Messages from the Provost - 2012 Archive

  • December 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    As we approach the winter solstice and the days continue to shorten, we look forward to the end of the semester, December commencement, and the holidays. I hope that everyone is preparing for a break and a fresh start in January. Perhaps the Gator Bowl will be part of your plans as it will be mine.

    Dr. Gary Jackson, Director of MSU Extension, and I are pleased to announce a new joint effort between Extension and the Division of Academic Affairs. Last month the IHL Board approved the creation of the Center for the Advancement of Service-Learning Excellence (CASLE) at MSU. This center will serve to advance service-learning within the academic programs and the Extension Service and will create opportunities for academic faculty to take advantage of local and state-wide service opportunities that can be integrated into academic course learning objectives. Dr. April Heiselt will serve as the director of this new center starting January 1, 2013. Dr. Heiselt will take on this part-time appointment while continuing to function as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology. She brings extensive experience in service-learning to the position and will be the university's chief advocate for service-learning in her role as director and as chair of the university's Community Engagement Committee. We are excited about the new possibilities that CASLE will bring.

    Throughout the year, the university's Committee on Work Life Balance has been working to assemble information for faculty and staff about services and benefits that are available at MSU. It is great to be able to announce that an inaugural website is up and running. Be sure to check it out at Many thanks to the committee for their commitment to this project and to Associate Professor Jamie Runnells for her service as chair.

    In January of 2013, we will be making modest salary adjustments to eligible full professors as part of a two-year plan to address the fact that our average full professor salaries are at 83% of the SUG peer land-grant group. To receive an adjustment, a full professor must have a salary below the SUG average for his/her discipline and must have a rating of satisfactory or above on his/her annual reviews on all categories for the past three years. I appreciate President Keenum's support of this initiative and the effort of Drs. Greg Bohach, David Shaw, and Meghan Millea on the task force to look at faculty salaries.

    Information about a new program, the SEC Visiting Faculty Travel Grant Program, will be coming out soon from the Office of Research and Economic Development. Four awards for $2,500 each will be granted for faculty to travel to the campus of another SEC university for collaboration purposes. Be on the lookout for this information and be thinking of ways to connect with other universities in the SEC.

    Thanks for your contributions to our successes in 2012. I am looking forward to an even better 2013.

    With warm regards and best wishes for the holidays,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • November 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The month of November heralds the coming of the holiday season and the beginning of the end of another semester. In this time of thanksgiving, we are grateful for what MSU represents and the impact that it makes on the lives of our students and the citizens of the region. Our core values in our State of Excellence strategic plan include: access and opportunity, excellence and innovation, communication and collaboration, integrity and accountability, citizenship and leadership, and respect. (

    It is great to be able to bring good news to you in the terms of additional benefits for MSU employees. As part of a tuition remission policy revision, we are expanding the benefits such that employees will no longer be required to pay distance education fees for courses covered under tuition remission. Employees will continue to be required to pay the instructional support fee of $25 per credit hour that is required of all individuals taking distance education classes in order to support improvements to the software and hardware infrastructure supporting distance education.

    It gives me great pleasure to announce that Dr. John Dickerson has accepted my offer to serve as the next Registrar of MSU, with a start date of January 16, 2013. Dr. Dickerson comes to us from Copiah-Lincoln Community College where he has served as Vice President of its Simpson County Center. He has deep roots at MSU in that he is an active alumnus and former employee in Student Affairs where he worked with admissions, orientation, scholarships, and student recruitment. We welcome Dr. Dickerson and his family back to MSU and anticipate great things to come. Thanks to Dr. Tim Chamblee and the search committee for their work in this regard. Also my deepest thanks go to Dr. Lynn Reinschmiedt and Ms. Linda Buehler for serving as interim co-registrars.

    Other searches are kicking off for the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Associate Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School, and the Executive Director of the Center for Distance Education. They are being chaired by Dr. Sharon Oswald, Dr. Bill Herndon, and Mr. Scott Maynard, respectively.

    As we move further along in the SACS accreditation process of the university, I am pleased to let you know that we have selected the faculty leaders to head up
    the second Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) committee to develop our QEP, which will focus on writing. Drs. Connie Forde and Meghan Foley will be co-chairing that committee.

    In closing, I am proud to report that the visit of the Kenyan Ambassador to the United States Elkanah Odembo in early November was a resounding success. As a consequence of his visit, we hope to establish some research and educational exchanges with Kenya. In addition, Ambassador Odembo is planning to return to MSU in early 2013 to be part of a tree planting on the campus in memory of Wangari Maathai.

    Best wishes for a very meaningful and Happy Thanksgiving.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • October 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    As we prepare for Homecoming this weekend, it is appropriate to reflect on MSU and its stature as a special place with a character that has been highly influenced by the democratization philosophy of the Morrill Act of 1862 which established the land-grant university system. I am grateful for the national conference that was held at MSU in the first week of October to highlight and recognize the contributions of the land-grant system. Special thanks go to our History Department for hosting this academic conference.

    Also early in October at the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities meeting, MSU was recognized for having the highest graduation rate among its male athletes of all of the programs at the public universities in the state. MSU received the David Halbrook award for having a 69% graduation rate among its male athletes. We are proud of our student athletes and the leadership within the Athletic Department and Athletic Academics.

    On November 1st, MSU will be hosting the Kenyan ambassador to the United States as a part of our Maroon Edition programming. His Excellency the Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya Elkanah Odembo will speak in the Taylor Auditorium at 7 p.m. This will be another opportunity to hear from someone who knew the late Wangari Maathai who wrote "Unbowed," our Maroon Edition book for 2012.

    The selection process for the University Registrar is moving forward with on campus interviews this month. We hope to identify a new Registrar and have her/him in place in the spring semester. Search committees are being formed for the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Associate Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School, and the Executive Director of the Center for Distance Education. These should be finalized within several weeks.

    It has been decided to wait another year or so before moving to a campus-wide email system. The system(s) of choice of those being considered would have involved a fairly significant investment of resources. Rather than committing to it this year, we will reassess the budget priorities in next fiscal year and reconsider it then.

    Plans continue for the new classroom building with a goal of starting initial construction in 2013. We are also reviewing the report from a special committee to explore the feasibility of a laboratory building with teaching laboratories to help meet our teaching needs. Within the report is some consideration for limited research laboratory space as well.

    It is very evident that MSU is a university on the move with a lot to be proud of as we welcome back friends, alumni, and supporters for our 2012 Homecoming.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • September 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    September has been a very busy month already. On Monday, September 10, we hosted an international conference on food security with representatives from around the world on the MSU campus. It was a great opportunity for us to build on Dr. Keenum's commitment to making MSU a global land grant institution.

    I had the fortunate opportunity to get to know Dr. Dan Gustafson, who is an official in the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, now stationed in Rome. Dan told me that he was particularly impressed with the attitude and the sense of optimism that he observed on the campus. He went on to say that having read about and observed the climate at some other major universities that there was a clear difference: rather than focusing on the challenges and stresses that are facing higher education, MSU is on a positive trajectory to success. I was delighted that Dr. Gustafson was able to pick up on the environment on our campus. Incidentally, he wants to engage MSU with FAO in its mission to advance agriculture and economic development in the developing countries of the world. I give kudos to Mark Keenum, Benjy Mikel, David Shaw, and Greg Bohach for their leadership in advancing our mission of international outreach, a new focus for MSU which I fervently support.

    At last week's General Faculty meeting, Dr. Keenum announced the official unveiling of the MSU strategic plan. It is on-line at The Research Priorities developed by ORED are on that site and are a subset of State of Excellence 2012-2017. Also in the Plan are commitments to raise staff and faculty salaries over time. This month we are addressing staff salaries that are below the regional minimum as assessed by the recently commissioned study by the Hay Group. A small task force has been formed to look at salary compression within the faculty ranks and make some adjustments before the end of the academic year, starting with the full professors who are below the SUG average for their respective disciplines. We will continue to work on behalf of the staff and faculty to enhance the MSU environment, where their work is appreciated and valued.

    Dr. Keenum has also formed a small committee to examine the promotion procedures for all faculty categories and then make recommendations to the Faculty Senate. This is another effort to improve our current process so that we have an equitable and fair system of recognition of our faculty.

    Several searches are in process or will be starting soon. The search for a new Registrar is being led by Dr. Tim Chamblee, and we hope to be identifying and interviewing candidates soon. The search for a new Associate Registrar has just been completed, and I am pleased to report that Ms. Amy Adkerson is now in that position. Last week I asked Dean Sharon Oswald to chair the search for the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I am in the process of forming a search committee through elections with a goal of starting the national search within a month or so. I am also in the early preparatory stages of starting the process to search for a new Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice President. Dr. Bill Herndon, Associate VP for DAFVM, has accepted my request that he chair the search. Dr. Lou D'Abramo has informed me that he will be retiring at the end of this academic year. Dr. D'Abramo has provided excellent leadership for the Graduate School and his contributions are much appreciated and will have a lasting impact on graduate education at MSU.

    Many events associated with the Maroon Edition book "Unbowed" are scheduled for this week and the upcoming weeks. Please be sure to take advantage of these opportunities which are listed at this site:

    Thank you for being a contributor to making MSU a university with a positive trajectory for success.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • August 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The fall semester is now in full swing, and new faculty and staff are adjusting to the excitement and bustle of the new semester, along with those of us who are longer-term employees. The atmosphere of a new start repeats itself each fall and invigorates all. I am sure that each of you looks forward to this as I do.

    This semester marks a new beginning in terms of improving student success. The university is implementing a number of new measures to improve success. The Early Start program was successful in bringing first time freshmen to campus for second term of summer school, and we look to continue and enhance that program in the future. The Learning Center will be offering learning strategies classes for students who need to take any of the intermediate courses of algebra, reading, or English. In addition, The Learning Center, in conjunction with the University Academic Advising Center (UAAC), is offering a new college achievement program for a particular subset of undeclared majors, which includes a required course tailored to assist them in transitioning to the university. The UAAC will be counseling identified students before they proceed to the next semester under academic probation. In addition, on Friday, August 31, we will host an all-day summit to address promoting the college success of men of color (see this website for details: These efforts are consistent with and in support of the goals of MSU's new Strategic Plan.

    Monday, August 27, marked the official approval of MSU's Master Plan by MSU's Executive Council, making the campus Master Plan the official planning document for the infrastructure and building future of the university. The Master Plan Development and Advisory Committee reports to the President and oversees the implementation of the Master Plan (

    In September, the International Institute will inaugurate a new outreach function: the hosting of an international conference. This upcoming conference will be held on Monday, September 10 and is on the subject of international food security. It will feature speakers from many well-known international organizations and agencies. Individuals from campus and across the region are encouraged to participate. More information can be found at:

    Also new this semester is the start of the Green Fund which is a program to allow MSU students, staff, and faculty to contribute to a fund that will promote sustainability projects and renewable energy development. It was advocated by the MSU chapter of Students for a Sustainable Campus and implemented with the assistance and support of MSU's central administration and the Sustainability Committee. Check it out on the MyState portal and consider making a contribution. I should also point out that the Maroon Edition book Unbowed has as its theme environmental stewardship. We will be planting trees later in the year in the spirit of the Green Belt Movement.

    As I close, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the values of MSU as stated in the new Strategic Plan (to be released in the next couple of weeks): access and opportunity; excellence and innovation; communication and collaboration; integrity and accountability; citizenship and leadership; and respect. As we progress through this academic year, I hope you will all reflect on these.

    With warm regards and best wishes for a successful semester,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • July 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The heat of late June and early July has been stifling this summer. Despite the heat on the Mall in Washington D.C., the MSU exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was well attended and well received. You can see photos and videos at the following link: Thanks to all who made it a huge success, particularly Dr. Peter Ryan who coordinated the event.

    As we continue to develop means to more effectively serve the students of MSU, we are exploring a new program, which has been named Early Start, in the second
    term of summer school. About 75 first-time freshmen have already arrived on campus and are taking one or two classes as cohort groups in a step to get a head start on the fall semester. These students are clustered in the residence halls and are being given the opportunity to participate in special out of class activities. It is hoped that Early Start will expand each year and will assist with retention and time to degree completion.

    The evolution of Academic Outreach and Continuing Education (AOCE) has continued to occur. The Continuing Education unit is now administratively located within the Mississippi State University Extension Service and the International Education unit is now reporting to the International Institute. Consequently, the President and I have approved a name change for AOCE to more appropriately reflect its operation. It will now be called the Center for Distance Education.

    Please consider signing up to help on residence hall move-in day, August 11, 2012, by volunteering at

    Enjoy the rest of the summer as we prepare for the start of the fall semester.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • June 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The month of June is a busy month of preparation on many fronts as we continue with summer school and a variety of other activities. Freshman and transfer
    orientations are in full swing as we prepare for new students in the fall semester. The development of a topic for our SACS Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is coming to a close as we ramp up for the submission of our accreditation documents and a subsequent on-campus visit in early 2014.

    Lee Hall will be vacated by the end of June in preparation for an 18-month major renovation project which will completely remake the interior of the building. After the renovation, the Department of English and the Department of Classical and Modern Languages and Literature will move back in from their temporary location in Howell Hall. Also moving in will be the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, and the Office of
    Research and Economic Development.

    Planning is continuing on the new Classroom Building which will be located behind the YMCA. The new 150,000 square foot building (90,000 square feet of classroom space and 60,000 square feet of parking) will begin construction in 2013 with a probable completion date of January of 2015. Since it was decided to have only classrooms and no teaching laboratories in the building, I have appointed a separate committee to look at laboratory needs for the campus with Dr. Ray Vaughn and Dr. Julia Hodges co-chairing the committee.

    Other activities and items at the end of June and July include: the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act will begin on the mall in Washington, D.C. ( with MSU being one of 17 universities represented; the new Early Start Program ( which will bring about 100 first-time freshmen to campus to get an early jump on the fall semester by taking one or two courses in second term summer school; and the finalization of MSU's Strategic Plan which will debut in final form in the fall.

    I am excited that we will be offering a new administrative training program through the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President beginning in July for department heads and other academic administrators. This training will be led by Dr. Julia Hodges and will focus on MSU policies and practices, including best practices for efficient administering of units.

    I thank Drs. Allison Pearson and Julia Hodges for serving over the past nine months as interim co-executive directors of AOCE. They have done a wonderful job of transitioning AOCE into a more efficient and transparent organization. Dr. Steve Taylor will take over the reins of AOCE on July 1 as interim executive director for the next year.

    My thanks also go out to Mr. Butch Stokes and Ms. Sharon Nobles who are retiring after having served MSU loyally as Registrar and Associate Registrar, respectively. Dr. Lynn Reinschmiedt and Ms. Linda Buehler will jointly serve as interim co-registrars beginning July 1.

    Congratulations to our EcoCAR 2 team, national champions again!

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • May 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    It is a bittersweet time at MSU. We rejoice in our new graduates, all 2,560 of them from the May Commencement, and wish them great success in the future, knowing that they will be missed on campus. We also mourn the loss this past semester of five students and a staff member. We all share in these losses.

    The university is preparing to implement the second phase of the budget cycle in which President Keenum has indicated that we will be able to reward productivity
    of the faculty and staff in a modest way with a 1.5% raise pool. As we move forward as a university, I hope that we can continue to recognize the accomplishments of our faculty and staff.

    As you make your summer plans, I hope that you will consider taking part in two MSU activities. If you are in the Washington, D.C. area around the beginning of
    July, be sure to visit the MSU exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June 27 - July 8. We are one of 17 universities that have been selected to participate. Details of this are on the MSU website at: The second activity is the reading of the Maroon Edition book, "Unbowed" by Wangari Maathai. As noted by Whit Waide during our recent Honors Orientation session, the story of Dr. Maathai in Kenya parallels many aspects of MSU as a land-grant university: the bond to the land and the people and the creation, sharing, and application of knowledge for the common good. I urge our faculty to consider including "Unbowed" in their fall syllabi as appropriate.

    My congratulations go out to Dr. Lori Bruce who was recently selected as the newest Giles Distinguished Professor at MSU. I also congratulate the 12 individuals who won Zacharias Distinguished Staff Awards, announced at our annual Staff Appreciation Day on May 18. I continue to be proud of the achievements of our faculty, staff, and students at MSU.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • April 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    April will be a month of many activities as we prepare for the end of the semester and for Commencement. On Monday, April 9, Dr. Keenum unveiled the Maroon Edition book for 2012, "Unbowed" by the late Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. In the summer and fall, we will be planning many activities associated with the themes of the memoir which include personal determination
    and environmental responsibility. I hope all in the university community will obtain a copy of this inspirational book and join with our freshmen in reading

    I am pleased to announce that Dr. Keith Coble has been selected as the MSU recipient of the 2012 SEC Faculty Achievement Award. One outstanding faculty scholar from each SEC university has been selected to be honored. A process was established at each university to select faculty members with a "record of extraordinary teaching; and have a record of scholarship that is recognized nationally and/or internationally." As a Giles Distinguished Professor, Dr. Coble continues to bring honor and recognition to MSU. More information on the award can be found at:

    I have been encouraged by the activities of the recently created university Committee on Work-Life Balance. The committee members are working with university personnel to better define and expand opportunities for our employees to manage their work responsibilities with various aspects of their personal lives. I would like to take this opportunity to ask department heads to be
    flexible in accommodating such life events as the birth of a child. I would encourage department heads to consult with me or others in my office if you have
    questions with regard to how to manage such events in the context of your department workload.

    Dean Gary Myers of the College of Arts and Sciences has chosen to return to the faculty on July 1 to continue service to the university as a Professor of English. I will be appointing an interim dean in the near future and then conducting a national search during the 2012-2013 academic year. My thanks go to Dean Myers for his leadership in advancing the mission of the College of Arts and Sciences.

    Best wishes for a successful end of the semester.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • March 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The month of March marks the two-year point in my continuing tenure as Provost and Executive Vice President. It is a deep honor and privilege to be able to serve my alma mater in this capacity. I continue to be grateful for this opportunity.

    During the first two days of March, MSU hosted the second annual Diversity Conference on our campus through the auspices of the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities. The conference highlighted the importance of having diverse thought and culture in an educational environment and the fact that promoting diversity and excellence are mutually congruous and complementary pursuits. At MSU, we remain stalwartly committed to both excellence and diversity.

    Construction is on schedule for the two new residence halls south of Rice Hall. They will be named Oak Hall and Magnolia Hall and will be completed in time for
    the fall 2012 semester. Planning continues for the new classroom building and for a replacement facility for Aiken Village.

    The President's Committee on Planning is currently reviewing the public comments that have been submitted through the website for the university's Strategic Plan. It is our intent to finalize the plan by the beginning of the fall semester.

    I hope that each of you has a great second half of the spring semester.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • February 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    February has brought the semester into full swing. This month we had the first meeting of the Information Technology Council. Under the direction of Chief
    Information Officer Mike Rackley, it will coordinate and unify, where appropriate, IT functions across the campus. We are already looking at possibilities for a single email system for the campus and further ways to go paperless with MSU forms. I have also asked Executive Director of Campus Operations Amy Tuck to begin looking at ways to better coordinate our custodial
    and maintenance functions on campus, as was suggested in the report of the Select Committee on Efficiencies and Innovations.

    Also this month, I am appointing a new university committee, the Sustainability Committee, as is specified in a new policy recently passed on sustainability It will be broad-based, and it will "set a framework and procedure for sustainable facility development and operations, grounds development and maintenance, materials procurement and disposal, and transportation." In keeping with the effort to encourage conservation of energy resources, our parking options for 2012-2013 will include a couple of park-and-ride opportunities at reduced rates, and Parking Services is looking to expand its shuttle routes in the future into the community to
    encourage the use of public transportation as an alternative to driving.

    Last week, I was in charge of leading the discussion in the last listening session for the university's process to develop a Quality Enhancement Plan to enhance a single component of undergraduate learning. Dr. Keenum was also present at the session, and he and I both were encouraged by the enthusiasm that has been exhibited by faculty members and staff throughout the process as we
    move further along the path of reaffirmation of accreditation by SACS.

    Progress continues to be made on planning for the new 90,000 square foot classroom building. With input from the classroom subcommittee of the Master Plan Development and Advisory Committee (MPDAC), the architects are adjusting layouts of various spaces and classrooms and should report back later this month. Similarly, the architects for the Aiken Village project are producing additional designs for consideration and should report back to the MPDAC within a month or so. As you know, we are making plans to rebuild housing at Aiken Village for graduate students, international students, and married students.

    As you may have already heard, the Faculty Senate is taking a look the P&T Procedures document. There are a couple of items to clarify, and since they have the document on the table, they will read through all of it for possible edits. Additionally, I have asked the Senate to consider a possible job description and annual review process for Instructors which could then be
    included in the Faculty Handbook.

    I am pleased to announce that beginning in the fall of 2012, I will be having Associate Vice President Dr. Julia Hodges conduct a series of administrative
    training sessions for department heads and other academic administrators in the specifics of practices and policies at MSU. We will begin taking requests to
    participate in the sessions as soon as the content and dates are finalized. This will be an on-going process which can accommodate all interested administrators over time.

    As we finish out February, please consider registering for the Diversity Conference ( which will take place on our campus March 1-2, 2012.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • January 2012
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    It is great to see the campus invigorated anew with the excitement of the start of spring semester. We have a number of outstanding events and speakers planned for the early spring and I hope that you will take advantage of these opportunities. They include a teaching seminar by Dr. Saundra McGuire of LSU on January 20 (information can be found at and a two-part
    faculty recruitment workshop sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Equity Programs on January 24 and January 31 (

    Our fall academic calendar has changed as a result of the change in the fall football schedule. We will not have a Thursday night football game. Consequently, the Calendar Committee met and recommended a change in the fall schedule which is now approved. We have restored class meetings on Thursday, October 11, and on Monday and Tuesday, November 21 and 22. The 2012 Fall Break
    will now occur on Thursday and Friday, October 4 and 5.

    We will be keeping the window open for feedback on the MSU Strategic Plan ( in order for the website to be open simultaneously with the forthcoming website for review of the university's research priorities, as recently announced by Vice President David Shaw. I encourage you to comment on both of these important documents. I would also ask you to consider submitting potential ideas for our upcoming Quality Enhancement Plan to improve some identified aspect of the undergraduate educational experience at MSU (

    I, along with my team in the Office of the Provost, remain committed to finding ways to enhance all of the programs at MSU and reward our personnel. I will continue working hard in 2012 with President Keenum and the Vice Presidents to do so.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President