Messages from the Provost

  • March 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    I hope that everyone had a chance to get away or slow down over the week of spring break. Now that we are well into March, we are in the second half of the spring semester, and I know we are all looking forward to warmer days ahead.

    With regard to our missed class days due to weather, I hope that faculty will look for ways to make sure that you adequately deliver the instructional material to your students. We are no longer held to a strict standard of scheduling replacement class days. Consequently, the university will not be setting aside specific days for classes to be held in addition to those remaining in the schedule. However, I hope you will look for ways to accommodate student learning such as on-line and out of class assignments. If you have any questions about making up missed class time, please contact the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

    In checking our overall reporting of class attendance and reporting of mid-term grades, the news is not as good as we had hoped it would be. Class attendance for all students was reported in only 33.5% of our class sections, and mid-term grades were posted for 44.3% of the sections. For freshmen, these numbers were higher: attendance reporting was around 58% and mid-term grade posting was about 65%. I encourage faculty to report attendance and mid-term grades so that we can have the ability to know which students are at higher risk of not being successful in a semester.

    I want to remind faculty about Maroon & Write, our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), developed as part of our SACSCOC reaffirmation process. The program fosters improved writing skills for our students. Faculty members can become involved in two ways: participation in the Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence (MIWE) and participation in other faculty development activities. The MIWE guides faculty in syllabus redesign to include a formal writing assignment in a specific course. Information on the MIWE and other resources can be found at the website: www.qep.msstate.edu. Our goal is to graduate students who “are equipped with skills in communication and critical thinking” and who “are prepared to be leaders in their profession and communities.”

    There has been good response to our new website developed to highlight undergraduate research and creative discovery: http://www.urcd.msstate.edu/. Please consider posting undergraduate research opportunities on this site if you have not already done so. My thanks go to Scott Maynard and his committee for developing this valuable resource, and to those who have posted on the site.

    Best wishes for the second half of the semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • February 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    February is known for the celebration of presidential birthdays, valentines, and black history. If you are interested in presidents, there are a few books that I can personally recommend related to Presidents Washington and Lincoln. They are “Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence,” “His Excellency: George Washington,” “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” and “Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image”. All will give you a deeper insight into aspects of these two great icons of our country.

    In of the spirit of Valentine's Day, I hope that many of you will also consider reaching out to your co-workers and friends this week in the “Spirit of MSU” to lift their spirits. Everyone needs a lift every so often, so why not make it this week?

    I believe that it is always useful to expand your view of the world by learning from the experiences of others who have traveled a different path. Therefore, I am looking forward to attending the upcoming event: “The Experiences of Black Faculty and Staff in Higher Education,” to be held Monday, February 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Bost Auditorium. If you would also like to take part in this event, you can register at the following site: http://www.hrm.msstate.edu/development/upcoming. Thanks to the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities for putting this on.

    I want to bring to your attention a study abroad opportunity for our students to study in Morocco at the Université Internationale de Rabat (UIR). We have just signed an agreement with UIR to jointly offer an undergraduate program in automotive engineering (through Mechanical Engineering). You can find the information at this site: http://www.international.msstate.edu/pdf/abroad/study/Rabat.pdf.

    I attended a seminar last week hosted by the Center for Teaching & Learning in which Dr. Rodney Pearson presented data gathered using his Graduation Positioning System. He emphasized the fact that the data shows that student absences negatively impact student grades. On average, each class absence lowers the final grade in the class by 0.2 of a letter grade. I hope that you will encourage our students to attend class and that faculty will take attendance on a regular basis.

    At Mississippi State, I remember daily that our greatest asset is our people – our students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, our donors, our fans. Last week, we lost one of our people, MSU alumnus and Congressman Alan Nunnelee. I extend my wishes for strength and comfort to the Nunnelee family and to other members of the Bulldog family who have experienced recent personal loss.

    The days are now getting longer and, before you know it, it will be spring. I hope that the prospect of spring and the spiritual metaphor that it conveys will brighten your spirits.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • January 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    I hope that 2015 will be a great year for each of you. It looks like enrollment for spring 2015 will be slightly up, and we think that is a very good sign for increased growth at MSU for the upcoming academic year.

    Earlier in January, we released a new website to connect undergraduate students with faculty for research and creative discovery opportunities. Students can search for ways to become involved in the knowledge creation process on the site (www.urcd.msstate.edu). I encourage faculty to log-in to the site with their NetID and password under the “Faculty” tab to list current projects that undergraduates can consider. We hope to expose more of our undergraduate students to the advantages of being at a flagship research university.

    This academic year, we have implemented attendance scanners in a number of large classrooms to encourage faculty to more frequently report absences to Banner. Other universities are also looking to cut down on students missing class, as was reported last week in the Wall Street Journal (http://www.wsj.com/articles/cracking-down-on-skipping-class-1421196743). This effort and others will help us increase our retention and graduation rates and enhance the success of our students.

    Today, you were asked via MSU Announcement to take part in a campus survey being conducted by the Work-Life Balance Committee. I hope that you will take the time to complete the brief survey so that the Committee can get a sense of how our employees are dealing with issues related to work-life balance.

    Later in the semester, we will be bringing the renowned Kinsey Collection to the MSU Library. This collection is an award-winning touring exhibit of African American art, historical artifacts, books, and other original material. I hope you will make plans to view the exhibit in the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library during the months of March-June.

    Best wishes for a great semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President