Dividends Magazine, 2021 Edition

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Dean’s Welcome I

f we have learned anything from the last two years, it is to always expect the unexpected! Despite the many challenges of this pandemic, we seem to get

stronger and more resilient! We were able to hire a fantastic group of new faculty members this year to join our already amazing faculty and staff. I am incredibly proud of this College for maintaining a positive “can do” attitude. Again this year, we had a record enrollment, as our total enrollment is nearly 3,700 students. Our growth saw the greatest surge in the distance graduate programs, with more than 570 enrolled. The undergraduate distance program has also doubled since last year, with about 210 students. We added a new Supply Chain Logistics major this fall and launched the distance Master of Professional Accountancy and Master of Taxation programs. Thanks to a generous donation from the Richard C. Adkerson Family Foundation, the distance accountancy classroom has been outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment and a backdrop to look like a television studio. The theme of this Dividends is Leadership – something you will see woven throughout the articles. Leadership epitomizes our 19 College of Business students who were part of the 2021 National Championship Baseball team. It exemplifies the two Seal Speakers highlighted in this issue. It is at the core of the many alumni featured in this edition, like Hassell Franklin, who received the Honorary Doctorate at MSU last December, and Chad Carson, the new Dean of the Brock College of Business at Samford University. Leadership is symbolized by alumnus Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Spurlock, who has served his country at the highest levels, and accounting student Caleb Randall, who took the initiative to get involved and stand out among his peers. There are many great stories in this edition of Dividends that take us on a journey from careers in Hollywood to Washington, DC, and back home. To conclude, I must note the passing of some very special people to the MSU College of Business. Bobby Martin, Chairman of the Board of The Peoples Bank, was an icon in the Mississippi banking community. He was the type of man who was always doing his part to make Mississippi and his community better – and he always had a wicked smile and a story to tell. R.L. Qualls had an extraordinary career, including Director of the Department of Finance and Administration and cabinet secretary in the Governor Bill Clinton administration as well as President and CEO of Baldor Electric. A quiet man with a heart of gold, R.L. was a member of the COB’s Executive Advisory Board (EAB) and the MSU Foundation Board. Jim Ashford was President and CEO of J.I. Case and owner of an investment management group, The Ashford Group. He received numerous honors in the COB and the Alumni Foundation, being named National Alumnus of the Year in 1996. He was a very generous and beloved alum who led the first MSU capital campaign. Julie Rouse and Margaret Montgomery became Bulldogs by marriage, the beloved spouses of Jim Rouse and Bob Montgomery, both members of the EAB. Julie and Margaret were part of the core of the COB and very special to me. We will miss their smiling faces and infectious personalities. I hope you enjoy the 2021 edition of Dividends. As always, if you are in town, please stop in to see me. I always love visiting with our alumni and their families. And finally, look for information on Modernize McCool in this edition of Dividends.

Sharon L. Oswald, Dean


Executive Advisory Board David P. Abney

contents Dividends is a publication of the College of Business at Mississippi State University | 2021

Boyce Adams, Sr.

2 Rowdey Reflects

Richard C. Adkerson

Dividends talks to Rowdey Jordan about the World Series, finance and life in the pros.

Marsha Blackburn Stephen Buehler Mary Childs William Anthony Clark James A. Coggin Cynthia Cooper

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Helen Currie Thomas F. Darnell

Linda M. Garrett Jan L. Gwin John M. Hairston John F. Hill Shawn Hunter Joe Iupe, Jr. Paul J. Karre Lewis F. Mallory, Jr. Don Mason

squadron and is bringing private sector tech to the military.

10 An Armchair Expert Furniture magnate Hassell Franklin set his goals at a young age and pursued them to success.

14 At the Top of the Ladder The Commissioner of Banking and Finance, Rhoshunda Kelly, is every ounce confidence and forward motion.

Larry Favreau Haley R. Fisackerly

6 Someone You’ll Soon Know Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock has served in the White House, organized a new Air Force

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18 Supplying the Demand A new supply chain logistics major meets a major need in today’s economy. 22 That Lightbulb Moment Middle and high schoolers dive into entrepreneurship in the iCREATE Camp. 26 Making Every Second Count Accounting student Caleb Randall relishes his program, his chosen field and the friends he’s made along the way.

30 Mining the Hidden Gems At 22, Seal speaker Lauren Simmons became the NYSE’s youngest female trader. 34 Taking the Stand Accounting alumnus Jim Koerber leads the field in forensic and valuation services. 38 Happy Entrepreneurs Get Things Done Assistant Professor Eric Markin shares insights into entrepreneurial persistence.

Mike McIlwain Frank H. McWhorter, Jr.

42 Added Value Vincent Young, Assistant Dean of Academic Advising, has realized his true calling in

Lee Miller Mickey Milligan

helping students find success.

C.R. Montgomery

46 Banking on Relationships Frank Appleby brings experience as a banker, entrepreneur and “relationship guy”

Roderick A. Moore Shirley Olson

to the role of Executive in Residence.

Richard Puckett, Sr.

50 A High Calling Alumnus Chad Carson has taken the reins at Samford’s Brock School of Business.

Joe G. Rice, Jr. Ken B. Robinson

54 Online Graduate Accounting Programs Launched MSU’s highly regarded MPA and MTX degrees are now available online.

James Rouse Kathy St. John

58 A New Game Plan Seal lecturer Joanne McCallie faced a secret challenge while building a record as one

William A. Taylor, III

of the country’s winningest coaches.

Cyndi A. Tucker

62 Pondering the Big Picture The new Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Assessment, Nicole Ponder,

Jimmy L. Walden Loretta Walker

couldn’t have predicted a career in academia.

Loyd “Aldie” Warnock

66 Cultivating Conscience and Courage Whistle-blower Cynthia Cooper continues to combat fraud by connecting with the

M. L. Waters

business leaders of tomorrow.

70 A Satisfying Plot Twist Virginia Trinkle discovered the missing piece in her career was an MSU MBA. 74 Modernizing McCool Director of Development Stephen Lack previews the 50th anniversary of McCool’s

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

COVER: Dividends talked with Rowdey Jordan, one of 19 business majors contributing to the Diamond Dawgs’ national title.

groundbreaking.

76 Amazon Interns Don’t Get Coffee Student Mary Hulbert writes about her experience with one of the world’s highest- profile companies.

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Rowdey Ref lects By Kathy Kenne

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Dividends recently had a chance to visit with standout centerfielder Rowdey Jordan, who graduated with a finance degree in May. Rowdey led the SEC in runs scored (74) in 2021. He led the field with 10 hits during the College World Series, resulting in his being named to the CWS AllTournament Team. In July, he was drafted by the Mets organization and is currently affiliated with their Low A team in St. Lucie, FL. In Rowdey one finds a polite, thoughtful young man who is just as passionate about his chosen field of study as he is his chosen sport.

n Did you play other sports growing up? I played football and baseball in high school until my junior year when baseball won out. I loved football but didn’t have the physical size. I was better at baseball because my size didn’t matter as much. I love the team aspect of baseball. There were 35 guys on the [MSU] team, and we all became good friends. It was sort of like its own fraternity. n Let’s talk about your new pro career. What’s been the biggest adjustment from college ball to the pros? The level of competition hasn’t been that much different. Obviously, we’re playing with wooden bats, so the ball doesn’t go as far. I think the biggest adjustment has been playing eight hours a day. It’s almost like going to an office every day. In college we’d play three games on the weekends and one during the week. Now, I’m playing six days a week, but it’s more laid back because my time isn’t so scheduled for me. Once I leave the field, I can do whatever I want. n What do you do? Mostly just hang out with some of the team. We relax a lot because we’re on the field all day. We’re all a little worn out! n Your season ended in September. What have you been doing since then? After the season ended, I participated in an instructional league for about two weeks where the Mets took about 35 of the younger guys – a lot just out of college – and we received one-on-one coaching. The focus was on making us better players. We did specific drills tailored to our games. It was mostly Low A and High A guys and some AA players. Following that, I went home to have a little family time. At the beginning of November, I moved to Atlanta and have been living there with two friends. They play for the Mariners and Nationals. One of them is a pitcher, so he and I have been working out together. I’ll go to spring training in mid-March or April, and our season starts right after that. Photo by Sarah Pearson Photography

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In the summer after my junior year in high school I got a grasp of Mississippi State on a visit to campus. I liked the stadium and the background the baseball program had and thought that it was a place I wanted to be. I’ve always enjoyed big stadiums and big crowds.

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n Rowdey, you grew up in Auburn, AL, and your parents were Auburn graduates. What made you decide to attend Mississippi State?

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t was a moment we’ll remember for years to come – Mississippi State’s first team sports national championship. We sat on the edges of our seats watching every minute of our Diamond Dawgs’ performance in the College World Series. We in the College of Business had a special interest, for we counted 19 of the players our own.

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Were you satisfied with your performance in the 30-some-odd games you were able to play this past summer? I only played for four or five weeks. My performance wasn’t as good as I wanted, but it was solid. Factors like a large field and wooden bats are an adjustment.

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What was your travel schedule like? A lot of teams relocated when COVID hit, so everyone we played was relatively close by – Miami, West Palm, and there are several teams in the Tampa area. Everything is under a three-hour drive. We play six game series when we’re there, so we don’t have too much travel time.

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Cole texted me as soon as I got drafted and said to let him know if he could do anything for me. I appreciated that. J.T. was with me in St. Lucie for one day before he left to go to Brooklyn [home of the Mets’ High A team, the Cyclones]. I keep up with him pretty regularly. Jake and I talk about once a week.

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Several former Bulldogs have signed with the Mets – Jake Mangum, J.T. Ginn, Cole Gordon. Have you had any contact with them?

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What about other teammates from this past season? We played Tanner’s [Allen] team. He was only about 30 minutes away. Toward the end of the season, he and I mostly talked about how tired we were! We’d been playing since January. You know, our [MSU] team had a special bond. We did so many things together. We tailgated, went out to eat. If something was going on, the whole team did it together. We were just as good off the field together as on. That’s what made us really gel.

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Let’s talk about the College World Series. A lot was being made of the fan support at the game. Did they really make a difference? They made a world of difference. When as many as 27,000 out of 30,000 fans are there for us, it’s essentially a home game. They 100 percent made a difference in the outcome of the Vanderbilt series.

Jordan (third from left) celebrates the College World Series championship with teammates (from left) Tanner Allen, Logan Tanner and Luke Hancock. Photo courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics

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Now that you’ve had several months to reflect on the national championship, was it everything you expected it to be?

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After baseball, is this the career you plan to go into? Yes, I’ve been talking to some friends about helping them invest some of their money. I’d like to work for someone for a little while to learn the business then do my own thing.

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If you knew a high school student thinking about going to Mississippi State, what would you tell him or her about it? The biggest thing that sticks out in my mind is the “home feel.” It’s small enough to feel like a tightknit family but big enough to be on your own. The professors and student body are good at helping students succeed. The professors spend a lot of time after hours helping students. They’re there for you. It always felt like someone was there to help you.

n

You’ve done many interviews. Any other comments you’d like to make? Everybody always talks about the baseball side of things. I’ve really enjoyed talking about the finance side of things today, too!

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I started out in engineering. After one class in chemistry, I knew that wasn’t going to work out! [He laughs.] I switched majors to business and found out I enjoyed dealing Photo by Sarah Pearson Photography with numbers and money. I remember, my sophomore year, looking at stock charts and being amazed that you could put money into a company and have some ownership. I got interested then. When COVID hit I had more time on my hands, so I began reading books on investment and trading. I got into options – which was a terrible idea! I ended up positive on the year, but I lost 40 percent of my investment in two days. I learned a lot there.

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Switching gears, let’s talk about the academic side of your MSU experience. Why did you choose a finance degree?

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When it happens, it’s great! Everyone’s cheering. But now when I look back, I can still say that was something special. Having had time to reflect, one big thing that’s stood out to me is how much support my family and friends provided to me on a personal level. There were about 30 of them who made the trip out there. That really meant a lot.

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Someone You’ll Soon Know By Kathy Kenne

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A graduate of MSU’s online MBA program, Spurlock has an easy smile and genuine warmth that make talking with him a pleasure. He’s had a fascinating career, and he’s not even close to done. He began, like many Air Force pilots, as a student then an instructor at Columbus. While there, he became familiar with MSU’s online MBA program, but it would be during his next assignment in California, flying KC-10s, that he enrolled along with his wife Jessica.

He received the MBA in 2011 and by 2013 found himself moving his family across the country to work at the Pentagon as an Executive Officer for an Air Force Operations Group focused on budgeting. It was there that his gift for bringing groups together to collaborate became evident. “It was eye-opening to see how competing agencies could come together to spend money effectively,” he says. By this time, the Air Force was well aware of Spurlock’s acumen. His next assignment? The White House. Spurlock served as one of five Military Aides to the President for two years each under Presidents Obama and Trump. “When I first arrived, I remember thinking how many people were involved in making sure the President had what he needed to accomplish solving the world’s largest problems quickly and effectively,” he says. “Just moving the President around required the coordination and planning of hundreds of people on the medical team and in the military and Secret Service. So many people gave of themselves selflessly.” Spurlock was one of them. One aspect of his job was to carry the “football” – the satchel containing the nuclear launch codes that must accompany the President wherever he goes. But the job was much broader than that. He recalls many once-in-a-lifetime experiences, such as escorting the Pope on his U.S. travels or attending a G20 conference with President Obama. He assisted the President in awarding Presidential Medals of Freedom and had his own Lieutenant Colonel oak leaves pinned on by President Obama. And when he left the White House, it was President Trump who pinned the defense superior service medal on his uniform. Some situations were more heart-pounding. Spurlock was in the Mar-a-Lago “situation room” as the 2017 missile strikes against Syria were carried out. He also accompanied Defense Secretary James Mattis and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell in 2017 as they negotiated the release of U.S. citizen Aya Hijazi, her husband and four other humanitarian workers from an Egyptian prison. He and Powell had the privilege of escorting them back to the United States.

Lt. Col. Wesley Spurlock with wife Jessica and daughters Madison (left) and Quinn Photo courtesy of Wesley Spurlock

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“I was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya much of 2009 to 2013,” he continues. “The faculty was very understanding when I didn’t always have the best Internet connection to complete assignments when they were due.”

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“The program valued the previous experience I’d had,” Spurlock recalls. “I received credit for some classes I’d previously taken. I enjoyed working with Jessica on the degree and partnering with her on our capstone project. I think I made a better grade than she did in that class, but don’t tell her I said that!

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ieutenant Colonel Wesley Spurlock, United States Air Force. The name may not be familiar, but you might have seen him in the background as President Barack Obama or President Donald Trump hopped aboard Marine One. He was the one carrying the “football.” You may have seen him giving an interview at the Paris Air Show about the mission of the Air Force’s new KC-46. You might have even seen him flying over Starkville when he was a student pilot at Columbus Air Force Base.

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Working in two different presidential administrations (and later, a third) isn’t common. What was that first transition like? “I actually picked up President Trump in New York to bring him to Washington for the inauguration,” Spurlock says. “When I started at the White House, the Obama administration had been there almost seven years, so they had all their processes flowing. But on January 20, I was helping a whole new staff just find their offices. I jumped on the boat when I went to work for President Obama, but when President Trump and his staff started, I got to help build the boat – the processes. That was a great experience.” How does one follow an assignment like that? The Air Force knows how to invest in their best and brightest. They sent Spurlock to the Harvard Kennedy School for a year to obtain his Master of Public Administration degree.

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From there, he was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base and tasked with standing up a new squadron to support the Air Force’s latest acquisition, the KC-46, once again showing his prowess for facilitating collaboration. “That was a challenging time,” he reports. “With a new airplane, you’re building a new community. Every plane in the Air Force has a personality built around it. The KC-46 not only provides in-air refueling, but it has a lot of high-tech systems for communications and defense. We pulled in pilots from 22 different airframes to stand up this new community. Our squadron started with 17 members and had reached 117 by the time I had completed that assignment. It was great – a very humbling experience, and I learned a lot.” Following this monumental achievement, it was back to the White House – this time as one of 14 White House Fellows. Founded by President Johnson in 1964, the White House Fellows program is the most prestigious in the country for nurturing leadership and public service. Its notable alumni include such names as Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and Pulitzer Prize winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin. Spurlock and his class of 14 participated in the program for 14 months. Each was assigned a different federal department in which they were senior advisors to Cabinet level officials. Spurlock was assigned to the Department of Finance. “That’s when I had to dust off some of those skills from my MBA program,” he laughs. “I was tasked to work with the Defense Production Act board performing due diligence on companies that had requested loans for COVID recovery. Our team worked with multiple federal

Spurlock (standing) with President Trump in the Mar-a-Lago “situation room” as he receives a briefing from his National Security team on the 2017 Syria missile strike Photo by Associated Press

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agencies. I would dig into companies’ finances, business plans and leadership. It was a great opportunity to apply those skills I had acquired in the MBA program.”

“My experience with interagency coordination and federal lending programs helps me find sources for federal loans for these companies that they pay back with interest,” he states. “It’s a winning situation for the companies, the military and the taxpayers.” Spurlock’s career has not been typical of an Air Force pilot, but putting his family first has meant he’s taken a different route from time to time. “I couldn’t have asked for a better Air Force experience,” he relates. “It’s included everything from meeting every living President except one to spending Easter at the White House Egg Roll with my kids. It’s all been very humbling. “One of my mentors drilled into me to make sure you know how you define success, otherwise others will define it for you,” he sums up. “You’ll chase that carrot only to find out in the end you don’t even like carrots.” Spurlock has forged a remarkable path, and America is better for it. And now you will know the name Wesley Spurlock because it’s likely you’ll be seeing him in the future.

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As Spurlock was nearing the end of his fellowship, the leaders at AFWERX had their eye on him. AFWERX is a relatively new program office in the Air Force that seeks out emerging technologies in the private sector with the idea of syncing them with Air Force needs in a manner that improves technology and provides more cost efficiencies. Noting Spurlock’s array of experience and gift for coalescing groups to accomplish missions, the leaders at AFWERX created a job for him. He is now the Chief of Strategic Investments in AFWERX’s $900 million AFVentures division. He is tasked with considering what it might take for a small company with a cutting-edge technology to scale up to serve the needs of the Air Force.

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“My efforts were directed at getting the right people in the Spurlock signs the acceptance forms for delivery of the Air Force’s first KC-46 aircraft. room and focusing on Photo courtesy of Wesley Spurlock interagency cooperation,” he says. “My goal was to look at the situation and potential solutions holistically and be an unbiased third party. We were then able to apply that experience to build a plan for unaccompanied Afghan children in Operation Allies Welcome. It was very rewarding.”

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This past March, Spurlock’s fellowship found him in President Joe Biden’s Domestic Policy Council under Ambassador Susan Rice, dealing with the problem of unaccompanied children at our nation’s southern border.

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An Armchair Expert By Carolanne Roberts

So let’s do a bit of both – and throw in an Elvis story or two, which have nothing to do with the career but rank as good memories, nonetheless. To start, consider this. How many of us have fulfilled our childhood “what will I be when I grow up” prophecies? Hassell Franklin, whose goal was ambitious, nailed his dream on the first try.

“It was very successful for several summers,” says Franklin. “I made a few bucks.” He remembered those bucks later while holding down an eight-hour factory shift at night and attending Itawamba Community College in Fulton. He then transferred into the business program at Mississippi State for his last two years of college, while delivering the Memphis Press-Scimitar to 40 doorsteps each evening. The furniture idea was down the road, but the concept of success drove him hard.

“I asked myself, ‘Am I willing to make necessary sacrifices to succeed?’ and ‘Am I willing to work hard?’” he says. “The answer was ‘yes.’ I knew if I was going to get a B.S. degree, I was going to need to buckle down and study. “I realized I needed to break things down. I’d think, ‘I can’t solve an issue unless I break it into elements. I can’t get there unless I cross this bridge, then cross that next bridge to get to the other side.’ That train of thought has become natural to me in my work.” He continues, “It gave me the realization that problems are only as big as you make them. If you break them down, they’re always solvable.” Franklin is a 1959 graduate in Industrial Management which, at the time, included a business and engineering focus. From State, Franklin traveled to the U.S. Army Armor School, spending 14 weeks studying armor, tanks and artillery in Fort Knox, KY. In the Army he achieved the rank of captain. Later in the National Guard, he served as commanding officer of the Pontotoc unit that guarded James Meredith in 1962 as he entered the University of Mississippi as its first African American student. Two years later, with a wife and child at home, it was time to enter the business world. After working with a locally-based furniture operation to build it up, Franklin took stock and concluded, “I didn’t want to work for others.”

Photo by Russ Houston

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The focus never wavered. Eyeing the watermelons his father sold or gave away to neighbors, the young Franklin petitioned to erect a watermelon stand along the road.

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“Growing up on a small farm in Lee County, working in the fields, I always knew I wanted to be a successful person in business,” he recalls. “I knew a couple of successful businesspeople from church and, as a teenager, dreamed of owning my own business someday.”

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t’s a toss-up. Celebrate the 51-year (and counting) career of Hassell Franklin, Chairman and CEO of Franklin Corporation, one of the nation’s largest privately held furniture companies, or dive into the ultra-impressive list of Franklin’s titles, leadership roles, industry involvement and accolades that could easily fill every available inch of this story.

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In 1970, armed with experience in all levels of furniture manufacturing, he opened the doors of Franklin Corp. to make recliners. “I was excited and never nervous opening my company,” he shares. “We made a profit the first nine months we were in business.” He also observes that the furniture industry in Mississippi was “dated in their thought processes and ways of doing business. I was this new guy who was trying out new things – and some of them worked.” For instance, rather than buy metal mechanisms needed to manufacture his products from a company that held a monopoly on the mechanisms, he established his own mechanism plant. Through forward thinking, the founder expanded his scope to sell his goods internationally. Franklin Corp., located in Houston, MS, is a proud corporate citizen and the town’s largest employer with 1,100 employees.

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Throughout the years, Franklin has served as President and board member of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, which today boasts nearly 11,000 national brands on file. He has served on boards such as BancorpSouth, North Mississippi Medical Center, the CREATE Foundation, the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi, the Mississippi Economic Council, the American Home Furnishings Alliance’s Furniture Foundation, Trace Regional Hospital, Leadership Chickasaw, Houston’s Habitat for Humanity and more. He was elected to the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame in 2003. At Mississippi State, Franklin has been on the boards of the Development Foundation, the Athletic Foundation and the Bulldog Club, serving as President for the latter two. He was named the Mississippi State University National Alumnus of the Year in 1995. In the fall of 2020, he received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in recognition of lifetime achievements and of longtime major support of the University. Franklin Corp. is a family affair. Sons Mark and Hank Franklin serve as President and Senior Vice President, respectively. With the company’s four lines – motion, stationary, recliners and medical lift chairs – the Houston facilities are humming. Remembering his own joy in innovating as he built his company, Franklin is delighted that grandson Rob Franklin is also proudly in the family business. “He’s brought so much into the company already,” the grandfather says of the 2013 MSU finance graduate, who also holds an MBA from Southern Methodist University. “I’ve told him, ‘Rob, you’re going to take this company to the next level.’” Before coming home to Franklin Corp., Rob worked with

At MSU’s fall 2020 commencement, an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree was presented to Franklin (left), shown here with Dr. David Shaw, Provost and Executive Vice President. Photo by Beth Wynn

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Photo courtesy of Franklin Corp.

Toyota North America’s Product System Support Center in Texas. “I like to listen to him, hearing a lot of new ideas, many of which we will be incorporating into our system,” says Franklin. “He’s married and has a son, and guess what – they named him after me!” Now, about those promised Elvis stories. Indeed, Hassell Franklin sat for a whole school year – 6th grade in Tupelo – in front of the future King. “When we’d go out to recess, Elvis would sit on the concrete steps with his guitar while we’d all play football or baseball. Nobody really went over to listen to him – he was just another kid,” says Franklin, who shares a black-and-white class picture that shows Elvis in overalls, standing near the teacher. He admits to making the future star cry due to a harmless kid prank. “I thought I was the teacher’s pet, but she called me up in front of the class and said, ‘Don’t you ever make Elvis cry again. If you do, I am going to put your finger in the pencil sharpener!’” he recalls. “I went back and put my arms around him, and he started smiling. He laughed and said everything was okay – we were friends.” Much later, during Army training, Franklin took some unbelieving fellow soldiers to an Elvis event – the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport – and the group turned from doubtful to delighted upon meeting the singer backstage for a good chat. “After that I was a hero, ‘Elvis’ buddy,’” he says. Many would count the Presley connection high among life’s achievements – but not Franklin. His pride remains with the company he created and having become the successful business figure he set out to be. “Once you commit to yourself, you can do what it takes,” he says. “That’s been my career.”

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Hassell Franklin (first row at left) and his sixth-grade classmates numbered Elvis Presley (third row, right end) among their own.

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At the Top of the Ladder R

hoshunda Kelly, 2001 business graduate, speaks with passion about her role as Mississippi’s Commissioner of Banking and Consumer Finance and the ladder she climbed to reach that post. Whether recounting her first fleeting major (medicine), or how she coupled an English minor with a degree in banking and finance or even the challenges of banking in COVID times, every ounce of Kelly is confidence and forward motion.

This certainly applied early in her career with the Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance (DBCF), when a job as field examiner required meeting with bankers who were sometimes 20 to 30 years older than she was. “You’re giving them findings, and you must use your voice because this is your job – you must exude confidence,” she states. “You are not only reflecting yourself but also your agency.” Kelly’s parents, who live in Choctaw County just 23 miles from Starkville, emphasized, “You can be anything you want to be,” and the daughter believed. A professor in the College of Business believed too, enough to provide an introduction to a banking professional in the very agency Kelly now leads, who opened the initial doors. She started at DBCF as an examiner trainee, followed by Examiner 1, 2 and finally Examiner 3 over a period of five years. “As you grow, instead of being a team member, you’re leading a team,” she explains.

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“I was – and am – an introvert,” she explains. “But I think leaders are made, not born. It takes some training to get there, developing confidence and doing it in a way that’s lasting and respected.”

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Yet the Commissioner well remembers her younger self, the high school student who observed more than she talked, the mouse-quiet one possibly least likely to become a leader.

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By Carolanne Roberts

Along the way, her original plans changed. “I planned to work as an examiner for one year, then go to law school – but banking regulation just keeps pulling you in because there’s so much to learn,” she says. “Things don’t always work out the way you plan, but they work out the way they should.” The upper rungs of the DBCF ladder became more accessible as Kelly continued to achieve. A shift from traveling examiner to office-based analytical reviewer following the birth of her second child created new possibilities. “I worked my jobs and asked for more work, doing more than was required,” she comments. “I was really hungry in this new playing field.” Her attitude and abilities led to the Deputy Commissioner role and then to the top when the existing Commissioner retired. The official appointment by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and subsequent Senate approval came in the spring of 2021. In the midst of these more recent achievements swirled COVID-19, a mighty challenge further encumbered by ice storms and hurricanes in areas related to Mississippi banks and banking.

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“All I was thinking about was doing the job,” Kelly says. “I kept my head down and tried to fill all the gaps and holes, not just caring for the agency and the staff but handling what COVID was doing to the financial system, the banks, consumer finance companies, mortgage companies and the consumers.” Seeing things uniquely from her new position, the pandemic, she says, “changed everything.” “For instance, out of necessity the banking industry diverted to mobile platforms, which will remain,” she comments. “You can’t jump back to pre-COVID. The expectations have changed, and you can’t ‘unspill the milk,’ so to speak.” Here’s where the solid leadership, that long-developed ability to observe and Kelly’s confidence join forces.

“Our agency’s vision is excellence in inancial supervision,” she says. “This is what we do. As a leader, I lean on our vision and courage to carry out our mission. This has played into every decision I’ve made. That, and being consistent in what we’re doing.” These lessons, valuable and road-tested, cropped up when the Commissioner visited her alma mater early in the semester to speak about banking (also to recruit for the DBCF from MSU ranks). Standing before students, Kelly engaged her young audiences with “exciting stories of what we do” and talked about what’s required to work at the agency. Likewise, students at the University of Southern Mississippi, Ole Miss and other institutions learn about the possibilities of working under her leadership. And, yes, this speaker is indeed the shy person who once occupied a seat in such classrooms.

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“It’s easier now because I believe so much in what we do, so it’s not a hardship to get up and share,” Kelly says. Those years as a student were full of variety and hard work beyond the classroom. There was that two-week period when she milked cows in the campus dairy barns. (“They had to be milked every 12 hours at 4 a.m. and 4 p.m., which didn’t fit into my schedule,” she chuckles.) She volunteered as a peer counselor and in traffic appeals court, hearing cases. By senior year, she was working at the Mississippi Educational Design Institute, a collaboration between

Kelly is passionate about her role as Mississippi’s Commissioner of Banking and Consumer Finance. Photo by Megan Bean

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the School of Architecture and the School of Education. Those jobs were an improvement on her earlier summer work in the food service industry and a gig as a furnace operator in a steel tubing manufacturing plant. “Those were motivators to go back to school and do well in the fall,” she laughs. Studying was instinctive, fulfilling her profile as a nose-to-the-grindstone student from the start and setting the stage for life-long learning. “I didn’t have the typical college experience,” she explains quietly. “I lost my brother in a car accident the summer before my freshman year – and I think that experience played a role in some of the determination and the push I’ve found in myself the past 20 years. Some people don’t have the opportunity to go to college, so I felt that I wanted to take advantage of it. Classes were actually a good distraction and a driver to do something good and do something big.” Box checked there – “something big” is exactly where Rhoshunda Kelly is today. With her husband, a fellow Mississippi State alumnus, and daughters ages 11 and 13, not to mention the more than full-time job, she strives daily for balance. During down time, you’re likely to find her baking, not banking, creating family birthday cakes, holiday sweets and anything related to sugar. She also turns to light reading as an escape from the world of numbers. She has another, bigger family in Mississippi State. Kelly welcomes trips to Starkville, whether for football games or simply the chance to breathe in campus energy. “It’s who I am,” she says. “I hold a special place in my heart for Mississippi State. I think it does so much for people who have aspirations to become something more. “There are a lot of dreams on that campus.”

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The Kelly family – (from left) McKinley, Rhoshunda, Reagan and Mike – enjoys tailgating before football games.

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Supplying the Demand A

s the threat of COVID-19 begins to ease and the world emerges from what can be described as a yearlong-plus nightmare, the demand for goods, labor and transportation has skyrocketed. Everywhere you look, you notice aftershocks from the pandemic that have created a serious and ongoing crisis in our global economy – supply chain disruption. You may find that there are many bare shelves in your local retail and grocery stores. Restaurants may be out of your favorite menu items. And those perfect holiday gifts that you purchased online a month in advance? You may still receive them – just in time for the new year.

jobs, and the demand for talent could grow to be as high as nine to one in the future. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that logistics and supply chain jobs will continue to grow by four to seven percent between now and 2029. Mississippi State University’s College of Business is working to feed the demand for talent with the launch of the supply chain logistics (SCL) major – the first and only dedicated bachelor’s degree program in supply chain or logistics in the state of Mississippi. Formerly a concentration exclusively for marketing majors, the new SCL degree program that began this fall allows students across all disciplines to take courses specifically focused on the inner workings of supply chain and logistics and learn how they can apply the information toward their own chosen professions. They can even pick up SCL as a second major to complement other areas of study such as industrial or computer engineering, accounting, marketing or international business. The sky is the limit based on the creativity of the individual students and what they want to achieve. The history of Mississippi State’s SCL program dates back to 1957, first offered as a transportation minor, before eventually transitioning to a concentration within the marketing major in the early 2000s. In the spring of 2003, Dr. Stephen LeMay – the only faculty member teaching transportation courses – decided to retire, thus the program would need a new champion. Without a dedicated expert, the program would not last. Marketing Professor Dr. Jason Lueg saw its value and volunteered to take on the challenge, learning as much as he could about supply chain, logistics and transportation. Fortunately, then-doctoral student Zach Williams, who had earned his undergraduate degree in the field, was able to teach the courses until Lueg could take the reins. It was during this period that the concentration was rebranded as supply chain management to cover a broader footprint than just that of transportation.

Dr. Frank Adams (center) with the Maroon & White Supply Chain officers Photo by Emily Daniels

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For every graduate with supply chain skills there are six available

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A recent study conducted by DHL states that one of the main causes of the supply chain crisis is the major shortage of talent: “As experienced leaders retire, companies are looking for replacements who have a broader skill set than those who came before them.”

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By Emily Daniels

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A speed networking event was part of Maroon & White Supply Chain Day at The Mill Conference Center in Starkville in November. Photo by Emily Daniels

In 2010, Lueg was appointed Department Head of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis and Business Law, so there was a need for another professor specializing in supply chain management. Dr. Frank Adams, who had earned his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State, joined the faculty in fall 2012. “From the beginning, I realized that high levels of student engagement and alumni – young alumni – engagement were going to be important,” says Adams, Associate Professor of Marketing and Mary Jo and Paul Karre Fellow. “Most supply chain programs you hear of, dedicated supply chain programs, have had the benefit of a major industry right out their back door. We do not, so what we have had to rely on is relationships. And now that link to industry is changing because our people have infiltrated enough industries that they’re coming back to us.” Adams says the program has had good relationships with several companies that they were able to build from early on, such as International Paper or Milwaukee Tool, as well as logistics providers like C.H. Robinson. “What we’ve been doing since then is walking the floor on almost every career fair held since I got here, going after businesses that recruit here for other fields, which have not been specifically recruiting for supply chain talent,” says Adams. Under Adams’ direction, the supply chain management concentration flourished, growing from just a handful to 88 students enrolled in the program by 2019. By then, there was a need to strengthen the program in areas like forecasting and procurement and to add another faculty member to allow for more courses to be taught. In fall 2019, Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management Dr. Chris Boone joined the team, having previously served as Director of the Master of Science in Supply Chain Management Program at Texas Christian University.

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During the spring semester of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic brought nearly every activity to a screeching halt. With much of the world under restrictions to shelter in place, consumers turned to online shopping for everything from groceries to retail. Digital Commerce 360 estimates that the U.S. alone contributed an additional $105 billion in online revenue in 2020 and accelerated e-commerce by two years. This surge in online shopping forced major corporations like Walmart, Amazon and Federal Express to hire more workers and overhaul their supply chains to avoid complete bottlenecks.

Adams says within the supply chain management concentration, there were only four supply chain specific courses, and they could be taken in any order.

“It’s become such an important component because although you can run a supply chain without much of a forecasting plan, it’s really hard, and it’s an even worse idea,” he states. “I have seen supply chains run just ‘shoot from the hip’ style, but that’s not viable long term. So that means you’ve got to have a lot of forecasting that’s got to be quantitatively based.” Outside the classroom, many of the supply chain logistics students get involved in at least one or more of the many SCL-related competitions and organizations available to them throughout the year. Within the past year, students have competed in the Raytheon Case Competition and attended events such as the American Trucking Association Trucking University, Raytheon Technologies’ R.I.S.E. Program and the Women Impacting Supply Chain Excellence Future Leaders Symposium. At MSU, a student club has been formed as well called the Maroon & White Supply Chain. The organization’s purpose is to get students more involved in their majors and help foster future professional relationships. Open to all majors, it meets every other week to host speakers, offer resumé reviews and tips and practice mock interviews and elevator pitches.

“So many of our students are eager to network and learn more than what is required of them in the classroom, and that’s always exciting to see,” says Adams. “I have no doubt that these future supply chain professionals will be in high demand.”

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Additionally, Adams says they are also encouraging SCL students to minor in Business Analytics.

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“Now we have nine hours in the major core. In addition, there’s the International Logistics class that is required in the College core and nine hours in supply chain-related business electives to make up the major,” he explains. “Within the major, there are lots of tools that we want our students to learn, such as Power BI and Tableau. But the number one thing that everybody uses is Excel. All our core classes lean heavily into Excel analytics. I’ve had students come back from their internships and tell me, ‘Well, these other guys, they knew Power BI and how to make graphs look pretty, but they didn’t know how to twist data the way I did.’”

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News of the disruption swept headlines everywhere, showing the importance of supply chain and logistics roles and the demand for skilled professionals post-graduation. As a result, the College of Business drafted a proposal to transition the supply chain management concentration into a full-blown major. By April 2021, the major became a reality. A new instructor was added, Dr. Lu He, and the program received a new name: Supply Chain Logistics.

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That Lightbulb Moment By Emily Daniels his past summer, a group of young entrepreneurs had a unique opportunity to experience what it’s like to run their own businesses. The iCREATE Camp participants, consisting of middle and high schoolers from all over Mississippi as well as Louisiana and Colorado, spent a week on Mississippi State’s campus learning important entrepreneurial skills necessary for creating a successful small business. The campers had only six days to develop a business plan, then design, create and sell products to consumers at the MSU Idea Shop in downtown Starkville. The best part? The students got to pocket their earnings at the end of the event.

as Camp Director,” says Brooke Lammert, Program Coordinator for the E-Center. Through her experience assisting with the week-long camp in 2019, she felt ready to take on a more challenging role. “As director, the success of the event ultimately rests on your shoulders,” says Lammert. “I was fortunate to have help from some great mentors like Eric Hill and Jeffrey Rupp from the E-Center and [SHS Associate Professor] Dr. Charles Freeman. I built out the entire schedule along with Dr. Freeman, and I had to make sure that all needs were met before and during the camp – from food, lodging and transportation to scheduling all the activities we were going to do and all the speakers they would hear from during the week. You want to make sure that the campers get the full experience, to see what it takes to build a business from the ground up.” On a sunny Sunday afternoon in June, 10 eager campers arrived at Mississippi State’s campus to meet up with Lammert and their camp counselors – student entrepreneurs from the E-Center and employees from the MSU Idea Shop. “This camp was smaller than some of our others in the past, but we think this size is the sweet spot because it’s just enough campers that they feel like a part of a big group, but small enough that everyone has a chance to step up and feel heard,” states Lammert. After getting settled in Hurst Hall dorm on campus, the group met in the E-Center that evening for ice breakers and to go over what they would be doing throughout the week. They learned about important company roles like CEO, CFO, COO and CMO, and they elected a representative for each position. Their first item on the docket was to decide on the theme for this year’s business. Since their pop-up shop would take place in the Idea Shop the day before Father’s Day, they quickly decided the products they would sell would be centered around all things “Dad.”

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The iCREATE Camp is a partnership between MSU’s School of Human Sciences (SHS) in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) in the College of Business. Established in 2016, iCREATE Camp has attracted bright young students to Starkville each year to learn about entrepreneurship. Like many other events in 2020, the interactive learning experience was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this year saw the return of iCREATE Camp, as well as new leadership for the program.

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“After the theme was decided, we broke them up into teams and set them loose on Main Street,” explains Lammert. “Each team had to complete 30 surveys, asking store owners and customers for feedback on what items they would like to buy for their fathers – or what they would like to receive as a father. The outgoing campers loved it, and for a few it was a learning process. It was good for the group to learn how to interact with different personalities.” The surveys they collected gave them a good idea what type products customers might purchase from their shop. By Wednesday, the campers decided to make a wide variety of products from which their customers could select – from koozies and key holders to a book of dad jokes and large, MSU-themed paintings by camper Taylor Herron. A high school junior from Madison, Herron has been painting since she was five years old. She already had experience selling her artwork to customers in her hometown and says she aspires to start her own business one day, using the skills she learned during the camp.

Lammert says when the campers weren’t busy creating the last-minute Father’s Day gifts for their shop, they enjoyed outings to meet and greet local entrepreneurs in the Golden Triangle area. “The campers met with Hannah and Hunter Bell from Mom & Pop Food Truck and Jabari Edwards with J5 Global in nearby Columbus, and they had a paint party at Dunkington Art & Jewelry just around the corner from the Idea Shop,” she says. “They also got to meet former E-Center students Hayden Walker and Anna Barker and take a tour of [their company] Glo’s headquarters, where they design and distribute both Glo Cubes® and Glo Pals® all over the world. I love that the iCREATE program not only gives these kids hands-on startup experience but also the opportunity to have one-on-one time with these successful entrepreneurs and learn all the ins and outs of running your own business.”

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“I just want to make someone happy and able to say, ‘I own this painting, and nobody else is going to have that in the world,’” says Herron of her one-of-a-kind pieces.

The 2021 iCREATE campers with their advisors and counselors Photo courtesy of Brooke Lammert

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Photo courtesy of Brooke Lammert

On Saturday morning, the young entrepreneurs were ready for business at the MSU Idea Shop. With all their handmade, unique creations on full display, they opened their doors to the community. “We opened at 10 a.m., and by 2 p.m., we had made about $2,700,” exclaims Lammert. “They almost completely sold out of product, and I think we even broke sales records at the Idea Shop for the day as a whole! There was a huge turnout, and I was blown away at the support from the community.” After the shop closed, the campers met with Charles Freeman and Eric Hill to add up all the costs, labor and profits before dividing their earnings. This year, each student left camp with nearly $150.

“I have had the most fun in my four years at MSU working with iCREATE Camp, and it was incredible to see such a diverse group of students come together and engage,” says Lammert. “At the beginning of camp, we asked each camper why they were there, and we had a lot of general answers like, ‘Well my parents said I should come,’ but by the end of the camp they were all excited about the realization that they could start their own businesses one day. Seeing that lightbulb moment just never gets old!”

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Artist and iCREATE camper Taylor Herron made MSU-themed paintings for the group to sell in their pop-up shop.

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By Kirsten Shaw

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t was a busy week for Caleb Randall, early in the semester. He’d attended his first National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) meeting, as well as his first Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) meeting since being tapped for the accounting honor society. He was just getting into two of his toughest courses, Cost Accounting and Intermediate Accounting I. And he’d interviewed to work at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center).

Now, near the end of the semester, Randall reflects on where all his involvement has led him. Neither Mississippi State nor the accounting profession was on Randall’s radar until late in his high school career. “Going into my senior year of high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so my mom signed me up for a bunch of programs to see what interested me,” he shares. He looked into nuclear pharmacy, but something else grabbed him and brought him into the MSU family: the Adkerson School of Accountancy’s ASAP – Accelerating Students into the Accounting Profession – Camp. Designed to introduce high school students to the possibilities of the field, as well as what Mississippi State offers, the event involves accounting and research lessons applied in a Shark Tank-style competition, discussions about career options, tours of a professional firm and of campus, introduction to the admissions process and scholarship opportunities, a networking session, an etiquette dinner and interaction with MSU accounting students.

“I absolutely loved it,” Randall says. “I got to stay on campus. The Shark Tank activity caught my attention. I met lifelong friends – my roommate now is a friend I met during ASAP! I told Dean Oswald that this coming year I’ll make time to be a counselor.” College of Business Dean Sharon Oswald is someone he sought out early in his college career. “Caleb is great,” she remarks. “He is one of those very rare students who called the office and wanted to meet with me. Ever since our first meeting, we have scheduled a meeting every semester, and I always look forward to it. He has a lot of initiative, as well as personality.” Randall would have helped with ASAP sooner, but his summers have been filled with experience-building internships. After his freshman year, he worked at Vertify, a small tech company in Austin, TX.

Photo by Mary Hulbert

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“I love the program,” he says of the Adkerson School of Accountancy. “I love the faculty. I love the different students and the friends I’ve made through my accounting classes.”

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But for the New Orleans junior, a busy week is a good week, and he had things well in hand. Randall relishes where he is and what he’s doing.

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Making Every Second Count

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“They do tech automations for marketing,” he says. “I did research on their competitors and who they work with and looked at their differences with Vertify, to see how the company might be enhanced. At the end of each week we’d do a roundup where every employee gave a report. I’d put together a slide show of my findings and recommendations.” Last summer, Randall worked in New Orleans at accounting firm Bruno & Tervalon, where his duties included bank reconciliations, managing general account ledgers and other general tasks. He was well liked and stays in touch with his boss. His colleagues embraced their intern as a member of the team, inviting him to after-hours outings to dinner or the local karaoke spot. His work and his work ethic made a favorable impression – he has invitations to return to both companies. Randall has long been a go-getter. He is set to graduate from MSU a semester early in large part because he took courses at the University of New Orleans while still in high school. “I had all my required credits for high school, so it was either dual enrollment [in college classes] or stay at high school and just chill, and I didn’t want to do that,” he states. It’s an attitude learned at home, modeled by a mom who serves at the Louisiana Department of Health and a dad who works for a private company that does disaster work, using federal aid to help with public housing. Randall in turn is an example for his 12-year-old sister, who chose this year to attend the same middle/high school Caleb did. “She wanted to go to the same school as me,” he shares with brotherly pride. Randall’s younger days were also peppered with what he calls “entrepreneurial moments” with friends, like standing in line for in-demand, high end athletic shoes and reselling them at a profit or selling candy to their peers.

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Randall was introduced to accounting and Mississippi State through ASAP Camp, where the topics included business attire – even a lesson in tying neckties! Photo courtesy of the Adkerson School of Accountancy

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“We used to buy bulk candy at Sam’s and sell it to our classmates,” he recalls. “We’d sell sour straws for 25 cents apiece and make $40 on each $10 container. It was just a fun thing we did in high school to make a little money.” Randall is still intrigued with new business creation, which is what led to his interest in the E-Center. “I’ve always had entrepreneurship in the back of my head as something I’d enjoy,” he says. Whether talking about classes, clubs or work, one element Randall consistently mentions is the friendships found there. For him, every experience seems to be made richer by the people involved. And it’s easy to see why they are drawn to him – he values his friends, is focused yet easygoing and knows how to have fun. He and his pals might be spotted at Starkville’s Skate Odyssey on college night or longboarding around campus. (“There’s a hill behind McKee Hall where you can get going fast – at least 30 miles per hour!”) They seem to share a self-discipline as well – one that escapes many college students. “We try to go to the gym at 6:30 every morning to get our bodies up and running,” says the Dean’s list student. “We start our day early – work out, read some chapters. Then we try to be in bed by 11 or 12 at the latest.” Randall’s aim following graduation is a master’s degree and a position with an accounting firm. He’ll hone in on specific preferences as he continues studying, working and hearing from practitioners at NABA and BAP meetings. “Caleb is someone I hope to always keep in touch with even after he graduates,” says Oswald. “He is definitely destined for a great future!” Whatever direction Randall chooses, it’s certain he’ll make a success of it – and enjoy the people lucky enough to meet him along the way.

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Randall in a rare quiet moment at ASAP Camp

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Mining the Hidden Gems S

ometimes the toughest days hold hidden gems. For Lauren Simmons, one in particular had left her feeling crushed. She had been trying for some time to find a job in New York City, and that day an encounter with a Wall Street executive resulted in one more rejection. To top things off, she dropped her phone — her lifeline — between the subway tracks on the way home. Yet that executive had offered to connect her with someone at the New York Stock Exchange, and with that contact, her life changed the very next day.

One day, she looked in the mirror and had a revelation. Simmons saw her brother as an outgoing, confident person who would probably never have the opportunities that she would, and she said to herself, “What is your excuse?” That was the beginning of Simmons’ amazing journey. When asked who inspires her, she is quick to reply, “Lawrence.” In high school Simmons had the opportunity to study architectural engineering, which was by default because she was hoping for something else, but she grew to love it and wanted to make it her career. She had a love of numbers, and architectural engineering seemed to fit that bill. After not getting into an architectural engineering college program, she made what became the first of many career pivots. Simmons’ love of numbers and of her brother led her to major in statistics and genetics at Kennesaw State University instead. Near the end of college, she determined she would focus more on the statistics side to begin her career. As a little girl, Simmons had always dreamed of living in New York City. So, upon graduation, in a big leap of faith, she packed up and headed north. She welcomed life in

Simmons at work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 2018 Photo by Associated Press

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An everyday girl growing up in Marietta, GA, Simmons was raised by a strong, fearless single mother, who instilled in her three children the importance of taking risks in pursuit of their individual dreams. She is the twin to brother Lawrence, born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that is caused by damage to an immature brain during development. Although Lawrence was the extrovert in the family, he and his mother spent much of his younger days at the hospital or doctor. Simmons says the community gravitated to him because he was open about his disability and had a big personality. She was happy for Lawrence to be in the limelight and stayed in the shadow.

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Simmons shared her incredible journey — from genetics student to a groundbreaking role on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and on to Hollywood — with MSU students last spring. The 26-year-old came to the University as part of the Leo W. Seal Jr. Speaker Series, hosted by the College of Business, the Department of Finance, COB Diversity Dawgs and COB Ambassadors.

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New York with big ambitions, no job and a very special place to stay – with her beloved grandparents. Simmons didn’t have any connections and didn’t know anyone except her grandparents, but with her strong statistics background, she was confident she could get a job.

The next day was the beginning of a life-changing event. She met a floor trader of 25 years and partner with the trading firm of Rosenblatt Securities, who was also a floor governor at the NYSE. She ultimately landed an interview with Richard Rosenblatt, CEO of the firm, who hired her for what would be a groundbreaking position. Simmons later learned that Rosenblatt hired her because she had the audacity to think she could work for the NYSE with no degree in finance and no connections. Obviously, he saw her potential.

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She began networking on LinkedIn, a tool she told MSU students is “your best friend.” She reached out to more than 300 firms, including L’Oréal and Goldman Sachs. Although she was constantly told that she did not have a clear vision, she had faith she would land a job that would complement her statistics background. Then one day, through a chance encounter, she met a man who worked on Wall Street who told her flat-out that his company would not hire her. But he also told her he knew a colleague on the trading floor, and if she wanted, he would set up a meeting for her. Feeling anxious, she went to the subway station to head home and dropped her phone between the tracks. She returned to her grandparents in tears. She felt defeated. Seeing her niece in anguish, her aunt, who was also there, went to the subway station and somehow retrieved her phone. Back in Simmons’ hands, the phone held a message asking her to come to the NYSE the very next morning. As she describes that situation, “life is intentional.”

Last spring, Simmons came to Mississippi State as part of the Leo W. Seal Jr. Speaker Series. Photo by Megan Bean

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Before she could be a trader with Rosenblatt Securities, she had to pass the much-dreaded Series 19 exam, which had an 80 percent failure rate. Some of the men on the trading floor were openly betting on whether she was going to pass. Simmons wanted to prove to herself and her mother that she could do it, so contrary to just skimming the review book as recommended, she studied it from cover to cover. She passed on the first try, and at age 22, she broke the glass ceiling to become the youngest female trader at the NYSE and only the second African American woman trader in the Exchange’s 228-year history.

minimum wage salary of $12,000 annually – a salary much lower than her counterparts’. Regardless, she loved her first year and a half at the NYSE. She met a lot of people, and her colleagues would share trade secrets with her. She was a young African American female thriving in a “good ole boy” environment.

Simmons has the poise and confidence of someone twice her age, and she has accomplished more as well. Lauren Simmons was not born into a life of privilege; she was a normal girl from middle-class Georgia. She had a strong woman in her life to inspire her, but her real inspiration was how her brother had overcome his disabilities. Simmons had a fire inside to live her life for both herself and Lawrence. Her advice to students: “Let life happen. Be present in the moment. You don’t have to know all the answers, and it is okay to take a risk.” Letting life happen and taking risks took Simmons to heights that she could never have imagined as that little girl in Marietta, GA. What is in store for her now? The sky is the limit! We cannot wait to find out.

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Today, Simmons is traveling the world as a keynote speaker, often accompanied by her grandmother. Her message is, “Believe in yourself, and don’t limit yourself to what feels comfortable.” She signed with a production studio who made her executive producer on a movie of her life, which she hopes will be out in 2022. She is currently the host of Going Public, a streaming series following the progress of five founder-entrepreneurs as they work to raise capital and take their companies public to NASDAQ through an IPO. For the first time, the series allows viewers to invest in IPOs at the IPO price.

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But suddenly things changed. Simmons’ story went viral, and she became a media sensation featured on the likes of CNN, ABC, CNBC and Fox. She was sometimes referred to as the “Wolfette of Wallstreet.” She became a media golden girl, and it was not long before she was getting attention from multiple Hollywood studio producers interested in making a movie about her story. The “shop talk” on the floor was now, “Why are they highlighting the least experienced person on the trading floor?” Colleagues began to pull away, and she was no longer one of “the guys.” When she decided to leave the NYSE after two years, only three people attended her going away party. But she had a new chapter ahead.

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Despite her accomplishments, Simmons was paid a less than

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Taking the Stand By Kirsten Shaw

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hen Jim Koerber took the stand as an expert witness for the first time, he realized he’d found his life’s calling.

The dentist’s attorney asked Koerber to value their mutual client’s practice. This was a first for Koerber, and he was determined to do a thorough and accurate job. He bought a $14 book from the American Dental Association on how to value a dental practice, then studied other books it suggested, and got to work.

“I went to court, and the judge took my valuation over the opposing

I really enjoy!’ I enjoyed being on the witness stand. I enjoyed the work that led up to it.” It took a couple of years, but in 1997 he started the Koerber Company, PA, a niche practice in Hattiesburg, MS – the only one of this specialty in the state. “I limit my work to forensic and valuation services,” he shares. “I value businesses for such things as divorce, estate and gift taxes, buy-sell agreements, mergers and acquisitions, shareholder agreements and shareholder disputes. The forensic work is related to legal cases – it could be lost profits, personal injury or wrongful death. I don’t prepare tax returns or provide auditing services.” As with starting most new businesses, it was slow going at first. Koerber gives a great deal of credit to Melinda, his wife of 47 years, for encouraging and supporting the venture. “You never get along without help from others,” he states. Help was also found in mentors like his friend Maury Gurwitch. “Maury and I met for lunch every Saturday for 22 years,” Koerber says, before Gurwitch moved to Houston, TX, to be near his children. “We talked about how to grow my practice and what was important in life. Maury ran the Smart Shoe Store in Hattiesburg for about 42 years. He always told me to stay humble, listen to your clients and coworkers and enjoy every day.” To get the word out about his practice, Koerber wrote articles and presented seminars to attorneys and CPAs. Of those early days, he laughs, “If I had two appointments in one day, I’d schedule them back to back so they’d see other clients coming or going.” Koerber attended national conferences and regional presentations, where he honed his knowledge and made connections. At one divorce taxation seminar in Jackson, he introduced himself to the presenting attorney, William Wright, who remembered and retained him a year or so later for a case that involved a $50 million-plus technology business formed by a married couple who subsequently decided to divorce.

Photo by Jenn D Photography

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me. I went home that night and told my wife, ‘I’ve found something

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expert’s,” recalls the MSU alumnus. “It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for

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Today, he is a leader in the specialized accounting field of forensic and valuation services. Back then, he was an accountant with a Mississippi CPA firm, and one of his tax clients – a dentist – was getting divorced.

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“The other spouse retained an expert in Washington, DC, who was well known for valuations of high-tech companies,” recalls Wright, who practices family law with Heidelberg Patterson Welch Wright in Ridgeland, MS. “At the end of the day, Jim and the other expert came back with values that were virtually the same, which was extraordinary in the valuation field.” Wright has often called on Koerber since that first case. He notes Koerber has built a reputation on outstanding work and ethics, as well as timeliness, fairness and accessibility. “If one asks any family lawyer or chancery judge whose name comes to mind first when asked about a divorce valuation expert in Mississippi, I’m confident the overwhelming majority will mention Jim’s name first,” he states. “His reports are cited in Mississippi appellate opinions more than any other CPA in the area, and he is also recognized as an authority in Louisiana and other states.”

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It’s not unusual for Koerber to receive thank you notes from clients in his most memorable cases, which he values. “It means we really helped somebody with a problem or issue,” he says. Doing good is a way of life Koerber learned early on. His grandmother, Rose Anderson, would take him along as a child when she cooked as a volunteer for a Natchez, MS, orphanage. “My grandmother taught me to do something kind for someone every day,” he shares. “I hope I make her proud.” His generosity ranges from providing advice and help to other CPAs who want to pursue his field to keeping $5 McDonald’s gift cards in his car for people who seem like they need a meal. He has spoken in many law school classes and served as an adjunct professor of accounting at the University of Southern Mississippi. He was influenced by his own professors at Mississippi State, where he majored in banking and finance. “Dr. Carroll Aby was one of those finance professors who challenged you to do the best you could in work and in life,” he recalls. “I appreciate the guidance I received at Mississippi State.” The first time Koerber laid eyes on the Starkville campus was when his parents dropped him off with his footlocker at the start of his freshman year. It turned out to be a great experience – a time during which he met Melinda, a library sciences major, and made good friends. After graduating with his banking and finance degree, he worked for International Paper for a year before some acquaintances at Arthur Andersen encouraged him to become a CPA. He took courses at Louisiana State University and earned a major in accounting, followed by a CPA designation. This led to work in public accounting – tax, audit and Maury Gurwitch (left) and Jim Koerber met for lunch every Saturday for 22 years. Photo courtesy of Jim Koerber

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management advisory services – and in industry as a controller for a Vidalia, LA, family with oil interests.

Outside work, Koerber spends a great deal of time with family. He and Melinda have a son, a daughter and son-in-law and two granddaughters who all live nearby. Daughter Emily Montgomery, an MSU marketing alumna, has been his office manager since 2003. Koerber’s favorite pastime is attending music concerts – many of them classic rock and soul like Al Green, The Rolling Stones and Billy Joel, though lately his interest in country music has grown. He notes, “There are some great lines, like ‘If you came by it easy, you wouldn’t be you’ in Rodney Crowell’s song, ‘It Ain’t Over Yet.’” A few years ago, Koerber spoke at the Mississippi State Board of Public Accountancy’s swearingin ceremony for new CPAs. He advocated excellence and balance. “Be the best that you can be,” he counseled. “But don’t do it at the sacrifice of your families, your health or your ethics.” Koerber told them about his grandmother, who taught him to do the right thing. He told them about Maury Gurwitch, in whom he found wisdom. He told them about Melinda and their family, who have provided unwavering support and love. He told them about his own habits and pursuits. And in telling, what he actually did was show. He showed these new accountants what a career and life well-lived can look like.

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“You always want to be around people who make you better and smarter,” he observes. “That’s the thing that sealed the deal for me.”

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At the beginning of 2021, the Koerber Company joined Postlethwaite & Netterville, APAC, a Baton Rouge-based accounting and business advisory firm with eight offices in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Koerber’s decision was driven by shared values and quality of personnel.

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Once he shifted his focus solely to forensic and valuation services, he made himself an expert in these areas. He is now a CPA licensed in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama and holds the designations of Accredited in Business Valuation and Certified in Financial Forensics. He has qualified as an expert witness in U.S. District Court in Mississippi and in the state courts of Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. Koerber has been active in the American Institute of Certified Public Koerber calls granddaughters Lacy Gray (left) and Lillian Claire Montgomery “the joys of my life.” Accountants (AICPA) and other forensic economic and accounting Photo courtesy of Jim Koerber organizations, chairing numerous committees. His knowledge and service have earned such recognitions as AICPA Business Valuation Champion of the Year.

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Happy Entrepreneurs Get Things Done! By Erik T. Markin

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However, the reality is that few prospective businesses ever actually get started, let alone “succeed.” In 2018, LendingTree, a U.S.-based marketing and financial services firm, surveyed 1,067 Americans and found that nearly 32 percent of people considered opening a business the previous year. Out of this group, very few made significant progress toward opening, while nearly half took no action at all. Respondents cited insufficient capital (42 percent) and inertia (44.6 percent) (i.e., we get busy dealing with life) as the most significant impediments. Although limited access to capital is perhaps an expected response, entrepreneurs vary in their ability to access critical resources, and even those with abundant access often still fail to launch. This suggests that research and practice communities need to better understand the issues related to inertia as an impediment to entrepreneurship. Given that entrepreneurs experience differential access to resources, what motivates some bourgeoning entrepreneurs to keep going while others stall? We investigated this issue in a recent study¹ to better understand how resources, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial perseverance are connected. Broadly speaking, my colleagues and I examined how access to resources influences entrepreneurs’ confidence in their ability to complete meaningful tasks, their well-being and ultimately their continued effort and commitment to starting a new venture. We based the study on a few basic ideas. First, greater access to resources encourages nascent entrepreneurs to behave entrepreneurially. This is because access to resources helps people feel confident in their ability to be successful. For instance, greater access to human, social and/or financial resources

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Entrepreneurs assume many of these same roles and are often regarded as noteworthy leaders. For example, successful entrepreneurs like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford, Jobs, Bezos and many others are easily recognized as influential leaders. As leaders of their enterprises, entrepreneurs often must pivot their organizations to adjust to changes in the environment and maintain success. As such, entrepreneurs are often touted as catalysts of change and growth who discover or create opportunities while navigating adversity, uncertainty and ambiguity. Indeed, stories of such triumphs make headlines of newspapers and covers of magazines and become subjects of movies, inspiring ambitious, like-minded individuals.

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eaders play an important role in modern society and are often given elevated status (e.g., heroes). For example, leaders tend to be credited for change and growth in their organizations and communities because they guide constituents through challenging and ambiguous situations, develop and manage key relationships, gather resources and information and espouse shared purpose. In his classic book Leadership, James MacGregor Burns defines leadership as “the reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources, …in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers.” In other words, leaders serve as organizers, negotiators, analyzers, listeners, learners, coaches and teachers, among other important roles.

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Resources, Well-being and Venturing: How to Improve Entrepreneurial Persistence

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likely strengthens a person’s self-efficacy – one’s belief that he or she can control and produce important positive outcomes. Next, people who are confident in their abilities to accomplish important tasks tend to experience a positive and happy state, which motivates them to achieve milestones. That is, people derive satisfaction from the completion of meaningful work, and happy people tend to be more productive. We sampled 285 individuals with varying backgrounds and occupations. Respondents were balanced between men and women ranging from 19 to 70 years in age, with a mean age of 37.65, and with educational backgrounds ranging from high school graduates to advanced degree holders. To collect responses, we used an experimental vignette methodology (EVM), which is particularly useful for theories using a “thinking-acting” model (e.g., where individuals are given scenarios and asked how they would act). That is, EVM presents individuals with written descriptions of realistic situations and asks them to answer questions about how they would respond in that scenario. In our study, each vignette described a situation in which an individual is thinking about entering entrepreneurship. Participants were randomly assigned to either high or low levels of resources. Then, they were asked how they would feel about their ability to accomplish entrepreneurial tasks and how they would act. However, not all individuals have the same entrepreneurial aspirations or growth intentions, and some ventures require greater and more complex access to resources, which likely affects the resources to well-being relationship. Therefore, to isolate the effects of resources on the proposed outcomes, we varied the high and low levels of resources across three forms of potential entrepreneurial venturing and the associated level of resources to successfully launch: lifestyle or hobby, salary replacement and high growth.

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Erik T. Markin Dr. Erik T. Markin is an Assistant Professor of Management at Mississippi State University. He received his PhD from the University of Mississippi. His research areas of interest include family business, entrepreneurship and franchising. Markin has published articles in various management and entrepreneurship journals, including the Family Business Review, Journal of Business Research, Journal of Family Business Strategy and Review of Managerial Science, as well as book chapters and reviews. His work has been presented at major academic conferences including the Academy of Management, Babson College Entrepreneurship Research Conference and the Southern Management Association annual meeting. He also serves as a reviewer for Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Family Business Review, International Small Business Journal and Journal of Business Venturing. Markin teaches the MBA Strategic Business Consulting course and Business Policy – a senior-level undergraduate course designed to develop skills for analyzing contemporary business problems.

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¹ Marshall, D. R., Meek, W. R., Swab, R. G. & Markin, E. (2020). “Access to resources and entrepreneurial well-being: A self-efficacy approach.” Journal of Business Research, 120, 203-212.

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For practitioners, our research highlights the importance of establishing and maintaining a healthy state of psychological well-being, especially during the early stages of the venture. “Adequate” access to resources helps budding entrepreneurs combat a litany of emotions that often stem from the tumultuous start-up process, which may impede their motivation to persist in entrepreneurial activities. The more entrepreneurs are aware of the connection between their resource endowments and their emotional state, the more they may recognize strenuous moments as temporary hurdles rather than significant setbacks. Likewise, our research emphasizes the need for policy makers and entrepreneurship support centers to educate budding entrepreneurs on these issues and provide clear information on both the types and amounts of resources available through their networks and respective ecosystems. While such efforts are no panacea, they could help many nascent entrepreneurs demystify and better navigate some of the uncertainties of the entrepreneurial process.

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Overall, we found support for our predictions. Access to resources encouraged would-be entrepreneurs to pursue venturing because it gave them confidence in their ability to act, which would in turn make them feel happy and satisfied with their entrepreneurial experience. This effect was robust across multiple measures of well-being, such as reduced worry and strain as well as greater life satisfaction and subjective happiness. Academically, this is interesting because it offers a glimpse into both the entrepreneur’s cognitive and entrepreneurial processes. For example, having access to resources may cause less stress throughout the entrepreneurial process or at least provide some cushion for learning to deal with ambiguity. Historically, research on entrepreneurs and their ventures has considered the relationships among personality characteristics, venture characteristics and environmental contexts, as well as the prevalence of entrepreneurship as a career; however, our work shines a light on the entrepreneurial experience and the mechanisms that motivate an individual’s continued commitment toward entrepreneurship.

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Added Value By Emily Daniels n everything you do, always try to find a way to add value to others.”

Whether it’s with his work or the people with whom he comes in contact, Vincent Young does exactly that. Young joined the Mississippi State University family as a Senior Academic Records Evaluator with the University’s Office of the Registrar before transferring to the College of Business in 2015 as an Academic Coordinator for marketing. This past summer, he was promoted to the position of Assistant Dean of Academic Advising, but he made a few twists and turns before landing on his true calling – helping students find success.

He enrolled at Mississippi State, initially interested in engineering, but he soon learned that wasn’t the direction for him. While considering alterative majors, Young decided to take courses at East Mississippi Community College to get some of the basic classes out of the way. His initial plan of completing prerequisite courses led him to attain three associate’s degrees in the process. “I ended up with associate’s degrees in electronic and digital devices, instrumentation technology and industrial electricity,” he states. “After taking so many classes, I was asked if I would be interested in becoming an instructor, as a position had become available due to a former instructor’s career change.” A short time after he began teaching, another opportunity landed at his feet. A recruiter contacted Young to see if he would be interested in a position at Weyerhaeuser Company (now International Paper). He took the offer and worked there for nearly 15 years, serving as a Maintenance and Control Room Operations Technician.

Young says his work ethic and love of learning were instilled in him from a very young age. Growing up he witnessed the daily sacrifices and hard work of his parents to make ends meet for their large family. They made sure their children knew the importance of working hard and understood the value of always educating oneself, because those skills last a lifetime. Over the years at Weyerhaeuser, Young had accumulated a good deal of vacation time. Never one to waste an opportunity, he decided to make the most of his days by expanding his knowledge.

Photo by Megan Bean

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“It became a full-time job,” he says. “So, I headed back to Starkville to focus on my education.”

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A native of Starkville, Young grew up the youngest in a house full of older sisters – five to be exact. Upon graduating from high school, he decided to try to make a name for himself away from home, accepting a football scholarship at Delta State University. The standout athlete had always been passionate about sports but soon lost interest when football began taking precedence over every other aspect of his life.

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“I

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“While most people would use their time off vacationing at the beach or on hunting trips, I would use my time traveling to multiple states attending real estate seminars,” he says. “I would also go to seminars about stock market, mutual fund and stock option investing, because learning more about those things interested me. I earned my real estate sales license and eventually my broker’s license, which gave me the opportunity to work with both RE/MAX and Coldwell Banker.” In addition to real estate, Young became skilled in various areas of investment. Soon, he began assisting co-workers with their 401(k) plans and real estate portfolios. “It got to a point where random individuals would frequently ask me to help with understanding and allocating their investments, amongst both their 401(k) accounts and personal investments,” he shares. “This increased my desire to return to school and complete my education.”

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Upon receiving encouragement from his wife Telisa, he enrolled as an undergraduate student at Mississippi State, this time pursuing degrees in both finance and real estate finance. Young assumed he would earn his finance degrees then attend law school to become an attorney specializing in securities law, but his law school plans changed when he found out his wife was expecting their son Christopher. He was able to continue his education without uprooting his growing family when he was accepted into Mississippi State’s Master of Public Policy and Administration Program and eventually provided a graduate assistantship with the College of Business Academic Advising Center. “After all the career changes I’ve made, I found my true passion in the Academic Advising Center helping students achieve their ultimate goals, which includes graduating from college!” exclaims Young. “My entire life, I’ve been a person who believed in giving back to others. I have always had an altruistic perspective, as I would sacrifice my personal interests for the benefit of others. Advising provided the perfect platform because you meet students every day from various walks of life. Many of our students face adversities beyond the classroom. These obstacles can range from deciding on a major to more complex matters, such as affording housing, food and transportation or facing severe domestic issues. Most people don’t fully appreciate the amount of compassion, focus and emotional strength required to be a competent professional academic advisor. It is our responsibility to ensure our students feel supported and valued.” While working full time as Academic Advisor for the College of Business, Young was also able to pursue a doctoral degree in public administration. “I knew that earning a doctoral degree would open doors and allow me to continue to do what I love to do, which is to encourage and motivate others to become the best versions of themselves,” he says. “I’m a person who has always believed in challenging myself,” adds Young. “I always wanted to do more – I never want to be Photo by Megan Bean

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Once Young got the green light from his family, he quickly accepted and signed his offer letter, and he officially began his new role on June 1. Young explains that while he will continue to do a minimal amount of advising, his main duties will be to lead and manage the advising center and support undergraduate student success within the College of Business. “In this role, I’ll be able to better assist Dr. Rogers and Dean [Sharon] Oswald. I’ll be learning more about accreditation, curriculum development, policy implementation, budgeting and managing an academic department,” he states. “But one of my main goals is to ensure our advisors continue to be courteous, engaged and informed while helping students navigate through their academic studies. I want to create an environment where our advisors know how much they are valued, and in turn, this will allow them to continuously add value to our students. “Success means different things to different people. I know I am purposed to help others find their own versions of success – while continuing to add value along the way.”

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He shares, “When I called Telisa, I asked her if she could believe it, and she said, ‘Yes, I can. We’ve been together for 22 years, and ever since I’ve known you, people – including myself – have told you that you are a special person with unlimited potential. God will not allow you to continuously sow into and create value in the lives of others and not have windows of blessings open in your own life.’”

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Late last spring, the opportunity for elevation came to pass. Dr. Kevin Rogers, the Associate Dean of the College of Business, approached Young about filling a new position as Assistant Dean of Academic Advising and Undergraduate Studies for the The Young family – Christopher, Vincent and Telisa College. Young was Photo courtesy of Vincent Young ecstatic about the offer but needed to discuss it with his wife. His apprehension was not about accepting the offer, but he had been approached with multiple professional opportunities and wanted to ensure he was making the wisest professional decision.

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stalemated. If there is room for elevation, I want to put myself in a position to be elevated. More importantly, it’s pertinent that I am able assist others with their personal elevation.”

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Banking on Relationships F

rank Appleby is a self-described “relationship guy.” It’s what has steered his entire career and ultimately led him to Mississippi State.

“I became the Assistant to an Assistant to the Assistant Personal Banker at First National Bank and Trust Company of Evanston, Illinois,” he says with a smile. “It was an hour and 40-minute commute from the university!” It was there that he developed his strengths in customer service and personal relationships and gained the bank management’s support to pursue his MBA from Northwestern University. He “cut his teeth” in banking there and remained at that bank for upwards of 13 years until it was acquired by Bank One, one of the country’s top 10 banks at that time. “I was more entrepreneurial than large banks prefer,” he shares, recalling his desire to make an employment move. “I was recruited at that time by a mid-sized bank to develop and lead their lending department.” From the early stages of Appleby’s Chicago area career, he began making loans to thoroughbred horse owners and trainers who were among the best in the business, such as members of the syndicates who owned Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Northern Dancer. The renowned Arlington Park racecourse was nearby. “I began reading the trade journals to stay on top of the business,” he shares. “And I became fascinated. But I didn’t have the resources to become a real participant in the ‘sport of kings’ at the time.” As his career moved forward, larger banks were continually buying smaller and mid-sized ones. His employer was bought yet again, and Appleby was tiring of having to adapt to new cultures each time. He decided he should try to create his own bank with his own culture, with the goal of its being acquired in the future by a larger institution. In 1999, with that in mind, he organized The Peoples’ Bank of Arlington Heights, recalling it as “one of the best and most enjoyable experiences of my career.” The endeavor paid off. In a little more than 16 years, he had built such a successful business that he received a very nice offer to acquire Peoples’. He and his board agreed to it, making sure his employees’ jobs would be secure. Appleby continued to work for the acquirer, as well, until he fulfilled his obligations there.

Photo by Beth Wynn

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“We moved to Chicago with $400 in my pocket,” Appleby relates. “But we had an apartment in student housing, so that part was taken care of. It was September of 1980, and there was a recession going on, but I was too naïve to know. It took me three months to find a job.

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Being the son of a Methodist minister meant he spent his childhood growing up all around Mississippi as his father moved from pastorate to pastorate. An undergraduate degree in business administration from Millsaps College provided him the background to launch his banking career with an entry-level training position at First Federal Savings & Loan in Canton. Soon after, he married, and his wife was accepted into the MBA program at the University of Chicago.

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By Kathy Kenne

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Upon the sale of Peoples’, he also rekindled his interest in thoroughbred racing, which soon led to personal investment in several racehorse clubs and syndicates. The first horse in which he had ownership interest was Forever Royal, a beautiful gray mare who won his heart by always stalking and coming from behind to finish well. He enjoyed two or three days each week of the racing season in his box at Arlington Park.

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It was at that point that he felt a real longing to return home to Mississippi. He still had his racing interests in Chicago but decided a time of reflection on his Choctaw County farm was just what he needed. So, he made the move. He is now enjoying his timberland and the garden close to his cabin. The man who once had premium seats for each professional sporting venue in Chicago and who saw every home playoff and championship game Michael Jordan ever played, is now content on his 63 acres in rural Mississippi.

Appleby enjoys life at his Choctaw County cabin. Photo courtesy of Frank Appleby

Shortly after making the transition, he realized something was missing. He felt the need to share all he had learned in his banking career to help others. A longtime friend suggested that he consider teaching at the university level, given his love of mentoring. So, Appleby sat down and wrote a letter to Dean Sharon Oswald, a woman whom he had never met. “Frank reached out to me about possibly teaching for MSU,” shares Oswald. “This was at a time when Lewis Mallory had just told us he would be retiring at the end of the year from teaching his banking class. Lewis [the former Chairman of Cadence Bank] had also served as our Executive in Residence. It only took one look at Frank’s resume to realize that he would be a perfect successor for Lewis. Kathleen Thomas, department head in Finance and Economics, reached out to Frank and asked him to join us, including Lewis, for lunch. That was all it took. Frank had a wealth of experience from his career in the Chicago area, and he was perfect for the role.” Appleby now teaches the Bank Management course. His objective is for students to understand what is important in banking, how banks work and the risks banks seek to identify, mitigate and control. Even if students choose a different career path, he feels it is important for them to understand what banks are seeking from them and what they should seek from a bank. He finds that his students thrive on real-world examples, so he has pulled out his old, redacted files. They particularly enjoy the study of “Lending to Crazy George.”

“I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged they were,” Appleby says of his first experience with these students. “They’re very bright. They do the work because they’re interested. I’m a better teacher when they’re asking questions. I feed off their excitement and curiosity. Sometimes, I’m drenched with sweat at the end of a class because I’ve worked so hard!”

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Word about Appleby’s interactive and energetic teaching style has gotten around. The first semester he taught a class of 18. Four semesters later, he has upwards of 40 in his class. “Frank brings a wealth of real-world experience to the classroom, helping our students understand more deeply the links between theory and practice in the banking industry,” says Kathleen Thomas. In addition to sharing his experience-based knowledge, Appleby thrives on assisting students who are launching into the workplace.

“After more than 35 years in business, Frank has built up numerous contacts both in the banking community and on the regulatory side,” states Thomas. “He has been willing to share those contacts with students, which has certainly helped with their job placement. Not everyone is willing to share their social capital so freely, but Frank is happy to do what he can to help these students succeed.”

“Frank is quite enthusiastic about this chapter in his life and career, and I’m so happy we can be a part of his journey,” says Thomas. “I hope we get the opportunity to work with him for a long time.”

Forever Royal, the first horse in which Appleby had ownership Photo courtesy of Frank Appleby

Thomas need not worry. Appleby says, “I’ll continue to do this as long as they’ll have me!”

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“If the students get the jobs they want, that makes me happy,” he shares. “If the foundation grants do good for people, that makes me happy. I feel blessed. I’m a happy guy.”

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Appleby splits his time between Mississippi and Chicago these days. He is the Executive Director and Treasurer of the Pepper Family Foundation in Chicago where he enjoys administering its grants and overseeing its resources. He feels blessed to be able to spend time with his adult daughter in Chicago and with his son, who is a helicopter paramedic in Jackson. He is a man in a good place in life.

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“I enjoy helping them find their career paths,” he says. “We’ve been very successful placing students in the top regional and super regional banks in the South. The FDIC is recruiting from my class. I had good relationships with the regulatory community in Chicago. I’m developing those same types of relationships in the South now.”

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A High Calling By Carolanne Roberts

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harles “Chad” Carson recalls with great pride navigating the accountancy program at Mississippi State University, one held in high regard nationally and a true challenge for its students. He earned his BPA in 1995 and MBA in 1996.

But we wager that those professors and many others know and respect him today as the newly installed Dean of Samford University’s Brock School of Business in Birmingham, AL. If there’s any doubt about the new dean’s roots, he’s quick to say, “I was maroon and white from day one, from birth and family. Every memory I have is from Mississippi State.” A highlight among his memories is the trip to Omaha in June with his dad, brother and son for the baseball National Championship, keeping the family Bulldog spirit strong.

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“I’m certain none of my accounting professors remember me coming through those classes,” he says humbly.

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As a youngster growing up in Houston, MS, Carson had eyed a career in sports broadcasting but, as a college student, opted instead for accounting. “I needed and wanted a solid career choice, and accounting is the language of business,” he shares. “If you can survive the accounting program at State, you are very marketable!” Having enrolled after two years at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, MS, Carson plunged into the MSU accounting community. Classes with Dr. Gilda Agacer planted the notion that a career in governmental or not-for-profit work could be a route beyond public accounting. Carson was actually marketable before he left campus. While working toward his MBA, he joined the University’s human resources office as a Benefits Generalist.

“I got to work on retirement and signing up people for their benefits, which was a wonderful experience,” he recalls. “My MBA program also helped me explore the possibility of a career in academics. Faculty members like Dr. Allen Amason, Dr. Allison Pearson and Dr. Kirk Arnett really opened my eyes to a career as a professor.” Meanwhile, life had something else in store, something that would keep Carson connected to MSU even longer. “I was recruited by the Office of the State Auditor to work for them – auditing Mississippi State,” he shares. “I had an office on campus as External Auditor and, while I wasn’t an employee of the University, I was still there. This was a big part of my learning about education and the budget and fiscal aspects of higher education.” At this point, adding up the experiences and the knowledge, Carson felt a calling. “I think the Lord was leading me in the direction of academics,” he says. “I don’t think it was by accident or by chance. I realized that becoming a professor would mean stopping my career and committing full time to a PhD. My wife, Merry Gillespie Carson, an MSU alumnus from the College of Education, was fully supportive.”

Photo courtesy of Samford University

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“I always knew I would go to State – there was no doubt,” Carson says.

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So the stage was set. Four years would be spent earning the doctoral degree at Ole Miss and then...possibly a return to Mississippi State?

“But I ended up finding Samford, and it has been a perfect fit,” he marvels. “I realized Christian higher education was really important to me, a place I could share my faith. I could be outward with it as well as be a professor.” That was back in 2004 when, still completing his dissertation, Carson started as a Samford instructor. Over the years he has served as Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor of Management, then Associate Dean, Interim Dean and as of July 1, Dean of the business school.

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“Becoming Dean was the furthest thing from my mind,” Carson admits. “At Samford, teaching is the emphasis, so you’ve got to be really good in the classroom. The students have high expectations, and you strive to meet those. I was teaching undergraduate and MBA students, and in those days the average class size was in the low 20s. You needed to be on your A-game, and I focused on that for the first seven years. Then Dr. Howard Finch came on as the new Dean and needed an Associate Dean.” Finch saw great promise in the young professor. “Somehow, my name was put in front of him,” Carson explains. “All my experiences came into play, like my time in human resources, the auditing and my understanding of finances and higher education. Handling the budget, working closely with faculty and recruiting staff – these were things that fit my skill sets and interest.” Of course he got the job. Carson served under Dean Finch for eight years and assumed the role of Interim Dean in 2019. All the while, he continued to teach. “You stay connected to the students,” Carson says. “You can’t teach as much as a faculty member, but I feel it’s important to teach as much as I can even though the administrative duties do take me out of the classroom.” In the administrative arena, good things are happening at Samford. The program itself has grown 41.4 percent in the past 10 years. “There’s a large market for Christian higher education,” Carson remarks. “We’re selling a different experience of smaller classrooms and the Christian perspective. And we want to do some things not everybody’s doing. For instance, we are doing a lot of data analytics at the undergraduate level where most schools don’t offer it until master’s or PhD levels. We are requiring our students to take four classes in data analytics and have invested in new curriculum, which puts us at the forefront.” Among the more recent program additions are Professional Sales, Sports Business and a Student Business Incubator. He notes that the sales program thrives with an advisory board of excellent salespeople “to enable us to stay current. There is no shortage of industry experts in Birmingham who are willing to come speak to classes or even teach them. We leverage the relationships in the Birmingham business community when we need expertise outside our program.” Then there’s the excellent sports curriculum. “The University has started a Center for Sports Analytics that has been a great partner for us,” says the Dean. “This allows students to get into project-based work. Recently, our sports marketing students did a project for Chick-fil-A to assess the impact of the company’s sponsorship of the annual Iron Bowl football game.”

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Photo courtesy of Samford University

During his tenure as the faculty member holding the School’s Brock Family Chair in Entrepreneurship, Carson was heavily involved in the formation of the Student Business Incubator. “We’ve already been able to spin off several student owned businesses,” he says. “It’s gratifying to see their success – and there’s a possible cross-campus involvement between us and Mississippi State’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Outreach.” With this overflowing plate of responsibility and achievement, the new dean vows to continue teaching and, when possible, conducting academic research. And then there’s tending to the undergraduate and MBA programs with their record numbers enrolled this year. Being named 2020’s Number 1 Online MBA at a Christian business school by online ranking site College Consensus provides another banner to take forward. “We’ve experienced a tremendous growth in the last decade and want to continue to move the School in a positive direction,” he says. “I will always be thankful for the faculty and staff of the College of Business at Mississippi State who invested in me.” Following their lead, he says, “My goal is to invest in students here at Samford who can have a positive impact on the world.”

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Carson chats with students in front of the Brock School of Business.

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Online Graduate Accounting Programs Launched By Kirsten Shaw

“I had applied to another online program when Mississippi State announced plans to offer their graduate accounting degrees online,” says Morgan. “I decided to wait until I could enroll at State.” Morgan earned her undergraduate degree in accounting in 1991 at Mississippi College, followed by an MBA from MC and additional accounting work at MC and Jackson State University. She is a CPA and a member of the Mississippi Society of CPAs’ Awards, Education and Scholarships Committee.

The Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy’s (ASAC) highly regarded Master of Taxation (MTX) and Master of Public Accountancy (MPA) degrees were both offered online for the first time this past fall. “The School of Accountancy is at the forefront of re-envisioning how graduate accounting education is delivered,” states ASAC Director and Professor Dr. Shawn Mauldin. “The online delivery of these programs is the right path forward and is in line with the mission of the University, the College of Business and the School.” A gift of more than $1.7 million by the Richard C. Adkerson Family Foundation was announced in the fall of 2020, facilitating the establishment of the online graduate accounting programs and making MSU one of the early SEC schools to do so. Funds have been invested in staffing, technology to outfit a dedicated classroom, marketing of the programs and more. The gift also enabled support of students underrepresented in the accounting field, creating fellowships for African Americans enrolled full time in the programs and endowing a student chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants. The full curricula of the MTX and MPA programs are offered online. Students may begin in the fall, spring or summer and complete either degree in 12 months or on a part-time schedule. The first students come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are MSU alumni; others are not. Some are changing careers. Some, like Morgan, have returned to school after working for some years, while others enrolled immediately following their undergraduate studies – like Zy’Keyah Horn. Horn, an MPA student, completed her undergraduate degree at Mississippi State last spring and is now working with Parker-Hannifin, a Fortune 250 engineering company focused on motion and control technologies. She is an Accounting Leadership Development Associate, a position in which she works in three month rotations to gain experience in various aspects of the company and of accounting. Over the summer, she worked in their water purification division in California in areas like payroll and accounts receivable, while her fall stint has been at the hydraulic and fuel filtration division in Perrysburg, OH, focusing on tasks like accounts receivable and fixed assets.

The online classroom (top photo) is equipped with a 4K camera and TV studio-quality background and lighting. Here, Dr. Brad Lang uses the Wacom tablet to make notes that can be seen both onscreen in the classroom and at home. A graduate student (lower photo) records each class and monitors the sound and video quality from a control room. Photos by Megan Bean

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The online option means her own teaching does not have to be disrupted as she earns her next degree.

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“The MSU Master of Taxation offers an opportunity for me, as an educator, to keep abreast of new tax rules and regulations and to learn about data analytics – the emerging topic in accounting,” she says, noting that analytics is now a component of the CPA Exam.

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racy Morgan is both a teacher and a student. The Clinton, MS, resident is a full-time Accounting and Business Professor at Holmes Community College and an Adjunct Accounting Instructor at Mississippi College. This past fall, she also became an inaugural enrollee in Mississippi State’s online graduate accounting program.

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“I was planning to stay on campus to get my master’s degree but heard about this job from my advisor, Trina Pollan, and it sounded interesting,” shares Horn, who plans to pursue a CPA designation. “When an offer came from the company, I wanted to take it. Having the online option meant I could do both!” With the demand for online education having been accelerated by the pandemic and other factors, the options are growing exponentially. As with most content in the digital realm, there’s the good and the not-so-good – those seeking to educate and those whose purpose is profit ahead of substance. As online offerings have expanded, a major challenge for prospective students is in discerning quality. Is the program accredited? Is the degree path a little too fast and easy? What support services are offered?

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With Mississippi State, they are assured of the quality because it is the same accredited curricula offered on campus. Online graduate accounting students take the same courses as their in-person counterparts, studying under the same faculty and meeting the same rigorous demands. They have access to MSU advising and career services.

“In developing our online graduate accounting programs, it was essential that the experience for online students be as close to the on-campus experience as possible,” says Kelly Walker, Clinical Assistant Professor and ASAC Graduate Coordinator. “This means that not only the content, but also the delivery, needs to be of the highest standard.” As a result, much attention and investment went into developing a high-tech online classroom. ASAC sought the input of MSU’s University Television Center in designing a studiostyle background and lighting. The classroom is equipped with a high-definition 4K camera that can follow a professor’s movement. A control room houses a graduate student during each class to start and stop the recording, monitor the video and audio throughout and zoom in or out on the instructor as needed. The sound system includes microphones not only for the professor, but also above the in-person students, so their online peers can hear questions that are asked. The professor has a large Wacom tablet to make notes that can be seen onscreen in the classroom and at home, and the room has its own dedicated server to ensure dependable delivery. While graduate class sizes are kept small, the room was built to accommodate up to 80 face-to-face students, to allow for flexibility in future uses. “We’re in the same system, the same discussion boards, as the in-person students,” notes Morgan. “The professors have been very relatable and responsive to questions. In the class videos, we see them teach and interact with students and hear what those students are asking. I’ve enjoyed that aspect so much, I’ve incorporated some of it in my own online classes.” ASAC faculty members received thorough training on the use of the new technology, and MSU Online, the University’s Center for Distance Education, aided ASAC in developing effective online teaching practices. “At first, I was nervous about being online instead of in the classroom, but I really want to commend my professors,” volunteers Horn. “Every one of them has been extremely helpful and responded quickly when I’ve had concerns or questions.” The graduate programs are also being supported through the expansion of undergraduate online offerings. These additions allow graduates of other business disciplines who want to pursue a CPA designation or graduate degree in accounting to complete the prerequisites for either accounting

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master’s program. Principles of Accounting I and II, previously offered online, have been joined by Cost Accounting, Intermediate Accounting I and II, Income Tax and Auditing. To learn more about the Adkerson School of Accountancy’s online offerings, visit www.online.msstate.edu/mtpa.

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Photo courtesy of Chrissy Major

Bridging the Gap “Lifting As We Climb” is the motto of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). Among the latest to adopt this aim are members of the new NABA chapter at Mississippi State. To help bridge the opportunity gap for African American professionals, NABA provides education, professional development, financial resources and career connections to its more than 200,000 professional and student members. “NABA is the oldest and largest professional organization focused on African Americans in accounting, finance and related business professions,” shares chapter President Chrissy Major. “To me this means having the opportunity to connect with my peers as well as professionals across the globe. The motto of ‘Lifting as We Climb’ is seen in the resources they equip students with, whether that be internship opportunities, career development or access to The Business Learning Institute’s collection of self-study courses.” “NABA is an excellent national organization run by some fantastic individuals,” states COB advisor Trina Pollan. “Equally so is our MSU chapter. Networking is a terrific benefit of being involved. Students get to engage in fellowship with one another, campus professionals and industry representatives. The organization goes out of its way to provide every resource possible to its membership.” Endowed through a gift from the Richard C. Adkerson Family Foundation, the MSU chapter meets twice monthly. Some topics professionals have presented during the fall include financial literacy, culture assessments and how to determine if a firm’s values match one’s own and the various levels at CPA firms and how to work up to partnership. Subjects in the spring will include interview skills, professional attire, dinner etiquette and diversity in the workplace. In addition, presenters often discuss their own experiences as well as opportunities at their firms. The chapter’s executive board and other members have also been able to participate in some leadership meetings hosted by the national organization via video conferencing.

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MSU’s NABA officers (from left) are Shamyra Edmond, Professional Development/Event Planning Chair; Jay Parks, Marketing/ Public Relations Chair; Chrissy Major, President; Wynton Johnson, Treasurer; Raven Smith, Student Chapter Reporting Chair and Maxwell Perkins, Vice President.

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A New Game Plan B

asketball coaches – especially the best ones – are known for strategic secrets. Sharing too much information can weaken the game plan and confuse the players. But for Coach Joanne P. McCallie, boasting a storied career with women’s teams at Auburn, the University of Maine, Michigan State and Duke, the strategy and the secrets were deeper, as well guarded as any ball on any championship court.

Standing before a student audience at Mississippi State in October, McCallie – “CoachP” – spoke out, expounding on the story of her mental health journey that is recounted in her book Secret Warrior, published in February. The talk, which included a valuable and candid Q&A with students, was a part of the Leo W. Seal Jr. Distinguished Speaker Series sponsored by the College of Business, Office of Student Affairs and MSU Health Promotion and Wellness. Sitting down for a post-speech conversation, CoachP emphasized that all 204 pages of the book were written to reveal the secret – especially to her former players.

“I thought about telling them a couple of times through the years and put the thought away,” she says. “I consulted mentors, and they advised against it – I would become the story as people watched the ‘bipolar coach.’ So, this book is for all those girls at last, and also for the many people who struggle with impaired mental health.” CoachP says her team at Maine knew something was wrong. Their coach, who’d experienced her first manic depressive episode (away from the court), was suddenly gone for two mysteryshrouded weeks, missing important practices. When she returned, offering the explanation of exhaustion, “They accepted it. And they supported me even with parents rumbling about needing a different coach. We won championships and didn’t see a dip in productivity.” Her husband John, a PhD economist and chemist, was at her side, stepping forward to help with their two children and other needs. “He understood that there was a chemical imbalance in [my] brain and that it was going to take a while to figure out what was right for [me],” she explains. “He used reason over emotion.”

Photo by Beth Wynn

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Yet since stepping away from the court, she has begun to share that part of her narrative.

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During her 32 years as one of the winningest collegiate coaches in the country, with a 628-243 record, McCallie never revealed what was going on in her head, refusing to shift the spotlight from her players to her personal battle – specifically a diagnosis of manic-depressive disorder, also known as bipolar disorder.

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By Carolanne Roberts

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The balance did come with the right mix of medications and therapy. Except for a complacent period when she allowed herself to stop the medications, resulting in a serious second episode, CoachP’s life progressed without serious problems. Yet she was carrying around the secret, that huge piece of her inner self that the outside world couldn’t see. “At first I fought the diagnosis,” she says, and she recounts her thoughts at the time: “It cannot be happening to me. I’ve been a student athlete, and my body’s in shape. You mean to tell me my brain has stepped aside?” She states, “It’s a heart-wrenching challenge.” At this stage of the chat, CoachP realizes the need to explain her disorder, a widely misunderstood affliction. It’s one of the most-asked questions she gets.

“The depressive state – my second episode – makes you lose concentration, become very low,” she continues. “It’s hard to read a paper, and you’re not interested in eating. You go to this awful place where your brain is down-and-out, in full depression. So, the two are truly a polarization of feelings.”

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“Manic-depressive disorder comes from genetics and also from triggers in one’s life,” she begins, noting the condition generally manifests in a person’s late 20s. “A manic episode, like my first, is a state of incredible grandiosity and positivity, an over-the-top kind of feeling where you have big ideas and your brain is in overdrive. It can be a creative yet dangerous state because the circuitry in your brain is working too hard.

She also addresses the stigma, especially 25 years ago, when her first diagnosis seemed better hidden than heralded. Even today, it’s a frustration to realize that millions of people take medications for a variety of other conditions without being regarded as damaged, and this frustration is another reason CoachP is speaking out about mental health, at MSU and the world beyond. “This kind of thing must change,” she says. “The thinking [about] mental well-being and mental health [should be] equal to overall health.” Secret Warrior, whose two-word title aptly defines her journey, contains chapters about mentoring and the need to reach out to experts, as well as about faith and fear. The latter details CoachP’s embracing of Christianity and her baptism at age 50 in the ocean off the coast of Maine, her home state – and faith is a recurring theme throughout. Other chapters address her departure from Duke and the tidal wave of emotion accompanying that decision. The book also offers earnest suggestions to guide readers who might sense mental discord in their own lives. CoachP has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America with Robin Roberts and on numerous podcasts in the United States, Germany and Israel. She knows she’s reaching an audience that needs her. “There are so many positives,” she says. “But then there are the quiet people, the ones not engaging, and those concern me. They may be suffering, and this may be hitting too close to home.” That said, nothing will stop this woman with the will to help. She is a coach to the core, in a larger game on a bigger court.

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Photo by Robby Lozano

“If you want to know my ultimate dream,” CoachP says, “I would like to have a call-in podcast, maybe interviewing some guests and talking with people who call in anonymously. I don’t presume to be Oprah, but I have experience talking with young people. And I can share my experiences with people of all ages. “I feel a great responsibility to see what I can do to help change the narrative – and I do mean ‘help,’ because I cannot do it alone. But can I have my role just like a good teammate? Can I be part of the championship – a world championship – in elevating regard for brain health?” With her book on the market, her speaking schedule expanding and a developing foundation underway, CoachP – @CoachP4Life on social media – is resolute about making a difference. She finds time to play tennis and some golf, lift weights and swim laps and is catching up on years of Netflix series. But the new mission is always at the forefront. CoachP knows there are people to touch with her message about mental health. “Mississippi State deserves enormous applause and credit for their vision and for putting me before the students,” she says. “I’m going to do more of this. The crescendo is about to hit for me in 2022 with more speaking engagements, and it’s going to be great.” For more information about CoachP or Secret Warrior, visit CoachP.org.

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McCallie was welcomed to campus in October as a lecturer for the Leo W. Seal Jr. Distinguished Speaker Series.

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Pondering the Big Picture By Emily Daniels rowing up, Nicole Ponder had a love for writing and dreamed of one day being a lead writer for a television sitcom. Her father – a financial planner and accountant – however, dreamed of her one day leading the family’s financial planning business. She did become a leader, though not in the way either of them planned.

“My father said if he was going to pay for my education, I would have to major in something under the business category,” she recalls. “After looking at all the majors to choose from, I landed on marketing. ‘That could be pretty interesting,’ I thought.” The Mobile, AL, native instinctively chose the University of South Alabama (USA) for her undergraduate degree, as she was already familiar with the nearby campus. She remembers being worried that she had chosen the wrong major after taking her very first class. But Ponder decided to stick with it, and luckily, she found all her other marketing courses to be fascinating – especially Marketing Research. After graduation, she wanted to pursue a master’s degree in marketing. She learned that The University of Alabama had a one-year program and decided she could handle the hour-long commute between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, where she had just accepted a position with a field service marketing research company. “I loved the research side of marketing, so I jumped at the opportunity to get paid to do it,” says Ponder. “My job was to help companies collect data for their new or different products. I would go out in the mall (where our company was located) with my clipboard and ask mall patrons if they would like to participate in a survey. If they qualified, I would take them back to our office. We did a lot of in-depth interviews and had a fully functional kitchen where we would conduct taste tests. I remember one time we were testing I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, so we cooked baked potatoes and had participants guess which one was topped with real butter.” While Ponder enjoyed working in the field of marketing research, she often felt frustrated because she never knew what decisions would be made as a result of her team’s findings. She always wondered if the makers of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! changed its flavor or if Chips Ahoy! had more chocolate chips added to each cookie because of their research. She couldn’t see the big picture. And though she was paid above minimum wage, she ended up spending most of her earnings on gas money for the commute. After working in Birmingham for six months, Ponder decided to turn her focus to school entirely.

Photo by Beth Wynn

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How did she get here? Let’s look at the big picture.

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A Professor of Marketing at Mississippi State University, Ponder has held a range of leadership positions for both the College of Business and the University. Since 2016, she has served as Assessment Coordinator, in addition to Director of Graduate Studies in Business. She has been a member of MSU’s Institutional Effectiveness Committee since 2008 and the Teaching Effectiveness Committee since 2014. But this year, she began serving in a new capacity, as the COB’s Associate Dean for Graduate Programs and Assessment. In the new position, she oversees all the College’s graduate programs and assessment efforts.

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“The great thing about the master’s program was that you had the opportunity to take these really deep dives into specific topics. There were entire courses on new product development or retailing, and I took lots of statistics courses, which I loved,” she remembers fondly. “I also got to work alongside some marketing professors on consulting projects that they were conducting at the time. I realized that my job in Birmingham had helped me become more adept at taking a research project all the way from survey development and data collection to analysis and recommendations based on survey results.”

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Shortly after completing the master’s program, Ponder returned home to Mobile with her newly acquired knowledge and luggage in tow. Ponder was optimistic about the future, as thoughts of all the available career opportunities swirled around in her head. It was when she picked up the Sunday newspaper that the swirling abruptly stopped. Right on the front page of Mobile’s Press-Register, there was a big article describing a new partnership between the paper and the University of South Alabama called the USA Mobile Register Poll. A political science professor at USA had started a polling organization on campus that would conduct weekly surveys or polls, with the results reported on the front page of every Sunday paper. For Ponder, it seemed like a match made in heaven – combining marketing research, data analytics and the opportunity to write. She went straight to campus to track down the professor to discuss the possibility of working with the group. “I started out working a few nights a week helping the polling group with cold calling, but I quickly moved up the ranks and was given the title of Assistant Director of the Polling Group,” states Ponder. “I supervised the student workers at night, collected and entered all the data and analyzed it. And sometimes I would write the articles for the paper.” She and the professor became friends. While attending a christening party for his son, she engaged in a casual conversation with the Head of the Division of Business at Spring Hill College, also in Mobile. After Ponder mentioned her educational background in marketing, he asked if she had ever thought about being a marketing instructor because they had an opening. Ponder admits that the thought had never really occurred to her. “I wouldn’t say I’m an extrovert by nature, but I agreed to try it out,” she says. “I ended up spending two years there, teaching as an instructor as well as serving as the Assistant Director of the MBA program. I thought, ‘Well, if teaching is going to be my career, I’m going to need a PhD.’” So, Ponder left for The University of Alabama again – this time to earn her doctoral degree in marketing. While there, she met another marketing doctoral student by the name of Jason Lueg. The two became close friends over the next few years and considered dating, but they knew the chance of getting dual placement at another school would be slim to none. After defending her dissertation in 2001, Ponder met with Dr. Ron Taylor at Mississippi State to discuss a tenure-track marketing position. “What initially piqued my interest at MSU was that they had a doctoral program, because I was interested in doctoral education in measurement and statistics, and I really wanted to work with students,” says Ponder. “MSU is also a research school, so I knew that my research would be valued.”

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Ponder says one of the couple’s favorite pastimes is attending concerts, but the pandemic shut down the concert and festival industry last year. “It was pretty depressing,” says Ponder. “So like many others, we got a COVID dog. Biscuit is 75 percent cattle dog and 25 percent Great Pyrenees. He certainly keeps us active!” In addition to marketing, concerts and dogs, Ponder and Lueg have a mutual love for the holidays – Halloween in particular. Their house has become a favorite destination for Starkville’s trick-or-treaters, with their elaborate decorations and full-size candy bars. “Jason and I add to our decorations every year, and every piece has a fun little story to go along with it,” says Ponder. “It’s not just outdoor decorations; we have decorations everywhere. Skeletons are taking over our house! But it’s all in good fun, and we love it as long as the trickor-treaters do.” While Ponder says that while dual placement was the driving force that led the two to Starkville, what keeps them here is the stress-free lifestyle. “Even though Jason and I talk about where we would live when we retire – and we could go anywhere – we are still very comfortable here, and in the South in general.” Does she regret not becoming a major screenwriter for prime-time TV? “It’s funny how things evolved. When I was young, I didn’t plan on becoming an instructor or to end up loving marketing research and assessment. I also didn’t plan to go back and get a PhD and move to Mississippi with my husband,” says Ponder. “But I make it a point to tell my students to always be open-minded and receptive to new ideas. It’s really cool when you finally see the big picture.”

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Photo by Mary Hulbert

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Dr. Jason Lueg and Dr. Nicole Ponder share a love for the holidays, Halloween in particular.

“Starkville was the perfect location for us,” she shares. “Jason is from Tuscaloosa, which is nearby. My mom lives in Fairhope, AL, and I have family in Mobile, New Orleans and Atlanta – they’re all about four and a half hours in every direction, so it’s very convenient and pretty centrally located. There’s lots to do in Starkville, but we also like to be able to hop in the car and get our big city fix every now and then.”

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During the meeting, it came up that they had a second position open, and Dr. Taylor asked if she knew of anyone who would be interested. Ponder knew just the person for the job, and she and Lueg – now married – have been here ever since.

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Cultivating Conscience and Courage W

For starters, she addresses corporations, executives and boards about anti-fraud programs, recognition of warning signs and common threads among companies that have experienced similar scandals. These talks have taken her in person or, more recently via Zoom, to audiences as far away as Uganda and Ecuador. Cooper also speaks to college students too young to remember the 2002 WorldCom reality. It is here, standing before the next generation – those poised to take the reins of businesses in the near future – that Cooper finds connection and an opportunity to use her own experiences to guide the way forward. In her talks, Cooper neatly lays out the context, saying, “WorldCom was constantly setting record after record. The acquisition of MCI, a company three times the size of WorldCom, was the largest acquisition in corporate history. Our CFO at one point was the highest paid CFO in the country. Our CEO was on the cover of BusinessWeek, dubbed ‘The Telecom Cowboy,’ and he was listed on Forbes’ list of Wealthiest Americans in the Country. “Before the dotcom and telecom bubbles burst in 2000, WorldCom had acquired more than 60 companies in a decade. In the first six years I was there, starting as head of internal audit [growing the group to 40 auditors and becoming a vice president], the company grew from several billion dollars in revenue to $38-plus billion.” She definitely has the students’ attention with this better-than-textbooks knowledge. Cooper uses the rapt interest to engage them in thought processes and role-play.

Among her messages, laced with personal experiences, are “You can’t skip trauma or the grief process, but you can equip your identity and self-worth to weather life’s storms with greater strength, fortitude and resilience.” And “Don’t tie yourself to things that change.”

Photo by Beth Wynn

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Over the ensuing years, many things could have happened to Cooper professionally – a major role at another company, perhaps, or a retreat from the glaring public eye. Or, as it actually turned out, using the negative experience for the good.

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hen Dividends last visited with 1986 accounting graduate Cynthia Cooper, it was a few years after her whistle-blowing groundwork resulted in the demise of Mississippi-based telecom giant WorldCom. Once the state’s Fortune 500 crown jewel, WorldCom’s Cinderella story had turned nightmare upon discovery of a $3.8 billion fraud. Cooper had written the book Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower and been featured as 2002’s Person of the Year on the cover of Time magazine. Additionally, Cooper had begun to present programs on ethical leadership, risk management and the importance of a speak-up culture.

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By Carolanne Roberts

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Encouraging students to write personal mission statements of their own, she continues with, “Go on a journey of self-discovery, knowing what you stand for and what your core values are.” The well-read speaker weaves in quotes that resonate with audiences.

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From Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl comes, “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning…,” and, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” The students listen, often on the edges of their chairs—especially when Cooper thrusts them into the narrative, posing ethical questions and discussing their variety of answers. “I say, ‘Put yourself in the shoes of the managers who became complicit in the WorldCom fraud,’” she relates. “‘Imagine that you were on the senior executive team or were a member of my internal audit team as we identified and reported the fraud. What decisions would you have made along the way? How would these decisions have impacted other people, including yourself?’

Cooper spoke about ethical leadership last spring at MSU Insurance Day, hosted by the COB Risk Management and Insurance Program. Photo by Beth Wynn

“We also discuss the story of Betty and Troy, two mid-level managers who became complicit, and the drivers that can lead some people to white collar crime – pressure, pride, greed, fear and misguided loyalty.” Cooper also offers the painful story of being a whistle blower herself.

“I talk about the ripple effect of fraud, tens of thousands of innocent employees who lost jobs and the shareholders who lost millions in retirement,” she remarks. “And I share my personal struggles, some of the challenges I’ve faced along the way – like questioning my own identity – and how I was able to move forward. We talk a lot about ethics, leadership, how to define success and how to find our courage when facing ethical dilemmas. My mother told me from childhood to ‘never allow yourself to be intimidated,’ and I explain how that helped me find courage even in the face of fear.”

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It is evident that these lessons can apply to us all, no matter where we find ourselves on our journeys, yet Cooper likes reaching the younger, formative audience. “I talk to them about self-care and being your own best friend and about practicing gratitude,” she says. “And that life has seasons. Look at me – I have been an accountant, an auditor, a speaker, an author and am now a teacher. The more avenues you have, the more resilient you’ll be in the long run. Another topic we discuss is surrounding yourself with positive relationships.”

“I’m concentrating on what I wish I’d known at an earlier age, as if I were reaching back to my younger self,” she says.

A Certified Fraud Examiner, she has served as Chairman of the Board of Regents for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. In 2020, Cooper’s previous selection as Time Person of the Year led to her inclusion as one of the magazine’s 100 Women of the Year, a list of the most influential women from each of the last 100 years. She is also the first woman to receive the American Accounting Association’s Accounting Exemplar Award for making notable contributions to professionals in accounting education or practice. And in a story about how doors open in unlikely ways, Cynthia Cooper volunteers her time and caring nature to Mission Mississippi, a Jackson-based organization whose vision is to equip and empower the next generation to build relationships across racial lines, to work together with better understanding and to build greater respect and trust. Her commitment to the cause was born during a moving conversation with Dr. Dolphus Weary, a minister with social conscience, on a flight back to Mississippi years ago during tense moments in the WorldCom saga. At the time, Weary was Executive Director of Mission Mississippi. “He explained that he was a bridge builder,” she says. “His life and words have inspired me to strive to be the same.” Clearly Cooper makes an impact on all she touches. Her upcoming schedule includes speaking to faraway audiences in the Asia-Pacific region and traveling domestically to colleges and universities in Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico, with more to come. At each stop, she gives the WorldCom background, then turns to helping out with her tips and questions. “It has been very rewarding and healing to do this work,” she says. “WorldCom is a timeless story, really, since you hear about new frauds and scandals in the news every day. I am taking that tragic story and hoping to make a difference for the next generation of leaders.”

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Just last year, Cooper was instrumental in establishing a student CPT chapter in the College of Business, saying, “I am so excited to have helped establish the MSU student chapter to bring greater awareness to business ethics and ethical leadership by reaching as many students as possible. This program provides leadership opportunities, allowing students to attend an annual ethical leadership conference, to participate in ethics case competitions and to volunteer for community service projects.”

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Cooper, now a grandmother of three, maintains a non-stop, fully committed schedule, serving on the Executive Advisory Board for the MSU College of Business and previously on similar boards at Louisiana State University and the University of Alabama. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy Center for the Public Trust (NASBA CPT), whose mission it is to develop, equip and empower ethical leaders.

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These elements eloquently form the backbone for Cooper’s new book-in-progress, this time centering on lessons learned – motivational nuggets gleaned from her life experiences and WorldCom.

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A Satisfying Plot Twist H

“MSU was the missing piece – what I needed,” says Trinkle from her home base in Alabama. “In all my other jobs, I had the perception that something was missing. I’ve got ideas, I’ve got a work ethic and I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I needed the building blocks. And all the stars have aligned now, thanks to the classes and the professors and the degree.” Looking back to Virginia’s childhood in Florida, Alabama and Virginia, she was the family entertainer. The kid who knew all the lyrics to the Annie album at the age of four. The one who loved making her two sisters laugh. “I didn’t think about being on the stage, but I knew I wanted to be in that world,” she says. “And my mother, who was very old-school, told me I was not going to California. My father encouraged me to get a business degree at Auburn, and I’m thankful I did. He said, ‘It’ll translate,’ because every business needs and requires that background.” Trinkle tried, she really tried, to fit into the traditional business mold, working in a “sensible job,” as she calls it, in investment banking in Washington, DC. The little voice in her head calling her to the entertainment industry grew louder when she and a friend decided to track down the filming of a Tom Cruise/Steven Spielberg movie in a DC neighborhood. The one person she managed to meet there turned out to be Kurt Uebersax, an assistant director with a heart. Right away, he allowed her to watch a scene in a ballroom, and she was agape at both the celebrities and the process. Becoming her mentor, Uebersax started his protégé at rock bottom to build her skills on sets of various TV shows and movies in the local area, fit in around her other job. Eventually Trinkle turned in her notice at the investment firm and pivoted full-throttle to a new life. Getting started in the DC market was one thing; her move to Hollywood was another.

Photo by Mary Hulbert

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Perhaps most logical of all, as it turned out, was recently earning an MBA from Mississippi State University.

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ollywood, celebrities, movie sets, glitz and glam, blur-speed days and nights, private jets zooming around the world and being an important cog in the center of sizzling excitement – that’s what fabulously filled Virginia Trinkle’s childhood career dreams. It all happened, and more. Notions like an executive role with a delivery service during a pandemic and a future as an entrepreneur were far from figuring into the picture, until suddenly they did. Life is like that, with unpredictable curves that lead in surprising and rewarding directions.

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“I applied for 42 jobs before a got a single call,” she recalls. What finally happened was a fortuitous journey in another direction within the industry, first as personal assistant to actor Michael Chiklis of The Shield, The Commish, Fantastic Four and other shows. Then she took a personal assistant role with up-and-comer Eva Longoria, starring at the time in TV’s Desperate Housewives. “I was there when she went to sleep, and I was there when she woke up,” Trinkle says. “Her friends were my friends; her family was my family. I would go over her finances that came from her business manager and review everything from the publicist. I solved problems around the clock. I’d schedule meetings, anticipate needs and fly with her to amazing places.” All the while, Trinkle soaked up inspiration.

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“Talk about people who can do it all,” she says. “Eva was doing the TV show and also films on the side. She was getting her master’s degree in Chicano studies at the same time to support her work to empower Latino women. She was climbing to fame herself, directing, acting, addressing issues and being involved in endorsements and philanthropy. “I liked the conversations we had,” Trinkle continues. “I hadn’t encountered the same issues in my life – about farmworkers or children born in America to undocumented citizens, for example – and with her, it was all about being educated. I saw from her what’s possible if you work really hard.” When Longoria formed her own production company, Trinkle shifted into a producer/developer role there. The ending should be happier but isn’t. Of the handful of shows the company sold to networks, none actually aired. Her dreams of making films seemed to shrivel as quickly as they’d flourished.

Trinkle calls her MSU MBA the “missing piece” that she needed. Photo courtesy of Virginia Trinkle

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In fact, Trinkle left California, left the industry and returned to Alabama. Her mother, who meant so much to her, had passed away, and her father was requiring care. Her spirits were low. The thought of job-hunting in Alabama was daunting. “I had a little bit of finance experience, a resumé filled with production and entertainment and a very nontraditional career,” she says. “I knew I had to meet people and talk them into the fact that I was going to change their lives. Kind of ‘Hire me, let’s go.’”

During this time the idea of an MBA began to shine like an inviting beacon. “Dean [Sharon] Oswald was a professor of mine at Auburn, and we had kept in touch,” she says. “I drove to Starkville and toured the amazing E-Center [Center for Entrepreneurship & Outreach] and spoke to students about the importance of a business degree.”

she remarks. “And, as I said, Mississippi State was the missing piece, exactly what I needed to learn and execute. One of my favorite classes was Supply Chain & Operations Management taught by Dr. Chris Boone. And I especially benefited from the capstone class where we put our learning into practice. Our group did a great job with the presentation.” Armed with the MBA, Trinkle has a bright future. Ideas that were once merely ideas now seem possible. There’s an app under consideration and a crowd-based decision component to explore. Job offers – good ones – are coming along. And the Hollywood days, in retrospect, seem like valuable steppingstones to today. “When I was a little kid, I thought I’d do everything,” she muses. “To me that seemed normal. I feel that I’m capable of so much. About 15 years out of college, the MBA path has been such a good thing. As an undergrad, when parents may be paying and you take it for granted, you squeak by. With the MBA, it’s a different game. You realize that you’re paying and you know why you’re doing it. “Now I have the tools to take ownership, not just work hard for other people. I’m motivated, I’ve got vision and I can see down the road.”

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“I’d had this idea and that idea over the years, but I feared failure,”

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She completed her MBA over the summer and fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. Each class added fuel to Trinkle’s mission.

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Shipt, the grocery store app/delivery service, proved to be grounds for her management skills and creativity. She ultimately became Director of Shopper Operations and oversaw, encouraged and nurtured a team of 17. During the work-from-home pandemic – when Shipt’s shopper base more than doubled – Trinkle carried on, balancing work with domestic projects like laying seven 3,000-pound palettes of sod in her yard, building a pergola with her new band saw and wiring her own pathway lighting.

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Modernizing McCool A Message from the Director of Development

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A little backstory on how business students and faculty found their home in the heart of campus: By the end of the ’60s, the College of Business – then called the College of Business and Industry – had grown exponentially since moving into Bowen Hall in 1943. The building was practically bursting at the seams. There was a need for a new home for the College, and MSU alumnus E.B. “Dutch” McCool, a founder of the Holiday Inn motel chain, decided to fill that need in 1971, matching funds approved by the Mississippi Legislature.

Now to celebrate the 50th anniversary of McCool Hall’s groundbreaking, Lilly and I ask you to join us as we push the boundaries even further. Focusing on classrooms, creative spaces, departmental suites and even hallways, our goal is to ensure that we create an environment for our students and faculty that will continue to foster creativity and innovation in McCool Hall for the next 50 years! With projects ranging from small to large, there are opportunities for everyone to make an impact. Follow along with the movement to #ModernizeMcCool on our social media channels, @MSUBusiness, and stay tuned for more information in January of 2022. We’re excited to have you on board and can’t wait to reveal the full extent of this project to you! So please join us in 2022 as we Modernize McCool Hall!

Stephen Lack Director of Development College of Business slack@foundation.msstate.edu (423) 292-9932

Construction of the McCool Building began in 1972. Photos courtesy of MSU Libraries

Lilly Pogue Assistant Director of Development College of Business lpogue@foundation.msstate.edu (309) 371-5503

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Last October, we welcomed Lilly Pogue as our new Assistant Director of Development. A native of Galesburg, IL, Lilly earned a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Missouri in 2017, where she also interned with the Alumni Association. Most recently, Lilly spent three years as a Development Specialist for the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s national office in Chicago. Her previous experience dealing with fundraising and development have proven to be invaluable in her role in the College of Business.

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Fast forward to 2021. Many changes have occurred in McCool Hall over the last several years. The building is now home to the world-class Market Innovation Lab & Observatory, a Strategic Finance Lab, the Center for Entrepreneurship & Outreach and most recently, a newly designed and renovated multimedia studio for Master of Professional Accountancy and Master of Taxation online courses. Within the last four decades, it has grown to be a hub for students from all over campus. Whether delivered by handwritten note in the ’70s or texted in 2021, the message has not changed: “Meet me in McCool.”

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he year was 1972. You could feel the hint of spring in the air that would soon bring about new beginnings and new growth. Among those beginnings was the dedication and groundbreaking of McCool Hall – where the historic Old Main dormitory once stood – a building meant to be a visual representation of the creativity and innovation that would define Mississippi State University’s College of Business for many years to come.

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Amazon Interns Don’t Get Coffee By Mary Hulbert

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f you’ve ever been curious about what a typical day is like for an Amazon intern in 2021, you have come to the right place! A little bit about me: I am a senior international business student, double majoring in Spanish and business administration and minoring in marketing and music. I am from Lucedale, MS, and from a young age have been an entrepreneur, teaching dance and music lessons.

Amazon generates an attractive and worthwhile internship package. It is a paid position with health and retirement benefits as well as hourly pay, overtime, housing allowance and travel expenses. For those interns who are successful, another internship is awarded for the following summer with perks such as upgraded pay and benefits; however, these internships are not given – they are earned. This levels the playing field for advancement for anyone who wants an internship and wants to work hard. Amazon also provided me with housing and moving assistance, so this made my transition very smooth. With the benefits provided, I was able to select a place to live that made me feel the safest and most comfortable in the new area. After researching the options, I chose to live in Bradenton, which was a 20-minute commute to work but near a lot of attractions. Working alongside one another was much easier for the new interns because we had already been talking prior to beginning work, thanks to the community that Amazon had built for us. In addition, Amazon made the first days of my internship less nerve-racking and more comfortable because of their mentor program. Each intern was assigned a mentor who helped with work schedules, assignments, tasks and general knowledge of the whole internship experience. My mentor was incredible, always ensuring that I was prepared with the information I needed to complete the task at hand. I know this is one of the reasons my experience was so successful.

Photo courtesy of Mary Hulbert

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Amazon provided pre-internship training through virtual company meetings to give my new peers and me an opportunity to learn the expectations for the upcoming summer as well as connect with each other. Prior to our arrival, we were included in Amazon LinkedIn groups, monthly intern newsletters and virtual seminars so we could generate relationships with our cohorts. When the day came to travel to the “Sunshine State,” I can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions I felt moving nine hours away from home, but I knew this was an exciting business internship that I was fortunate to have earned.

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As part of the international business curriculum at Mississippi State, we must complete an internship. I began looking at internships at a difficult time, during the pandemic. I scoured posts and boards from programs and frequently checked LinkedIn to see what opportunities were out there. Being an adventurous traveler, I looked for any opportunity that would allow me to journey to a new area, gain new experiences and meet new people. Through LinkedIn, I found an Amazon internship application, completed it and was fortunate enough to land a virtual interview. That led to several more virtual interviews, and then I was awarded an Area Manager Intern position in Ruskin, FL. Little did I know that this summer experience would change my life for the better.

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Business student Mary Hulbert interned for one of the world’s highest-profile companies this past summer. Here, she writes about her experience.

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78 78 Hulbert’s intern group enjoyed being together at work and during their time off. Here, from left, are Diane Lee, Hulbert, Miguel Arizmendi, María José and Mary Catherine Gray. Photo courtesy of Mary Hulbert

For me, as an intern, there was no “fetching coffee” as you see on television shows. With Amazon, I rotated every week to new departments and managers within our building. Each week, I met with my current manager and my mentor to grasp tasks and review challenges and expectations. Interns also participated in a weekly virtual influential speaker series from the corporate headquarters in Seattle, WA. This provided opportunities to network as well as learn business skills and leadership techniques. At the conclusion of the summer, each intern was expected to complete an innovative PR/ FAQ intern project that required us to generate an idea of our own that would ultimately benefit Amazon consumers. At Amazon, one of the leadership principles is “Customer Obsession,” and my project addressed this principle as an employee and as a consumer. We presented our projects to the senior executive members and were given feedback and evaluations based on our presentations and our productivity. Our performances would ultimately determine whether we’d have opportunity to earn future internships or jobs. At the end of the summer, I was recognized as the top intern for the region. With this honor, I was offered an upgraded internship for the summer of 2022. Overall, this internship gave me invaluable hands-on experience, and it provided insight on Amazon from inside the industry. I chose to work with this company to broaden my horizons and get a completely different business experience than I had ever had before. When I am looking for opportunities, I think about what I want to learn and what is interesting to me, rather than just focusing on resumé building. I believe that working and learning is most important in an internship, but so is connecting with fellow interns and employees. Our intern group became close friends, and we explored areas of Florida together on our off days. We jet skied, went boating and kayaking, explored different beaches, ate in eclectic places and attended local Tampa Bay Rays games. My advice to anyone doing an internship would be to take advantage of your location and get out and explore the city that you’re in. These experiences are a large part of your growth, too! I know I am a better person and a much more knowledgeable businesswoman due to my summer internship with Amazon, and I look forward to the future opportunities that I will gain because of it.

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news briefs

Kathy St. John is the 2021 Alumni Fellow for the College of Business. St. John graduated from MSU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, later pursuing a graduate degree in secondary education from the University of Southern Mississippi. She co-founded St. John & Associates, a commercial and residential properties sales business in Hattiesburg, MS, before becoming Marketing Director and sales lead at Hillenmeyer Nurseries in Lexington, KY. In 2005, she began serving as Managing Director and contracts consultant for NAPA Healthcare Connection, Inc., a senior-living healthcare group purchasing organization, and retired in 2015. St. John is a member and former chair of the COB’s Marketing Advisory Board and now chairs the College’s Executive Advisory Board. She established the Kathy Moreton St. John Endowed Fellowship in Marketing in 2011 and was an early investor in the College’s Market Innovation Lab and Observatory. St. John and husband Drew, a 1980 MSU graduate, have contributed to areas across the University, including athletics and student and faculty support, and they created the St. John Family Endowed Professorship in Wildlife Management. The St. Johns reside in Madison, MS, and have three children.

Hurst Bequest Supports Scholarships A significant bequest from the late Louis A. Hurst, Jr. of Houston, TX, will continue his longtime support of scholarships at Mississippi State University. The gift by the former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation bank examiner and accounting alumnus will provide sizeable endowments for scholarships. Proceeds from the bequest will be divided equally between the two endowments for scholarships Hurst earlier established. The L.A. Hurst, Jr. Scholarship Endowment in the College of Business emphasizes moral and ethical character as traits he desired in recipients. Hurst also earlier established the L.A. Hurst Presidential Endowed Scholarship, a four-year award for MSU’s elite students in the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College.

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COB Alumni Fellow

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J. Michael “Mike” McIlwain was named the 2021 MSU College of Business Alumnus of the Year. The 1987 Adkerson School of Accountancy (ASAC) graduate recently retired as President and CEO of PSAV, a global event and technology company. McIlwain serves on the COB Executive Advisory Board and ASAC Advisory Board. He was keynote speaker for the COB’s Leo W. Seal, Jr. Distinguished Executive Speaker Series in 2016 and was named among the Top 100 COB Alumni during the College’s Centennial Celebration in 2015. McIlwain and wife Susan reside in Kildeer, IL, and have 5 children: Allie, Joe Watt, Kathryn, Amelia and Grace. Each year, the MSU Alumni Association recognizes a national alumnus and one representing each of the University’s eight academic colleges for outstanding professional, community and personal success.

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COB Alumnus of the Year

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news briefs New 2021 Faculty and Staff

Nichelle Belue

Eunsik Chang, PhD

Melissa Daigrepont

Bruce “Parker” Ellen, III, PhD

Administrative Assistant I Division of Business Research

Assistant Professor of Economics Department of Finance & Economics

Counselor, B2B Revenue Readiness Program Division of Business Research

Assistant Professor of Management Department of Management & Information Systems

Victor “Duke” Ferguson, PhD, CPA

Lu He, PhD

Trovanda Johnson

Mariah McCulloch

Instructor of Supply Chain Logistics Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis & Business Law

Academic Coordinator College of Business Academic Advising Center

Administrative Assistant I Adkerson School of Accountancy

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Assistant Professor of Accountancy Adkerson School of Accountancy

Alaa Nehme, PhD

Nicole Ponder, PhD

NaToya Sanders

Heather Schmitt

Assistant Professor of Information Systems, Department of Management & Information Systems

Associate Dean, Graduate Programs & Assessment Graduate Studies in Business

Academic Coordinator College of Business Academic Advising Center

Program Assistant, PGA Professional Golf Management Department of Marketing

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Welcome to the College of Business!

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Kristal Tate

J. Mike Truelson, PhD, CPA

Vincent Young

Administrative Assistant I Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis & Business Law

Assistant Professor of Accountancy Adkerson School of Accountancy

Assistant Dean College of Business Academic Advising Center

Not pictured Nathan “Nate” Kitson

Assistant Golf Professional, MSU Golf Course

New Cybersecurity Service for Mississippi Businesses

Homecoming Royalty

With more small businesses moving parts of their sales and operations online, a new initiative from Mississippi State and the Mississippi Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is providing free cybersecurity resources and support to the state’s business owners. The MSU Small Business Development Center Cybersecurity project brings together the resources of the University’s SBDC and MSU’s Center for Cyber Innovation to give business owners the information they need to make costeffective cybersecurity decisions.

MSU students chose three COB students for the 2021 Homecoming Court. Marketing senior Smith Lyon (left) was named Homecoming King. MBA Venture Pathway (MVP) student Reese Dunne was selected as this year’s Mr. MSU, and MVP student Lauryn Polito was chosen as a Homecoming Maid representing the junior class.

Sims Tapped for Insurance Hall of Fame Billy Sims of Brandon, MS, became the newest inductee in the MSU Insurance Hall of Fame during Insurance Day, a two-day event held at The Mill Conference Center in Starkville. Sims, seen here with MSU President Mark Keenum, began his career with Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company as an underwriter in 1977 and recently retired as Senior Vice President, Policy Administration. He joins a distinguished list of previous honorees.

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Chelsea Sherlock, PhD Assistant Professor of Management Department of Management & Information Systems

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news briefs MSU-Meridian Outstanding Student

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Jason Holland was named MSU-Meridian Division of Business Outstanding Undergraduate Student for the spring 2021 semester. He was recognized at MSUMeridian’s 2021 spring commencement. The business administration major with a concentration in healthcare administration returned to school to advance his career. Less than a year after he began taking classes at MSU-Meridian, Holland was offered a job in his hometown as Director of Radiology at Neshoba General Hospital, where he oversees 23 employees.

Abney Receives Georgia’s Highest Honor David Abney, former Chairman and CEO of UPS, has been inducted by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia Historical Society as a Georgia Trustee. This is the highest honor the state of Georgia can confer, a way of recognizing modern-day Georgians whose accomplishments and community service reflect the highest ideals of the state’s founding governing body. Abney is a member of the National Board of Directors of the Mississippi State University Foundation and the College of Business Executive Advisory Board, and he serves as President of the MSU Bulldog Club.

Retirements Seven members of our College of Business family retired this year, and we extend a heartfelt “thank you” for the positive impact they have made on students and colleagues alike during their years of service. Best wishes for a long and happy retirement! Tim Barnett, DBA Professor of Management Department of Management & Information Systems

Vergie Bash Academic Coordinator – Business Administration College of Business Academic Advising Center

Cecilia Cook, JD Instructor of Business Law Department of Marketing, Quantitative Analysis & Business Law

Margaret Cordell

Five COB Diamond Dawgs Go Pro Five of the COB’s 19 players on the MSU 2021 College World Series National Championship team signed professional baseball contracts this year. Business administration major Will Bednar was selected 14th overall by the San Francisco Giants; management major Eric Cerantola was selected by the Kansas City Royals; finance major Christian MacLeod was selected by the Minnesota Twins; finance major Rowdey Jordan was selected by the New York Mets and economics major Houston Harding signed a free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

Office Associate Adkerson School of Accountancy

Clyde Herring, PhD Associate Clinical Professor of Accountancy Adkerson School of Accountancy

Pat Sneed Superintendent MSU Golf Course

Tina Sneed Administrative Assistant I College of Business Dean’s Office

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Recent College of Business graduate Ashley McLemore was selected as the 2021 Orrin H. Swayze Scholar by the Mississippi Bankers Association (MBA) Education Foundation and the Mississippi Young Bankers section of the MBA. The $5,000 scholarship is given annually to Mississippi’s most outstanding banking and finance student. Also recognized this year was COB student Allyson Jansen who was named a Swayze finalist. Here, McLemore (left) and Jansen (right) are shown with MSU Professor of Economics Randall Campbell.

COB student Jalen Sparkman was the recipient of the annual Leadership Scholarship awarded by the Mississippi Young Bankers (MYB). The $2,000 scholarship is given annually to one junior enrolled in a banking or finance program at a state-supported university in Mississippi. Here, (from left) Sparkman is joined by MYB President Rebecca Barrentine, MSU Assistant Professor of Finance Dr. Brian Blank and MYB Vice President Drew Kenna.

Dividends Earns Recognition year institutions achieved Great Colleges to Work For status. Additionally, MSU received top rankings in seven of 10 categories: job satisfaction and support; professional development; mission and pride; supervisor/ department chair effectiveness; confidence in senior leadership; shared governance and faculty experience.

Our College of Business annual magazine, Dividends, has garnered awards for the 2020 edition. For the second year in a row, Dividends was the Gold winner of the Advertising and Marketing Professionals’ Golden Triangle Region Awards. In the 2021 National Communications Contest of the National Federation of Press Women, writer Carolanne Roberts was honored with second place in the “Personality Profile, more than 500 words” category for her article “From Siberia to Starkville: An American Dream” about MSU business alumna Zhenia Sandanova.

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The MSU College of Business has once again been cited in the top rankings of numerous organizations across a range of areas:

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Banking Students Recognized

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COB Earns High Rankings

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news briefs In Memoriam John William “Bill” Adams (1929-2020)

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Bill Adams earned a BS degree in management from MSU, where he succeeded his brother Lester as student commander of the ROTC battalion. Adams’ active military service included tours of duty in the U.S. Army’s 11th Airborne Division and the U.S. Air Force Security Service. A banker, Adams retired in 1993 as President of United Carolina Bank; he remained Chairman of the Board of Directors during the bank’s acquisition by BB&T, retiring as a director of BB&T’s bank board in 1999. During his career, he also earned graduate degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill and Rutgers University.

James “Jim” Knox Ashford (1937-2021) Jim Ashford graduated from Mississippi State in 1958 and completed the Harvard University Advanced Management Program in 1976. He retired as President and CEO of Case IH, a subsidiary of Tenneco Inc., and owner of The Ashford Group. Ashford was voted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and named Outstanding Business Leader of the Northwood Institute. At MSU, he was the Adkerson School of Accountancy’s 1986 Outstanding Alumnus, 1995 COB Alumnus of the Year and 1996 MSU National Alumnus of the Year. He served on the MSU Foundation Board.

Christopher “Chris” Leflore Carl (1976-2021) Chris Carl, son of Fred and Margaret Carl, attended Mississippi State University where he received his Bachelor and Master of Business Administration degrees and was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He was co-owner of Dawg House Storage in Starkville and had various other business interests.

Bobby Paschal Martin (1933-2020) Bobby Martin was a 1956 Mississippi State University alumnus who devoted his life and career to advancing the quality of life in North Mississippi, and he was an avid supporter of his alma mater. He is survived by his wife Barbara; his daughter and COB Executive Advisory Board member Mary Childs; his grandson Bob Glover (Amberly); his greatgrandchildren Snow, Graham and Pierce Glover and several very special nieces and nephews.

Margaret Anne Riley Montgomery (1944-2021) Margaret Montgomery, wife of COB Executive Advisory Board member C.R. “Bob” Montgomery, graduated from Provine High School in Jackson in 1962 and attended Millsaps College for two years before transferring to the University of Mississippi, where she graduated with a BA in English. With her husband of 55 years, Margaret loved and nurtured her family, which includes four daughters, four sons-in-law and twelve grandchildren.

Dr. R.L. Qualls (1931-2021) R.L. Qualls graduated from MSU with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural economics. He received his PhD in economics from Louisiana State University. Named MSU’s National Alumnus of the Year in 2018, he chaired the MSU Foundation Board’s Development Committee and was a member of the COB Executive Advisory Board. Among many roles, he was President and Chairman of the Board of the University of the Ozarks; Director of the Department of Finance and Administration and Cabinet Secretary in former Governor Bill Clinton’s administration; Executive Vice President of Worthen Banking Corporation and President and CEO of Baldor Electric Company.

Julia “Julie” Bennett Rouse (1941-2020) Julie Rouse attended Mississippi State College for Women. While there, she met COB Executive Advisory Board member Jim Rouse who said, “She had me at hello.” They embarked on a journey together that lasted over 58 years. She is survived by her husband; daughters Lisa Taylor (Jeff) and Connie Fuller (Bill); grandchildren Chris Taylor, Claire Taylor, Leigh Taylor, Kathleen Fuller, Scott Fuller (Jordan) and Brian Fuller and sister Gail Gravell and many nieces and nephews.

DIVIDENDS

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DIVIDENDS

n The COB’s Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) Chapter earned top-level Superior Chapter status for the third year in a row. Dr. Alan Stancill, Assistant Clinical Professor of Accounting, is chapter advisor. BAP is a national scholastic and professional society whose primary objective is to encourage and give recognition to scholastic and professional excellence in the field of accounting. The society also complements members’ formal education by providing interaction among students, faculty and professionals and fosters lifelong growth, service and ethical conduct.

n MBA Venture Pathway program student Reese Dunne was selected to receive the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship. The Starkville native is the 19th Mississippi State student to be recognized in this way since the Goldwater Foundation’s inception. n MBA Venture Pathway students Reese Dunne and Britain Steele were selected as 2021 Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) Astronaut Scholars. The ASF annually awards scholarships to the brightest and most talented college students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. n COB alumni Hassell Franklin and the late Bobby Martin were honored by the CREATE Foundation as two of the four 2020 recipients of the Jack Reed, Sr. Northeast Mississippi Community Leadership Award. The honorees have served as Chairs of the CREATE Board, started CREATE affiliates, received numerous business and service honors and served on the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi board. n College of Business students Shelby Freeman and Anna Lewis were selected as finalists in the international spring 2021 Digital Marketing Competition. They ranked in the top five out of 149 teams representing universities stretching from North America to Asia. n Three COB graduates and former MSU track & field athletes, Marta Pen Freitas (Portugal), Brandon McBride (Canada) and Anderson Peters (Grenada), competed for their respective countries in the Tokyo Olympics this year. n Business information systems (BIS) senior Vicky Gallegos was selected as the 2021 recipient of the Moore Award. The award, named in memory of BIS program founder Dr. Charles Moore, is given annually to MSU’s top undergraduate student in the field. The BIS faculty gave Gallegos high marks on working well with others, having a passion for technology and business and being a strong role model.

n Assistant Professor and Linda Garrett Fellow Dr. Brad Lang received the 2020 Excellence Award in Teaching for the Adkerson School of Accountancy. n Alumnus Justin C. Martin (Banking and Finance, ’03) was named Chief Operating Officer for Community Bank. Martin joined the bank in 2007 as Assistant Vice President in Brandon, MS. Most recently, he served as Regional Chief Executive Officer for Community Bank’s Central Mississippi Region. n Assistant Professor of Management Dr. Ben McLarty was appointed as Associate Editor for the Journal of Small Business Management. Alumna Dr. Esra Memili (PhD, ’11) was also appointed as Associate Editor. The journal is circulated across 60 countries and is a leader in the field of research on small businesses. n Dr. Tom Miller, Jr. was named an affiliated Senior Research Fellow for Consumers’ Research. A Professor of Finance and MSU’s Jack R. Lee Chair of Financial Institutions and Consumer Finance, he also serves on the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Academic Research Council. n Dr. Sandra Orozco-Aleman, Associate Professor of Finance & Economics, was appointed President-elect of the American Society of Hispanic Economists (ASHE). ASHE is recognized by the American Economic Association as one of the academic organizations composing the Allied Social Sciences Association. n Academic Coordinator for Accounting Trina Pollan received MSU’s Wes Ammon Outstanding New Staff Advisor Award for 2021. This award is given to one advisor each year to recognize outstanding academic advising and to enhance visibility to the institutional commitment to quality advising. n Dr. Kevin Shanahan, Associate Professor of Marketing, was named a 2020 Distinguished Fellow by the Society for Marketing Advances. n According to the Google Scholar database, out of 271 research articles published during the last five years in MIS Quarterly – the universally top-ranked scientific research journal in information systems and one of the highest impact journals in business – one by Dr. Merrill Warkentin is ranked eighth in terms of the number of times it was cited by other scholarly research over the past five years. Warkentin is the James J. Rouse Professor of Information Systems. n Two of our MSU Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach startups, WISPr Systems and Buzzbassador (launched by Rocketing Systems, Inc.), made the list of The Tech Tribune’s top five list of “The Best Tech Startups in Mississippi” for 2021. n Mississippi State’s Graduate School and Graduate Student Association recognize students and faculty mentors each year for their teaching, research and service contributions. Haoyang Xiong, a business administration/finance doctoral student, represented the College of Business as its latest Hall of Fame Scholar.

M I S S I S S I P P I STAT E U N I V E R S I T Y

n MBA candidate Gracie Chavez and her team members from several other institutions placed second overall in the nationwide Raytheon Case Competition, winning $7,500 in prize money.

n Mary Hulbert, a senior business administration/foreign language double major from Lucedale, MS, placed second runner-up in the 2021 Miss MSU scholarship pageant, a preliminary pageant for Miss Mississippi.

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n Innovate Mississippi approved Starkville-based CampusKnot for a 2021 Mississippi Seed Fund award. CampusKnot, which began as an E-Center startup and is led by MBA alumnus and CEO Rahul Gopal, offers a mobile app to help professors and teachers promote classroom participation among college and high school students.

n Alumnus Dr. Chris Hopkins (PhD, ’01) was named Chair of the Department of Marketing at Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business. He is the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice and has published more than 100 articles in scholarly publications.

COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

n During the spring semester 2021 faculty meeting, the College of Business recognized several doctoral students for their excellence in teaching and research for 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the COB selected Christian Barney as Outstanding Researcher as well as the College’s 2020 Graduate Student Hall of Fame Scholar. Robin Tang and Feng Xu were each named Outstanding Researcher, and Brett Kassandjian was honored for Outstanding Teaching. For 2021, the COB named Botong Xue and Haoyang Xiong each as Outstanding Researcher and recognized Jutong Wen for Outstanding Teaching.

n The COB’s Dr. Mike Highfield, Professor of Finance and Robert W. Warren Chair of Real Estate Finance, was the recipient of the T. Eugene Spragens, III President’s Award for outstanding teaching. The Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University presents this award annually to an outstanding faculty member.

ASSETS

n Alumnus and long-time CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Inc. Richard C. Adkerson (Accounting, ’69, MBA ’70) was named Chairman of the Board for his company.

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

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