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Bringing our class to our Community

ENGAGED 2020-2021 2020-2021




Hearing from Hyatt


CCEL FAQ’s 2020-2021 CEL Fellows


Community Engagement Awards


Integrated Literacy Instruction


Health Promotion Techniques


Mentoring At-Risk Youths


Equine Assisted Therapy


Principles of Paleocology




Day One


CEL Student Feature


Message from the Director CCEL Staff


HEARING FROM HYATT Community engagement is part of the DNA of Mississippi State University. Since its founding in 1878 as a landgrant institution, MSU has provided critical services to the citizens of Mississippi and worked to solve local, regional and global problems. You cannot think of Mississippi State without pointing to its presence in every county in our state through the MSU Extension Service and the research centers found across Mississippi, among other community engagement efforts. I can think of countless projects that are touching the lives of Mississippians every single day from assisting farmers with mental health services to addressing the educational needs of Mississippi’s children to working to revitalize small towns and communities across the state and the incredible work MSU is doing to help solve world hunger. Community engagement is Mississippi State! I am so grateful for the efforts of our students, faculty, staff, researchers, collaborators, community agencies and partners who work hard every day to create change, solve real-world problems and to care for people through the thousands of community engagement activities happening on and off campus. Engaged provides insight into some of this work and illustrates the experiences of our students and employees who are leading these efforts. There is always room for more outreach, more engagement, more learning. As Mississippi State continues to honor its land-grant history, community engagement will forever be a part of the fabric of this institution. MSU is changing lives and communities every day!

Dr. Regina Hyatt is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Mississippi State University


CENTER FOR COMMUNIT Y ENGAGED LEARNING FAQ’S Q: What is Community-Engaged Learning (CEL)? A: CEL is a teaching strategy that connects the classroom to the environment beyond it. This connection happens through community engagement (CE), reflection, reciprocal par tnerships and dissemination. It is critical to the success of CEL that students reflect on their experiences as well as engage in a mutually beneficial exchange with an external par tner. Students and par tners should share knowledge and learn from each other.

Q: What kinds of service can students participate in?

Q: Does CEL have to take place within Starkville?

A; The nature of the ser vice varies with the discipline from grant writing and tutoring in composition classes to designing and building playgrounds and special wheelchairs in engineering classes. The ser vice may be in the form of a project such as a marketing plan for a non-profit agency in a business class or weekly mentoring at an agency or school. In all cases, the ser vice is directly connected to academic learning goals and is designed to enhance learning by testing theor y or developing skills.

A: No! All types of projects occur throughout the county, Golden Triangle, state and SouthEast region. Local projects are more common, but it is not a requirement of CEL.

Q: What do you mean by external partner? A: Probably one of the most common misconceptions about CEL is that you have to work with a non-profit organization in order for it to count as CEL. Some great projects occur in par tnership with schools, businesses, or other common interest groups and individuals. As MSU’s definition points out, there is more to community than geographical boundaries. There are also great connections to make beyond a taxexempt status.

2020-2021 CEL Fellows Dr. Chris Ayers

Dr. Sarah Lalk

Dr. Thu Dinh

Dr. John Linhoss

Dr. Antonio Gardner

Dr. Molly Nicodemus

Dr. Austin Himes

Dr. Saeed Rokooei

Dr. Ashley White Jones

Mr. Bob Swanson 5




By: John Nix Arledge

By: Bryanna Trulove

Mississippi State University’s Engineers Without Borders student chapter won the 2019 Community-Engaged Service Award for their Santa Teresita Water Distribution Project. This award is just one of the many MSU Community Engagement Awards granted every year. The two project co-leaders are Craig Schexnaydre, a junior civil engineering major, and Laura DeCuir, a junior mechanical engineering major. The Santa Teresita Water Distribution Project is a multi-year effort to find a sustainable solution for the water supply issues in the Ecuadorian agricultural community of Santa Teresita. According to Schexnaydre, there are several problems with their current water supply system. The system was built for everyday uses such as drinking water and bathing, but the community has been using the supply for agricultural purposes. This has led to the majority of the village living off of a small portion of water each day. Though this type of work would typically be done by professionals, Dr. Dennis Truax, the advisor to MSU’s EWB chapter, emphasized that it is the students who take on this task. “The students are doing everything,” Truax said. “This is not me dragging a bunch of students down to watch it go in. This is them designing it and me dragging a bunch of them down to see if their design gets put in place.” When asked about the project’s future, Schexnaydre explained the team’s goals for Santa Teresita’s water supply. “We’ll look at expanding the system—finding new sources to bring more water into the system to further increase the quality of life for the community, [to] provide 150% of what they need, so they can continue to grow and thrive. On top of all that, we’re trying to teach them to sustain it, so that, in 30, 35 years, the issue doesn’t come back,” Schexnaydre said.

The Community Drum Circles project led by Dr. Robert Damm won the 2019 Scholarship of Engagement Award. The recipient is chosen based on their work to build a partnership or collaboration that is mutually beneficial for members of Mississippi State University and non-higher education partners. The award is judged on the creative intellectual work of the recipients including conducting research, delivering presentations, creating curricula, producing artistic performance and similar work. Prior to winning the award, Damm has been a professor of music at Mississippi State University for over 15 years and has been participating in drum circles for 20 years. During his time at MSU, he has encouraged community, peace, creativity, self-awareness, self-esteem and self-growth with the Community Drum Circle project. The project also emphasizes education while engaging in African cultural practices and offers an experience of synergy. When asked to describe the project, Damm stated that “Drum circles are social gatherings in which we arrange chairs in a circle, and we play drums.” The drum circle creates an atmosphere of togetherness while offering a creative outlet to participants. He also noted that discussion revolving around peace, friendship and various other comforting topics are addressed during the drum circle. The drum circles hosted by Damm are open to audience participation. The nature of the project is centered on the community rather than performance, which allows for those without experience with music to participate. Damm expressed a deep value for the community while discussing the project. He stated he is inspired by “Ubuntu,” a philosophy associated with Southern Africa. In his words, the philosophy breaks down the concept that to be truly human, you must engage in serving others. He uses the project to serve others by offering a rewarding experience for participants. The philosophy has helped shape the project and his career as a professor over the past 20 years. During his project, Damm has collaborated with the Cotton Districts Arts Festival, Children’s Village, MSU Health Promotion and Wellness, The International Fiesta, The Hudspeth Center and Care Program for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities and various other area partners. Damm is grateful for his community partners and the Center for Community-Engaged Learning for recognizing his project. The professor of music hopes to expand the project in the future and is open to partnering with more community programs. 7


Dr. Stephanie Lemley

By: Karie Pinnix


instruction and disciplinary literacy instruction. Content area literacy instruction focuses on developing generic reading, writing and vocabulary strategies into the content areas emphasized in the class. Disciplinary literacy focuses on how to incorporate reading and writing techniques of a given discipline, such as history, into daily use. In teaching this class with her students, Lemley credits her background in social studies in enabling her to engage more in literacy instruction in subjects that are not primarily Englishfocused. “And so when I taught, you know, I taught everything in traditional social studies content, and I tried to bring in ways to have my students engage with the text, get out of the textbook, do a lot of reading and writing and looking at different sources of information in class,” Lemley explained. After arriving to teach at Mississippi State University in 2013, Lemley met several faculty members in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, which gave her the idea to

“Integrated Literacy Instruction,” taught by Literacy Associate Professor Dr. Stephanie Lemley, is a community-engaged learning course devoted to teaching undergraduate students how to integrate literacy instruction into content areas such as science, social studies and mathematics in grades K-8. The class also emphasizes the importance of diverse text, a concept that focuses on text that is instilled with meaning, such as a symbol or an advertisement. The class is divided into two areas of literacy instruction- content area literacy


“This class is one of the most interactive classes that I have ever experienced in my college career. Unlike classes early on in college, it has helped me further my knowledge more in my specific degree content and applied real-world experiences to my future career path.” - Maci Stafford integrate agriculture learning into a literacy instruction class. “I’ve always looked to do something that was different than what [the students] were getting in the traditional classroom,” Lemley said. “And so, my initial desire was to kind of explore more out of school literacy experiences, what that might look like, which led me kind of down the path of thinking about Breakfast on The Farm.” Breakfast on the Farm is a two to three-day fall event where over 1,000 students, teachers and parents come to the MSU Bearden Dairy Research Center and participate in stations where students learn more about dairy processing. In the past, the students of Integrated Literacy Instruction were able to participate at the stations and interact with the students, teaching them how to milk a cow or serving the students breakfast while talking to them about their experiences there. The integration of undergraduate education students here was made possible with the partnership of the MSU Extension Service and the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Dr. Amanda Stone, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences and a partner with Lemley’s class, credits the students of Integrated Literacy Instruction with helping the event run smoothly. “She and her students have made my job in planning the event so much easier because I know I have a lot of good help to rely on and thus have a lot less to worry about before and during the event,” Stone said. Due to the pandemic, however, the event did not take place in the fall 2020 semester. Students of Integrated Literacy Instruction participated in an agricultural seminar where Dr. Stone and staff brought farm animals outside Allen Hall, where students could interact with the animals and learn about dairy farming. “They didn’t get the full dairy experience doing it this way, but hopefully [they] walked away with some new knowledge, and more importantly, a positive experience that they can then impact their future students with,” Stone said. A previous semester, the project for the class was to make an ABC book on agricultural commodities to show in their future classrooms as a reminder of what they learned about agricultural literacy. The book, from A to Z, includes agricultural commodities in Mississippi, or the rest of the U.S., that can be used to teach elementary and middle school students about the importance of agriculture. Although not many outreach events have been instituted because of the pandemic, Lemley believes that the class brings value to the students by teaching them that there is much to learn outside of the university by the connections the students can make.

“The majority of my students have loved getting out, seeing new things, learning about new things and creating memories. It gives them a new way of learning.” - Dr. Stephanie Lemley, Professor of Integrated Literacy Instruction



Dr. Antonio Gardner

By: Karie Pinnix

In the fall of 2020, Assistant Professor Dr. Antonio Gardner taught the communityengaged learning course “Health Promotion Techniques,” a class that allows students to learn how to develop health communication campaigns. In the class, students learn how to create assessments that go into a health communication campaign, such as creating the first step of conducting background research and discovering who the campaign’s target audience is. The students also learn how to disseminate information to the public in the form of a fictional Instagram or Twitter post. Through partnering with the medical care clinic Five Horizons Health Services in Starkville, Mississippi, students in groups of three raise awareness for the organization by choosing to focus on HIV or STI prevention; target audiences for these topics include MSU students or Oktibbeha County residents. Gardner admits there was much to learn about class structure and students during his first semester teaching the class in Fall 2019. “So, with that course, I took a lot of notes about what was working well with the students and it wasn’t working well,” Gardner said. “If I gave them topics to go with, they’ve had a more difficult time completing the assignments because some people are fresh into the program.” Despite these changes, the partnership between the students and Five Horizons Health Services has been a success. Gardner used the fall 2020 semester as a way to see how the organization and the students can create a successful campaign. Jamil Dawson, executive director of Five Horizons Health Services clinic in Starkville, explained how this partnership will bring necessary medical care to the Starkville community. “Our primary goal is to increase awareness and reduce the stigma with HIV


and STD/STI,” Dawson said. “We are jointly working on initiatives that we hope will provide insight and promote healthy living to individuals across the socio-economic spectrum.” While in the classroom, students learn about the possibilities of careers in health promotion while having newfound experiences in a communityengaged learning course. Gardner noted that many students are not sure of what they want to do with their degree. “The biggest issue that most people have is that they’re not sure, like they know they want to do something to help people make positive changes in people’s lives,” Gardner said. “They’re not sure what that looks like. And so, exposing those individuals to the options that are available once you get into the field is very helpful.” Gardner also mentioned how the collaboration between the class and the community partner has helped students explore their career track. “I had a student who explicitly asked Dawson, like,


“With this program, we are able to match students by gender who need extra support, a positive role model, and extra attention to bring“Our positivity into their It amazes meperspectives how my students partnership haslives. provided different to ourlook up to collegeand students and beg to new be a ideas part of theactionable program every organization introduced both and steps semester. It’s been extremely rewarding to see their relationships to help us reach our goal of ending the HIV epidemic and making growour andcommunity form lasting one another.” as bonds healthywith as possible.” - Monica Young Director of - Jamil Dawson, Executive Five Horizons Health Services ‘Can I be your understudy this semester, can I just follow you around?’ Because he’s really undecided about what he wants to do,” Gardner said. Anda Hubbard, a graduate student in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, has learned how to write a communication campaign effectively with Gardner’s help. “With him as a teacher, I’ve learned so much in regard to APA citations, doing research and how to properly execute,” Hubbard said. “Say, for instance, writing a large paper and things of that nature I’ve learned in abundance from this class, and I’m passionate about health promotion and health awareness.” For the end of this semester, Gardner hopes to best serve the needs of the course’s community partner while seeing that his students receive the knowledge of properly executing a health promotions campaign. “Of course, students want to gain an A at the end of this course,” Gardner said. “But there are steps to getting that A. So, what are you learning along the way that’s going to help you as a professional? So, getting that practical experience, more hands-on experience.” Getting students more involved with health promotion and helping an organization with its communication tactics is what Gardner is looking for in his class. “Community engagement is about a give and take kind of relationship,” Gardner said. “It’s all about building a sense of community in the long term.” 11


Dr. David May

By: Bryanna Trulove

Dr. David May has been teaching “Mentoring At-Risk Youths” since 2014. This communityengaged learning course seeks to impact the lives of at-risk youths in Starkville, Mississippi, while giving Mississippi State University students hands-on experience working in the community. While the connection between MSU students and the local middle school students is being made, May trains the MSU students in communication, conflict resolution, listening tactics and various strategies related to mentoring. The course is modeled after the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America program. Students in the course are matched with a middle school student to mentor for a semester. The first part of the semester is spent learning in a classroom setting. The second part of the course is spent with monitored and guided bonding time with middle school mentees. The final part of the course is spent between the mentor and mentees in the community. Throughout the course, May instructs students to apply tactics and information they have learned throughout guided readings and lectures. May was the first professor at MSU to teach the course. When asked what inspired him to commit to the project, he stated that his childhood was his biggest inspiration. “I had a rough childhood and my parents got divorced when I was very young,” May stated. “I had two or three different males step up in my life that were not my dad. And because of that, I saw and I experienced the importance of mentoring from the child’s perspective.” The impact is evident while watching the student mentors interact with their middle school mentees.

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE “The mentoring course taught me how to effectively mentor at-risk youths; however, it also taught me how to be a socially responsible citizen through a collaborative learning experience. Through these experiences, I was able to actively apply what I learned in the mentoring course through hands-on, ‘real-life’ circumstances, which is ultimately how this class differed from a majority of the course work I experienced at MSU.” - Christina Loftin 12

The middle school students would wait for their mentor to arrive and excitedly greet them. During the last day of the guided mentor and mentee interactions, one mentee was visibly upset. Their mentor was instructed to pull them aside and help them process their emotions. By the end of the hour, the mentee was smiling and joking with other mentees. One of the biggest challenges of the course is recruiting male students to be mentors. May stated that the majority of the students in his course are female, and it is often hard to recruit male students to work with children. However, May is seeking to address the challenge by reaching out to Greek fraternities on campus. The course not only provides mentors for at-risk youths, but it also bridges the divide between local middle schools and MSU. According to May, the course acts as a recruiting tool for the university. The course gives middle school students in the area a deeper connection to the MSU campus and more likelihood to consider attending MSU themselves. This partnership also benefits the students of the Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District (SOCSD). According to the community partner for the program, Monica Young, the benefits go both ways. “Dr. May and the SOCSD have been partnering together for the past two and a half years with the Mentor at Risk Youths Program,” Young stated. “With this program, we are able to match students by gender who need extra support, a positive role model and extra attention to bring positivity into their lives. It amazes me how my students look up to college students and beg to be a part of the program every semester. It’s been extremely rewarding to see their relationships grow and form lasting bonds with one another.” May hopes to continue the course in the future and expand the program to include more professors.


“With this program, we are able to match students by gender who need extra support, a positive role model and extra attention to bring positivity into their lives. It amazes me how my students look up to college students and beg to be a part of the program every semester. It’s been extremely rewarding to see their relationships grow and form lasting bonds with one another.” - Monica Young, 7th Grade Counselor at Partnership Middle School 13


Dr. Molly Nicodemus

By: John Nix Arledge

Dr. Molly Nicodemus has taught “Equine Assisted Therapy” for several years but Fall 2020 marked the first time the course received a community-engaged course designation. This class aims to enable students to develop an understanding of how the equine industry can be a valuable resource in the lives of those with special needs. What makes this course special is that it allows students to be hands-on in equine assisted therapy programs and labs. “We are really seeing something happen with the students volunteering that is more than scholarly attainment. Yes, they’re learning, but they’re also becoming more confident at a level you don’t usually get in the classroom,” Nicodemus said. In order for students to gain hands-on experiences, the class has partnered with two off-campus organizations. The first, Dogwood Assisted Therapy Center, is a local facility that actively participates in special needs therapy. Katie CagleHoltcamp is the owner and director of the facility and is currently working on her Ph.D. in animal physiology at Mississippi State University. When asked how the partnership benefits the students, she referenced the activities the volunteers participate in. “This partnership provides students the opportunity to observe equine assisted therapy sessions, participate in natural horsemanship training sessions and improve basic horse handling skills.” She also spoke of her own benefit from the program. “This partnership has added a great community for our clients and our staff. Being in the mental health field can be draining and lead to burnout. Adding a different form of interaction through teaching students, in addition to working with clients, allows for the brain to reset and reengage in a healthy way,” Cagle-Holtcamp said.


COMMUNITY PARTNER “We are all here because we love horses and want to see how we can become healthier by knowing and interacting with them.” - Katie Cagle-Holtcamp, Owner and Director of Dogwood Assisted Therapy Center Along with Dogwood Assisted Therapy Center, the class has also partnered with associations that promote challenged-rider programs such as the American Quarter Horse Association and the Palomino Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association. Students have the opportunity to volunteer at the associations’ horse shows that are located in cities such as Meridian, Jackson and Pontotoc, Mississippi. “All of these organizations work with individuals with special needs and even have senior-level classes. They really reach out to all people with all different levels of needs,” Nicodemus said. Equine assisted therapy is beneficial for both physical and mental special needs. Nicodemus herself was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the age of eight. Riding horses was one of the activities that her doctor prescribed to help her physical needs. She was then sent to an equineassisted therapy center in her hometown of Houston, Texas. This diagnosis revealed her passion for horses and using them to help those with special needs. “During the course of that program, I fell in love with horses. At the time, I didn’t know it was for therapy. I didn’t know anything but that I loved horses,” Nicodemus said. Horses also benefit those with mental needs as well. Apart from the mental health benefits of exercising, the social aspect of riding horses helps patients feel like they are a part of a community, as mental disabilities can often be ostracizing. “Horses are such nurturing animals that allow for that unconditional and non-judgmental love, opening up the barriers we as humans tend to create,” Nicodemus said. Overall, the course has been a huge success. For Nicodemus, this success is not only evident in the patients, but in the students as well. “Students that volunteer for the therapy program evolve and change over the semester because of the interaction with the horses and connection with patients,” Nicodemus said. “It just seems to be a bridging system we have never seen before between a volunteer and patient.” 15


Dr. Renee Clary

By: Sophia Calderon

Taught by Dr. Renee Clary, “Principles of Paleocology” was one of the many community-engaged courses offered during the Fall 2020 semester. The course is an overview of invertebrate paleontology that focuses on the different groups of animals that do not have “vertabral columns,” or back bones, such as shellfishes, snails and worms. This course allows students to understand how and why paleontologists use fossil information to reconstruct environments. “For this course, students go out and collect crustacean fossils to discover more information on what Mississippi’s environment was like,” Clary explained. “Students focus on crustaceans because for a long time Starkville’s environment was actually underwater.” Clary was able to expand the learning experience of the course by partnering with W.M. Browning Cretaceous Fossil Park volunteer Douglas Fleury for the fossil park’s 25th anniversary. With this partnership, students were required to critically reflect on ways they could contribute to enhance the overall fossil park experience for visitors. “This partnership is so beneficial to the students, especially when they have to complete their paleocology projects because they are having to break information down to elementary students, which means they have to have a full understanding of these findings,” said Clary. Not only are they having to keep up with newfound information regarding discoveries, but they are also having to brainstorm ideas in which a small child can understand the material and, as a result, want to learn more. In the past, students have created handouts and other activities that teachers can use prior to visiting the fossil park to prepare their students for the learning experience to come. Typically, Clary transports her class directy to the site for a hands-on experience. This allows students to see the impact of their work as well as assess areas that need improvement. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students enrolled in this course are unable to travel overnight, keeping them in a

COMMUNITY PARTNER “The students at MSU are perfect examples of people who are prime for creating innovative ideas for the pre-college groups that visit the fossil park, due to their ability to relate to their experiences.” - Doug Fleury, W.M. Browning Cretaceous Fossil Park Volunteer remote learning environment. Although the semester presented many obstacles when it came to working directly with a community partner, both Clary and Fleury did everything they could to virtually continue their partnership. When finding out that her teaching environment would transition to an online setting, Clary began brainstorming ways for her students to conduct research that could contribute to the overall evaluation and improvement of the park. Fleury explains that this partnership is not only beneficial to the students enrolled in this community-engaged learning course, but to him personally and the fossil park as well. As a museum educator, Fleury is required to teach any material that the museum covers. “I am not a scientist, so I rely on the experts to increase my knowledge on fossils as well as their creativity to encourage children to be scientifically minded,” Fleury said. Even though most of the work completed in this course serves as a contribution to their community partner, Clary emphasizes the importance of teaching her students how to recognize fossils and apply the material learned into their daily lives. By the end of the course students should not only be able to recognize different fossil organisms but also pinpoint the region of origin when working in a field camp experience. Overall, Clary has learned a lot from teaching this course. “Over the years I have learned that you can easily find partnerships and projects that become beneficial for everyone involved,” Clary said. “I was nervous in the beginning that it would be difficult to align the curriculum with the schedule of our partners, but over time, with the commitment of others, everything just became easier.” Clary has enjoyed teaching Principles of Paleocology because it allows her students to gain real-world experience. She is impressed with the way her students adapted as well as the diversity of solutions and ideas they continuously bring to the table. Clary says she cannot wait to watch the course grow.

“Community engagement is so important because it makes everything in this course relevant. Students begin to realize that they are making a beneficial difference in the learning experiences of K-12 students when they visit the fossil park.” - Dr. Renee Clary, Professor of Principles of Paleocology 16



Dr. Wen-Hsing Cheng By: Karie Pinnix Assistant Professor Dr. Wen-Hsing Cheng’s Micronutrients class is usually taken by most undergraduate students as a requirement for those interested in a career in nutrition. Two real-world case studies discuss the subjects of the presence of heavy metals in common foods or the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and the lack of selenium in Mississippi’s soil as their community component. The core area of the class teaches students advanced human nutrition, which details how 40 different vitamins and minerals metabolize in the human body. Cheng, who has a Ph.D. in molecular nutrition, teaches students about the physiological mechanism that processes each mineral or vitamin digested by the human body. The professor also explains the connection between cellular activity and the multiple functions in each vitamin or mineral after it has been processed in the body. “And then another major point is when those vitamins and minerals enter all the cells in our body, so what are they doing?” Cheng said. “For example, vitamin A has the most important function in vision. So, I’ll talk about the detailed biochemical pathway and the action of vitamin A, and the same for many other vitamins and minerals.” After the previous professor retired in 2018, Cheng volunteered to teach the micronutrients class and offer his expertise in molecular nutrition. Although Cheng knew that he was the only professor in the department who did not have the dietitian credential, he knew that he had the skills and knowledge to teach the class. “So, I was thinking, if I teach this, I can teach our nutrition students to better understand the nutritional biochemistry.” Cheng said. After Cheng started teaching the course, he realized that students did not seem interested in technical chemistry terms and lack of real-world experience that is


“I appreciate that Dr. Cheng takes the time to lecture and explain what each nutrient is, how it works and how it interacts with other nutrients. In fact, I have used what I have learned in his classes in my other classes. Dr. Cheng puts in the effort and expects the same amount of effort of his students.” - Karli Gama common in similar science classes. To address this issue, the professor presented two case studies regarding his research. In the first case study, Cheng presented the association between a low amount of selenium in Mississippi’s soil and the higher incidence of diabetes. According to this case study, many crops that are grown in soil with low selenium concentrations will be deficient of the mineral, which has a proven correlation to adult-onset diabetes. The second case study covered how some minerals and artificial products from the seafood farming industry affect Mississippi’s communities. The study touches on how the Mississippi River has been polluted by several factories dumping harmful chemicals in the river. As a result, a variety of seafood Mississippians eat, such as catfish and oysters, contain these toxic chemicals. Due to the limitations of preparation time and the rise of COVID-19, his plans to incorporate more community-based trips into his curriculum stalled during 2019 and 2020. However, Cheng says he wants to bring students to the Delta area to learn more about the agricultural and historical significance of the land in the future. According to Cheng, most students in the micronutrients course aspire to be registered dieticians. As a result, the class is designed to teach students about the chemical components behind why certain food choices are beneficial. Tammy Allen, a Food Science, Nutrition and Health promotion major, has expressed how the class allowed her to become more prepared in her career. “By understanding the function of micronutrients at a biochemical level, I will have a better understanding of why specific foods and dietary patterns are recommended,” Allen said. “When I am working with clients or patients, I will be able to confidently explain the importance of vitamins and minerals at nutritional levels.” Although the class may not appeal to students interested in a clinical setting, Cheng sees value in the required course since the class is able to integrate real-world issues into useful learning material. “So, with the community-based learning, I think gradually I’ll make the student to be appreciative of basic nutrition,” Cheng said. “This CEL learning has provided me some ideas and a skill to bring the student closer to the community, the local issues.”

STUDENT PERSPECTIVE “I would strongly encourage students to take this class to increase their knowledge and confidence in explaining the role of nutrients in our bodies. I have found that knowing about nutrients at this detailed level helps me understand broader concepts in my other classes as well. Other classes have taught me about good food choices and this class helps to explain why these food choices are good.” 18

- Tammy Allen




By: Morgan Rich The Day One Leadership course, taught by Program Manager Stephen Williams and Assistant Director Serena McCovery, has been a community-engaged learning course offered to incoming MSU freshmen during their first semester for more than a dozen years. This course offers students the opportunity to work alongside a mentor as well as their fellow classmates in a team of five, referred to as a class action team. The experience provides incoming students a chance to get involved with the university, the community and their fellow classmates. Williams explained that each action team is assigned a community service partner from within the university or the surrounding community. Under the direction of a university faculty or staff member, the teams serve their community partner through volunteer work or other means depending on what service is required. In order to further help the organization, students also plan and implement efforts such as expanding resources on campus to help students succeed after college. Williams spoke about what it means to be a student in his class. “So it’s all about service...but it’s also about having a great start at Mississippi State,” Williams said. In 2007, Williams became inspired to work with this course because he believed it was an opportunity to help students get off on the right foot at college, build friendships and share life lessons. For Day One, implementing community service is half of the course. The class helps students apply what they have learned inside the classroom to real-world experiences. Williams said students must also learn to adapt when serving their community. “Sometimes you have to adjust…it helps them to understand there are things outside their world that they don’t know are going on...ways for them to get involved in their community,” Williams said. Day One brings value to the students and university through community service. Students volunteer for organizations on and off campus such as Habitat

for Humanity, and local nursing homes. By doing so, students carried out the mission of MSU through their service and leadership. Williams noted the program held value for students because it allowed them to get plugged in, acquainted and involved on campus as well as in the Starkville community. In an effort to incorporate their input, the students were given a survey prior to class beginning where they selected their top five service preferences. Williams emphasized that students must first learn how to work together despite varying personalities, develop a strong work ethic and learn from constructive criticism. Through such teamwork, students learned alongside one another through various self-discovery exercises and discussed them in class as they prepared their community service project. As a result, Day One offered students social resources, opportunities and lifetime memories within their first semester of college. As the fall 2020 semester came to a close, the students completed a post assessment where they reflected on their time in the course and Williams noted the impact of their reports. “I have been so encouraged reading some of the reflections of these freshmen,” Williams said. “I just like the maturity and the honesty that they show. I just have been blown away with it,” Williams said.

“The students don’t have to necessarily invent something to make a difference in somebody’s life. They can just get out and serve.” - Stephen Williams, Program Manager of Day One Leadership



BRANDON HORTON’S STUDENT VIEW By: Leah Williams Mississippi State University’s Center for CommunityEngaged Learning aims to connect students in traditional classrooms to the environment or community beyond. Brandon Horton, a graduate assistant for the Department of Health Promotion and Wellness, is enrolled in a CEL course working with Five Horizons Health Services. Horton also uses this designated course to conduct an independent study. Originally founded in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, FHHS opened a new Starkville office on Sept. 11, 2020. According to their website, FHHS is a nonprofit community-based agency that started as an HIV-related outreach and prevention service. FHHS has now expanded to provide services for populations who need specialized or general care. Having a relatively new Starkville office allows students like Horton and his teammates to work closely with FHHS as a community partner. When asked how his CEL course, taught by Assistant Professor Dr. Antonio Gardner, and individual study projects generally worked, Horton said his team sought to raise awareness about FHHS and then assess the benefit of the organization in a community like Starkville. “As a class, we designed some communicative messages…certain graphics and other forms of communication basically to raise awareness…to pull from our database and see if it could benefit them [their work],” Horton said. “Our project was basically to create a communicative design for Five Horizons like a…flyer or an ad, infographic, etc.” As a student, Horton’s experience with CCEL has influenced the resources he has within the community. “Working with them is important because what I want to do depends on the community,” Horton said. “I just find it important to be a part of these experiences and I can really thank CCEL for that.” Horton was asked how his engaged learning experience and independent study might contribute to his future goals. “Thanks to the program, I will be able to assess needs, design, implement and evaluate health promotion programs,” Horton said. “I’ll be able to build a program from the ground up and make it sustainable in the field of research and just be able to help health promotion in general.” Horton emphasized the importance of passion in not only his work but in all aspiring students. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from: you have the power to make changes…to do something great,” Horton said. “All it took was developing a passion and knowing there was a possibility for me [to be successful] at the end of this.”



Michelle Garraway Program Coordinator

Bailey Sennett Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR When I think about the 2020-2021 academic year and all the challenges a global pandemic has brought to traditional teaching and learning environments, I am grateful for the resilience of our faculty, staff and students. This edition of Engaged has highlighted the many ways that the MSU community has stepped up to continue collaborations beyond campus. While our methods have had to change, our commitment to building relationships for the greater good has not wavered. CCEL staff is using the lessons learned during the COVID-19 crisis to propel us forward in the vital work of our institution and its partners. Please contact us at ccel@msstate.edu to learn how to get involved.


306 C Moseley Hall | (662) 325-2370 | ccel@msstate.edu Copyright 2020 by Mississippi State University. All Rights reserved. This publication may be copied and distributed without alteration for nonprofit educational purposes provided that credit is given to the Mississippi State Extension Service. Produced by Public Relations & Integrated Student Media

Fall 2020 Team Account Executive: John Nix Arledge Creative Coordinator: Cassie Gates Copy Writer: Karie Pinnix Co-Account Coordinator: Bryanna Trulove Co-Account Coordinator: Sophia Calderon

Spring 2021 Team Account Executive: Cassie Gates Creative Coordinator: Karie Pinnix Copy Writer: Leah Williams Account Coordinator: Morgan Rich

We are an equal opportunity employer, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status or any other characteristic protected by law.

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Engaged 2020-2021  

Highlighting community engagement from Mississippi State University

Engaged 2020-2021  

Highlighting community engagement from Mississippi State University


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