms. Julie L. Stapp

Ms. Hilda Karla Ramos Queiroz

Ms. Virginia L. Thompson Reily

Mr. and Mrs. Harry R. Flowers

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Stewart Jr.

Mr. Bryan K. Washington

Mrs. Shenorva L. Ritchie

Mr. John O. Ganes

Mr. Tyler N. Temple

Ms. Jennifer L. Barnette

Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey R. Roberts

Mrs. Linda R. Grafton

Ms. Shelby R. Thompson

Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Carpenter

Ms. Gail P. Ruga

Mr. and Mrs. Ben L. Green, III

Ms. Chi B. Tran

Mrs. Sarah P. Yates

Ms. Amie L. Kirk

Mr. Jason S. Hampton

Dr. Heather A. West

Mr. David Clayton

Mr. and Mrs. Albert R. Wilbourn

Dr. and Mrs. James W. Hardin

Dr. Grady M. White

Dr. and Mrs. Skye C. Cooley

Mr. and Mrs. Glen E. Williams

Mr. and Mrs. Joshua P. Hopson

Ms. Arleatha Williams

Mr. Jordan E. Darensbourg

Ms. Kaitlyn S. Thomas Mr. Steven W. Andrews Mr. and Mrs. David W. Banks Mr. Jonathan K. Barden Shelby and Matthew Basler Ms. Mary E. Benincasa Mr. James L. Boomgarden Mr. and Mrs. Larry N. Brown Classical Association of the Middle West and South

Department Heads & Directors Aerospace Studies – Lieutenant Colonel Megan Loges African American Studies –Director Donald M. Shaffer, Jr. Anthropology & Middle Eastern Cultures – Department Head Hsain Ilahiane Biological Sciences – Department Head Angus Dawe Chemistry – Department Head Dennis Smith Classical & Modern Languages and Literatures – Department Head Peter L. Corrigan Communication – Department Head Terry Likes English – Department Head Daniel Punday Gender Studies – Director Kimberly Kelly General Liberal Arts – Advisor Tracy Britt General Science – Advisor R. Torsten Clay Geosciences – Department Head John C. Rodgers History – Department Head Alan I. Marcus



Interdisciplinary Studies – Academic Coordinators Tracy Britt, Emily Cain and Kasondra Harris Mathematics & Statistics – Department Head Mohsen Razzaghi Military Science – Lieutenant Colonel Jason R. Posey MSU Meridian – Division Head of Arts and Sciences Richard V. Damms Philosophy & Religion – Department Head Robert Thompson Physics & Astronomy – Department Head Mark A. Novotny Political Science & Public Administration – Department Head P. Edward French Psychology – Department Head Mitchell Berman Sociology –Department Head Nicole Rader Cobb Institute –Director Jimmy Hardin Institute for the Humanities – Director Julia Osman John C. Stennis Institute of Government – Executive Director Joseph “Dallas” Breen

PROMOTIONS Department Name Promotion Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures.......Shane Miller.................................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Biology.....................................Heather Jordan............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Biology.....................................Vincent Klink.............................................Promotion to Full Professor Chemistry.................................Keith Hollis................................................Promotion to Full Professor Chemistry.................................Colleen Scott...............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Chemistry.................................Deb Mlsna...................................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures....Salvador Bartera..........................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures....Kelly Moser.................................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Communication......................Melody Fisher.............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure English......................................Eric Vivier....................................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Geosciences.............................Christopher Fuhrmann.............Promotion to Associate with Tenure Geosciences.............................Adam Skarke...............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure History......................................Andrew Lang.................................................................................... Tenure Mathematics and Statistics....Tung-Lung Wu............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure

We Want Your News!

Philosophy and Religion.......Kristin Boyce...............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Philosophy and Religion.......Alicia Hall....................................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Philosophy and Religion.......Anthony Neal.........................................(early) Promotion to Associate Physics and Astronomy.........Lamiaa El Fassi...........................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Physics and Astronomy.........Gautam Rupak...........................................Promotion to Full Professor Political Science and Public Administration............James Chamberlain....................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Sociology..................................Rachel Allison.............................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Sociology..................................Kenya Cistrunk...........................Promotion to Associate with Tenure Sociology..................................Margaret Hagerman...................Promotion to Associate with Tenure


As the largest college on campus, it is our privilege to showcase all that it has to offer. In order to do that, we need your assistance. Past issues have featured outstanding accomplishments of faculty, students, alumni, and organizations—their accomplishments, awards, and how each is making a difference on campus and in the community. If you have something that should be included, please send it to us!

Rich Lyons.............................................................................................................Department of English Robert “Bob” Wolverton.......... Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literatures Brenda Kirkland.......................................................................................... Department of Geosciences Bill Cooke..................................................................................................... Department of Geosciences Michael Neumann ............................................................. Department of Mathematics and Statistics


Send an e-mail or letter to: Karyn Brown

Director of Communication Mississippi State University College of Arts & Sciences P.O. Box AS Mississippi State, MS 39762

Wendy Herd – Department of English



Post Office Box AS Mississippi State, MS 39762

Mailing Address: Post Office Box AS Mississippi State, MS 39762

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