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T H E M A G A Z I N E O F T H E M I S S I S S I P P I S TAT E U N I V E R S I T Y C O L L E G E O F B U S I N E S S • 2 0 1 9

IDEAS Are Percolating...


Dean’s Welcome I

t is hard to believe this is my ninth year as Dean of the MSU College of Business, and every year gets better. This past year, we expanded our footprint into downtown Starkville with

the opening of the Idea Shop, featured on p. 80. Program Coordinator Michael Lane and his staff of E-Center students have hosted several events for the community, including the iCreate Camp and the “TalladeGourd 500” charity fundraiser! The Turner Wingo Maker Studio in the Idea Shop has drawn the attention of students, staff and the community. As we brand the College under the umbrella of entrepreneurship and innovation, our Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) continues to grow. Several companies have received funding from the Bulldog Angel Network. Student business Rocketing Media swept the 2019 SEC Student Pitch Competition – winning first place in every category! In the area of outreach, we hosted the Golden Triangle Lemonade Day, with more than 200 lemonade stand entries by local children.

We have seen a great deal of transformation in the College with the renovations of the Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law Suite and the newly named Dora Rose Herring Accountancy Suite in the Adkerson School of Accountancy. We are also moving the MBA lounge and giving the new space a complete makeover. As for enrollment, last fall we surpassed 3,000 for the first time in history, and the fall 2019 semester started with more than 3,200 students! Last year we also launched the MBA Venture Pathway (MVP) program – featured on p. 30 – for high achieving nonbusiness majors. To end my letter, it is only appropriate to acknowledge the passing this year of three giants in the history of the MSU College of Business – Dean William C. Flewellen, Mr. William Simmons and Dean Harvey Lewis. Dean Flewellen served as the Dean of the College of Business from 1961 to 1968, when he moved to the University of Georgia, remaining there until retirement in 1989. While I never had the pleasure of knowing Dean Flewellen, his legacy lives on through both an endowed professorship and an endowed room in his honor. Mr. Bill Simmons was one of the powerhouses of the MSU Adkerson School of Accountancy. He was a beloved professor to thousands throughout his career. He was a gentle soul who loved MSU and his profession. In 2015, we honored him as one of 19 notable faculty members in the 100-year history of the College. His passing marks the end of an era – the end of the legendary accounting faculty who taught so many of you. Dean Harvey Lewis had a storied career at MSU as Department Head, Dean, Executive Director of the Foundation, Vice President for Administration and Development and Interim President. He retired in 1997 as Dean of our College, which grew significantly under his direction. A prince among men, he, too, loved MSU and regularly kept in touch. The Dr. Harvey S. Lewis Mezzanine on the second floor of McCool Hall’s Atrium was dedicated in his honor through the support of more than 30 contributors whose lives he impacted. We hope you enjoy the 2019 edition of Dividends. We’d love to see you when you’re in town, and please let us know about your achievements. You just might be featured in the next edition! Thank you for your continued support of the College of Business, and Hail State!

Sharon L. Oswald, Dean


Executive Advisory Board David P. Abney

contents Dividends is a publication of the College of Business at Mississippi State University | 2019

Boyce Adams, Sr.

2 Breaking New Ground(s)

Richard C. Adkerson

Madison Grant’s love for coffee has turned into a fast-growing business.

Drew Allen Marsha Blackburn Mary Childs William Anthony Clark James A. Coggin Cynthia Cooper

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Helen Currie Larry Favreau Linda M. Garrett Jan L. Gwin John M. Hairston John Hill

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Shawn Hunter Joe Iupe, Jr.

Don Mason Frank H. McWhorter, Jr. Lee Miller Mickey Milligan

14 A Degree Beyond Future business education and research are in good hands with our PhD students.

22 A Leg Up Jordan Henderson’s Brace Buddy will keep patients propped up. 26 Goals and Gifts Financial pro Stephen Buehler has found his gifts, and now he is sharing them. 30 Pathway to a Bright Future The College’s MVP program readies non-business undergrads to pursue MBAs. 34 Earning the Title Alumnus and CEO Mike McIlwain’s number one passion in business is fostering leaders.

Paul J. Karre Lewis F. Mallory, Jr.

10 The Spark of Leadership Ashley McLemore is well-known on campus for her leadership and inclusiveness.

18 Diversity Dawgs A new program prepares students for a diverse marketplace.

Thomas F. Darnell Haley R. Fisackerly

6 A Scholar in Security Professor Merrill Warkentin’s expertise in technology security is in demand worldwide.

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C.R. Montgomery Roderick A. Moore

38 Offering Solutions for Small Businesses The COB’s Family Business Education Initiative is helping Mississippi businesses thrive. 42 A Family Tradition For M.L. Waters, family, business and Mississippi State combine as cherished traditions. 46 A Big Payout The TVA Investment Challenge experience sets students apart for potential employers. 50 Jake Mangum: The Mayor Reflects on His Term in Starkville The baseball standout talks with Dividends about his time at Mississippi State.

Debrah Oberkirch Shirley Olson

54 Making a Difference Back Home Returning to her roots, Dr. Stacey McNeil gives back to a community that helped

Gee Gee Patridge Richard Puckett, Sr.

her grow.

R.L. Qualls

58 Shrinking the Digital Divide Technology created by MSU grads may be a game changer in expanding high-speed

Joe G. Rice, Jr. Ken B. Robinson

Internet access.

James Rouse

62 Couple Hits the Right Shot with PGA Program Gift Chad and Carrie Parker have combined two passions – golf and their alma mater.

William A. Taylor, III Cyndi A. Tucker

66 Tribute and Transformation The Adkerson School of Accountancy’s headquarters gets a new look and a new name.

Jimmy L. Walden

Loretta Walker Loyd “Aldie” Warnock

70 DueT Technology: A Cut Above A student business solves a problem that has frustrated barbers for decades.

M. L. Waters

74 The Science and Art of Business Valuation Professor Mike Highfield provides an overview of the stock price valuation process. 78 Investment Impact The Infinite Impact campaign is entering its final year.

Dividends is published by Tellōs, LLC. www.telloscreative.com

COVER: Many creative businesses are emerging at MSU. Several are featured inside, starting with jitterbean’s coffee on p.2.

80 Ideas in Store A new Idea Shop affords budding Starkville entrepreneurs a workshop and retail space.

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Breaking New Ground(s) By Emily Daniels ccording to Business Insider, coffee is the second most sought-after commodity in the world – second only to oil – with an industry that is worth more than $100 billion across the globe. On average, 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every year. Studies have shown that coffee – the miracle drink jumpstarting mornings for many people – is actually good for you, thanks to high levels of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients like riboflavin, potassium, magnesium and niacin. Not only can it help you feel more energized, burn fat and improve physical performance, it may also lower your risk of several conditions such as type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It’s even been shown that consuming your daily cup of joe can make you feel happier.

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Grant’s love for coffee has turned into a fast-growing business. Grant saw an opportunity to get in on the coffee craze, providing freshly roasted cups of happiness for the masses with her company, jitterbean’s coffee. The recent business administration graduate from Elberta, AL, admits that as a high schooler, her drink of choice was “basically creamer, with a splash of coffee.” Grant shares how her appreciation for non-diluted coffee finally came to pass. “Before transferring to Mississippi State, I attended Coastal Alabama Community College, because it was near my hometown,” says Grant. “By the first semester of my sophomore year, I had to take classes at two different campuses. Both were about 45 minutes away from home, so it didn’t make sense to go to class, drive home for an hour, then turn around and drive to the other campus every day.” One of the classes she had to take that semester was only offered in the evenings at the campus in Fairhope, AL. One day while Grant was waiting for class, a friend from home called her. “My friend was visiting Fairhope that day, and she said that she found this coffee shop across from campus and asked if I wanted to meet her,” recalls Grant. “So I walked into this coffee shop – Refuge Coffee – and the atmosphere was really cool! I knew nothing about coffee, so my friend talked me into an iced mocha because she said it kind of tasted like chocolate milk with espresso.” Soon Grant found herself going back every time she had class, becoming more adventurous with her drink orders each time she entered the door. “The baristas were so friendly, and they knew that I didn’t understand the coffee world, but they wanted to help me learn and introduce me to different drinks,” she says. “But what made their coffee so good was the fact that they focused on the quality of the bean and of the brew and the milk accenting it without having all these sweet sugars that totally drowned out that flavor,” she says. “You work so hard to roast a coffee bean…why would you add so much sugar that you can’t even taste it?” Photo by Logan Kirkland

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It’s no wonder that College of Business student entrepreneur Madison

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As she was sitting in her new favorite coffee shop one day, enjoying the atmosphere, Grant remembers wishing that she could take that atmosphere with her when she left. She had a light bulb moment. “I thought, ‘How fun would it be to have a food truck that was actually a mobile coffee shop?’” she recalls. “You could not only take the coffee to people, but also bring the atmosphere! I came home that night and shared the idea with my family. They thought it was a cool idea but weren’t sure how realistic it was because I didn’t have any money to start it, and I still didn’t know much about coffee at the time. But the idea stuck with me.” By May, Grant had earned an associate’s degree in business, and she set her sights on earning her bachelor’s in business at a four-year campus. After much deliberation and prayer, she found herself moving to Starkville as a transfer student at Mississippi State University.

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“I really only knew my roommate when I moved here, and so I decided to get involved on campus,” says Grant. “I got an email about some Entrepreneurship Club [eClub] meeting, and I thought it sounded interesting. I remember sitting in Dr. [Melissa] Moore’s marketing class, and she made a comment about the E-Center and how great it was.” She decided to go to the meeting at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) to find out what this was all about. After all, she was interested in entrepreneurship, and it was a place where she could meet people. “That night was ‘Pitch Night,’” she says. “Anyone could pitch an idea for a startup, and after selecting the top three ideas, the club would break into groups and work on them throughout the semester.” Grant decided to pitch her idea for the fun of it. She said her mobile coffee shop could be something on campus that would coincide with football tailgating and could eventually be franchised out to other SEC campuses. She had even come up with the perfect name – jitterbean’s. “Bean” not only referred to coffee beans but also to a nickname she earned from her dad when she was younger. That night, her idea was one of three selected. Over the next couple of months, Grant and her eClub partners, Caleb Lovejoy and Brandon Johns, came to the E-Center for help bringing their idea to life. There they learned about VentureCatalyst™, a comprehensive, co-curricular program where students and faculty can earn investor backing for start-ups. Pitching jitterbean’s as a roaming coffee service was enough to attain funding from the E-Center’s Peer Review Entrepreneurship Panel, but mobility wasn’t enough to earn full funding from the next review panel, the Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board (ECAB). After all, they didn’t even have coffee in their presentation. “After the presentation, Dr. Charles Freeman [ECAB board member and an Assistant Professor of Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising] came to us and said that he thought the idea was cool but our business model was all wrong,” she says. “He told us we needed to roast our own coffee beans. He said, ‘It’s not hard. I do it. You need a skillet, a grill and coffee beans.’ And he gave us a link to a website to purchase the beans.” So the team purchased everything, including a high-end coffee siphon, and met at Grant’s house. There they learned how to roast varieties of coffee beans, ranging from blonde to French. When the next ECAB meeting rolled around, she and her teammates were ready. They brought the beans they had roasted, and using a high-end siphon, made coffee during the presentation to serve to the board members. Their revised business model and improved product earned jitterbean’s full funding. “So, we built a website and started taking orders online,” she says. “We got an order for nearly

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40 bags, and it takes about 38 minutes to roast a single pound. There’s a lot of time spent roasting just one bag, so I wanted to be sure that people really were getting the best, premium coffee. We eventually decided to do that full time and leave the mobile coffee shop idea behind.” Later that year, the team had the opportunity to sell their product in the Idea Shop, an off-shoot of the E-Center located in downtown Starkville.

Business was already booming when the biggest opportunity came along. “Dr. Freeman was giving a tour of the Idea Shop to Todd Vowell, CEO of Vowell’s, a Mississippi grocery store, and he mentioned jitterbean’s and told our story. Todd loved the idea and offered to sell the product in their stores!” exclaims Grant. So what’s next for jitterbean’s? They recently started brewing jitterbean’s espresso at Arepas, a new Venezuelan restaurant and coffee bar in Starkville. And they are currently in talks with Kroger about selling their product.

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“After that, I got an email from James Jankowski with Aramark on campus, who asked if we would be interested in being the official coffee of State Fountain Bakery in the Union because they wanted to keep focusing on the community aspect of MSU, and we had a great story to tell,” she shares. “I had to get a bigger roaster.”

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Of course, you can always find jitterbean’s brewing where it all began – at MSU’s E-Center in McCool Hall.

Brandon Johns and Madison Grant (second and third from left) participated in the February ribbon cutting for the newly updated State Fountain Bakery. Photo by Logan Kirkland

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“One of the coolest things we are doing now is private labeling, where we roast customized blends for different companies to sell as their official coffee,” adds Grant. “We are already doing this for Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, and some others are in the works as well.”

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By Carolanne Roberts

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urn back the clock to late summer.

Obviously, this isn’t just any professor. He’s prolific, yes, but he also generates subject matter that is even more impressive than the quantity of his output. “It’s fascinating,” says Warkentin, the James J. Rouse Endowed Professor of Information Systems and a William L. Giles Distinguished Professor. “My field generates so many interesting research questions, which will keep me busy for years.” That field, essentially, is online security and privacy.

“It’s been interesting to have a front row seat as the Internet has developed,” explains the University of Nebraska alumnus. “When I finished my undergraduate degree in 1981, nobody had a computer on their desktop, let alone in their pocket. When I earned my master’s in 1983, the Internet was starting to have an impact – I wrote my first journal publication about the application of computer software. By the time I did my PhD in 1986, I was using an Apple II.” Early on, Warkentin saw threats lurking behind the excitement that surrounded the introduction of the Internet. “I don’t think anyone had an inkling of the many ways bad people could use technology for nefarious gains, but I did recognize the negative potential of it,” he says. “I published an article in 1992 in our top journal about security, based on some data we collected from companies in 1988 and 1989. The average person wasn’t using computers, but companies were. What we found

Photo by Megan Bean

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Add to that his more than 300 published manuscripts and his status as one of the 150 most cited information systems scholars globally, with 15,000 citations, and Warkentin clearly emerges as a leader in his field. Warkentin has also written seven books, is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Intellectual Capital and holds editorial roles at other journals. Last year, he was named a Distinguished Member for Outstanding Scientific Contributions to Computing by the Association for Computing Machinery – the first person in Mississippi ever to earn the honor.

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At this time, Dr. Merrill Warkentin had 19 articles under review at academic journals throughout the United States and abroad, with 15 more researched and nearly ready for submission to yet more publications. That’s a total of 34 in a short window – not unusual for Warkentin, but for many professors it would be record breaking.

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A Scholar in Security

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Warkentin is teaching the next generation of scholars in security and privacy behaviors. Photo by Megan Bean

was that most CEOs thought other companies were more vulnerable than they were. It’s called ‘optimism bias.’” Headlines and history have taken the edge off optimism bias; Warkentin’s research has led the way to insights at every juncture. “I look at the threat factors and what we do to attack those factors to make ourselves safer,” he explains. “Should you open certain emails or links? It’s no longer enough to suggest we all pick strong passwords.” He also studies human behavior as it relates to technology. “I’m working on ‘learned resignation’ projects,” he shares. “We’re doing research on why people develop apathy about their privacy. Another is about ‘herd behavior,’ things people do without thinking about them. Or how people pick passwords out of habit. “We study individuals. For instance, what kind of person is vulnerable? Our research shows that individuals who rank high on the agreeable/conscientiousness scale are likely to act in more secure ways. We look at social media questions like why some people are addicted to Facebook or why some users get very envious of others they see on Facebook.” At MSU, Warkentin works primarily with PhD and master’s students. “My students are interested in learning to creatively explore some of these research questions so we can have a firmer understanding of the more nuanced aspects of security and privacy behaviors,” he says. The program includes eight students – five on assistantship, two working full time for the University and one foreign student with financial support from his government – and five tenuretrack faculty members, as well as several other faculty. PhD candidates at times co-author articles with their professor.

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“Maybe the biggest part of my teaching is leading young minds down the path to becoming scholars,” he remarks. His teaching, however, extends beyond campus, as he shares his knowledge through international speaking engagements. In the coming months, he’ll travel to Montreal and Italy, among other destinations, to address conferences.

He adds that he has also worked in the field of national security, having consulted with NATO on certain topics. “I have a current project where we evaluate how the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Canada set policy to help their citizens be more secure,” he says. Warkentin’s work has received funding from NATO, the National Science Foundation, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security, IBM and others.

And who wouldn’t be happy living, as he and his wife do, on a lake where, he says, “We’re surrounded by water and Canada geese, bald eagles and nature – I love to watch the big thunderstorms roll in on the open sky with no trees to block the view.” Warkentin laughs, “Someone once said the best thing about being a full professor is that you get to choose which 70 hours you work a week. And I do work a lot, but I also make room for adventure.” He, for instance, has bungee-jumped three times, having recently jumped off the tallest building in New Zealand. He has enjoyed skydiving and whitewater rafting, and he flies his own Piper Cherokee aircraft. He shrugs off the notion of danger – after all, this is a professor who studies all manners of dangerous activity. “I reject the idea that these are daredevil things,” Warkentin says. “I have no death wish. I just like to have some excitement!” What he does back on campus is exciting too, and it leads us forward. When asked for practical guidance, Warkentin is happy to pluck from his arsenal of advice, based, of course, on his research. “The majority of people just aren’t cautious,” he begins. “They foolishly open attachments, click on links they shouldn’t and will answer their phone and reveal things they should never say. Part of our research has been to drill down to what types of individuals are more likely to exhibit this behavior, then see what we can do to mitigate it.” The need-to-know counsel he offers is scary but true: “Shields up! Be more careful. They’re out to get you. They really are.” Now go change those passwords, thanking our professor as you do.

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“I’ve lived in Boston and Washington [DC] and find everything is a trade-off,” he says of his career choices. “I could live someplace with an Ethiopian restaurant or a store that sells nothing but kites, but here I have a six-minute commute, there’s low crime and I can go home for lunch. I love my workplace. The people I work with are friendly – MSU is consistently one of the highestrated universities in terms of employee satisfaction – and we are treated with respect. I could go somewhere else and make more money, but I might not be as happy.”

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This all emanates from Starkville, MS, where the professor is in his 19th year of teaching and researching.

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“Most academic audiences are interested in how we study security phenomena, the research methods I use – which include collecting data through experiments, surveys and field studies – and any advice I can give individuals on their projects,” Warkentin says.

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The Spark of Leadership By Kirsten Shaw

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“It was hard to deny I liked the campus and was comfortable with the programs,” she recalls. “I knew I would major or minor in business and liked what I saw there. At the time, my mom worked in IT at the vet school, and that was a draw, too. It didn’t matter that it was only seven minutes from my house!” McLemore has never looked back, plunging into campus life and its myriad of opportunities. The junior finance major has emerged as a leader with a desire to help others. As a freshman, she was appointed by Student Association (SA) President Tyler McMurray to the SA Judicial Council, a position she will hold until graduation.

“We work at Academic Insight and Preview Days, and we have a list of prospective students we keep in touch with throughout the year by writing postcards, calling and texting,” she says. “Ambassadors also help with activities like alumni breakfasts and a community college honor society event, with campus visitors and speakers. We represent the College at organizational fairs. It’s a very fun group of students, too!” McLemore has also been a member of MSU’s University Women in Business for more than two years and this year serves as Vice President of Communications. In addition, she is a campus representative for the nonprofit Mississippi Votes, promoting voter registration and encouraging students to get involved politically. A longtime interest in politics has also led to McLemore’s first entrepreneurial venture. She is developing a business plan for an app called KnowVote. She has been matched up with an experienced student peer advisor from the MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, and she also receives guidance from her mother, who herself is an entrepreneur. “KnowVote will be a resource for new voters to educate them about candidates and basic political information,” McLemore remarks. “Sometimes it’s hard to find out a lot of information about the people who are running, especially in local elections. There can also be so much information that it’s hard for people to make decisions, so often they don’t vote at all.” Earlier this year, McLemore took on one of her biggest tasks yet. She became Director of the University’s SPARK – Students Paving a Road to Knowledge – program. SPARK is a July leadership conference held on campus, designed to assist underrepresented rising high school seniors in laying a foundation for their futures. It introduces them to various avenues available after high school and equips them with tools to choose a path and understand how to prepare for it. The Office of Admissions and Scholarships initiated the program in 2018, and McLemore was tapped then to serve on the executive board as Co-director of Outreach. When enrollment was higher than anticipated – about 200 – she was also recruited as a counselor for a group of 13 participants.

Photo by Megan Bean

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The enthusiastic Bulldog became an Ambassador for the College of Business during her sophomore year.

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“We work with elections to be sure the process aligns with the [Association’s] constitution,” she comments. “The less people need us the better, because it means people are doing their jobs and working within the rules. One of my biggest roles is to attend Senate meetings and make sure they’re run according to the constitution.”

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ike a lot of kids, Ashley McLemore envisioned going off to college somewhere different than where she grew up. Then, as a high school junior, the Starkville native attended a Preview Day on the Mississippi State campus.

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Hannah Whalum, one of those 13, told her, “You helped me realize that staying in Mississippi for college wasn’t a bad thing and that being in a different environment with different personalities allows for room to grow.” Interest in SPARK was even greater this year, with 343 attending. “Student leadership and involvement is the motor that makes SPARK go,” states Tabora Cook, Coordinator of Recruitment Activities for the Office of Admissions. “I knew that the student leading this group had to be someone who was passionate about underrepresented students and also passionate about the diversity of Mississippi State. Ashley provided both of those things, as well as the ability to organize and execute the thoughts and ideas of her peers who worked with the conference.” McLemore led a team of 23 MSU students in planning and producing the three-day conference, which is free for participants.

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“Each day has a theme: discover, develop, create,” McLemore says. “Formulating a plan is the overarching goal (for each participant).” Keynote speakers are tailored to each day’s focus. On “Discover Day” students also participate in a career assessment administered by the MSU Career Center to help identify their individual strengths and the types of careers where those qualities are needed. They hear “Real Talk” from a panel of Mississippi State students who discuss their own experiences, and they take part in activities that acquaint them with practical, necessary skills. “We have a program called ‘The Search’ where they go into the computer lab with a list of words to search for on college or career websites,” says McLemore. “It familiarizes them with important information to look for and where it is.” On “Develop Day,” participants begin to form their plans, learning more about the options available after high school. This year, they heard from a panel with speakers representing the military, Job Corps, community college, trade schools, university and post-graduate professional school. Personal development is also a focus, with games to build networking proficiency and awareness of life’s financial realities and even an etiquette luncheon. “Create Day” offers a range of tools to help students accomplish their plans. They attend an organization fair with representatives from campus organizations including academic colleges, Greek chapters, the Maroon Volunteer Center, Student Support Services, the Student Association and the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, and they hear a speaker from Get2College, which focuses on college planning and financial aid in Mississippi. They learn about maintaining good health and the impact it has. Reflecting on her own experience as a high school student, McLemore says, “Senior year in high school has a lot of moving parts. I didn’t realize how easy I had it. My uncle worked in the [MSU] admissions department when I was going through the application process, and my mom is an alum, so I could ask them questions. Working with SPARK, I’ve realized a lot of people are missing the resources that are out there. I’ve become a lot more empathetic and understanding of different points of view and experiences of students around Mississippi.” SPARK 2019 did not end with the July conference. The MSU student team continues to serve participants. “We’re paired with students during the conference and throughout the year following it,” McLemore says. “We keep in contact by phone and text to help with things like the college application process.” Noting her team continues to meet regularly, she adds, “We talk about important dates and deadlines to share with participants, and we share questions we’ve received from them and get the information needed to answer those questions.”

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McLemore (front, third from left) led a strong and enthusiastic SPARK team in 2019.

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SPARK invites participants back to campus for a reunion in the fall, coinciding with a campus Preview Day. They hear from speakers and meet with their student counselors to receive further help with post-high school planning and preparation. Adding another element this year is that the original SPARK class has graduated from high school. Some have enrolled at Mississippi State. “We’re making sure those who come here are still getting mentorship; if their original counselor graduated, we’ve paired them with someone new,” remarks McLemore. “Some have said they want to help with SPARK in the future.” As to her own future, she says, “Immediately after undergrad, I want to pursue a career in corporate finance, helping companies make financial decisions, then later perhaps pursue a career in law or government.”

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Photo courtesy of Ashley McLemore

Her MSU business education gives her confidence. “I like the way our curriculum is set up – that I get to take classes in all aspects of business,” she says. “It’s a nice foundation to build upon. I’ve met a lot of people, and I believe I’ve learned a lot of things that directly apply to what I’ll experience in the work force.” She predicts that she may work outside Mississippi for a time, but her goal is ultimately to return. “There are things I can help change in Mississippi,” she states. “I’d like to offer job opportunities for people here, to further advance and develop our state.” The bright young woman is appreciative of the experience she has gained at Mississippi State and knows it will provide a foundation for her aspirations. “I have grown as a leader, as a team player and as a person,” she observes. “I was involved in high school but never held leadership positions. Because I’ve had the opportunity to lead here, I’ve learned a lot about myself and working with others. Every action and activity will prepare me for my career and future. “The things I’ve done and the things I will do… I hope they all show that this is bigger than I am. I want to make other people better people as well. I want to share what I’ve learned and found, not only with Mississippi State students, but with the state of Mississippi.”

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A Degree Beyond By Kirsten Shaw

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r. Greg Bott is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama, where his primary teaching and research focus is cybersecurity. He teaches Applied Cybersecurity and Data Acquisition using Python. Before entering the PhD program, he worked for Microsoft Corporation as a Program Manager dealing with collaboration applications, then served as Chief Technology Officer for INC2inc, Dairy, LLC and Ideal Software Systems. While at Ideal, he also taught information systems courses at MSU-Meridian and discovered a passion for academia that led to the MSU PhD program.

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“The professors involved in the doctoral program are deeply committed to preparing their students to be well-equipped to produce high-quality, rigorous research,” Bott shares. “A key aspect is that they are highly productive in the research community. Everyone I graduated with from MSU is doing solid research in information systems and information security.”

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Bott’s dissertation focuses on privacy issues in the context of smartphones.

DR. GREGORY J. BOTT Business Information Systems Columbia, MO BA, Political Science, Washington University in St. Louis, 1989 MSc, Engineering (Software Engineering), University of Texas, 2006 PhD, Information Systems (Cybersecurity), Mississippi State University, 2017 Dissertation Chair: Dr. Merrill Warkentin Photos by Jaclyn Head and Beth Wynn

“Smartphone users reveal a great deal of personal information on their smartphones, and the traditional explanation is that they do so because of a deliberate evaluation of risk vs. benefit,” he says. “My dissertation challenges that assumption and introduces the idea of privacy resignation as a reason for disclosure of personal information. The ‘real world’ impact of this will hopefully be reflected in policies and regulations that protect the user from unfair data collection.” As an educator, Bott’s approach employs a variety of instruction methods because he understands students do not all learn in the same manner. “As much as possible, I incorporate ‘doing,’ hence the ‘applied’ portion of my Applied Cybersecurity course,” he notes. “I was provided multiple opportunities to teach MSU students and to observe my professors teaching their courses. MSU professors have a passion for their students, and that was passed on to me.” At Alabama, Bott serves on the Master’s and PhD committees. He enjoys doing information security research and also hopes to contribute to the effort to stop human trafficking by participating in research in that area. There is one aspect of his work that he finds the most rewarding, however. “My students are very important to me,” he states. “One of my goals is to prepare them as much as possible for their futures. I enjoy helping them gain the understanding, concepts and skills necessary to succeed.” Outside his academic pursuits, Bott is also a certified digital forensic examiner and expert witness.

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Students who choose to pursue degrees at the doctoral level do not do so lightly. Acquiring a PhD is a rigorous challenge requiring significant time and resources. Those who take up the endeavor are motivated by purposes such as love of learning, passion for a given topic, aspiration to teach and desire to challenge and improve knowledge. The College of Business is proud of its doctoral scholars, who make contributions to their fields through research and the classroom. Here, three of our current PhD students and a recent graduate show why the future is in good hands.

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yler Hancock became interested in a doctorate while getting an MBA but wanted to gain business experience first. He worked in sales, in the non-profit sector and in consulting with Deloitte. Then he got the opportunity to teach as a visiting marketing instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi. “After this experience, I was sure that a doctorate was the right path for me,” he says. “I truly enjoy the classroom setting and getting to help students grow. I also enjoy the benefits of contributing to new ideas and knowledge through research.”

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He soon discovered the MSU PhD program in marketing was the right fit.

Hancock is now in his fourth year and plans to complete his PhD in May 2020. His research interests are driven by his own experience in managing the expectations of numerous parties, and his findings will be useful to companies aiming to build long-term customer relationships. Typically, his research falls into three categories: monitoring of customer relationships; the complexities added to those relationships by the digital environment and the study of when, how and why customers deviate from the expected parameters of a relationship. “The doctoral program requires a mastery of the current topics in marketing,” he observes. “This is incredibly helpful for both developing research ideas and transmitting this knowledge in the classroom. The faculty act as mentors to provide support for ongoing growth. Working on a number of projects with both professors and fellow students prepares me for a career as a marketing professor.” Hancock, MSU’s 2019 Donald Zacharias PhD Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year, notes that the program has improved his teaching skills, adding techniques for greater student engagement and collaboration in the classroom. Another asset to the program he points to is travel funding to conferences and consortiums where students may present papers, hear from top researchers and network with others in their fields. As a future marketing professor, Hancock looks forward to researching topics he finds interesting and important. He also plans to collaborate with partners in the business world to develop projects for his students and to gain insights into the day to day issues that can be addressed through research.

TYLER HANCOCK Marketing Laurel, MS BS, Business Administration, University of Southern Mississippi, 2009 MBA, University of Southern Mississippi, 2010 Dissertation Co-chairs: Dr. Frank Adams and Dr. Michael Breazeale

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“The faculty members have a tremendous track record for the quality of their publications and also the support they provide to students,” he remarks. “The culture of the department, both with the faculty and other doctoral students, is one of support and collegiality. This drives collaboration on research topics and also builds a closeknit environment. MSU also provides numerous resources through labs, seminars and community activities to support personal and professional development.”

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The PhD in Business Administration program began at Mississippi State in 1964. Since that time, nearly 400 degrees have been conferred. The program’s graduates have represented MSU at more than 200 universities and organizations in some 15 countries.

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inance captured Caleb Houston’s interest from the time of his first undergraduate course.

“I enjoyed the mechanics of finance and how the theory and models helped answer questions about optimizing financial decisions,” he says. “I loved learning about the choices managers at a firm make to solve problems and maximize resources. Within finance, you can utilize the same principles for personal investments as well, making it a very useful skill set.”

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Now in his fifth and final year toward a PhD, he has completed coursework and is focused on his dissertation and on teaching. He has been inducted into the MSU Graduate Student Hall of Fame and received the College of Business’ 2019 Outstanding Doctoral Student Research Award.

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“I am interested in studying individuals, the constraints they face, the choices they make and the subsequent effect those decisions have on firms and financial markets,” he says. “Examining these circumstances translates into research opportunities in diverse areas of corporate finance and investments. Recently, this focus has led to ideas focused on the decisions made by agents of a firm. These actions are important determinants for the future performance of the firm, and questions about these decisions led to the development of my dissertation, which is centered on the market transactions of firm insiders.” Houston has found his time in the doctoral program to be enriching and challenging.

CALEB HOUSTON Finance Laurel, MS BS, Business Administration, Mississippi College, 2011 MBA with concentration in Finance, Mississippi College, 2014 Dissertation Chair: Dr. Brandon Cline

“The coursework and research requirements have pushed me further than I thought I could go,” he comments. “I attribute much of the strength of this doctoral program to the professors in the department, and in my case, especially my advisor, Dr. Brandon Cline. The professors who taught my classes and with whom I have engaged in research have been very knowledgeable and helpful. In addition, both department heads who have led the department during my time in the program have been encouraging and supportive.” Through the doctoral program, the former Xerox business professional has gained teaching experience in traditional, summer and online courses. “Learning is a process that results in lasting change, and I use methods to nurture this progression that originated through experiences in my own classroom and by observing the teaching methods of other professors,” he says. “I facilitate learning with lectures, questions and real-world examples that stimulate interest and provide exposure to the subject.” Houston has presented his research at major national and regional conferences. He has begun professional service as a referee for a peer reviewed article in The American Economist and served as discussant or session chair at several conferences. He looks forward to a rewarding career on a university faculty. “I enjoy being in an environment of learning, both as a researcher and teacher,” he remarks. “Engaging in research provides a challenge and level of flexibility that few careers can match. I [also] thoroughly enjoy the classroom and the challenge of engaging and inspiring students.”

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ili Yao is in the fifth year of her doctoral studies and anticipates getting her degree in the summer of 2020. When Yao began the PhD program, she initially struggled with her expectations. A fundamental economic theories class she took during her first semester stands out in her memory.

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“I questioned my professor’s teaching method – why we needed to read so many pages on theories and questions already established or solved,” she recalls. “Finally, I realized the necessity of understanding the process of how theories got discovered and how debating between economists helps with the economic theories we learn today. The experience inspires me to keep my curiosity and ask questions. Today, when I look back, I appreciate all the courses I took, every professor I studied under and every staff member who helped me.”

“In every day’s observing, I asked myself, ‘What’s the most supportive thing one needs? A job,’” she says. “So I put my efforts into labor economics. At the same time, I am a foreigner, and new immigration stories and reports interest me a lot. These are the reasons my dissertation is about undocumented immigration flow, economic fluctuation and immigration policies.” She is also looking at the topic of immigration and institution – the effects that come from differences in culture and beliefs. Yao, who previously assisted a CFO in a state-owned enterprise in China, anticipates ultimately becoming a full professor on a university faculty. “I appreciate that our program allows us to teach, which is an excellent opportunity to prepare,” she says. “I have taught five sections of undergraduate level courses – Microeconomics three times and Macroeconomics twice. Class sizes ranged from six to 70 students.” She notes not only that the experience will provide an advantage when seeking a faculty position but also that it is beneficial in ways that could apply to other jobs as well – presentation skills, organizational skills and the added mastery of subject matter that comes with teaching it to others. Her passion for her field comes through as she talks about her goal of spreading information. “You could figure your superpower out by learning and practicing economics!” she proclaims. “You can find your equilibrium no matter what situation you are in.”

LILI YAO Economics Hebi, Henan Province, China Bachelor’s degree, Accounting with minor in Law, Northwest A&F University (China) Master’s degree, Financial Management, Northwest A&F University Dissertation Chair: Dr. Sandra Orozco-Aleman

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Yao came to MSU for financial reasons and personal ones – at the time, she had a baby girl on the way and needed to be as close as possible to the University of Mississippi, where her husband was a PhD student. Coming from China to the United States was an understandable culture shock. But the resulting observations and experience – coupled with her desire to learn something practical and meaningful – have influenced her research interests.

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By Emily Daniels “Strength lies in differences, not similarities.” – Stephen Covey

More commonly known as Diversity Dawgs, the program was founded by Dr. Mike Breazeale, Associate Professor of Marketing and Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Mississippi State. Breazeale explains how the program came to fruition. “It really started in a conversation that Dean [Sharon] Oswald and I had with a few of our Executive Advisory Board members who work for corporate companies in big cities away from the South,” he explains. “We asked if they had any suggestions on how we could better prepare our students for issues they would encounter related to inclusion and diversity in the business world. One of the things that surprised us was that a lot of them shared the struggles they had in proving to their employers and colleagues that coming from the South does not and should not automatically mean that you are racist or intolerant of others. We knew right then and there that we needed a program in place for our students to redefine the expectations that the world has of business students from the South.” After getting positive feedback from Assistant Vice President of Multicultural Affairs & Director of Holmes Cultural Diversity Center Ra’Sheda Forbes, as well as other leaders on campus, Diversity Dawgs was born in the College of Business. So, what are the requirements to be considered a “Diversity Dawg?” Right now, the program is open to business majors currently enrolled full-time and in good academic standing at MSU. It is preferable for students to join the first semester of their junior years, but anyone who has at least four semesters remaining prior to graduation can participate. Breazeale emphasizes that Diversity Dawgs is not exclusively based on ethnicity and gender; that would contradict the very purpose of the program.

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This year, the College of Business introduced the Inclusion & Diversity Fellows Program, providing business students the opportunity to earn a Certificate in Inclusion and Diversity for their participation in a prescribed number of hours through events, presentations, organizations, projects and courses that are selected for their focus on various topics that emphasize the importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace.

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t Mississippi State University’s College of Business, we recognize the importance of fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals – students, faculty and staff. Likewise, it is our duty to prepare our future business leaders for careers in an international and increasingly diverse workforce.

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Image by Hugo Garcia

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To promote true diversity and inclusiveness, Breazeale states that the program can be customized to individual interests. Students will work with the faculty coordinator to select those courses, events and activities that most interest them. Students are also free to propose activities that might not have been considered previously, and as long as they meet the criterion of expanding appreciation of cultural diversity, they will likely be approved.

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During each of the four semesters in the program, Diversity Dawgs must commit to participate in at least 20 hours of approved activities that introduce them to the diverse cultures that make up the Mississippi State University community. Once the third semester of the program begins, students must choose a project that relates to inclusion and diversity and gain approval from the faculty coordinator to carry out that project. During the fourth and final semester in the program, students complete their projects. Sample projects could include things such as forming new student groups, performing outreach to local nursing and retirement homes, working with a diverse business created through our own Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach or developing plans to create a new community resource.

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“The point is to include everyone,” he says. “This could be first-generation students, military personnel, international students, parents who return for their education, the LGBTQ community or people with different abilities or special needs, so our definition of ‘diverse’ is much broader, I think, than what many institutions use.

“Currently, we’ve got a couple of students who have been working with me to get the program up and running and will be graduating in May 2020, so we are allowing them to do somewhat of an accelerated program,” says Breazeale. “They are already working on a project where they are trying to get our University to possibly put in place a ‘chosen name policy,’ so that transgender students will have their chosen name on all their documentation other than their most locked away records, such as their birth certificates. For example, a professor would only be provided with a student’s chosen name for his or her class. We have talked to a few of our transgender students, and they are so excited that this is something we are trying to do for them to feel included. It’s already been put in place at a lot of bigger universities around the country, but I think for us to do it here in Mississippi would make a real statement, so I’m excited at the progress we are making for our students, faculty and community.” Upon completion of the program during their senior years, Diversity Dawgs will be celebrated prior to graduation during a special ceremony, each being presented with a special cord to wear during commencement as well as a certificate designating the student as an official MSU College of Business Inclusion and Diversity Fellow. After the pilot run of the Inclusion & Diversity Fellows Program proves successful in the College of Business, the goal is eventually to expand the program across the entire campus, so that the voice of every student who endeavors to be a Mississippi State graduate may be represented.

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“Mississippi State University is the most diverse campus in the state of Mississippi!” exclaims Breazeale. “At MSU, we don’t just accept that our people are diverse. We celebrate it – diversity of thought, of culture, of experience. We recognize that our students, faculty, staff and administrators show up every day with a diverse collection of growth that we cultivate in all our people.” In fact, Mississippi State was named a 2019 recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in U.S. higher education. Joining 93 other U.S. colleges and universities, MSU is the Magnolia State’s only higher education institution – and one of six in the Southeastern Conference – receiving the award that annually recognizes a commitment to outstanding diversity and inclusion efforts.

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experiences that serves to enhance the atmosphere of learning and

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“They are actively trying to set up speaker events and workshops to show other students why they should also be involved in the program, and it’s really exciting to see so many diverse people working together for a common goal – inclusion!” he states. Becoming College of Business Inclusion & Diversity Fellows allows students to learn not only about the diverse cultures being represented at Mississippi State University, but also about themselves. It helps them recognize what they can do to break down barriers of division to create a more inclusive environment for all.

Photo by Megan Bean

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Breazeale says the program kicked off in the fall semester with 17 energetic business students who are ready to get to work.

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By Emily Daniels

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f you have ever suffered a serious leg injury, you know the immense pain and the weeks of physical therapy treatments associated with the long road to recovery.

Junior marketing major Jordan Henderson knows all too well what the post-surgery recovery process is like for lower leg injuries. As a high school soccer athlete, she sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. Twice.

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Henderson says that while her ACL injuries were the worst things she has ever had to endure, she is somewhat thankful that it gave her a great idea for a product that wasn’t available. “Creating a successful product is about finding a void in the marketplace,” Henderson explains. “The average recovery time for ACL surgery is about six months, and you have to prop your leg up for around a month; for something like a knee replacement, you might need to elevate your leg for two, maybe three months. Right now, the only competition for Brace Buddy is a chair!”

Brace Buddy is a portable, telescopic and collapsible durable medical device for post-knee surgery patients to aid in increased elevation and recovery in any setting. Its telescopic feature is perfect for everyone, tall or short, because the support height can be adjusted. And since it’s collapsible, it can easily fit into a purse or backpack. “In my senior year, I was involved in Hoover High School’s Business and Entrepreneurship Academy,” says the Birmingham, AL, native. “For your senior project, you have to develop a full business plan to submit to a state-wide competition called Junior Achievement of Alabama Business Plan Challenge. In April 2017, I submitted a plan for Brace Buddy, and I won scholarship money for college. The judges told me that this was definitely needed in the physical therapy field, and I should pursue its development. Luckily, I was headed to a school that could help me do it!” Henderson was originally set on going to Auburn University, as it was an in-state school and she had liked it the many times she had visited. But her plan would soon change.

Photos by Beth Wynn

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“The first time, I was a freshman in high school,” she recalls. “As you can probably imagine, it was really hard and embarrassing trying to navigate my way around my first year of high school having to wear a huge brace and crutches. The second time, I was a junior. I went back to class after my surgery, and people always asked me if I needed help or needed a chair to prop my leg on, because you have to keep your leg elevated for weeks after surgery to keep the swelling down and help with the healing process. It was uncomfortable having to move my desk around in all my classes just to elevate my leg.”

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“All my family is from Mississippi, and my grandfather went to school at Mississippi State,” she says. “He called me up one day and said, ‘Why don’t you just go and tour, you might really like it!’ So I came, and he was right; I just felt at home, and everyone was so friendly. I even got a private tour of the business building with a recruiting counselor. I mentioned my idea for Brace Buddy to them, and they took me to the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach [E-Center] right away so I met everyone in there. The E-Center is definitely what sold me, because I feel like not many schools in the Southeast have entrepreneurship programs of that caliber.” As soon as she got to campus her freshman year, she hit the ground running, taking advantage of all the resources the E-Center had to offer to develop and market Brace Buddy. With the help of Director of Outreach Jeffrey Rupp and former E-Center student and CEO of Meta Games Ryan Gilbrech, she was introduced to a team of biomedical engineering students to help her with the prototype.

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“Brace Buddy was selected as a senior design project for a biomedical engineering class,” Henderson says. “They all signed non-disclosure agreements and met with me biweekly to address any concerns or ideas for the design. They made it from scratch. It’s completely functional; it’s collapsible and telescopic, but it’s just a prototype, so it’s obviously not what the finished product would look like. But it’s definitely helpful to have a working prototype to show off in presentations and pitches. For the Peer Review Entrepreneurship Panel (PREP) pitch, I was confident because I could pull the prototype out of my purse and physically show the judges how Brace Buddy works. It definitely helped me secure funding.” This year, Henderson pitched Brace Buddy as part of the 2019 Startup Summit. The annual startup competition, hosted by MSU’s E-Center, is a weeklong event. Business model pitches are evaluated on company technology, management, financials and market by industry-respected leaders serving as judges from companies across the region. This year, 37 teams from nearly every college on campus competed for cash prizes totaling $34,000 in seed funding. “We had four different divisions in our grand finale,” shares Henderson. “In the span of two days, I won $6,000 in seed funding for Brace Buddy by placing first in my division and second overall and winning the people’s choice award. This will help me finish covering legal fees, and any money that I have left over can go toward travel expenses for medical trade shows or paying someone to make the second prototype. My goal for this year is to start reaching out to manufacturers, showing them our design and how we would like to refine it – maybe make it sleeker and more compact.” Henderson says she has enjoyed her first three years at Mississippi State largely in part due to her involvement in the College of Business and the E-Center. In addition to her already busy schedule in starting a business, she serves as a College of Business Ambassador and is a member of the MSU chapter of the University Women in Business organization. She loves the E-Center so much that she started working there as head marketing specialist. “I handle all the social media channels, create all our promotional items and do graphic design work for the E-Center,” she says. “I already had experience creating videos and serving as the social media coordinator for Kappa Delta sorority, so this comes pretty naturally. It’s amazing to get paid to do something that you love, and for me that’s marketing and entrepreneurship.”

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Henderson says that many people come to the E-Center with some super complex idea about curing cancer, which is great, but people should not be intimidated to share their ideas, even the least complicated ones. “My little slogan is that ‘it doesn’t have to be that complicated to be something that works or that people need,’” she says. “Having support from the E-Center really helps you be confident in your idea. Anyone can come into the center with an idea, and with a little determination, have the potential to go all the way to their product’s launch.”

“With Brace Buddy, all they have to do is pull the device out of their bag or purse and prop up their legs with ease,” she says. “It’s a simple little product that people don’t realize they need until they do, and I am excited to be able to provide it for them.”

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Once Henderson further develops and manufactures the product, Brace Buddy will provide a solution to patients who now have to hobble around to find an extra chair or stool to elevate an injured leg.

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icture the late 1990s – Seinfeld reigning on the small screen, Titanic in the multiplexes, Michael Jordan dominating basketball, dot-com companies bursting on the scene like popcorn kernels, and the Internet drawing us in with the simple words, “You’ve got mail.” On campus at Mississippi State, Starkville native Stephen Buehler was exploring his infatuation for day trading, venturing his scholarship money in the stock market. “I was pretty much the only kid on campus I knew of who was doing this in those days,” Buehler explains. “People thought I was crazy. And maybe I was.”

It also paved a way to his future. Buehler, son of two MSU professors, finished his accounting degree in three years, earned a finance degree the next year and then headed for Memphis. There, he worked first with Arthur Andersen, followed by KPMG. It was a deliberate part of a plan to go from Starkville to the business world, then on to an MBA program and finally to Wall Street. “The Memphis years were a great education on how companies work, the inner workings of financial statements and the foundation I’d need to make it in the investment world,” he says. Hard work, determination and ability provided ammunition for him to succeed at his plan. From Memphis, Buehler headed north to Chicago to get an MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. Not knowing exactly what to expect or if he could measure up to his classmates, many of whom had gone to Ivy League schools, he quickly realized he did belong and was as capable as his peers. “Honestly, I was intimidated at first,” he says. “I was surrounded by brilliant people from around the world. Many of my classmates had already worked in investment banking or on Wall Street, which was where I was trying to get. It was a lot to take in, and I wasn’t sure if I could compete.” But Buehler didn’t just compete. He excelled and ultimately achieved his goal to make it to Wall Street, landing a coveted job at Blackstone, the largest alternative asset management company in the world. “I was so excited to have an opportunity to work alongside a collection of the best investment minds in the world across private equity, real estate and hedge funds,” he remarks. In the ensuing years, the Mississippi State alumnus rose to become a Managing Director and

Photo by Megan Bean

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“Obviously back then I couldn’t follow stock prices in real time on a smart phone,” he recalls. “So, I’d sit in the computer lab at Mitchell Memorial Library or in McCool Hall, trading stocks. I’d run across the Drill Field to class, then run back after class to see where the prices were. Things were going up and down so quickly in those days. A big part of my college experience was living through this time period, reading every financial reference I could get my hands on and channeling this newfound passion. It certainly got my adrenaline pumping.”

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But the world of investing sparked a fire in Buehler.

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the Chief Operating Officer of the Individual Investor Solutions business, a strategic initiative he helped launch within Blackstone’s hedge fund division. “We started from scratch, and by the time I left, our team managed $9.5 billion in assets – so it was an exciting run and a tremendously rewarding experience,” Buehler says. While there were many reasons to remain in New York, others pulled him in a new direction. “I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to work at Blackstone,” he states. “It was a dream come true, and I cannot say enough good things about the company and all of the people who work there. But my wife is from Virginia, and I’m from Starkville, so we knew on a personal level we eventually wanted to be closer to our families and friends.” What Buehler wanted to do in terms of the next phase of his career was to harness all he had learned and bring that experience back to the South. He has always wanted to be an entrepreneur, to see if he could build something truly special.

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“I don’t want to look back and regret that I never tried,” he says. The result of this entrepreneurial ambition is an asset management firm that has a focus on “alternative” investments such as private equity, real estate, hedge funds and venture capital. Based in Nashville, TN, Buehler’s firm works to demystify these types of investments to offer them to clients in the Southeast and beyond. Buehler describes the value proposition of his business as very simple. “First, we aim to offer access to best-in-class investment exposures on a global scale. We tap into my network and invest with a handful of the most sophisticated and exclusive investment managers in the world,” he says. “Second, we channel our experience to make investments in local businesses and entrepreneurs and will work with them as value-added partners to drive growth.” This second area of focus puts into positive action Buehler’s mantra: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” “This is the ‘pay it forward’ phase of my career,” he says. There’s more – and here’s where Mississippi State comes in. During his tenure at Blackstone, Buehler helped connect Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. The E-Center received a sizeable grant that helped launch what has grown into a thriving platform for entrepreneurs at Mississippi State. “It was good for the E-Center when it got the grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, but it was also

When Buehler is in McCool Hall, he no longer has to visit the computer lab to check his investments. Photo by Megan Bean

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an eye-opener for me,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is something I really love doing – being more involved with people from Mississippi and perhaps helping to open doors for students.’ I want to help level the playing field. Our students don’t have the advantage of the business ecosystem of Silicon Valley or New York, so we have a bit of ground to make up in Mississippi and the Southeast. But with the E-Center and engagement from our alumni base, we can definitely do it.”

“I love mentoring students and young entrepreneurs and encouraging them to passionately seek their purpose,” he says. “I think my passion to teach comes from my parents, who always tirelessly invested their time teaching my two brothers and me.”

Beyond his family, Buehler is thankful for many others who have helped shape his career. Dr. O.A. Cleveland, now a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural Economics, facilitated the opportunity for his first-ever professional job, a Washington, DC, internship with alumnus James Newsome, a Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. And Buehler is also thankful to Blackstone’s Brian Gavin who “took a chance on this kid from Mississippi.” Being geographically closer to campus means Buehler gets back to Starkville more often. He can stroll campus and remember growing up with the broadening experiences of the University, with cultural events like concerts and plays, sporting events and the influence of academia. He can retrace his eager sprints from class to computer lab to check the wild movement of stock prices. And he can work with the E-Center to nurture the talents of today’s student entrepreneurs. “We have students at MSU and across the entire state who can match up with the best and brightest minds around the world,” he notes. Knowing the talent is here, Buehler channels his mantra – that the purpose of life is to give your gifts away – and says his purpose is to ensure students in Mississippi have the same opportunities that others do, so each can make the most of his or her abilities. And how does that make Buehler feel? “Excited. The future for MSU and its students is very bright.”

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Buehler is also grateful for his two brothers, who always pushed him with brotherly competition.

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Buehler is at a stage in his career where he continues to look forward but also reflects appreciatively on all the people who helped him over the years. He is quick to point to his parents as the most influential. His German father and Ohio-born mother instilled a deep-seated work ethic, reminding him, “Your ceiling is set only by your own capability.”

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Buehler’s first investment in a company coming out of the E-Center was the Starkville-based, fast-growing Glo, which developed and manufactures liquid activated light cubes used in beverages, bath products and children’s toys. Since then, he has invested in a number of other exciting companies founded by Mississippi State entrepreneurs.

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Pathway to a Bright Future T

he College of Business has introduced an elite four-year program for exceptional incoming freshmen. Acceptance is based on several factors, but the most unexpected is that they not be business majors. The MBA Venture Pathway (MVP) program offers a unique track for students majoring in fields other than business. It is designed to meet the undergraduate prerequisite requirements needed to enter a Master of Business Administration program.

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a chemist, at some point most students will need business skills, and the MVP program will give participants that foundation,” remarks Dean Sharon Oswald. While this concept is not original to Mississippi State, Oswald – the primary architect of the program – has added a focus not seen in other programs: entrepreneurship. Through the MBA Venture Pathway, students can not only prepare for a graduate degree in business, they can also lay the groundwork to launch their own enterprises. Sophomore Reese Dunne, a mechanical engineering major, is part of the inaugural MVP class. When he was in high school looking toward his collegiate future, he was thrilled to learn of the program. “When I was thinking about my major, I couldn’t decide between engineering and business because I’m passionate about both,” he says. “This gave me the opportunity to do both – I can study mechanical engineering but also work toward an MBA. My main goal is to have an engineering and business education, to best set myself up for the future.” He anticipates the “venture” aspects of the MVP program may also help with an avocational interest. An avid pianist, Dunne launched a service organization in high school for fellow musicians to play for retirement home residents. He hopes to build Nonnie’s Notes – named for his grandmother – into a nonprofit and extend it to other locations. The MVP program is a four-year track beginning in a participant’s first freshman semester. This commitment level, along with the rigor of the program, dictates that the selection process focus on students who are academically accomplished and goal-oriented. “Many high achieving students apply to Mississippi State every year, but that’s not the only thing distinguishing ‘MVPs,’” notes Kelsey Waters, COB Assistant Director for Recruiting and Events. “MVP students also crave a creative, entrepreneurial opportunity and hope to launch themselves into ventures like administration or even starting their own companies. Since we have to be on the lookout for more than what a basic application can tell us, we request an application essay that allows the potential MVP student to tell us how they think adding an MBA to their college experience would impact their futures.”

Reese Dunne gets pointers on a project from Dr. Melissa Moore. Photo by Logan Kirkland

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“Whether they want to open an art studio or become an engineer or

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Students learn of the program in various ways. In her recruiting travels, Waters shares it as one of many COB opportunities, and she often meets with students who may have a particular interest in MVP – many of whom have science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds. She promotes it as well at events like MSU Preview Days and Scholar Recognition Days, college fairs and students’ campus visits. Recommendations also come from MSU admissions counselors, alumni and high school teachers or counselors. “Students are considered based on their ACT or SAT scores, their GPAs and their essays,” says Waters. “The MVP admissions committee considers every student to make sure that we welcome a diverse class with different backgrounds, different academic achievement and different future plans. The hope is that each year, this collaborative group of students will work toward innovative thinking and exciting new ventures across every discipline.”

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While completion of the MVP program does not provide automatic acceptance into MSU’s MBA program – students must meet GPA requirements and achieve competitive GMAT or GRE scores – their preparation and diversity of interests will make them strong candidates who could enhance the graduate program. MVP is now in its second year. Students take one business course each semester and may add an optional online summer branding course. During year three of MVP, participants will prep for and take the GMAT or GRE. For those with specific business ideas, the program offers optional participation in the E-Center’s VentureCatalystTM program – a comprehensive co-curricular program for MSU students and faculty interested in starting successful investor-backed companies. Courses are taught by some of the College’s leading faculty members. Dean Sharon Oswald will once again teach the Strategic Thinking course for second semester freshmen, and she plans to teach the leadership course in year four. This past semester, freshmen have been enrolled in the Ideation class under the instruction of Dr. Robert Moore, Professor of Marketing, and Eric Hill, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center). Sophomores have taken Tactical and Strategic Analysis taught by Dr. Melissa Moore, Department Head for Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law. Other courses will focus on business data, accounting fundamentals, brand management, innovation law and entrepreneurial finance. The classes were developed specifically for MVP, to provide participants the business background they will need to succeed in an MBA program, as well as meet required prerequisites. Faculty are also tailoring the courses to meet participants “where they live,” presenting business material in creative ways that the students can relate to their majors. “One thing I do in my class is bring in examples of entrepreneurial enterprises,” says Oswald. “I get out and search for cases relevant to this group of students, and we talk about what [the companies] did right or wrong. I also have them read the book Blue Ocean Strategy, which helps them learn to think outside the box.” In their Ideation course, Management 1001, Dr. Robert Moore and Eric Hill engage students in learning a skill needed by all business professionals and particularly

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entrepreneurs – creative problem solving.

While MVP is an elite program with a serious purpose, there’s also a real sense of pleasure. In discussing the experience, students and faculty alike invariably bring up how much they are enjoying it. “What’s been fun is that they’re really engaged,” Oswald observes of the participants. “They ask a lot of questions, and they really want to learn. My favorite is when an engineering student tells me, ‘This is the class I look forward to every week.’”

“I love how this group really excelled in high school and that we have a common goal in mind – to pursue our majors along with business,” says Dunne. “Our class has a lot of engineering majors, but there are others, too, like kinesiology and communications.” Roberts works to build camaraderie among MVP participants from the start. Early in the semester, the new students were invited to tour the E-Center then to meet their sophomore counterparts at a social. She is looking toward pairing them in a mentoring program. “When you have a relationship with a peer who’s going through the same program and is just a little further along, it can be encouraging,” she observes. Oswald sums up, “The primary goal is for students to get the background needed to enter the MBA program. The MBA Venture Pathway enables them to get their prerequisites done in a unique way, and if they’re interested in starting a business, we want to help with that, too.” “It’s important to have a diverse education, especially for someone like me who’s passionate about more than one area,” adds Dunne. “This can open many more doors. I’ll have a much greater breadth of options after college, and that’s exciting!” In September, new MVP students took a tour of the E-Center, led by Director Eric Hill. Photo by Logan Kirkland

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A connectedness develops among participants that comes from being members of a small group sharing a unique experience that spans their undergraduate careers. Bringing a range of knowledge gleaned in their major studies, they learn from one another, and while they represent a variety of fields, they find they have much in common.

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“Students absolutely love this program, and the faculty does, too,” comments Renata Roberts, the MVP Advisor and a Lecturer of Management. “It gives the students variety in their studies – a break from their primary focus. They see how business works with other subjects, and it gives them a more well-rounded education.”

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“In the class, we encourage students to identify problems, both big and small, and suggest solutions for these problems,” says Moore. “Throughout the semester, students keep an ‘Idea Journal,’ in which they record problems or issues and their proposed solutions. Each week during class time, we discuss the various steps in the process of moving a solution from an idea to a prototype. The class is fastpaced and interactive with lots of discussions – as one student recently commented, ‘It’s the fastest 50 minutes of the week!’ It culminates in a ‘Prototype Showcase,’ in which teams present a prototype solution to a problem they decided to solve.”

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Earning the Title T

hings change gently with the generations.

Mike McIlwain’s grandfather, a dedicated Mississippi farmer, had his eye more on crops than curriculum for Mike’s dad. That was understandable in the agricultural South, but the son had his sights set on college. He wanted to enroll at Mississippi State – and went for it. Mike himself, a 1987 accounting graduate, had the easier route. “Dad would say to me, ‘You are going to college,’” he recalls. “He and my mom had set the tradition.”

community and are happy to have the opportunity to do that,” says McIlwain. “We want to help people who can’t necessarily afford [a college education] to earn the scholarship and know the name Joseph Watt McIlwain.” Although Mike’s family roots were in Starkville, he grew up in the rural town of Pahokee, FL. “My father loved to fish and was a schoolteacher, so they packed up and moved to Palm Beach County in the 1960s,” explains McIlwain. “My mom, Bess, humored him, thinking it wouldn’t last. But we did return to Starkville a lot – for instance, Dad got his master’s degree at MSU one summer – and it was pretty clear early on that this was where I wanted to go to school too.” He well remembers arriving as a freshman, driving 12 hours by himself, accompanied by only a few suitcases and an old TV. “I felt like a foreigner,” he laughs. “About 80 percent of the students were from Mississippi and went home on weekends, so I quickly became friends with mostly non-Mississippians. Of course, I’d go to church with my grandmother on Sundays and watch football with my grandfather, but then I went back to the dorm. I was a dorm guy all four years.” His campus persona was “The Florida Kid.” “I’ve always been something of a contrarian,” he remarks. “I’m a big Steelers fan even though I grew up in Florida and, back home, it was always cool to be a Mississippi State fan and then to actually go there. But I always thought I’d live in Florida.” After completing a master of taxation degree at the University of Alabama, he took a position in Orlando, just a few hours from home. It seemed like the right move until his father, who had just turned 50, died in his sleep.

Photo courtesy of PSAV

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“We want my dad’s name to be recognized in the Mississippi State

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Today, McIlwain and his wife, Susan, fuel another tradition by endowing the Joseph Watt McIlwain Scholarship to benefit full-time accountancy majors who are also entrepreneurship minors.

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By Carolanne Roberts

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“Our world turned upside down,” he says. “Without my faith, I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through it.” After he married Susan, and his mother Bess Sikes McIlwain ultimately re-married and moved to Baton Rouge, being in Florida didn’t seem as relevant. He and Susan moved to New Orleans. Having begun his career with KPMG, he worked as an accountant for KPMG and then Arthur Andersen for a total of eight years. Other opportunities led him northward, and he eventually became CFO of Motor Coach Industries, a $400 million business based in Chicago.

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“I never thought I’d ever live north of the Mason-Dixon Line,” he comments.

Joe Watt McIlwain, educator and MSU graduate Photo courtesy of Mike McIlwain

McIlwain made a move to PSAV as CFO in 2009, and for the past eight years, he has been the company’s CEO. The opportunity at PSAV, also in Chicago, cemented his status as a Midwesterner. This self-confessed introvert turns outwardly enthusiastic about PSAV and its global footprint in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and, most recently, Australia, China and several other Asian countries. The heart of PSAV’s mission is providing event technology services for the hotel, resort and conference center industry. “That includes sound, lighting, projection – anything needed to make the meeting effective and see that its message is delivered,” he says. “I wake up happy to do what I do and to have the opportunity to make the lives of our 9,000 team members better. We’ve got awesome people, and the clients’ messages are delivered effectively. We blend into the scene and make great events.” One major message their team members deliver is their own satisfaction. In fact, Forbes magazine has named PSAV to its America’s Best Employers list for the past two years. McIlwain notes appreciatively, “Our team members brought us to the attention of Forbes, and the honor is based on anonymous employee ratings.” The recognition gives McIlwain cause to reflect. “Sometimes people try to treat me differently because I’m a CEO,” he observes. “I’m always who I was and always will be. I feel I need to earn my title every day. My family is a key part of that, and so is Mississippi State. If you talk to our team members, they know about my family [Susan and their five children] and that I’m a State graduate and a Steelers fan. These roots matter to me.” His alma mater is never far from his mind. McIlwain was selected as the 2017 Alumni Fellow for the College of Business and was named one of its Top 100 Alumni during the 2015 Centennial Celebration. He also spoke to the College of Business students through the Leo W. Seal, Jr. Distinguished Speaker Series in 2016. “I told them it’s not where you’re from because we all have potential in us,” he shares. “Mississippi State was a great place to help me find my potential. But it was my potential, and I needed to bring that out in myself. The doors at Mississippi State started opening, and I had to walk through a lot more doors from there. “I also talked about leadership because, even as an introvert, having my job means I need to motivate. My number one passion in the business world is fostering and creating leaders. I think everyone can be a leader, and I reminded them that leaders aren’t born, they’re made.” McIlwain returns to campus at least twice a year as a member of the Accounting Advisory Board

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and often visits more because he still has family in Starkville. He flies into Birmingham, then stops in Tuscaloosa to see his daughter, a University of Alabama junior. The Chicagoan notes there’s still a chance to send a next-generation McIlwain to Mississippi State to carry forth the tradition his dad began decades ago. “We’ve got two left at home, and my son Joe Watt has already set his sights on Michigan, where his older sister went,” he says. “Our daughter Amelia is my last shot, and she’s definitely going South.”

“Everything that has happened for me is unbelievable,” he says. “If you told me that a kid who graduated from Mississippi State would be married to my awesome wife for 27 years, have five great kids and be CEO of a company, I never would’ve imagined it. “It’s incredible. I should bask in this more than I do and realize that dreams come true.”

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No pressure, Amelia, but wouldn’t it be nice? In the meantime, her dad is content with life no matter what that choice turns out to be.

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Susan and Mike McIlwain with their children (counterclockwise from left) Allie, Joe Watt, Kathryn, Amelia and Grace Photo courtesy of Mike McIlwain


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By Kathy Kenne

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o you know how many small businesses in Mississippi are family-owned? Would it surprise you to learn it’s 90 percent? That translates to a substantial impact on our state’s economy. Is anyone doing something to help these businesses grow and thrive? At the MSU College of Business the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Dr. James Vardaman, Associate Professor and Nancy Allen Fellow of Management, and Dr. Laura Marler, Associate Professor and Bobby and Barbara Martin Fellow of Management, were collaborators in getting this initiative off the ground. Any time a new program is put into place, it requires the efforts of engaged, passionate and knowledgeable individuals. Vardaman and Marler are two such people. As they talk, their energy is contagious. They both believe strongly in the University’s mission of outreach to the state and aren’t content to sit in any academic “ivory tower.” Marler’s passion comes from being reared by an entrepreneurial father in her home state of Louisiana. From an early age, he involved her whole family in making business decisions, which eventually led to her brother’s becoming a part of the family businesses. Marler chose a career in higher education, but her research interests lie in discovering what makes family businesses tick. She is continually asked by her father how she is making her research applicable in a way that can help small business.

“I see how hard my father and brother work to make their businesses successful,” states Marler. “It means a lot that we have an opportunity to help companies discover and implement more effective practices which will help them grow.” Vardaman, also a native of the South, believes strongly in the talent Mississippi has to offer. His outreach efforts are motivated by a desire to disprove negative stereotypes some people have about the state. He believes that Mississippi is a great place to live and desires to help create job opportunities through business growth that will encourage people to stay in or relocate to the state.

James Vardaman, Jackson Yeager and Laura Marler at Layhill Precision Fabrication Photo by Megan Bean

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“I found the topics to be forward-thinking with a focus on high efficiency,” shares attendee Jackson Yeager, Operations Manager for Layhill Precision Fabrication. “It was a very professional event.”

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The COB’s Family Business Education Initiative (FBEI) held its inaugural training seminar in February of this year. Local businesses in the fields of propane, air conditioning and heating; metal fabrication; trucking; abrasive coatings and funeral services attended the event, which featured College of Business professors addressing topics focused on best employment practices. The seminar was kept small in order to foster discussion amongst those attending.

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Offering Solutions for Small Businesses

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The idea for FBEI began as Vardaman was thinking about Mississippi State’s position as a business leader in the state. Under the leadership of Management & Information Systems Department Head Dr. Jim Chrisman, MSU is ranked number two in the world for family business research. Vardaman enlisted colleague Marler and local business consultant Joe Beall for a brainstorming session, and the sparks for FBEI began to fly.

“It’s amazing how many small businesses are struggling because they don’t have full time HR or safety managers like large industries do,” says Beall. “They need those services but can’t afford full time people dedicated to them. So the owners and managers need affordable training in these areas.”

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After recognizing the need, the team started looking for ways in which their knowledge could be brought to bear. “The E-Center was doing a great job helping student start-ups,” says Vardaman about the MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach. “We needed to complement their work by offering our expertise to help already existing small and family businesses grow and sustain themselves.”

The first FBEI seminar focused on employees – acquiring and retaining talent, compensation practices and company culture.

“We met with [Dean] Photo by Megan Bean Sharon [Oswald] in May, and by the end of the summer we had figured out what we wanted to do,” adds Marler. “She’s been incredibly supportive. Without her, this never would have happened.” Like good researchers, their planning was followed by focus group studies with business owners in Columbus, Starkville and West Point to help Marler and Vardaman determine the greatest needs. They learned that some of the biggest concerns were in the areas of employee relations. They determined that this first FBEI seminar would focus on the topics of acquiring and retaining talent, led by Marler; compensation practices, led by Dr. Danny Holt, and company culture, led by Vardaman. “In my session, we talked about fostering a culture in which employees want to work,” says Vardaman. “Your employees need to know what you need from them. They need to know your goals and values. We discussed ways of transmitting those things that are important to the company’s vision to its employees. I also told them that my research has found that if people have groups of friends at their workplaces, they are much less likely to leave their companies during tougher times.” “In discussing hiring practices, we talked about using structured interviewing processes to make sure they were comparing each candidate on a level playing field and not getting caught up in

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whether they ‘clicked’ with someone,” adds Marler. “We also talked about very practical, low cost ways to help new employees integrate into the company since that is a vulnerable time for retention.” Some of the lessons learned are already making a difference for those who attended. “We’ve adapted our onboarding process for new employees based on information from the seminar,” says Yeager. “We spend time acclimating them so that they feel a part of the team. One day may be dedicated to meeting people, another to a plant tour. We’re more intentional about that now.”

And what does the future hold for FBEI? Beall would like to see growth. “There is a need to build leadership skills,” he says. “This next generation who’s taking on the mantel of running the family business isn’t afraid to ask for help. They have all sorts of needs, from learning effective hiring practices to managing regulatory issues. This seminar was very wellreceived, and they would like to attend another one.”

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Timing and cost were key factors in making the FBEI seminar practical. For so many attendees the warm weather months are busiest, so holding the event in February was important. The half day format seemed to work best, too. In a small business, every hour leaders spend at the office is critical. In addition, the cost to attend was kept reasonable, so as not to impede participation.

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“What we learned could be applied to a lot of businesses,” sums up Yeager. “And the state would be better for it.”

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There are plans being made for a second seminar early in the year, then perhaps a move to a biannual format from there. The organizers want things to develop organically, with demand dictating the future. They want to know that what they are doing is germane to the needs of the state. Those who attended the seminar certainly feel that it is.

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Family business and small business owners at the inaugural FBEI training seminar heard about what goes into sustainable performance excellence. Photo by Emily Daniels


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A Family Tradition A

few years ago, M.L. Waters, Class of 1978, stepped to the podium on Mississippi State’s Meridian campus to deliver the commencement address.

“I was honored and surprised to be asked,” begins the co-owner of Waters International Trucks and Idealease, Inc. in Meridian. “Because I didn’t attend my own graduation, it was my opportunity to experience it with the students.” So where was he that important day?

It is little wonder that the new graduate was in a hurry to get there. “My father, Ray Jr., was operating the Columbus location of Waters Truck & Tractor, which was founded in 1938 by his father, Ray Sr.,” he explains. “My dad had four sons and only one dealership, so each brother knew he would have to find work elsewhere – but then an opportunity arose.” M.L. and Kim Waters, who met as Mississippi State students, support the University with their time and financial resources. Photo by Logan Kirkland

The sons launched a Meridian location with their father’s blessing, even though M.L. was still in college.

“Daddy was pleased and supported our efforts,” he recalls. “He lived until 1989, allowing him to see our expansion to Kosciusko. Later, we added dealerships in Natchez and Hattiesburg.” All along it has been a family business run on love, business savvy and at times sacrifice. When Ray Sr. died, Ray Jr. elected to leave Mississippi State to manage the business in Columbus before he was 20 years old. As his family grew, the four boys worked at the dealership, learning the ropes and generally helping. “It was not so much an expectation but a desire to be there,” says M.L., looking back. “At first, we swept the floors and washed the vehicles. We were put in the truck shop and worked as mechanic’s helpers. Then we moved on to different areas, working in each one, which really helped us when we took over the responsibility of running a dealership. I was a mechanic at age 11 and a bulldozer operator in high school. We did it all.”

Photo by Logan Kirkland

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Waiting for him to show up were older brothers Mike and David, who had graduated from MSU in 1975 and 1977, respectively. They had been running the new location for about a year while M.L. finished in Starkville.

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“Already working,” replies Waters. “I had packed up and moved to work at our recently opened location in Meridian.”

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The fourth generation has now joined the family business. Shown are (front, from left) brothers M.L. Waters, Mike Waters and David Waters and (back, from left) their sons Josh Waters, Michael Waters and Vaughan Waters. Photo courtesy of Waters International Trucks

When M.L. Waters arrived in Starkville, he started as a civil engineering major, taking drafting and engineering courses that later came in handy when he and youngest brother Ine, who majored in architecture, designed the company’s Hattiesburg facility. As a sophomore, he shifted to the College of Business where, despite having grown up surrounded by business talk, his world expanded. “I learned business practices I may not have [experienced] in our own company,” he explains. “We had accounting, statistics, business management skills – like dealing with personnel – and even speech, which enabled me to talk in a public environment and to communicate with customers and employees. My degree gave me so many insights into other ways to do things.” Over the years, the business has grown considerably. The Columbus location became Waters Truck & Tractor Co., Inc., a franchise of International Trucks, in 1938. The Meridian location, the first expansion, came along in 1977 with M.L. and his brothers. Kosciusko opened in 1982, followed by Natchez in 2002 and Hattiesburg in 2007. In 2009 a second Columbus business, Waters Truck and Tire Service, joined the ranks. Waters Wrecker Service is also part of the portfolio, and Waters provides student transportation through the IC Bus franchise. In all, Waters employs more than 275 people. “Last year, we celebrated our 80th anniversary as a company,” M.L. says proudly. “More than 700 people attended our open house. We were very humbled.”

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He adds that the Waters dealerships have been recognized as top performers in International Trucks’ Circle of Excellence for more than 20 years. The first three generations have indeed succeeded. Now the fourth is in place, with Mike’s son Michael, a Millsaps graduate; David’s son Vaughan, MSU ‘08, and M.L.’s son Josh, also MSU ‘08, having taken roles in the company. And the fifth generation is coming along. decide to,” states M.L. “Our children are growing up in and around the dealerships, just as we did, which helps them determine what they want to do in life.” Meanwhile, M.L. keeps his MSU heritage close to heart. He serves on the College of Business Executive Advisory Board and was named one of the College of Business’ Top 100 Alumni in 2015. At Meridian Community College, which he also supports, he was named 2012 Philanthropist of the Year and serves that institution on its Foundation Board of Directors. He has served on the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation Board of Directors and

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“Our grandchildren will have the opportunity to expand the business if they

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Excellence. M.L. and wife Kim, a 1981 MSU accounting major, believe in supporting education. They have established the Mr. and Mrs. M.L. Waters Mississippi Power Endowed Scholarship, which provides support for business students; M.L. is on the energy company’s board of directors. Waters Companies also provides an annual scholarship to the child of an employee, and the Waters endow scholarships at Meridian Community College (MCC) as well.

“Realistically, after a student has been awarded the MCC scholarship, he or she might apply for our scholarship to Mississippi State for the continuation of studies,” M.L. explains. “Our family realizes the importance of education.” On MSU’s Meridian campus, he has helped expand the curriculum, contributing advice and helping with fundraising. Waters utilizes the MSU Riley Center – a performing arts venue, conference center and educational center in historic downtown Meridian – for company meetings, and he supports the programs and performances there. The family lineage at Mississippi State began with M.L.’s father, and it has become a part of life down through the youngest generation. “My parents would carry us to Starkville for ballgames,” M.L. says. “My brothers and I enjoyed the social life and the academic life at State – and while there, I met Kim. Our own grandchildren already attend sporting events. There really is a family connection to Mississippi State from our parents to the brothers and their families.” So, the tradition continues.

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has received the organization’s Hartley D. Peavey Award for Entrepreneurial

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A Big Payout By Kirsten Shaw ecruiters know that the college graduates who are best prepared for the marketplace are those who have already experienced it. Familiarity with the market environment and its potential opportunities and pitfalls shortens the learning curve for new employees, and they quickly become productive. The TVA Investment Challenge Program (ICP) offers Mississippi State students the kind of finance and investment experience that sets them apart for potential employers.

Program in 1998, allocating funds for college students to manage in investment portfolios for the agency – providing them with rare real-world experience. Today, millions in assets are managed by student teams at 24 institutions in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. “With more than $13 million in assets, TVA’s ICP is delivering results by growing into one of the nation’s largest and most successful student-managed investment programs,” remarks Ben Duby, TVA Senior Program Manager, Corporate Investments. “Student teams gain hands-on financial asset management experience that they could never get reading a textbook. They actively manage stock portfolios for TVA, design long-term investment strategies and select investments under the guidance of faculty members and within investment guidelines established and monitored by TVA.” All schools use the S&P 500 Total Return Index as their benchmark but vary in how their teams are set up. At Mississippi State, the group is usually eight to 10 students, selected through an application and interview process by current team members and faculty advisor Dr. Brandon Cline. They earn one hour of credit their first fall semester and two the following spring. Most stay for two more semesters, though no further credit is earned. Team members are often finance or accounting majors, with some graduate students, but it is not limited. There have also been students with majors in marketing, management, agribusiness, agricultural economics and engineering. Team member Zack Ishee, an agricultural economics graduate student, is actually in his fourth year on the team. He has served as director, head trader and analyst for several sectors, primarily the industrial and materials sectors. “The value of the program isn’t in the credit but in the experience we gain,” he states. “Dr. Cline gives us plenty of resources and advice on how to make the best decision, but in the end it’s us making the decisions.”

The MSU ICP team, along with advisor Dr. Brandon Cline (fifth from left), in McCool’s Strategic Finance Lab Photo by Logan Kirkland

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The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began its Investment Challenge

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“I wanted to do something that would help me stand apart from my competition for jobs,” says former participant Matthew Frost, a 2015 finance and marketing alumnus and Corporate Development Manager at Signode Industrial Group in Chicago. “I think anything you can do to show that you’re ready for the job is crucial…. For anyone interested in finance, showing that you’ve already performed many functions of the job through the TVA program makes an employer all the more interested.”

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The group meets weekly. While one student serves as director, decisions are made collectively. The head trader then makes transactions through the team’s online brokerage account. “There are 11 sectors, or industries, and every student is an analyst for at least one,” says Cline, the John “Nutie” and Edie Dowdle Associate Professor of Finance. “At the meetings, an analyst presents a case for buying or selling. Sometimes it’s a quick decision, or sometimes they want to see more research. The group decides whether or not to engage.” “TVA treats these portfolios the same as our professional money managers’ by holding performance reviews with schools to get updates on their philosophy, process and performance,” says TVA’s Duby.

“One of the big components of our analysis and portfolio management is the Bloomberg terminals provided by donors,” says Cline. “They’re extremely expensive and extremely helpful to us. We’re very appreciative of them.”

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The MSU team is aided by valuable resources. Financial support for professional development comes from the Department of Finance & Economics, the College of Business and the team’s own performance awards from TVA. They meet and work in the well-equipped Strategic Finance Lab – McCool Hall’s trading room.

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During these reviews, TVA typically sends a professional money manager to talk to a team about careers in finance, thoughts on capital markets and/or about an investment strategy. Students can gain insight into investment careers and glean information that will benefit them in various lines of work.

The team attends two ICP events each year: a regional conference involving MSU, Ole Miss, MUW, Christian Brothers University and the University of Memphis; and an annual conference in Nashville, TN, for all teams. At both events, teams make presentations on their portfolio decisions, performance and how they assess the risk. Financial awards are presented to those that have outperformed the S&P 500.

The team toured the New York Stock Exchange in March. Photo courtesy of Brandon Cline

“Students have collectively outperformed the S&P 500 total return of 6.17 percent by 57 basis points annually since inception, an excess cumulative return of 38 percent,” says Duby. “ICP teams have earned over $1.1 million in performance awards for their schools over the life of the program. Mississippi State has outperformed the benchmark the last two years in a row with total performance awards earned by the University of $20,434.” Cline adds, “I’ve been the advisor for five years, and the team has outperformed the S&P 500 in four of the five. Most money managers don’t do that well.” Independently, MSU’s team also participates in the Quinnipiac University Global Asset Management Education (G.A.M.E.) Forum in New York, NY. It features well-known economists and advisors from investment banking firms, Bloomberg and other financial firms. Cline also arranges separate meetings for his group at places like the New York Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs.

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“It’s our most professional interaction,” says Ishee. “We get to talk with professionals who have already made it. It gives us experience almost no other students get to have.” The TVA ICP experience has served alumni well. Matthew Frost has been an Investment Banking Analyst for Stephens, Inc., and for Robert W. Baird’s Consumer Group (Mergers & Acquisitions) – later promoted to Associate at Baird. Currently, he is part of a team that handles Signode’s mergers and acquisitions activity, assessing the market for companies to acquire, maintaining a pipeline of companies that are of interest, evaluating opportunities and working toward closing acquisitions.

says. “We studied market movements on a daily basis and focused on companies that were interesting to us. Having money at stake allowed us to ‘learn by doing,’ rather than just study formulas in a textbook.

“The TVA program, its operation, my participation and the interaction with my team deeply impacted my education and my understanding of the financial industry,” she states. “Though my job does not deal with stocks or portfolios, my experience gained through TVA in the decision-making process, negotiation and discussion of ideas has already been of benefit. I work on a team, and in the short time I’ve been in my position, people are constantly bouncing ideas off each other in finding solutions that best meet our clients’ needs – much like the process within TVA in working on portfolio decisions and allocations aimed at achieving the best possible results. “Although I no longer deal with stocks and a portfolio every day, TVA taught me more than picking the right stock, it taught me to look for creative ways to add value to any situation.” Ishee is considering pursuing employment in commodity exchanges after graduation; a PhD is also a possibility. In addition to hands-on investment experience, he knows the networking opportunities are invaluable. “These different conferences we attend give the TVA student teams a great chance to be put in front of people who most of us would otherwise never meet,” he notes. “The network of past [MSU] TVA members has been very beneficial also. We continue to have students obtain internships and job interviews through alumni who have gone through in prior years.” As team members past and present laud Cline and his impact on them through the TVA Challenge, Cline points to the value in such a project. “We’re seeing a big payout in terms of placement of our students, recruitment of our students and the experience and knowledge of our students,” he says. For him, it is a very worthwhile investment.

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Mary Bigler graduated in May 2019 with a degree in finance with a concentration in risk management and insurance, and she is now a Production Associate with All Risks, Ltd., in Phoenix, AZ. Her goal is to become a broker within the company, managing her own team.

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“We had to prepare a strong case toward any movement we wanted to make in the portfolio. This skill has probably been the most useful for me post-grad, of everything I learned while in [the TVA Investment Challenge Program…]. In my current capacity in corporate development, I’m often asked to make a case to our own management as to why we should go after a certain target business – or just as often, why we shouldn’t. My initial exposure to these types of experiences came from TVA and was not something you’d find in a classroom.”

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“The TVA group helped us to learn about the market in real-time,” he

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Jake Mangum: The Mayor Reflects on His Term in Starkville “When my time [at Mississippi State] is done, I want the fans to remember me as someone who brought it every day, every game.” – Jake Mangum, October 2018 e’ll have a statue at Dudy Noble one day,” said a friend of mine during our beloved Diamond Dawgs’ latest run in the 2019 NCAA Baseball College World Series.

My question was understandably met with a look of incredulity. Where in the world had I, an MSU ’17 graduate, been for the last four years? The truth is, despite my having moved away from Starkville two years earlier, I knew my friend was talking about Jake Mangum. A quick Google search will lead you to this center fielder’s mountain of accomplishments over his four years at Mississippi State: SEC Freshman of the Year; first freshman to receive the CSpire Ferriss Trophy, awarded to Mississippi’s top collegiate baseball player; first to receive the Ferriss Trophy twice; all-time SEC hits leader and a long list of all-star teams and school records. Mangum was selected by the New York Yankees and then the New York Mets in the 2017 and 2018 MLB drafts but returned to MSU to finish out his college career. This past June, the College of Business alum signed with the Mets and began his professional career with their Brooklyn Cyclones minor league team. We know what Mangum’s accolades say about his abilities – but what does Mangum make of his own success during his time in Starkville? He talked with me about that late this past summer. n You were committed to The University of Alabama before Mississippi State. Could you imagine any other path for yourself?

I was committed to Alabama before Mississippi State for a year.... My dad played football [at Alabama]. But then I fell in love with Mississippi State and chose to play here. You can’t beat it; it’s family. The program is second to none, and it was the best four years of my life.

n In 2016, you were named SEC Freshman of the Year. How did you manage the notoriety that developed that year?

When that season started, I was just fighting to get on the roster. I got off to a rocky start with my hits, but I just took it one hit at a time and focused on that. With winning that award, it was always about the team. I just used that win to pump up my teammates, encourage everybody and build up the team.

n You played with a broken hand your sophomore year, and only one person on the team had more hits than you. How did you re-train your swing and maintain that?

There was no planning; there was no training. I just tried to put the bat to the ball and get hits and keep playing to the best of my ability.

Photos courtesy of MSU Athletics

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“Who will?” I responded.

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By Alexandra Brasher

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52 52 n Where did the inspiration for your walkout song — “Your Love” by The Outfield — come from?

I was trying to pick a song, and my friend from high school said I should try his because people love it and enjoy singing along. So I used that one my freshman year, and there was no changing it after that, it just kind of stuck.

n In a freshman year article, you said, “I am not worried about this spring. I am worried about the next practice. I am worried about today.” Is that still your practice today?

Yes, I still worry about where my feet are…. The present is the only thing you can control. The past is the past. The future will be here soon enough.

n You came to MSU right in the middle of the integration of the Old Dude [Dudy Noble Field] to the new one. What was that like? Were there differences between them?

There was a lot of change while I was here, two stadiums and four head coaches in four years — it was a lot. It was a lot to take in. But it kind of goes back to being where your feet are.

n You have made a passionate plea for the NCAA to allow programs to pay a third assistant coach and for an increase in athletic scholarships, even giving up your scholarship and playing as a walk-on for two seasons. Is this a battle you plan to continue?

Yes, there is a third coach who does not get paid. I want to help in any way I can because there were a lot of people who were third unpaid assistant coaches who really helped me a lot in my four years. If there is any way I can help, I’ll try to. One day I do plan on being a coach, and I think it is only fair for that position to be paid.

n Out of all the awards you’ve received, what has meant the most to you?

The happiest I’ve ever been was winning the SEC Championship freshman year, and then of course the two trips to [the College World Series in] Omaha my junior and senior years.

n Of all your former teammates at MSU, which one do you have the strongest connection with?

Oh, there’s way too many! That’s just because we all grew really, really close over those years. There’s a huge group of us who still talk every day — in group messages, one-on-one, in small group messages…. Everybody still communicates.

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n What do your teammates mean to you?

Everything. I still lean on them today to keep me straight and to keep me playing the game how I need to be playing it. It goes past baseball — they are great guys, and I wouldn’t have gotten very far without them. You’re with them all day every day and grow a strong relationship with them, that’s for sure.

n In 2017, the Yankees drafted you. In 2018, the Mets, and in 2019 the Mets. How was the draft experience for you? I thought it went awesome this year. I love where I went, and it does seem that New York was where I was supposed to go. I am thankful for the opportunity that I have, and now I just kind of have to go with it.

n You’ve always said that you play with a lot of emotion. What exactly does that mean?

Everybody plays a little different than the other person, but for me it’s just kind of what I’ve always done. I don’t know any other way to do it, and I love doing it that way. Baseball means a lot to me, and I have a hard time not showing my emotion.

n Statistically, you haven’t had many bad nights in your career, but when you do, how do you talk to yourself mentally?

n At some point, you picked up the nickname “The Mayor” around Starkville. What do you make of that?

I like it! Really, I do. It stuck, and I have no complaints about it! My freshman year, Jacob Robson called me that as a joke, and then the fans and reporters picked up on it, and it developed into what it is now.

n What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Control what you can control.

n How do you plan to use your College of Business degree?

My future goal is to play baseball as long as I can and then figure out what God wants me to pursue in life. Whatever that is, I want to be the best I can be at it. I’m not sure how I plan to use my degree in the future, but for now, I want to continue being a professional baseball player. One day we will see where it takes me.

n You obviously have a lot of school pride. What does Mississippi State mean to you?

This may sound cliché, but it’s home to me. As soon as this season is over, I’ll be living in Starkville in the offseason. We can live wherever we want, and I want to go back to Starkville.

n What is your favorite place in Starkville?

That’s a tough question, but starting my mornings at Starkville Cafe is tough to beat!

n What is something that you would like for Mississippi State fans to know?

They’re the reason why people go to Mississippi State. The fan base is incredible, and people fall in love with the place when they get there. They were one of the biggest reasons my time there was so special.

n What do you wish for your legacy now that you’ve left MSU?

Just to be known as someone who gave it all he had and really does love the University with everything he has.

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I just stay positive. You shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between someone who went zero for five or five for five. I always did my best not to try to act any different. New day, new opportunity is how I look at it. It’s something really hard to deal with when people are depending on you, but it’s better for the team if you handle it the right way.

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Making a Difference Back Home By Carolanne Roberts ust tell the story that needs to be told.”

That’s the request from Dr. Stacey Reynolds McNeil as her Dividends interview commences. The titles she holds at Mississippi State-Meridian’s Division of Business provide rich avenues for storytelling: Assistant Clinical Professor of Management, Director of the Professional MBA Program and MSUMeridian Collegiate DECA advisor. Joining the faculty here landed McNeil back in her hometown after years away.

“They wanted engineers selling to engineers,” she explains. Not one to sit still or become bored, McNeil continued to pursue her education. She earned a BS in mathematics from Jackson State University, an MBA from Georgia State University and a PhD in Management, also from Jackson State.

Dr. Stacey McNeil (front, third from left) was named Mississippi Collegiate DECA Advisor of the Year at the 2019 statewide convention. Here, she is surrounded by MSU-Meridian’s DECA members, who turned in strong performances in the conference competitions.

But where would those degrees lead? Her affinity for learning combined with her professional and personal experiences to steer her course.

“I had worked in a Fortune 500 company and in Photo courtesy of Stacey McNeil our family’s multi-cultural marketing business, had traveled throughout the U.S. in my sales job and engineering role and had personally traveled because I like to travel – I’ve been to all seven continents,” she says. “I decided I want to help the next group of people. I’m a double minority, African American and female…and then Southern, too. There are certain things I do that people wouldn’t think I could do, but that’s because great people have always helped me. Now I want to be that person who helps. I love learning and enabling people to grow.”

Photo by Beth Wynn

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Armed with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech, McNeil began her career in West Texas sizing pumps and compressors, clad in a hard hat and steel-toed boots. Soon changing wardrobe and direction, she moved into marketing for the same company and promoted its technical jobs.

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“I just couldn’t miss this opportunity,” she says. “Meridian made me a leader, starting in middle school. I went through the public school system and was President of the Student Council and Miss Meridian High School, really always in some leadership role. Now, it’s fulfilling to give back to the community that believed in me before I knew who I was.”

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One such group of individuals at the Meridian Division of Business is not fledgling freshmen but rather, seasoned business leaders seeking the next level of learning. As Director of Meridian’s Professional MBA Program, McNeil welcomes established achievers back to the classroom for one night a week per course to earn the advanced degree.

“It’s rich for the classroom because these people are experienced,” she explains. “A lot are civic leaders, people who work for the hospital systems here and company leaders. They come to study leadership skills, financial accounting, supply chain management, strategic market management, entrepreneurship and more. This program allows them to fill in things they may be missing and to become even more fully rounded.”

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Halfway through its second year, the Professional MBA program boasts 38 students from East Mississippi and West Alabama. Candidates may take one course at a time or pursue several classes per semester; the first graduating class is finishing in December. McNeil stresses that the Professional MBA degree is wholly a “Mississippi State degree, not a Meridian degree.” She adds, “We advocated for this program because the community needed it. This is a happening trend, people wanting to be ‘tooled up’ no matter how they’re doing in their professions. They want to know the latest, and we want to infuse the opportunity into the great state of Mississippi, regardless of what corner of it someone lives in.” McNeil’s focus also extends to undergraduates. Though DECA was not on her agenda when she arrived on the Meridian campus three years ago, she now serves as the undergraduate collegiate group’s lead advisor. DECA is an international society that aims to prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in the fields of marketing, finance, hospitality and management. “This organization helps develop students’ business acumen through leadership training and competitions,” says McNeil, who was named Mississippi Collegiate DECA Advisor of the Year after only six months in her role. Meridian’s DECA students will travel to Chicago during the year for the Engage national leadership conference, bringing them in close communication with top professionals in a variety of relevant fields. They’ll have opportunities for similar interactions within Mississippi, too. “I want to see these students develop,” McNeil says. “I believe in formal training and apprenticeships, and I believe in learning by experience. This is a robust program for them.” McNeil has accomplished much in her three years on the Meridian campus, in addition to participating in the launch and leadership of the Professional MBA program and overseeing the DECA chapter. She has established a formal orientation for undergraduate students, earned her certification for global social entrepreneurship and accepted an invitation to participate in an International Council for Small Business forum at the United Nations. “[The forum] was like a think tank for advancing entrepreneurship throughout the world,” McNeil explains. “They brought in educators, entrepreneurs and politicians – people who can make things happen – and it was amazing. I met people from all over the world; I had actually visited some of their countries. I particularly got to know women entrepreneurs from Malaysia. They want to place their products in the U.S. to get their people out of their different levels of poverty.” Students in her Cross-Cultural Management class hear about the Malaysian women and all the other experiences McNeil shares from her worldwide travels.

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“I explain things they have no idea about,” she says. “I can bring my exposure to the world into the classroom and tell students that it’s just miles between nations – to put your heart to it, get your plane ticket and just go.” Lately, McNeil’s travels have focused on the road between Meridian and Atlanta, where her 13-yearold son attends the prestigious Marist School. The weekly four-plus hour drive allows her more time to learn.

Dr. Stacey Reynolds McNeil is an educator who lives to teach and lead. She is a natural fit at the Meridian Division of Business where, as she puts it, “We have a student-centric and knowledge-centric community. When you have those things, the University is vibrant.”

There is another group who inspires her and to whom she is thankful, and they bring her back to the very reason she returned to Meridian.

McNeil is proud of MSU-Meridian’s first class of Professional MBA candidates. They include (front, from left) Ashley Davidson, Pearl River Resort; Zetella Gooch, Gooch Consulting & Event Services; Terri Province, Hope Village for Children; Laura Carmichael, City of Meridian; (back, from left) Sonny Dean, Lockheed Martin; Kyle Rutledge, Lauderdale County Supervisor District Five; Dustin Scharmen, Van Zyverden; Tony Pompelia, Leading Edges and William Scarbrough, AT&T. Not shown are Angela Hicks, Newton Municipal School District; Brent Mabry, East Mississippi Electric Power Association; Taunisha Marshall, Mosaic Company and Verlencia Myers, Quality Healthcare, LLC and Kids’ Kastle, LLC. Photo by Beth Wynn

“I have a great role model in my mother, the consummate educator,” she says. “My aunts were educators, and my stepfather was an educator. But my mother, Mable Oatis – a Mississippi State alumnus and master’s and specialist degree holder from Meridian – was a STAR teacher in the state of Mississippi. I’ve been trained for this since I was a baby!” McNeil’s students seem to recognize that spark, that bright mission on her part to make their lives better. “I tell them, ‘You’ve been trained well in Mississippi. You can go all over the world with your knowledge. Put your time in, and you can do that,’” she states.

In return, those students give positive feedback. “They say to me, ‘Dr. McNeil, you really care!’” she shares. “That’s a great gift to me because I wake up every morning wanting to make a difference.” And that’s the story that needs to be told.

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“They really support and focus on the students,” she states.

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She is appreciative in particular of her predecessor, Dr. Natasha Randle, as well as Suzanne Parker, Division Administrative Assistant; Dr. William Hill, Division Head of Business and Dr. Terry Dale Cruse, Head of Campus.

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“I listen to articles that help me advance my knowledge and research, and I use the time to reflect on what’s next,” she remarks. “When I travel the world, I get clarity and perspective about things. People say I am adventurous, but I call it passion for learning.”

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Shrinking the Digital Divide By Kirsten Shaw

education and civic engagement. That is why closing the digital divide is the Commission’s top priority. For communities throughout our nation to thrive and prosper, their residents must have the option to obtain highspeed Internet access.” Federal Communications Commission Notice of Proposed Rulemaking FCC 19-77

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“Broadband access is critical to economic opportunity, job creation,

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student receives an assignment but can’t do the research on his home computer. A young woman looking for a job has to visit the local library to check her e-mail or submit online applications. A company seeking a location for its new plant passes up on a region in need of jobs because it lacks highspeed Internet coverage. Issues like these are faced by millions in rural areas that are not served by high-speed Internet access. The “digital divide” between those with and without high-speed access is shrinking, but the United States still has a long way to go in developing the infrastructure needed in low-population areas. Mississippi State alumni Conor Ferguson and Austin Ratcliffe have developed a way to hasten the process along. The electrical engineers have designed a unique drone technology and software, offered through their company, WISPr Systems. WISPr Systems was cultivated in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) and the James Worth Bagley College of Engineering. Ferguson’s experience, however, began much earlier. “My dad was the first to provide dialup service in north Mississippi, so I’ve known about the Internet and computers since I was six,” Ferguson recalls. “Later, I worked for him in the summers.” In 2011, recognizing that wireless connections would be the most efficient way to bring high-speed access to rural areas, Ferguson and his father started a company to do so. About 2,500 such companies, known as wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), exist across the country today; 80 percent have fewer than 5,000 subscribers. WISPs have low customer turnover rates and offer reliable connections. Installation of equipment is no more time consuming than fiber, satellite, DSL or cable. There is a key issue, however: the inconsistency of the site surveys required to locate the best positions for WISPs’ customer premises equipment (CPE). “Some installations take 30 minutes and some take a couple of hours, and due to limitations of the current site surveying process, feedback for an installation can only be provided on 60 percent of potential subscribers,” observes Ferguson. “These inconsistencies prevent WISP installations from being a ‘cookie cutter’ process, in turn preventing big companies from consolidating WISPs and preventing WISPs from growing from 5,000 to 10,000 subscribers in one year.” In the summer of 2016, Ferguson landed on a promising solution: drones. He and close friend Ratcliffe became excited by the prospects, and WISPr Systems was born.

(from left) Austin Ratcliffe and Conor Ferguson Photos courtesy of Conor Ferguson

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“With our drones we’ve created an easy way to complete surveys in under 15 minutes’ time,” says Ferguson, President and CEO. “We’ve produced the ‘cookie cutter’ process that makes site surveys simple and will allow WISPs to grow at a faster rate and also allow for larger companies to have a uniform process that can be used throughout the entire company.” “We were searching for a cost-effective way to determine height requirements for customer tower locations when we discovered WISPr Systems’ survey drone,” relates client Danny Weems, CEO of Texas-based SolidNet. “Since we have been using the drone, we have been able to add customers that we would have had to turn down in the past. Having the drone has also drastically cut the time it takes to perform a site survey. Instead of [being] a two-man job, it can now be completed with one.”

“It fine tunes itself every time it flies,” remarks Ratcliffe, Vice President and Chief Manufacturing Officer.

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WISPr Systems offers two models. The pricier Scout is able to handle higher winds and a heavier payload. The Pogo was introduced as a more affordable product for those with more modest requirements. Its lower cost has enabled WISPs to buy a higher number of drones, further increasing the pace at which site surveys can be completed. “Companies that were buying one Scout are now buying three or four Pogos,” says Ratcliffe.

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The drones are built at WISPr Systems’ Batesville, MS, headquarters. Each is equipped to carry and power a CPE antenna, enabling communication while in flight. LIDAR, a laser sensing technology, is built in to judge height and ranges, and GPS is onboard for navigation. Depending on the model, the drones carry payloads of 10 to 55 pounds and handle winds of 20 to 35 miles per hour. The flight function is directed via artificial intelligence, and with each flight, a drone gathers information aimed at increasing its own stability and longevity.

Key to the drones’ effectiveness is the proprietary operating software, WISPr OS, and its accompanying WISPr Cloud Services. Besides quickly locating optimum CPE positioning, it allows clients to retain flight logs and other data such as tower locations and signal strengths. Patents are pending on the drones and software. Ferguson credits engineering professors Dr. Bryan Jones, Dr. Mehmet Kurum and Dr. Bob Reese with help in planning and design – from access to equipment and guidance in problem solving and improvements to creating an initial business plan and connecting with professionals in the field. He and Ratcliffe were less quick to seek input on the business side – at first. “Austin and I are both kind of stubborn,” Ferguson laughs. “Initially we thought, ‘We can do this ourselves.’” However, he enrolled in a seminar at the E-Center to see if there were any factors they hadn’t considered. The first day, Director Eric Hill shared how the E-Center operates and what it offers. Ferguson made an appointment with him that very week. “The most exciting entrepreneurs to meet are the ones you can tell are going to find a way to make their ideas happen whether you can help or not – that was Conor Ferguson,” states Hill. “He impressed me because he had big, lofty visions of connecting the world to the Internet, but they were grounded in an elegant solution for a real pain-point costing businesses hundreds of thousands annually.” Hill helped refine their business plan and financials and recommended they present to the E-Center’s Peer Review Entrepreneurship Panel, which resulted in a $500 grant. It was the first of several presentations that would bring in increasing funding from the E-Center, the Bulldog Angel Network and Innovate Mississippi’s Mississippi Seed Fund.

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He adds, “We have a lot to be thankful for in Wade. When you’re young and starting your own business, you can make a lot happen if you shut your mouth and listen to people with experience.” “WISPr Systems is on the cutting edge of using their drones as automation tools,” remarks Patterson. “Their first product helps rural broadband Internet customers get service. But the number of uses for their core autonomous drone technology is really unlimited. The Bulldog Angel Network has been happy to help Conor and Austin bring this technology and first product idea to market. I expect they will launch numerous products with the core technology in the future. It’s a really exciting business concept!” The entrepreneurs are excited about another voice of experience, who has joined WISPr Systems to lead business development, sales and marketing efforts: Bruce Deer. The MSU alumnus’ resumé includes having served as President and CEO of SkyTel and as Chairman of the Mississippi Seed Fund. WISPr Systems today has clients across the country. Short term goals include ramping up drone production and improving the software with mapping – potentially providing a tower coverage service useful to other businesses such as mobile phone companies. The timing couldn’t be better. In August, the FCC announced a Rural Opportunities Development Fund that will award at least $20.4 billion to WISPs over the next decade to accelerate broadband buildout to areas lacking high-speed access. This is sure to increase demand for WISPr Systems’ products. The company is poised to make a major impact. “‘Industry disruption’ is defined as ‘a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses,’” says Ferguson. “I believe our drones will be this industry’s disruptors.”

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“We got a call that night from Wade,” Ferguson shares. “We were oversubscribed, with investments of up to $680,000! We accepted $450,000.”

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WISPr Systems’ drones are helping bring high speed Internet to rural areas.

Ferguson also met Wade Patterson, a 1983 electrical engineering alumnus, co-founder of several tech companies, E-Center Advisory Board member and President of the Bulldog Angel Network. Patterson shared his experience and advice and eventually encouraged Ferguson and Ratcliffe to present to the Bulldog Angel Network, a consortium of alumni and friends who invest in early stage companies owned by MSU students, faculty or alumni. They did, seeking $300,000 for staff and equipment.

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“If you go to the E-Center with a good idea, they’ll get you connected with the right people who can give you the help you need to develop it,” Ferguson remarks. “Eric Hill has done a ton for us, from fine tuning the beginning of our business plan to suggesting we charge a monthly fee for the software to provide recurring revenue.”

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Couple Hits the Right Shot with PGA Program Gift F

or Chad and Carrie Parker, life is always in full swing. They enjoy busy lives and careers in Georgia, engaging in many activities and participating in numerous organizations and groups throughout the city of Atlanta. The Parkers have been married for almost 25 years, after meeting as students at Mississippi State University and graduating in 1995. The pair connected through a mutual friend, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.

Growing up, Chad learned the game of golf from his dad and worked at the local country club in high school. Both he and Carrie were employed at the MSU Golf Course during their time in Starkville, and Chad also worked at Old Waverly Golf Club in nearby West Point. Carrie shares Chad’s love of golf, and many of the lifelong friends she has made are from that circle.

“Carrie and I both have a great deal of respect for the strong golf traditions at MSU and benefited tremendously from our time at State,” says Chad. “Now we hope to extend similar opportunities through our giving for others to have a significant college experience.” The couple has established the Chad and Carrie Parker Excellence Endowment to assist the College of Business perpetually and provide support for student scholarships, faculty support, facility enhancements, visiting lecturers or other enhancements for the PGA Golf Management program. For Chad and Carrie, it is important to make education a priority for others, and their endowment-level gift makes this possible. “Carrie and I are blessed to have parents who understand the value of an exceptional education,” explains Chad, who is President and General Manager of Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club. “We are also fortunate that our families were able to provide for our college education. However, we realize that’s not always the case. We hope the excellence endowment will provide opportunities for those students who might not otherwise have access to the same opportunities that we had.” The experience and education Chad amassed at MSU come into play for him every day at East Lake, the thriving private golf club heralded as home of the TOUR Championship, the PGA TOUR’s season ending event that crowns the FedEx Cup Champion. He joined the club’s staff in 1996 and

Photos by Carolyn Richardson

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The Parkers share much success through their personal lives and through their respective careers. They credit their MSU degrees and educational foundations from the College of Business for many professional and educational opportunities that have been afforded them.

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Chad came to MSU from his hometown of Florence, AL, for the PGA program and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing/professional golf management. Carrie, a native of Laurel, MS, earned a professional accountancy degree.

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The Parkers, shown here at East Lake Golf Club, both worked at the MSU Golf Course during their college years.

became the Head Golf Professional the next year. Six years ago, he achieved PGA Certification in General Management, a distinction held by only three percent of the 22,000 members of The PGA of America. Chad is very active in the area of golf tournament management, having hosted 19 PGA TOUR events and three major amateur events, including the 101st U.S. Amateur Championship in 2001 and the East Lake Cup from 2015 to the present. He also has a passion for merchandising and has been honored 17 times by the Association of Golf Merchandisers as having one of the “Top 100 Golf Shops” in the United States. He was named Merchandiser of the Year by the Georgia Section PGA in 2002 and won the inaugural Golf World “Best Merchandising” award in 2004. In 2011, Chad was given the Horton Smith Award by the Georgia Section PGA for his continuing contributions to professional education. The organization also presented him the President’s Award in 2016 for his overall promotion of golf, level of impact on the game of golf, ability to inspire fellow professionals and level of professional expertise. Chad was named to the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “Top 40 Under 40” in 2009 and was recognized as a “Community Champion” by the Georgia Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 2010. He currently serves on the boards of Crimestoppers Atlanta, Leadership Atlanta, Cink Charities, the Atlanta Sports Council and the Atlanta Humane Society. He is also a proud graduate of the 2018 class of Leadership Atlanta, one of the oldest sustained community leadership programs in the nation. Another passion for Chad and Carrie is assisting the community by organizing charity golf tournaments. With the help of Stewart Cink and others, Chad and Carrie created The Healing Place Charity Championship in Chad’s hometown of Florence to raise money for a nonprofit facility in Muscle Shoals, AL, that provides ongoing education and support programs for grieving children, adolescents and their families/caregivers. The event has raised more than $2 million in its 15-year run. In 2010, Chad coordinated the formation of the East Lake Invitational, a celebrity pro-am style golf tournament staged to benefit the East Lake Foundation. With the assistance of tournament hosts Billy Andrade and Stewart Cink, the event has raised more than $3 million for charity in 10 years. The couple love creating an environment of hospitality for charity tournaments together. However, they spend their typical days very differently. While Chad guides East Lake, Carrie – who, in addition to her MSU degree, earned a Master of Tax Accounting degree from the University of Alabama – is devoted to her own career.

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“We are big believers in education,” says Carrie. “My undergraduate degree gave me the building blocks for success, as did Chad’s degree, and we want to be a small part of the success of other students following behind us at MSU.”

As MSU’s PGA program prepares for its 35th year, it is working to expand boundaries with support from the Parkers. Since its inception in 1985, the program has produced more than 750 graduates, many of whom now hold positions at Top 100 golf courses, at PGA Sections and at PGA headquarters, among other notable posts.

“The Parkers’ generous gift will help enhance the opportunities for each student in the PGA Golf Management Program, and the positive impact of their endowment will resonate for generations to come,” says Jeff Adkerson, PGA Golf Management and Golf Operations Director at MSU. The MSU PGA program enjoys a strong reputation, with a 100 percent placement rate of graduates who have worked at more than 1,300 golf facilities and organizations worldwide. That number continues to grow. “Carrie and I are happy to give back to a program that has offered us many wonderful opportunities through the game of golf,” says Chad. “Our endowment is meant to bring perpetual support for the PGA program to help students gain experience and accomplish great things, both in and outside the game of golf.”

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“Our Fund for Excellence seeks to directly impact the understanding of this changing landscape, and I feel that these types of programs will help students learn to lead in evolving situations,” says Chad. “The years I spent in the classrooms at MSU helped me grow into the person I am today. I learned so much from my classes in the PGA Golf Management program, and I want to ensure future students who come to study at MSU will continue to have similar experiences.”

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Because of their demanding work schedules, Carrie and Chad are infrequent visitors to MSU. However, Carrie has occasionally assisted in interviewing candidates at MSU for tax internship positions at her firm. And last fall, Chad visited campus and spoke to the PGA Golf Management Club members, in particular focusing on the senior class, where he shared real-world insights. Those insights included the anticipation of a changing landscape for golf and how he hopes to help MSU students prepare for an environment where the culture and diversity of golfers will change.

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Carrie is a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network in Atlanta that is one of the Big Four accounting firms. Specifically, she is a mergers and acquisitions (M&A) tax partner, having specialized in this area for more than 20 years, and she also leads the firm’s Global Structuring team in the Southeast, which brings together the M&A, International Tax Services, Transfer Pricing and State and Local tax practices to offer clients holistic solutions as they execute their business strategies around the world. Before becoming partner, Carrie completed a secondment with the M&A tax practice of the firm’s Washington National Tax Services office. She is a frequent speaker on M&A tax issues at the firm’s national training courses and in the Southeastern tax community.

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Tribute and Transformation T

he late Dr. Dora Herring was a forward thinker. The former Professor and Director of Mississippi State accounting always looked beyond the status quo, in her own career and for her students, university and profession.

When she enrolled as an undergraduate in the early 1960s, she did so as MSU’s first female accounting student, and she would go on to break the gender barrier as the first woman to serve on the business

in accounting. A true Bulldog, she continually sought ways to improve Mississippi State and its accounting program. Early on, she recognized the impact computers would have and became the first faculty member to specialize in what is now accounting information systems. She worked to transform the Department of Accountancy to a School of Accountancy – now the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy – and served on the building committee for McCool Hall. She helped plan seminal events, from the first Super Bulldog Weekend to the MSU Centennial. Even after retiring, she remained involved with Mississippi State’s progress. Most importantly, Dora Herring always sought to keep her students moving forward. She encouraged them in their studies, took them to American Accounting Association meetings and provided other opportunities to expand their experience and later even endowed a graduate assistantship. Once her students graduated, she invited them to remain involved and support those who followed. It is no surprise that when she passed away in the spring of 2018, there were many who wanted to honor her memory. It was decided that a fitting tribute would be to renovate and name the accountancy suite for her: the Dora Rose Herring Accountancy Suite in the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy (ASAC). “The naming of the accountancy suite as the ‘Dora Rose Herring Accountancy Suite’ is a very exciting and deserving recognition and honor bestowed upon my mom,” states Dr. Clyde Herring, Associate Clinical Professor of Accountancy. “She was an outstanding accounting professor for many years, and her contributions to the School, College, University and state significantly added to the growth and value of the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy. The impact she had on this School will be forever remembered because of this momentous event. Our family greatly appreciates the School recognizing Mom in this special way!” Many members of the Herring family – children, grandchildren and siblings – contributed to the renovation. They are named on a plaque in what is now the Herring Family Conference Room. The reception area (top) and the suite as a whole were designed with the feel of a modern professional accounting office. The glass walls of the graduate assistant office and tutoring lab (bottom) contribute to a sense of spaciousness. Photo by Megan Bean

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Herring was the first person in the state to hold a CPA and a doctorate

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faculty and as President of the Mississippi Society of CPAs. Dora

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Also paying tribute was school namesake Richard C. Adkerson, a former student of Dr. Herring’s, who provided a lead gift.

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“Dora Herring was special in my life in many ways,” says Adkerson, the Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of FreeportMcMoRan Inc. “First, she was an excellent and demanding teacher. We were fortunate to have her as a key member of the outstanding faculty when I was a student. Yet, she was much more Dr. Herring’s support and encouragement for students extended to endowing than a great teacher. the Dora Herring Graduate Assistantship. Here, she is shown with 2018 Her special interest in recipient Morgan Stegall. students like me inspired Photo courtesy of the Adkerson School of Accountancy us to strive for success in our careers – a huge benefit for me personally in my career. After graduation until the end of her life, we maintained a close and mutually supportive relationship which I valued immensely. Dora was indeed a special person who loved Mississippi State, the Starkville community and especially her students.” With contributions from well over 100 members of the MSU accounting family, plans were soon underway for a renovation of ASAC’s headquarters. “Funding for the renovation was entirely self-generated,” says ASAC Director Dr. Shawn Mauldin. “We reached out to all our alumni, and the Herring family has also provided funds. We received more than enough in cash and pledges to complete the renovation.” The cost of the renovation was $400,000, and funds raised above that amount will provide for the maintenance of the suite. “A renovation of this scope hasn’t been done before for accounting,” notes Mauldin. “We wanted it to feel like a modern professional office setting. It will be a nice showcase for the University, for students who are considering accounting as a career.” Contained within the suite are the Director’s office, the Academic Coordinator’s office, a conference room, faculty and staff offices, a graduate assistant office and a tutoring lab. Construction began March 1, after many months of planning and work with the University’s architect and facility designers. Every aspect of design was worked out, from removal of walls to flooring choices, from color selections to artwork. Looking to the long term, consideration was put into developing a timeless look and choosing durable materials that would retain their beauty over years of use. The suite’s new overall look is open and light. The reception area has been enlarged, and the ceiling has been raised. White wainscoting covers the lower portion of the walls, with light grey paint above. A grey-toned wood covers the floors. The wood-framed glass walls and door that

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welcome people into the suite are reminiscent of the entrance to the Dean’s suite, bringing visual continuity with the College of Business at large. Glass-walled student areas and conference room contribute to the sense of spaciousness. Faculty offices also have new flooring, shelving and paint that tie into the overall look.

on the main reception wall imparts a rich, understated tone.

Wood-framed walls and doors bring visual continuity with the Dean’s suite. Photo by Megan Bean

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“We are grateful to all who have contributed toward the Dora Rose Herring Accountancy Suite,” states Mauldin. “Their gifts will work to advance Mississippi State accounting, continuing the inspirational legacy of an educator who was always looking – and moving – forward.”

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Several of the individual spaces within the suite will bear the names of donors who have contributed to the renovation. In addition to the Herring Family Conference Room, there are the Linda Garrett Accounting Tutoring Lab, the David & Paula Hopkins Academic Coordinator Office, the Allen & Denise Poole Director’s Suite and the John D. Scott Graduate Assistant Lab.

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Art throughout the suite is upbeat and MSU-focused. Reflecting various aspects of campus life, it is grouped by theme, such as athletics or Mississippi State symbols. Additional naming “It’s a student-friendly space, with a new office for our opportunities within the Dora graduate assistants along with other student areas, like a Rose Herring Accountancy tutoring lab,” observes Mauldin. “It will also appeal to potential Suite are still available. Those students and parents when they visit the school, enhancing our desiring to contribute may competitiveness with other schools of accountancy.” contact Zack Harrington, COB Director of Development, Much attention was given to detail in conceiving the upscale, zharrington@development. professional design. Granite accents beautify the reception area. msstate.edu, 662-617-0942. Individual gallery lights enhance the artwork. Bronze lettering

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DueT Technology: A Cut Above E

With the help of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, White and Anthony have engineered clippers that do not overheat and have simultaneously created a business, DueT Technology, LLC (DueTT). The company has been working with the E-Center for more than two years and recently received more than $130,000 in investment funding from the Bulldog Angel Network, an independent group of venture capitalists who focus on start-ups founded by MSU students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“In an industry that touches nearly every human head, they’re still basically using 60-year-old technology,” says Anthony, the CEO and a senior computer engineering major from Jonesboro, GA. “This has created a big gap for an innovative electric clipper. Our product solves the problem of clippers overheating within 25 minutes. Barbers have had to have five, maybe six devices to cope with that.” The clippers have a patent-pending design that uses an autonomous system to cool the device. DueTT expects to formally launch the product next year. Because barbers who cut the hair of African American and Latino customers primarily use clippers, this determined the company’s target market. However, before they launch the product, the team has spent the last year building a brand that connects with amateur and professional barbers, as well as anyone else interested in hair. The company’s YouTube page, Barber Style Directory, contains in-house tutorial videos that have received millions of views.

(from top) Thomas White, Tyler Anthony and Vicki Jordan Photos by Logan Kirkland

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When Mississippi State agricultural engineering alumnus Thomas White started cutting hair as a hobby, he came across a problem that has frustrated barbers for decades – his electric clippers kept getting uncomfortably hot. Like most barbers, White started buying multiple pairs so he could cut with one set while the others cooled down. But conversations with former classmate Tyler Anthony led to the idea of trying to make clippers in a better way.

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very year, more than 200 budding entrepreneurs grace the doors of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) in the College of Business searching for guidance to transform their business ideas into real ventures. These students, faculty, staff and alumni come from all colleges at MSU – some with full-blown ideas or prototypes, others with concepts perhaps merely scribbled on the back of a napkin. But they all dream of owning their own businesses, and sometimes they are in search of that missing component – someone who possesses a needed expertise. Not every business is a success, but some have the potential for greatness. One such example is DueT Technology, a company on track to revolutionize the barber clipper industry.

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By James Carskadon and Sharon Oswald

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“We try to put out content that’s up to date,” says White, the COO and a DeKalb, MS, native. “We don’t want to be doing [styles] that nobody cares about anymore. Professional barbers and amateurs look at the videos. We’re getting the best of both worlds, so we’ll have two different markets that will buy our product.” Vicki Jordan, a Meridian native who studied psychology at MSU, serves as DueTT’s Vice President of Marketing and Operations. She has managed the company’s social media, YouTube channel and website. “Studying psychology has prepared me to try and really understand who our customers are,” Jordan comments. “What do they need and want? We’re building our brand by getting them to trust us.”

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In their research, the entrepreneurs reached out to barbers across the country to get feedback for the design of the clippers, helping to ensure it would be a product with national appeal. In addition to targeting barbers with African American and Latino clientele, they plan to target new and millennial barbers. “There’s been a lot of unrest growing in the barber industry from the poor quality of cutting that current brands are doing,” Anthony remarks. “There’s really a need for a new company, a new product. We want to capture that next generation of barbers who are used to having new devices coming out every year for phones and things like that – not having to just settle for what is out there. They’re used to having products that meet their needs.”

“It’ll improve time on haircuts,” says Stanley Higgins, Barber for A Touch of Luv Barber & Beauty Salon. “I told Thomas he could be a millionaire because I’ve never seen a pair of clippers like that.” Before pitching to the Bulldog Angel Network, the company moved through the E-Center’s VentureCatalystTM program, which guides companies through the initial stages of launching a start-up. VentureCatalyst is a trademarked program developed by E-Center Director Eric Hill with the help of entrepreneur and MSU alumnus Wade Patterson. Companies can pursue one of two tracks – the new product track or the retail, service and lifestyle track. DueTT followed the new product track. VentureCatalyst is a four-stage process, with opportunities to obtain funding at the completion of each phase. This co-curricular program is designed to help entrepreneurs better formulate their business ideas and determine their levels of commitment to seeing the ideas through to fruition. Throughout the process the E-Center staff provide mentorship and guidance. The goal of stage one is to help the budding entrepreneur better articulate the business idea and develop focus. It includes passing an online training course with a minimum score of 85 percent. After completing a short pitch deck, the potential start-up pitches to the E-Center’s Peer Review Entrepreneurship Panel (PREP) for the chance to receive a $500 Spark Grant. PREP is composed of entrepreneurs whose companies have more than $25,000 in annual sales or who have raised $75,000 in capital investment. The second stage focuses on determining the customer, the value proposition and the market opportunity. It involves talking to potential customers, constructing a proof of concept and completing a unit financial analysis. Before pitching a second time, a complete team capable of executing the business must be in place. With a new pitch deck in hand, the potential business may present before the Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board for a chance to receive up to $2,000. The board is composed of local entrepreneurs and of faculty from across campus.

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Photo by Logan Kirkland

After completing the first two steps, a startup like DueTT enters a critical phase – refining the market offerings, crafting a business plan, completing a 48-month financial projection and determining the business’ investment opportunity. During this phase, the business works with a successful business mentor and cannot make the pitch for additional funding without the endorsement of that mentor. The Investment Review Council focuses on the financial viability of the venture. Serving on the Council are successful business people throughout the country who evaluate the potential business and its sustainability. The maximum funding at this level is $5,000. The final stage of VentureCatalyst is the launch. To reach this stage, a new venture must have raised additional funding to reach 18-months of runway. External opportunities exist through channels such as Innovate Mississippi, an organization whose purpose is to accelerate startups and drive entrepreneurship throughout the state. A business can apply to Innovate Mississippi for seed money of up to a $100,000 convertible note. The new business must also secure an attorney to establish a legal structure and address any intellectual property issues. When the company is deemed ready, the management team can go before the Bulldog Angel Network in search of possible investors and funding of up to $1 million. DueTT found success when it reached this stage. The Network’s investors were able to see the potential in this revolutionary product. “The Bulldog Angel Network is excited about DueTT’s product idea and business plan and happy to have helped enable their company launch,” says Patterson, who serves as Bulldog Angel Network President. “With the help of Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, we have invested in five student companies since we started and are in the process on three more investments.” White said that while he may not use the specifics of agricultural engineering with the company, the critical thinking and perseverance capabilities he learned in his classes have helped him run a company. Now that DueTT is receiving funding, he is glad it is coming from fellow Bulldogs. He states, “Just knowing that they’re alumni or they have associations with Mississippi State makes you feel more comfortable about everything and have trust in the process.”

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The DueTT team works in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach, where the VentureCatalystTM program helped them build a solid foundation and secure funding.

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The Science and Art of Business Valuation By Michael J. Highfield

The TTS session was a great success. Students shared that the workshop showed how the skills they were learning from their finance faculty at MSU were applicable in the “real world” of Wall Street firms. The students also shared that, although we routinely hear about “Buy, Sell, or Hold” ratings and “stock price targets,” most of us don’t know the process used by analysts to develop these important opinions that influence our retirement and savings portfolios. The TTS workshop helped our students see this process more clearly. Below is a brief summary, or 10,000-foot view, of the stock price valuation process. 1. Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the most famous investors of all time, said, “Managers and investors alike must understand that accounting numbers are the beginning, not the end, of business valuation.” So, following the advice of the Oracle of Omaha, we start with the three basic financial statements. • Income Statement – Summarizes revenues, expenses and profit for a defined period of time such as one quarter or fiscal year. • Balance Sheet – Reports the balances of the assets (tangible and intangible items the firm owns), liabilities (debts the firm owes creditors) and owners’ equity (the net worth or “book value” of the firm) at a specific point in time such as the end of a fiscal year.

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Following Paul’s advice, the Department of Finance and Economics brought TTS to Starkville on February 22-23 this year. The Finance Immersion Workshop was led by Zachary Beukema, a Boston College graduate with experience at Raytheon Company and investment banking firm Jefferies LLC. Approximately 40 students from across campus and four faculty members participated. The Friday session covered accounting information from the perspective of an investment banker, valuation methodologies used by Wall Street firms and related questions often seen in interviews for finance-related internships and jobs. The Saturday session included useful shortcuts in Microsoft Excel and a detailed valuation of Cadbury when it was acquired by Kraft Foods in 2010.

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Paul Whitmire, an MSU alumnus and one of my former students, discussed this issue with a group of Mississippi State students at a New York City steakhouse on 52nd Street, right around the corner from his Seventh Avenue office. It was mid-March 2018, and news of a late season nor’easter was the talk of the city. However, our students were intently listening to Paul’s description of working for a Wall Street firm and the office he would return to after dinner – after already putting in a 12-hour day. During the course of the conversation, Paul remarked that MSU should bring Training the Street (TTS) to campus. He had gone through the TTS program during his MBA studies at Vanderbilt University, and he explained that TTS courses are used for training at investment banks, consulting firms and Fortune 500 companies.

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s a finance professor, it is not uncommon to have a student, even a senior majoring in finance, ask for my opinion about the price of a stock even when they have the tools necessary to answer the question. In the process of taking coursework for an undergraduate degree in finance, students often find themselves “unable to see the forest for the trees.” That is, they often focus on learning the accounting, economics and statistical tools without seeing how these tools work cohesively to make financial decisions such as determining if a stock is underpriced or overpriced.

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• Cash Flow Statement – Reports the sources of a business’s cash inflows and outflows between two balance sheet dates. Using these financial statements, an analyst will value a company on an intrinsic value basis and a relative value basis. 2. Intrinsic Valuation – The objective process of determining the theoretical value of a company based on the interest rate and time adjusted value (present value) of the cash flows available to all capital holders.

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• First, the analyst will compute the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC), the required rate of return for both equity and debt investors commensurate with the risk of the investment weighted by the respective percentage of debt and equity held by the firm. While this value can be computed by an analyst, estimates can often be obtained through a Google search. Note that higher discount rates imply greater risk, thus driving down the present value of cash flows. • The analyst then forecasts Free Cash Flow (FCF) – EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) less capital expenditures (change in fixed assets) less additions to intangible assets less (plus) increases (decreases) in net working capital – using the income statement and balance sheet. • Making assumptions, the analyst will estimate FCF for a forecast period of five to seven years. At the end of the forecast period, the analyst will estimate a Terminal Value to represent the present value of all FCFs the firm will accrue after the forecast period. • The forecasted FCFs and Terminal Value will be “discounted” back to the present (today) using the WACC as the discount rate to arrive at the Total Enterprise Value (TEV). • The analyst will then subtract total debt, preferred stock and non-controlling interests (firm ownership of a subsidiary without control over decisions of the subsidiary) from TEV and add back cash and equivalents from the balance sheet to get Equity Value. • Equity Value (EV), also known as Market Capitalization, is the value of owners’ interests in the firm. Dividing EV by the Diluted Shares Outstanding results in an estimate of the stock price we call the intrinsic, or fundamental, value of the stock. If the actual stock price is below (above) the intrinsic value, the stock is considered undervalued (overvalued) and should be purchased (sold). 3. Relative Valuation – The process of using publicly available data to compare a firm with similar companies through value relationships known as Key Multiples. • The Price-Earnings (P/E) Ratio – Price per share relative to earnings per share (EPS) – is commonly used as a key multiple. Other examples are the Price-to-Sales (P/S) and Total Economic Value-to-Sales (TEV/S) Ratios. • Comparable firms are identified based on operations and financial similarities. Fortunately, companies typically identify their competitors in their annual reports, which can be accessed through the Security and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) EDGAR database: www.sec.gov/ edgar. • From the financial statements for each firm, the analyst identifies several important variables. A few variables deserve special attention: o Sales is Revenue reported on the Income Statement. However, analysts are more interested in the estimate of next year’s revenue figure. Thus, sales is typically a forward-looking, estimated sales figure.

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o Diluted Shares Outstanding (DSO) is the total shares of stock issued to investors plus shares that could be claimed through conversion of other financial instruments to equity shares. o Earnings per Share (EPS) is Net Income (revenue minus expenses) or Profit divided by DSO. This is a measure of profitability per share of ownership. Use of last year’s Net Income in this computation leads to a “trailing EPS.” However, an analyst will typically forecast Net Income for the coming year and compute ratios using a “forward EPS.”

o For example, assume that an analyst estimates that Apple Inc.’s forward EPS will be $11.50. If Apple’s current share price is $205.50, an analyst will compute the PE Ratio as $205.85 / $11.50 =17.9x. That is, Apple is trading at 17.9 times future earnings. o If comparable firms are trading at a PE Ratio of 17.5x, the analyst will conclude that the relative price of Apple is 17.5 × $11.50 = $195.50. Thus, Apple is currently trading at a premium ($205.85 > $195.50) relative to its peers.

Dr. Michael J. Highfield, PhD, CFA, CTP, a former faculty member at Louisiana Tech University, returned to his alma mater as an MSU faculty member in 2005. As Department Head of Finance and Economics from 2009 to 2018, Highfield oversaw 22 full-time faculty, established a departmental advisory board, secured more than $4.5 million through development activities, hired 13 tenured/tenure-track faculty and guided the tenure and/or promotion of 11 faculty members. His teaching interests include corporate finance, banking and real estate finance, and his research is concentrated in securities issuance and real estate finance. Highfield serves as Vice President of Curriculum for the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University and as a volunteer and consultant for the CFA Institute. He is past President of the American Real Estate Society and is currently on its Board of Directors. Highfield is a member of the Investments Committee for the MSU Foundation and of the Oktibbeha Educational Foundation, Inc.

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Michael J. Highfield

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The outline above is just a brief summary of valuation process to illustrate the science and art behind business valuation. While the intrinsic valuation process to derive a theoretical price is fairly scientific and mathematical, the relative valuation process relies on the artful selection of comparative companies as well as the post-estimate judgment of pricing differences. In the end, there is no guarantee that either method will arrive at the correct value. However, as Aswath Damodaran wrote, “Success in investing comes not from being right, but from being wrong less often than everyone else.”

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• Using the average Key Multiple for comparable companies, the analyst will estimate a price of the firm’s stock. If a firm is trading a premium or discount relative to its peers, the analyst will examine the company more closely to determine if this premium or discount is justified.

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Impactful Investment A Message from the Director of Development e all know the concept of an investment in our personal lives. A financial investment today helps us to prosper and live a comfortable life in the future. The College of Business is no different – a financial investment today helps ensure the future success of our College and our incredible students. It is your generosity that helps us grow and be competitive. Private support is essential to our future.

Remember, the impact of your gift may be doubled or tripled by a company match. Please be sure to check with your human resource department to see if your employer is a matching gift company. During the year, we said goodbye to our Assistant Director of Development, Jana Berkery, who has moved to Student Affairs as Director of Development. We will be choosing her successor in the coming months. In the meantime, I am excited to welcome Erin Novorot to the development team as our Advancement Coordinator. A native of Starkville, Erin is a 2007 graduate of Mississippi State with a B.S. in Physical Education and Clinical Exercise Physiology. She is married to Chris Novorot and has two four-legged babies, pooches Poppy and Lucy. Erin has worked in the College of Business since 2016, where she has been managing our scholarship program for more than two years in addition to other duties. Erin is excited about building stronger relationships with each of you as we partner to advance the College of Business together. Thank you for all you do for the College, and as we wind down the campaign, I look forward to visiting with you about how you can continue to make a difference in the College of Business and Mississippi State University.

Zack Harrington (’09, ’10) Erin Novorot (’07) Director of Development Advancement Coordinator College of Business College of Business zharrington@foundation.msstate.edu enovorot@business.msstate.edu 662-617-0942 662-325-1887

Photo by Megan Bean

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Through outright gifts, annuities, personal property or real estate, bequests or gifts of stocks, bonds or other securities, you are helping us attract outstanding faculty and students, as well as keeping our College on the cutting edge of new technologies. If you are thinking of including the College in your estate planning, let us document that this year – any contributions through 2020 will count toward our capital campaign goal.

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As we enter into the final year of the Infinite Impact campaign, there is no better time than now to make your own investment in the College of Business. As we brand our College under the umbrella of innovation and entrepreneurship, there are numerous opportunities available to help us uphold our mission and better position the College for the future.

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Ideas in Store By Emily Daniels

can come and make a dream come true,” says College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald. “They can develop a product with the equipment we have, and then they can actually test it on the marketplace just like some of the products already here.” Mississippi State University and Starkville city officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony on March 7, 2019, to formally open the Idea Shop – a 2,000-square-foot Main Street facility that includes the Turner A. Wingo Maker Studio – and the MSU Retail Product Accelerator. Michael Lane, who graduated from MSU in December 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, was named Program Coordinator for this new downtown makerspace and retail storefront, which are operated by the College of Business and the School of Human Sciences. “I grew up around tools and spent time working on construction sites with my dad,” says Lane. “I realized how important it is for people who design to actually know how to build what they are designing. That’s why I decided to get involved in the makerspace and give people the opportunities that I had growing up: to use tools, build what they want and be a part of projects.” During his undergraduate career, Lane became a champion of the maker movement at MSU. The Amory native was a founding member of The Factory, an organization on campus launched in 2014, and he helped grow the organization to more than 200 active members. Lane traveled to more than 10 universities and conferences around the country to benchmark MSU against other institutions and help inform the University’s strategy to grow the maker movement. “The Factory was housed in Patterson Hall on campus, and while it was a convenient location for students and faculty, it wasn’t easily accessible for others,” says Lane. “I always wanted [the

Photos by Megan Bean, Logan Kirkland and Beth Wynn

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“We wanted to have a space where not only our students, but anybody

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This past spring, MSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach teamed up with the School of Human Sciences and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership to create a much-needed workshop and retail space for budding local entrepreneurs. The project was made possible by numerous private contributions – including a major one from 1967 College of Business graduate Turner Wingo – and support by the USDA Rural Business Development program.

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ow, more than ever, entrepreneurship seems to be the occupation of the future. In the past, entrepreneurship was mainly perceived as a career path only for students and young professionals – think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, all in their 20s when they launched their worldchanging companies. But in today’s business world you will find that people of all ages are taking a chance at becoming their own boss. According to studies out of Duke University, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Founder Institute and Northwestern University, the average entrepreneur is 40 years old when launching his or her first startup, and the average age of leaders of high-growth startups is 45 years old. Even the 55- to 64-year-old age group accounted for 26 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2017, according to the Kauffman Foundation. Cities and towns are encouraging the spread of entrepreneurship by supporting incubators, accelerators and new business competitions in their communities. And Starkville, MS, is no exception.

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makerspace] to be located where the whole community could be involved, and The Idea Shop is perfect for that.” The shop features two spaces: The front serves as the retail section of the store, while the back houses the physical workshop for product creation. The Maker Studio provides a comprehensive array of design workstations with advanced fabrication tooling not commonly available, such as CNC routers, 3D printers, laser cutters and advanced woodworking and metalworking tools. The Studio always has skilled staff members on hand who can help customers use the tools. Lane says that it costs $10 to use the equipment for one day; however, customers can also purchase a membership to gain unlimited access to all the equipment during open hours. Various workshops are regularly hosted for newcomers to the maker movement.

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“The goal is for us to offer workshops and things for the community to participate in at least once a month,” says Lane. “Many of the workshops are free, but some charge a small fee. For example, in June, we hosted a Father’s Day gift-making workshop. For $15, participants could build and customize a charging dock or coaster set.” The front of the Idea Shop is a fully operational retail store, featuring products sourced from student and faculty entrepreneurs, in addition to other local community startups. The Shop provides an outlet for very early stage entrepreneurs and makers to gain direct experience in commerce and all associated functions of retailing a product, as well as a channel to test new ideas with real, paying customers. “The retail area is great for our student start-ups to test out how receptive the public is to the products they are selling,” says Lane. “We also offer product space for local vendors as well, regardless of membership. There is a vendor application and rules and regulations on what can be sold. All of the products sold in the Idea Shop are handmade. From coffee and juice to jewelry and pottery, there’s something for everyone!” The Idea Shop is open from 1 pm to 9 pm Wednesdays through Fridays, and 11 am to 7 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information about the Idea Shop, visit www.ecenter.msstate.edu. Program Coordinator Michael Lane looks out from the Idea Shop storefront into Main Street Starkville. Photo by Megan Bean

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news briefs

Shawn M. Hunter was named the 2019 Alumni Fellow for the College of Business. He is the owner and CEO of Industry Services, Inc., a specialty industrial contractor supplying technical service, equipment and field crews to combat heat and corrosion problems for customers throughout the United States. Hunter graduated from MSU in 1992 with a BBA with an emphasis in real estate and mortgage finance, and he joined his family’s business, Lynn Whitsett Corporation in Memphis. In 1995, he purchased D.A. Collins Refractories, Inc. in Atlanta. He later purchased Industry Services Company, Inc. and moved the headquarters of his business to Mobile, AL. Through additional purchases and organic growth, the company has become a leader in refractory services and now operates six offices. Shawn and his wife, 1991 MSU graduate Catherine Chatham Hunter, have two children, who are both currently enrolled at MSU. Hunter is one of the Top 100 COB Alumni named during the 2015 Centennial Celebration.

Grad Student Association Honors Two from COB Advising, research and teaching efforts were recognized at the 17th annual MSU Graduate Student Association Awards Banquet in April. Among this year’s honorees, Associate Professor of Management Dr. Laura Marler received the Graduate Student Outstanding Advisor Award, and business administration/ marketing doctoral student Tyler Hancock received the Donald Zacharias PhD Graduate Teaching Assistant of the Year Award. Shown are (from left) Laura Marler Templeton and Tyler Hancock with fellow honorees Ashley Aderholt, Ismail Yigit and Russell Carr.

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COB Alumni Fellow

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Dr. Helen M. Currie was recognized as the 2019 Alumnus of the Year for the College of Business. Currie is the Senior Economist at ConocoPhillips, overseeing the company’s long-range plan development and advising on investment analysis, political risk, scenario planning and other strategic initiatives. A 2000 PhD graduate of the College of Business, Currie served on the faculties at Elon University and LaGrange College. Her academic research focused on mortgage-backed securities valuation and financial institutions management. She previously worked with the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology, conducting economic impact studies and small business economic analyses for environmental regulations. Currie is a member of the COB Executive Advisory Board and the MSU Foundation Board, and she was named among the Top 100 COB Alumni during the College’s Centennial Celebration in 2015.

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COB Alumnus of the Year

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news briefs New Faculty and Staff Welcome 2019 new College of Business Faculty and Staff!

Will Anding, PhD

Christopher Boone, PhD

Dae Youp Kang, PhD

Michael Lane

Clinical Assistant Professor, Adkerson School of Accountancy

Assistant Professor, Marketing, Quantitative Analysis & Business Law

Assistant Professor, Management & Information Systems

Program Coordinator, The MSU Idea Shop

Kelly Lowe

Erik Markin, PhD

Erin Novorot

Adam Pervez, PhD

Administrative Assistant I, Marketing, Quantitative Analysis & Business Law

Assistant Professor, Management & Information Systems

Advancement Coordinator, College of Business

Assistant Professor of Management, Meridian Division of Business

Chris Pilgrim

Trina Pollan

Erika Scott

Jennifer Sexton, PhD

Assistant Director, Distance Learning

Academic Coordinator, Adkerson School of Accountancy

Program Assistant, PGA Golf Management

Assistant Professor, Management & Information Systems

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U.S. News and World Report ranked Mississippi State’s online MBA program at No. 26 and our online Master of Information Systems program (non-MBA) No. 33 in the nation in its 2019 Best Online MBA Program rankings. This marks the fourth consecutive year MSU’s Distance MBA program has ranked in the top 30 nationally. Dr. Brad S. Trinkle, Assistant Professor of Accountancy, has been ranked third among Experimental Accounting Information Systems (AIS) Researchers worldwide for the past six years by BYU Accounting Rankings. Additionally, Mississippi State University is ranked third in the world for Experimental AIS Research and first among SEC schools. The Adkerson School of Accountancy’s graduate and undergraduate programs continue to be ranked in the top ten for schools with 16 or fewer accounting faculty in the 2019 Commerce Clearing House Public Accounting Report. Additionally, both programs are ranked in the top 25 in the South Region – undergraduate, 14th, and graduate, 16th.

Beta Alpha Psi Chapter Earns Superior Status Mississippi State’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor society for accounting students, recently received “Superior Chapter” status at the organization’s national meeting in Chicago. The honor signifies the group’s accomplishments and activities during the 2018-19 academic year. “Superior Chapter” status is earned through student attendance and participation in professional meetings and service projects throughout the year in partnership with the community and university. The MSU chapter is advised by Dr. Clyde Herring, Associate Clinical Professor of Accountancy.

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College of Business Rankings

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Department staff members Wilma Peterson (left) and Teresa Howell were among many who attended a reception to thank Lewis Mallory.

Starkville native and 1965 College of Business banking and finance graduate Lewis F. Mallory, Jr. retired in December after nine years as a Lecturer for the Department of Finance & Economics. Just prior to teaching, he retired as Chairman and CEO of Cadence Bank and Cadence Financial Corporation, having been appointed President in 1974 and Chairman in 1993. Mallory is still involved at his alma mater, serving on the MSU Foundation Board – having been President from 1982 to 1985 – and on the College’s Executive Advisory Board. He was the 1997 COB Alumnus of the Year and was named one of the COB’s Top 100 graduates during the College’s 2015 Centennial Celebration. The College of Business extends a heartfelt “thank you” for the positive impact he has made on students and colleagues alike. Best wishes for a long and happy retirement!

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Mallory Retires as Finance Lecturer

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news briefs Barnett Receives SMA’s Highest Honor

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The Southern Management Association (SMA) named Dr. Tim Barnett, Professor of Management, as this year’s winner of its highest honor, the James G. Hunt Sustained Outstanding Service Award. The Hunt Award recognizes individuals who have consistently helped SMA reach its goals and mission over a period of years through elected office, appointed positions like committee membership and volunteer positions like paper reviewer, as well as extraordinary contributions like financial support.

McLemore Receives Leadership Scholarship College of Business student Ashley McLemore is the recipient of the annual Leadership Scholarship awarded by the Mississippi Young Bankers (MYB) section of the Mississippi Bankers Association (MBA). The scholarship was awarded at the MYB Leadership Conference in Jackson. McLemore was chosen to receive the $2,000 scholarship given annually to one junior enrolled in a banking or finance program at a statesupported university in Mississippi. The MYB Leadership Scholarship was first given by the MYB in 1998, and since 2012, the scholarship has been funded by the MBA Education Foundation and awarded in conjunction with MYB. Here, McLemore is shown at the conference with some of the MYB officers and council members.

Webb Named Swayze Scholar Senior Jimmie Webb was selected by Mississippi Young Bankers (MYB) as this year’s Swayze Scholar. Webb, the University’s seventh Swayze recipient, recently accepted the prestigious honor at the organization’s Study Conference and Convention in Point Clear, AL. The $5,000 award is presented annually to the top Magnolia State university major in banking and finance who best represents the tradition of banking excellence exemplified by Orrin Swayze, a senior officer for Trustmark until his retirement in 1967. Also honored was MSU senior Sabrina Turner, who was selected as a 2019 MYB Scholar. Since 1979, the MYB, a division of the Mississippi Bankers Association, has recognized five finalists. In addition to the Swayze Scholar, the other finalists are named MYB Scholars, and they receive awards of $1,500. Shown here at the convention are (from left) MSU BancorpSouth Associate Professor of Finance Dr. Alvaro Taboada, Jimmie Webb and Sabrina Turner.

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Miller Appointed to CFPB Council Professor of Finance and Jack R. Lee Chair Dr. Tom Miller was recently appointed to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Academic Research Council by CFPB Director Kathleen L. Kraninger. The Council advises the Bureau on its strategic research planning process and research agenda and provides feedback on research methodologies, data collection strategies and methods of analysis, including methodologies and strategies for quantifying the costs and benefits of regulatory actions.

MSU Students Sweep SEC Pitch Competition Mississippi State University won first place in the fourth annual SEC Student Pitch Competition, held in October this year at Auburn University. Team members Calvin Waddy, Brandon Johns and Shelby Baldwin pitched Buzzbassador, a software that automates back-end services to help brands create ambassador and influencer programs. This year saw the addition of an elevator pitch challenge, during which teams had one minute to describe their ideas to internal voters. Baldwin won the challenge with her overview of Buzzbassador. Another new event was an app development challenge. The university teams’ members were split up to form six new teams charged with creating apps and earning “investments” from the SEC advisors in attendance. The winning app, MerchMe!, would connect consumers with their favorite street vendors’ locations and menus in large cities. The collaborative group who created MerchMe! included Baldwin and students from the University of Arkansas, the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University.

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The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s newest chapter, the Gamma of Mississippi Chapter at Mississippi State, inducted 77 new student members, selected for their extraordinary academic achievement in the arts and sciences. Among the initiates inducted April 2 were 19 College of Business students and one faculty member, Department Head of Finance & Economics Dr. Kathleen Thomas.

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Dr. Merrill Warkentin was named one of MSU’s newest William L. Giles Distinguished Professors. Based on distinguished scholarship demonstrated by a record of outstanding performance in research, teaching and service, this most prestigious honor is conferred on faculty members who have attained national or international status as verified by external reviewers in the candidates’ specific fields. Warkentin, shown here at left with interim Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Jim Dunne, was recognized in April at the annual Faculty Awards and Recognition Reception.

Phi Beta Kappa Taps 20 From COB

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Warkentin Becomes a Giles Professor

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news briefs In Memoriam The College of Business mourns the loss of three former faculty members, each of whom had a tremendous impact on the development of our programs, our university and our students. These educators were all honored as Notable Faculty in 2015 during the College’s Centennial Celebration.

Dr. William C. Flewellen, Jr. (1918-2019)

William Flewellen

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Dr. William C. Flewellen, Jr., Lt. Col. U.S. Air Corp. (Ret.), was the former Dean and a Professor of Accounting at Mississippi State. He earned BS and MS degrees from the University of Alabama and a doctorate from Columbia University. After serving as an Accounting Professor and Assistant Business Dean at the University of Alabama, he was named Dean of MSU’s College of Business in 1961. Flewellen was instrumental in establishing the doctoral programs and obtaining accreditation for the master’s and doctoral degrees. He left in 1968 to take a similar position at the University of Georgia, remaining until retirement in 1989. Flewellen has held numerous national and federal appointments. He served on dozens of boards as President, Vice President or Committee Chairman. A few of these were the American Accounting Association, the Small Business Development Center Directors Association and the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business.

Dr. Harvey S. Lewis (1938-2019)

Harvey Lewis and wife Di Ann

Dr. Harvey S. Lewis was a former Dean and Professor Emeritus of the College of Business. A finance alumnus, he later earned his PhD from the University of Arkansas. He was the Department Head of Finance & Economics at MSU before working at the University of Mississippi as Executive Vice Chancellor. Lewis later returned to MSU as Executive Director of the Mississippi State University Foundation, Vice President of Administration & Development and interim President. After a seven-year stint at the University of Central Florida as Associate Dean of Business, he returned to MSU as Dean of the College of Business until his retirement in 1997. In acknowledgement of his service to Mississippi State, the second-floor mezzanine in the College of Business’ Atrium was named in his honor.

W. A. (Bill) Simmons (1924-2019)

Bill Simmons with Dean Sharon Oswald

Former MSU Accounting Professor William Asbury (Bill) Simmons graduated from Meridian Junior College then spent a year in the U.S. Army after World War II, processing servicemen out of the military. He later enrolled at Mississippi State, majoring in accounting and income tax for BS and MS degrees. He practiced accounting part-time while working full-time on the MSU faculty for 39 years. After retiring from State in 1987, he practiced accounting full-time until 2014. As a faculty member, he taught honors accounting classes and was named Honors Accounting Professor of the Year and COB Outstanding Teacher of the Year. He was a past President of the Mississippi Society of CPAs, and at one time was the oldest practicing CPA in Mississippi. Locally, he served as a Director of First Federal Savings and Loan and on the Advisory Board of BancorpSouth.

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n Associate Professor of Marketing Dr. Frank Adams was invited to join the Journal of Business Logistics (JBL) Associate Editor Board. JBL provides a forum for the dissemination of original thoughts, research and best practices within the logistics and supply chain arenas.

n Shelby Baldwin was also one of two recipients of the Student Leadership Award presented at the 2019 President’s Commission on the Status of Women awards ceremony.

n Bruce Blaise (BBA, ’83) is now CEO of The Kenan Advantage Group. Based in Canton, OH, it is North America’s largest bulk transportation and logistics company serving the petroleum, chemicals, food and industrial gas industries.

n Brig. Gen. Damon S. Feltman (BBA business information systems, ’91) is now the Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, 14th Air Force, Air Force Space Command; and Deputy Joint Force Space Component Commander, U.S Strategic Command, Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA. n John Hill (BPA accounting, ’86) was named to Forbes’ 2018 BestIn-State Wealth Advisors List, which highlights more than 2,000 top-performing professionals across the country. He is Founder and Managing Partner of Wealth Partners in Ridgeland, MS. n Jim Koerber (BS banking and finance, ’74) authored two chapters on personal injury, wrongful death, employment discrimination and wrongful termination for a newly published fifth edition of The Comprehensive Guide to Economic Damages. He is a shareholder in The Koerber Company in Hattiesburg, MS. n Last spring, business administration major and MSU Baseball center fielder Jake Mangum won the 2019 C Spire Ferriss Trophy. The trophy, awarded to the best collegiate baseball player in Mississippi, was given to Mangum for the second time in his illustrious career – making him the first player to achieve this. He had also earned the award as a freshman. n Marleigh McCrimmon (MBA, ’17) was appointed as Event Coordinator at Reunion Golf and Country Club in Madison, MS. n College of Business alumnus Chase McGill received two Grammy Award nominations in the “Best Country Song” category for cowriting “When Someone Stops Loving You,” recorded by Little Big Town and “Break Up in the End” recorded by Cole Swindell. n Gary McKenzie (MBA, ’03) is now Regional Vice President of GEICO’s Southeast operations in Macon, GA. He previously served as Assistant Vice President of Underwriting at the company’s Fredericksburg, VA, regional office. n Travis B. Moore (BS ag economics, ’84; BBA banking and finance, ’84; MAgr agricultural economics, ’86) was appointed to serve on the advisory board of Virginia College in Biloxi, MS. The Regional President of Citizens Bank in Biloxi, he also serves on boards of directors for the Mississippi Better Business Bureau and the Kiwanis LaMissTenn District Foundation.

n Tommy Payne (BBA risk management, insurance, financial planning, ’12; BBA management of construction and land development, ’12) earned the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation from the CCIM Institute. He currently serves as President of the Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors®. n College of Business alumna Mary Winn Pilkington was recently promoted to Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Public Relations at Tractor Supply Company. n Miranda Moore Reiter (BS international business, ’03) earned a competitive Diversity Scholarship from the Financial Planning Association. She is a doctoral student at Kansas State University and a financial advisor with USAA. n Renee Rice (BBA banking and finance, ’87) joined BankFirst Financial Services as Community Banking President for Madison County, MS. n WalletHub ranked Starkville in its Top 25 of the Best College Towns & Cities in America for 2019. n William A. “Lex” Taylor, III (BS business administration, ’77), who is President and Chairman of the Board for the Taylor Group Inc., was elected Chair of the Mississippi Economic Council’s board of directors for 2019-20. n MSU’s Tennessee Valley Authority Investment Challenge Team earned an Investment Challenge Program Performance Award for the third consecutive year. n Department Head of Finance & Economics Dr. Kathleen Thomas was one of 10 Mississippi State faculty members who recently completed the 2018-19 William L. Giles Faculty Leadership Program. The program works to develop the next generation of campus academic leaders, among other goals. n Early this year, Gov. Phil Bryant nominated accounting alumna Jackie A. Turner to be Director of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. She managed the agency’s business department from 1998 to 2004, then worked as a comptroller until 2008 and directed the comptroller’s office from 2008 to 2013. n Professor of Information Systems Dr. Merrill Warkentin, graduate student Will Tabor and graduate student Bryce Given were recognized for accomplishments and creative endeavors, as well as for increasing awareness of the University’s many research programs and capabilities, during MSU’s annual Research Awards Banquet in March.

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n Kermit Davis, Jr. (BS business administration, ’82) is now Head Coach of the Ole Miss men’s basketball program. A former Bulldog basketball standout and the son of legendary MSU basketball head coach Kermit Davis, Sr., he previously served as Head Coach at Middle Tennessee State University.

n College of Business graduate Natalie Parrott was recently selected by Fulbright’s National Screening Committee as a semi-finalist for the Austria Study/Research award in 2019-20. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.

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n College of Business Instructor Dr. Patty Ann Bogue was recognized as one of Meridian’s Top 20 Under 40 by Meridian Home & Style Magazine. The honor recognizes young leaders who not only excel in their work but also have a record of excellence in their civic engagement and philanthropic efforts.

n Instructor of Accountancy Angela Pannell received the 2019 Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants (MSCPA) Outstanding Educator Award at the MSCPA Accounting Education Conference in October.

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n Patrick R. “Pat” Bigland (BS general business administration, ’76) was named Chairman of the Louisiana Bankers Association for 2018-19. He is President and CEO of Concordia Bank and Trust in Vidalia, LA.

n COB Dean Sharon Oswald was selected as the Vice President of Membership for the Southern Business Administration Association (SBAA). She will hold this position for two years then move on to become Vice President of Programs, then President of SBAA.

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n The annual Spirit of State Awards honor those who have made a positive impact on peers and the broader campus community through organizational involvement, service to the institution and personal actions promoting school spirit and tradition. Three of the 17 students who received 2019 Spirit of State Awards came from the College of Business: senior marketing major Shelby Baldwin, senior management major Jonnese Goings and senior finance and marketing double-major Anastasia Rentouli.

n The MSU-Meridian Division of Business chapter of the Collegiate DECA program received 11 awards – seven first place – during the Mississippi Collegiate DECA Competition. Additionally, three members were elected to state officer positions: President Zetella Gooch, First Vice President Margaretta Campbell and returning Chairman of the Board Steven Miller. Chapter advisor Dr. Stacey McNeil was also recognized as the Collegiate DECA Advisor of the Year for the State of Mississippi.

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Mississippi State University College of Business P.O. Box 5288, Mississippi State, MS 39762

Mississippi State University is an equal opportunity institution. Discrimination in university employment, programs, or activities based on race, color, ethnicity, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, disability, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, or any other status protected by applicable law is prohibited. Questions about equal opportunity programs or compliance should be directed to the Office of Compliance and Integrity, 56 Morgan Avenue, P.O. Box 6044, Mississippi State, MS, (662) 325-5839.

It’s Here!

The all-new MSU College of Business website launched this year. Our exciting redesign not only serves to keep you up to date on COB news, but also offers an easy way for you to share your news with us! Check it out today!

business.msstate.edu

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Keep in Touch @MSUBusiness @MSUBusiness @MSUBusiness MSU Business

Profile for MSU College of Business

Dividends Magazine, 2019 Edition  

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