Messages from the Provost

  • October 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    It is a proud time to be a Bulldog! Winning in football and being ranked #1 has put the MSU name in front of millions of Americans, many seeing it for the first time. Let’s use our national exposure to help us recruit our next group of world-class students to MSU in the fall of 2015!

    I am very pleased that Dr. John Dickerson has agreed to serve as Interim Executive Director of Enrollment, starting on October 1st. The units that comprise Enrollment now report to my office. The success on the field is helping Dr. Dickerson and his staff open doors that have not been opened before. I ask the academic faculty and staff to help Dr. Dickerson and his staff in telling the MSU story to prospective students. We have a tremendous university that is positioned with outstanding programs and exceptional faculty and staff.

    Special thanks go to the personnel in Student Affairs for marvelously handling the logistics associated with the fire in Oak Hall last week. Almost 200 young women were displaced from the residence hall and were accommodated in various ways as the residence hall undergoes repair. Our faculty also responded admirably in taking into consideration how the situation affected our students. I know firsthand of a number of faculty who went out of their way to accommodate our students, and I personally thank these and all the others who were so understanding in this stressful time.

    I hope you will consider attending one of the events associated with “Remembering Freedom Summer: Building a Better Future” on October 19-20 at MSU. The summer of 1964 in Mississippi was an eventual time in the civil rights movement, and you will definitely learn more about it through the conference. For more information on the conference, you can visit this site: http://www.aas.msstate.edu/fsc/schedule/index.php

    I was so proud to stand and sing our Alma Mater at the end of the game Saturday night. That pride was certainly for our student athletes and coaches, but also for all the great accomplishments in teaching, research, and service that our university can lay claim to.

    With warm regards (and Hail State!),


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • September 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The semester has gotten off to a great start. The Freshman Convocation on August 19 in the Humphrey Coliseum was a resounding success with over 2,000 freshmen attending. We have started a new tradition at MSU. If you were not able to attend the Convocation, you can watch video on YouTube and see Sarah Thebarge’s inspiring keynote address: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlaUJg_jh5Y.

    Also new for the fall is a set of five videos we are requiring all freshmen to view. Anyone with an MSU login can view them in the MyState portal: https://my.msstate.edu. After logging in, the videos are on the left side of the screen under “True Maroon.” They include: History and Traditions of MSU; Academic Policies and the Honor Code; Academic Advising Center and the Learning Center; Student Affairs and the Career Center; and Information Technology Services.

    Thanks go out to all who attended the symposium, “The Scholarship and Evaluation of Teaching” on September 4, for which Dr. Blannie Bowen of Penn State was keynote speaker. This event was sponsored by my office and the MSU Extension Service. It included a great discussion on the teaching roles of different categories of professors. Faculty can view a recording of the event by visiting www.provost.msstate.edu/set-symposium/.

    Starting on September 13, Drs. Julia Hodges and Allison Pearson became co-interim deans for MSU-Meridian. They bring a great deal of experience in taking over this leadership position after the departure of Dr. Steven Brown who left to become a dean at the University of West Florida. We look forward to the expansion of the new Kinesiology program in Meridian and increases in enrollment in the other programs on that campus.

    On World Food Day, October 16, you will have the opportunity to participate in a unique fundraiser on our Starkville campus. The Student Dietetic Association from the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion will hold an event called “Empty Bowls” to increase awareness of hunger and food security. It starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Bost Auditorium with a silent auction and a soup lunch at noon. They will be auctioning hand-made ceramic bowls made by faculty and staff in the ceramic studio of the MSU Department of Art. They hope to raise $5,000 for local food pantries and hunger services. On October 17, the organization Stop Hunger Now will be on campus, and volunteers will be packaging meals on our campus to send to areas in need all over the world.

    During the days of October 19-21, MSU will be hosting a conference entitles “Remembering Freedom Summer: Building a Better Future.” It starts with a staged play Sunday night with scenes from “Freedom High” and continues on Monday and Tuesday with sessions throughout both days in the Colvard Student Union. It will feature an impressive list of civil rights scholars, Freedom Summer volunteers, students, and organizers. The African American Studies program is sponsoring the event and more information can be found on their website http://www.aas.msstate.edu/fsc/schedule/index.php.

    The fall presents many opportunities to become engaged with MSU. Many of you are already engaged and I hope others will join in.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • August 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    It was heartwarming to see in action MSU's great tradition of service during MVNU2MSU, our move-in day for the residence halls. I was impressed that 500 faculty, staff, and members of the community volunteered their time on Saturday, August 9. All who participated are greatly appreciated for their willingness to take part in welcoming back students. Speaking of unselfish service, I also was impressed on August 12 when I stopped to talk to a few freshmen students who were volunteering as part of Service DAWGS Day. They had been in the community helping with the food bank and cleaning up Odd Fellows Cemetery. There are many definitions, but these actions reflect what is "True Maroon."

    On Wednesday, August 13, I joined President Keenum and others in Gulfport at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC) to announce the expansion of our engineering academic programs to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In fall of 2015, we hope to start offering one or more engineering majors on the campus of MGCCC. In partnership with MGCCC, they will offer the first two years of instruction and MSU will offer the junior and senior years on-site at MGCCC facilities and through distance learning.

    On Thursday, August 14, I traveled to Jackson Academy where I lectured to a pre-engineering class being offered jointly by MSU and Jackson State University. There are 20 high school students being taught by MSU part-time instructor Kenneth Hughey. They are excited to be MSU part-time students, and I am excited that we are able to provide this outstanding opportunity for them to earn college credit.

    I want to remind you again of the Freshman Convocation which will occur on Tuesday, August 19 at Humphrey Coliseum at 4:30 p.m. All freshmen who are not in class are required to attend. Faculty and staff are encouraged to attend as well. This will be a great way to commemorate the start of the academic careers of our new freshmen.

    I hope all faculty will consider attending the campus-wide meeting to discuss non-traditional teaching: "The Scholarship and Evaluation of Teaching." It will be held Thursday, September 4 at 2:00 p.m. in the Hunter Henry Center. Dr. Blannie Bowen of Penn State will be the keynote speaker and he will be followed by a faculty panel. This program is being sponsored by the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and the MSU Extension Service with endorsement by Faculty Senate and the Center for Teaching and Learning.

    It is a great time to be a Bulldog. Best wishes for a successful fall semester.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • July 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    I continue to be excited about the accomplishments of the students, staff, and faculty at MSU and the opportunities that continue to unfold for MSU. In the second week of July, I visited the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. to continue exploring study abroad and research possibilities in Italy as was recently cited in Dr. Shaw’s “Dear Colleagues” letter. In the same week, I visited Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS with two deans to develop collaborative undergraduate and graduate student opportunities with our two institutions. The university is also preparing a joint offering with Jackson State University of a pre-engineering course for college credit at Jackson Academy this fall.

    Our student (and faculty) activities outside the United States have continued to expand through the efforts of the Office of Study Abroad in the International Institute. We had 241 MSU students studying abroad last year which was an all-time high, 21% higher than the peak two years ago. We have also seen more interest and involvement in international internships through our association with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. I was so proud to read the blogs this summer of MSU students Naomi Taylor in Malawi and Bailey Martin in Chile, both working with FAO field offices. These experiences have been fabulous for our students, and these two students have had the opportunity to show the world that MSU students are independent, highly talented, and committed to making a real difference in the world in which we and 7.5 billion others live. I would encourage you to take a look at these two blogs: http://naomiislilongwefromhome.tumblr.com/ for Naomi and http://baileylizzz.tumblr.com/ for Bailey. They and others are demonstrating the world-class education and co-curricular opportunities afforded MSU students.

    I hope that you will consider attending Freshman Convocation on Tuesday, August 19 at 4:30 PM in the Humphrey Coliseum. Freshman Convocation is a new tradition at MSU and serves to impress upon incoming freshmen the importance of academics and officially welcome them to the university. The President, Provost, and Academic Deans will be present in regalia, and freshmen will receive a class coin signifying their entrance into the class of 2018. The event is the formal induction ceremony of the freshman class into Mississippi State University, much as commencement serves as the event signifying the culmination of their studies.

    The renovation of Lee Hall is nearing completion with our office scheduled to move from Allen Hall July 18-21. We expect some interruption to normal operations on these dates and appreciate your patience during this time of transition. The physical address of the office will be 3501 Lee Hall; 262 Lee Boulevard. Our phone numbers, mailing address, and mailstop will remain the same.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • June 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    It was my great pleasure to be able to participate in Staff Appreciation Day and to represent the university in presenting the Zacharias Distinguished Staff Awards. My heartfelt appreciation goes to those nominated and those receiving the awards for their commitment and service to Mississippi State. We are fortunate to have a highly dedicated staff and faculty.

    Summer has traditionally been the time for slowing down a bit, family vacations, and reading. I hope each of you will find some time for reading and include our Maroon Edition book “The Invisible Girls” on your summer reading list. As a second suggestion, I would offer up a book by Dr. Dennis Mitchell of MSU Meridian, “A New History of Mississippi.” It has received high praise from folks such as William Winter, John Marszalek, and Sid Salter.

    Even though MSU activities have slowed somewhat in June, the Orientation season is in full swing with literally thousands of freshmen and transfer students visiting our campus. There is an excitement in the air about the prospects of the new academic year in the fall. This fall we have a lot of new things planned in academic affairs: a Freshman Convocation (Tuesday, August 19, 4:40 p.m. in the Coliseum), three new freshman videos to inform students about MSU, a pilot program to put attendance scanners in several large classrooms, a parent portal in BANNER for parents to check student grades and attendance for those signing a FERPA waiver, technology upgrades in five classrooms, and eight sections of freshman one-hour seminars called “True Maroon” to introduce students to campus history, traditions, and other information that will help make them successful.

    We are gaining success in raising awareness about the equality of MSU. Efforts emanating from our Office of Public Affairs continue to spread the good news about MSU with pieces such as one about Rhodes Scholar Field Brown going to administrators in many institutions across the country. An unsolicited email to me from a provost of a private college in NY stated that our mailing about Field “reflects well on MSU and leaves the reader with a very positive impression.”

    I hope each of you will help us spread the good news about MSU.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • May 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    May has brought us another Commencement with 2,781 students applying for
    graduation which will add to MSU's 128,000 living alumni. This brings the
    estimated total number of graduates for 2013-2014 to 4,789 (pending final
    grades). It is a great time to be a Bulldog!

    Also in May, the international focus of MSU has continued to sharpen. On
    Friday, May 16, we discussed the possibility of establishing a presence in
    Morocco with an on-campus visit from a high-level delegation from the Universite
    Internationale de Rabat. Also on that same day, we signed an MOU with the
    United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) to establish a partnership between
    MSU and the WFP on food security issues. Executive Director of the WFP,
    Ertharin Cousin, delivered the Commencement address to both Starkville
    Commencement ceremonies. Executive Director Cousin challenged our graduates to
    consider becoming involved in small ways to help end world hunger. In addition
    to awarding an honorary doctorate to Executive Director Cousin, we awarded an
    honorary degree to Dr. Sebastiao Barbosa, an MSU graduate who is a high ranking
    official in Brazil's equivalent of the US Department of Agriculture. All of
    these activities confirm our commitment in our strategic plan to globalize the
    university and expand the international reach of MSU.

    In closing, I encourage all of the university to take part in Staff Appreciation
    Day which is coming up on May 30 and organized by Staff Council. I hope all
    staff members will have the chance to spend some time participating in the
    festivities of the day.

    Sincerely,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President

  • April 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    April has been a great month on the MSU campus. During the first three days of the month, we hosted the SACS-COC on-site team that was here to review us for our accreditation reaffirmation. I join Dr. Keenum in thanking the campus and all of those who participated in what was a great visit for MSU. The final decision of the reaffirmation will come in December at the annual meeting.

    On April 3rd, fourteen MSU undergraduates were recognized for their accomplishments in research and creative discovery activities at MSU’s Undergraduate Research Symposium which was sponsored by the Shackouls Honors College and others and open to all students. As reflected in the State of Excellence strategic plan, we continue to encourage undergraduate (and graduate) research as an important component of the educational experience at MSU. We hope to release a new web site this fall that will allow undergraduate students to peruse opportunities to connect with MSU faculty members in research and creative discovery.

    Later in the first week of April, the MSU drill field was the site of this year’s International Fiesta. This event brought together international students, staff, faculty, and local residents to celebrate the cultures that contribute to the richness of our university and our community. The international dimension of our university is important in educating our students to become contributing members of our increasingly global society. This too is a focus of the State of Excellence strategic plan.

    Several significant infrastructure projects are underway in April. Ground was broken on the Fresh Food Company which is being built behind Cresswell Hall on the site of the old intramural tennis courts. In addition, the new classroom room building which is being constructed behind the YMCA Building is seeing considerable progress, with a formal groundbreaking ceremony planned in the near future. Both of these constructions projects are part of the long-range plan to improve our infrastructure as is stated in State of Excellence.

    I am pleased to recognize Dr. Hossein Toghiani who was selected to be the 2014 SEC Faculty Achievement Award recipient for MSU. Dr. Toghiani is a professor of Chemical Engineering at MSU and has a distinguished record of teaching, research, and service. He is in the 2014 group of 14 faculty members who are receiving recognition from SECU, the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference. www.thesecu.com

    At the Faculty Senate’s April meeting, I stated that my office is going to partner with Extension to convene a campus-wide symposium or town meeting to engage the MSU faculty in discussions around the following topic: “Assessment of Teaching in Extension: Implications for Tenure.” I have also invited the Faculty Senate to be a co-sponsor and will also involve the University Promotion and Tenure Committee. I plan to have this meeting in late August or early September. It is my desire to foster a better understanding of the issues surrounding different forms of teaching as they relate to tenure.

    I extend my best wishes for a successful completion of the spring semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • March 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    On March 31st, an on-site review team will arrive on our campus for the final stages of the review of our accreditation reaffirmation from SACS-COC. A major portion of this review will be the examination of our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), “Maroon and Write”, which promises to have a significant impact on improving the writing abilities of MSU students. There are two optional levels of engagement in the plan for faculty: formal training for incorporating writing-to-learn strategies in courses and more modest inclusion of such things as journaling, free-writing, and other informal writing opportunities into classes. You can learn more about our QEP at: http://qep.msstate.edu/pdf/Maroon_and_write_final.pdf

    I would urge you to get a copy of the Maroon Edition book for 2014, “The Invisible Girls: A Memoir” by Sarah Thebarge. I think you will find it to be an inspirational book about hope, perseverance, and overcoming obstacles. We look forward to having Ms. Thebarge speak at our inaugural Freshman Convocation which will be held during the first week of class in the fall. Although focused on our freshmen, the Convocation will be held in the Humphrey Coliseum and open to all.

    The month of March marks the fourth year of my service as provost and executive vice president, and I continue to consider it an honor to be able to serve MSU in this capacity.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • February 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    My thanks go out to everyone who helped with the visiting team from Phi Beta Kappa. Despite the bad weather that caused some minor travel delays, the team had a very good visit on our campus. We are optimistic that the next steps will go well. Impending weather conditions also caused us to close the university for two days in early February. Our teaching faculty is advised to compensate as necessary for any missed class time to ensure that the class outcomes and learning objectives are met.

    The construction on the new classroom building began in February. I hope that you will enjoy seeing the building take shape over the next 20 months as we build this new state-of-the-art facility to support our instructional mission. We hope to schedule our first classes in the building in 2016.

    We continue to focus on improving the overall success of students at MSU. Dr. Rodney Pearson is now working half time with my office as a Coordinator of Academic Success to help improve strategies for higher retention and graduation rates. This fall we will be rolling out a new one-hour seminar designed to help students make the transition to university life and to assist them in becoming more connected with the campus. Also this fall, we will implement our first Freshman Convocation to commemorate their academic journey toward completing college and preparing them for the future.

    On Thursday, February 20, the Board of Trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning honored Dr. Rani Sullivan as the “Diversity Educator of the Year” for the IHL system. Dr. Sullivan is an associate professor of Aerospace Engineering and was the 2013 MSU Faculty Diversity Award Recipient. Her acceptance can be viewed at this link (at 32:10) http://www.mississippi.edu/board/webcast/embed_140220.asp She captivated the audience and received a standing ovation. Her view of diversity and her reflections on MSU were inspirational. Dr. Sullivan’s recognition follows a recognition earlier in the week by the Mississippi Legislature of Grisham Master Teacher Kim Walters and Student Association President Michael Hogan as the 2014 faculty and student HEADWAE recipients from MSU. http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=6483

    As we finish out the month of February, I am hoping for nicer weather for the rest of the semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • January 2014
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The year 2014 promises to be an eventful one. As you may have read, I participated with several other administrators in President Keenum’s visit to Rome in early January to expand our partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as well as to explore other collaboration opportunities in the areas of world hunger, international education, and aerospace research. MSU is clearly becoming a global leader in research, learning, and outreach as we have stated as a goal in our Strategic Plan, “State of Excellence.”

    Also in early January, our campus responded admirably to the challenge of relocating students after the unfortunate bursting of water pipes in several residence halls. Our collective appreciation goes out to all of those in Student Affairs, Campus Services, and Academic Affairs who have been and are providing assistance with this situation.

    Later this month, the campus will host a delegation representing the national honor society of Phi Beta Kappa (ΦBK) which honors students of high achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. This group of ΦBK members will meet with university faculty, staff, and students as part of the process of considering our application to shelter a chapter. Should our application be successful, our most outstanding students would have the opportunity to be recognized by and to participate in the activities of one of the country’s finest honor societies. If you have the opportunity to interact with these guests, please extend a warm welcome to them and our appreciation for their visit.

    I would invite you to consider attending the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Breakfast in the Colvard Student Union on Monday, January 20, at 7:00 a.m. The invited speaker will be MSU Senior Field Brown. Field has recently been selected to be MSU’s first Rhodes Scholar in over 100 years. The breakfast will be an exciting event for the university and the community. The event will also be broadcast live online at http://mymedia.msstate.edu/viewer.php?live=mlk.

    If you have a chance, take time to check out the new shuttle system that started this month, the Starkville-MSU Area Rapid Transit (SMART). SMART connects the city and the campus and provides additional transportation opportunities for students, MSU faculty and staff, and citizens within the community. The following website provides information on the system: www.smart.msstate.edu.

    Best wishes for a successful semester and a prosperous 2014.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President