An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

September 2019

Fall is my favorite season of the year, and while it may still feel like summer, the fall semester and the new academic year are well underway here at Mississippi State University. It’s a busy and exciting time on campus, and I’d like to take a few minutes to give you an update from the Provost’s Office.

Special task force to look at evaluating excellence in teaching

Earlier this year, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved changes to its policy for evaluation of all employees, including all faculty. This change has prompted many discussions and sparked more than a few questions about how it affects MSU. Last month, we announced the formation of a task force to develop a new plan for how we evaluate teaching and promote excellence. This issue is complex, and can be contentious, but let me assure you that I understand and appreciate the concerns that have been shared with me and welcome additional feedback as we move forward with this process. Read more at

Bachelor of Applied Science planning and development moving forward

As I mentioned briefly last month, IHL trustees have approved a new policy allowing us to offer students an applied baccalaureate degree program. In support of this IHL priority and the new policy, we are in the process of developing a new Bachelor of Applied Science degree. The BAS will help us better meet the needs of adults who have completed a technical associate’s degree program through a community college or the military and need additional education to advance their careers. We think business and industry will also be very interested in working with us to help their employees earn a four-year degree. I welcome your ideas as we move forward with this new program. Please feel free to send your comments to me at or reach out to Associate Provost Peter Ryan at

$27.9 million federal grant to support college access and readiness

I hope you’ve seen the news about the $27.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education we’ve been awarded to help lower-income students in the state prepare for success in college. In addition to students in the partner school districts, Mississippians throughout the state will benefit from GEAR UP. Project partners will develop a virtual reality tour app that includes all of Mississippi’s public university and community colleges, as well as eight key industries. Additionally, a chatbot will be developed that can provide 24/7 responses to common state and federal financial aid questions. Our state needs more college graduates, and this program led by the College of Education and the Research and Curriculum Unit will most certainly pay dividends for participating students, their families, and their communities. Read more at

Engineering on the Coast growing, adding industrial option

We’ve been pleased with the growth of our Engineering on the Coast program, and recently announced that we will begin offering an industrial engineering option in the fall of 2020. Engineering on the Coast is a perfect example of what we can achieve by working collaboratively. Kudos to the Bagley College of Engineering and our partners at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and in local industry for their commitment to this innovative program. Read more at

The Chronicle: MSU a “Great College to Work For”

It’s great to see that The Chronicle of Higher Education has named Mississippi State a “Great College to Work For” for the fourth year in a row. We received top rankings in nine of 12 recognition categories that include collaborative governance; professional and career development programs; teaching environment; facilities, workspace and security; job satisfaction; work/life balance; confidence in senior leadership; respect and appreciation; and tenure clarity and process. We were also named to The Chronicle’s Honor Roll, a distinction for institutions that are cited most often across all recognition categories. Read more at

Applications sought for teaching excellence awards

Faculty who are interested in submitting applications for the 2020 Grisham Master Teacher Award, the Alumni Association Early Career Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award or the Alumni Association Graduate and/or Professional Teaching Excellence Award have until Oct. 15 to do so. The University Instructional Improvement Committee will select and announce the winners before the end of the Spring 2020 semester. All current full-time faculty members with the required years of service, regardless of rank, are eligible to apply for these awards. You can find the eligibility requirements and application details at

Three Minute Thesis Research Competition set for November

I’ll remind you that your graduate students are invited to participate in the Three Minute Thesis Research competition. Online registration is open and the deadline to apply is noon on Nov. 4. 3MT is a competition that challenges graduate students to present a compelling verbal presentation of their thesis/dissertation topic and its significance in just three minutes. 3MT develops communication skills and supports the development of graduate students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a public audience. Read more at

Kudos and congratulations

* Congratulations to Cathleen Mochal-King, associate clinical professor and equine service chief, who has been named the inaugural Terri Nusz Endowed Equine Professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Read more at

* Kudos to Jimmy Avery, Extension professor of aquaculture and the director of the USDA Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, who has been elected president of the World Aquaculture Society. Read more at

* Congratulations to Bo Tang, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who is the recipient of the National Institute for Justices New Investigator/Early Career Award. Read more at

* Kudos to Yang Zhao, as assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, who has been awarded the Sunkist Young Designer Award by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Read more at

* Congratulations to Jacob Gines, an associate professor in the School of Architecture, who has received a Distinguished and Young Alumni Award from the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning. Read more at

* Kudos to Alexis Gregory, an associate professor in the School of Architecture, whose book, “Comprehensive Tectonics: Technical Building Assemblies from the Ground to the Sky,” was published July 30. Read more at

* Congratulations to Jeff Fulton, as assistant professor in the Interior Design Program, who has been awarded the national Ina Mae Kaplan Grant for Historic Preservation. Mississippi State was the only recipient this year. Read more at

Final words

Please feel free to contact me at if you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns to share.

Hail State!