An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

December 2020

Season's greetings from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President. Before we officially start winter break in just a few days, please let me share an update from the Division of Academic Affairs with you.

Student Success Task Force shares final report

This fall, the task forces that have been examining our academic operations wrapped up their work and started putting together final reports, which we’ve been sharing online. Most recently, the members of the Student Success Task Force, chaired by Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt, shared their final report with me, and it’s available for your review at

I look forward to sharing the remaining final reports from our task forces with you in the very near future.

One day, four commencements – and Meridian too!

With all of the uncertainty we’ve faced since the first day of classes on August 17, it was remarkable to conclude the fall semester with four in-person commencement ceremonies on November 25, with an additional ceremony at MSU-Meridian on December 1. I don’t think they could have gone any better, and I’ve been so encouraged by the positive feedback we received from our newest graduates and their families. We developed a very strong plan to protect all who were participating, and I am grateful to Assistant Vice President John Dickerson and his team in the Office of the Registrar, the members of our Commencement Committee, and to all of our faculty and staff who had a hand in ensuring a successful and meaningful graduation day for our students.

Strong enrollment for winter session

In addition to the success we had with commencement, I’m also pleased to report that enrollment in “Winter Express” is very strong. It’s the first time in more than 10 years that we’ve offered a winter session option, and both undergraduate and graduate students have responded very favorably to the opportunity. I appreciate the faculty who are offering classes this month, as well as the staff who have supported this innovative initiative. Well done!

Study Abroad: Unfortunate but necessary decision

While there is no shortage of great things happening on our campus, it was an unfortunate but necessary decision to cancel our study abroad programs for the spring semester. As I noted in my November 20 announcement, this decision was made based upon the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout the world, and I certainly do understand it was disappointing news for those planning to participate in study abroad this spring. We continue to work toward resuming study abroad this summer and fall. I expect a decision to be made about summer programs in February.

Reminder: New telework agreements required in January

As I mentioned in last month’s letter, all telework agreements implemented in 2020 will expire at the end of this year. Any employee who wishes to continue teleworking will need a new 2021 telework agreement on file with Human Resources Management. The purpose of the telework agreement is to ensure that the employee and department head/director both agree that the essential functions of the employee’s job can and will be performed from a remote location. I’d also remind you again that failure to work as scheduled is considered misuse of state funds. For additional information about 2021 telework agreements and related requirements, please see

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 Julie Jordan -- Mississippi State University’s new vice president for research and economic development. I look forward to continuing to work with her and the ORED team to help move our institution forward. Read More
  • Kudos to Raja Reddy , a research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, MAFES scientist, and director of the Soil-Plant-Atmospheric-Research (SPAR) unit, who has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Read More
  • Congratulations to Catherine Pierce, a professor in the Department of English, who is the recipient of a second Pushcart Prize for her poem “Entreaty.” Read more
  • Kudos to Jason Barrett, an assistant Extension professor with the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute, who has been named 2020 chair of the Alabama/Mississippi Section of the American Water Works Association. Read more
  • Congratulations to Raju Rangappa, an assistant research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, who has been honored with the Early Career Agricultural Scientist Award from the Association of Agricultural Scientists of Indian Origin. Read more
  • Kudos to Rosalind Operton, an assistant clinical professor in the Division of Education at MSU-Meridian, who has been selected as a member of the 2020-2021 Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program. She will be learning how to become a more effective advocate for education in our state and nation by leveraging personal stories and experiences to impact policy change, researching policy positions, and engaging state and national policymakers around issues that are important to education.
  • Congratulations to Angela Savage, director of field education and instructor of social work at MSU-Meridian, who has been appointed to serve a three-year term as chair of the Educators of Color Committee for the Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors. The Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors, Inc., is dedicated to the promotion of excellence in baccalaureate social work education.
  • Kudos to David Buys, an MSU Extension Service health specialist and associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, who has been elected to serve on the board of directors for the National Board of Public Health Examiners. Read more

Final Word

During this special time of year, I wish you happy holidays and all the best in the upcoming new year. I hope that all of you can use the time we have during the break to relax, reflect, and prepare for an even better and brighter 2021 after all that we have been through the past 12 months.

Merry Christmas and Hail State!


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