An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

August 2020

Even as we continue our work to meet the significant challenges posed by COVID-19, I’ve appreciated the undeniable energy and excitement on our campus and in the local community as we look forward to the start of a new academic year. We have developed a comprehensive return plan and launched the Cowbell Well campaign, and I encourage you to utilize these resources (Return Plan and Cowbell-Well).

Please let me take a few minutes of your time for an update from the Division of Academic Affairs.

New era begins for campus and community with opening of Partnership Middle School

It was deeply gratifying, both professionally and personally, to be a part of the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the state-of-the-art Partnership Middle School earlier this month. The long journey to reach that day started back in 2014, as the process to consolidate the Starkville and Oktibbeha Country school districts moved forward. I was honored to represent Mississippi State on the consolidation commission, and to contribute to the future of a school system that means so much to my own family. Now, five years after the successful consolidation in 2015, the Partnership Middle School represents what is possible when our university and our local community work together and think big. I look forward to being a part of even more projects like this one in the years to come. Read More

Instructional guide supports faculty with resources for innovative teaching methods

An essential factor in our record-setting enrollment growth over the past five years has been the exceptional teaching, mentoring, and classroom experience that our faculty provide. Effective instruction is even more essential in the COVID-19 world, where we are challenged to teach across a range of platforms — including in-person, online, hybrid, synchronous and asynchronous. Members of our Online Education Task Force, chaired by Associate Vice President Brent Fountain, have been looking closely at how best to develop and deploy resources to support faculty, and we’ve launched a new website that does just that. My thanks to all who have contributed to this important initiative.

Kudos and congratulations

Every month, I look forward to sharing faculty and staff success stories with you, and here are a few that have crossed my desk recently:

  • Congratulations to Christine Jackson, associate athletic director/executive director of athletic academics, who has been named the 2020 recipient of the Lan Hewlett Award by the National Association of Academic and Student-Athlete Development Professionals. The prestigious award is named in honor of Lan Hewlett, a long-time advisor at the University of Texas who is generally acknowledged as the first to provide academic support services to student-athletes. Read more
  • Kudos to Associate Dean Stephen Cunetto and the MSU Libraries team for working to add Mississippi Delta Community College to the Mississippi Library Partnership. The MLP is a coalition of more than 55 libraries across the state that MSU started in the 1990s. We provide support and training and share library holdings with other members. Automations System Manager Anita Winger provides the majority of the technical support for the libraries with support from faculty and staff in Collection Management Services and Access Services.
  • Congratulations to Jervette Ward, an associate professor in the Department of English, who has been elected vice president of the College Language Association. The CLA’s focus is on serving the academic, scholarly and professional interests of African Americans in the collegiate community. After her two-year term as VP, she will become CLA president in 2022. Read more
  • Kudos to Leslie Burger, an assistant extension professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, who has been named a fellow of The Wildlife Society. The prestigious honor recognizes Dr. Burger for her remarkable service to the wildlife profession. Read more
  • Congratulations to Juan Silva, a professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, who has been named to the Executive Board of the Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance, which supports safe food production for the U.S. market by developing a core curriculum and corresponding technical educational materials about food safety risk-reduction preventive controls that comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act. Read more
  • Kudos to Molly Zuckerman, an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, who has been awarded a $260,000, four-year project to advance her research. As principal investigator, she and a team of colleagues are examining how chronic stress, age, health conditions and immune status relate to either recovery from syphilis infection or late-stage disease development. Read more
  • Congratulations to David Buys, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, who has been named a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America. Dr. Buys, who as a gerontologist has focused much of his research on the intersection between nutrition and aging, is being recognized in the behavioral and social sciences section. Read more

Final words

As most of you know, the Census Bureau has cut the deadline to participate by one month — moving it back from October 31 to September 30. Typically, Mississippi’s response rate for the Census is low, and our state loses much needed funding because of this failure to fully participate. If you haven’t done so, I’d encourage you to complete a Census form and to encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. More information

Thank you for reading this month’s letter. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns.


Hail State!



Dr. David R. Shaw is Provost and Executive Vice President at Mississippi State University. His email address is