An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

July 2020

In my weekly “Insights and Updates from the Provost,” I’m focusing on the many COVID-related planning activities we have underway. Here, in my monthly “Dear Colleagues” letter to you, I’m going to continue to share many other items of importance to faculty and staff. And we certainly have a lot going on here on campus this summer. It’s exciting to see the many construction projects making progress, such as the Rula Engineering and Science Complex and the new Music Building, as well as the many roadway, parking lot, and sidewalk improvement projects.

International Institute working with students affected by ICE changes

I want to reiterate President Keenum’s statement about the new federal guidelines that are affecting our international students. Our university has a long and rich tradition of welcoming students from around the world, and our campus and local community are better for it. We are committed to ensuring that these members of the Mississippi State family receive the support they need. I’d encourage you to read Dr. Keenum’s statement if you haven’t done so, and to visit the International Institute website for additional information --

Tenure clock extension reminder

As I mentioned in last month’s letter, the IHL Board of Trustees has approved an automatic one-year extension of the tenure clock for any faculty member who accepts this extension. The acceptance can be made, at any point up to the deadline for tenure application, by any faculty member who was employed by MSU at the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. Additional details and a request form can be found online

Blackbourn returning to the classroom

I’m sure that many of you have seen the news about Dean Richard Blackbourn’s announcement that he is returning to the classroom in 2021 after 15 years at the helm of the College of Education. Dr. Blackbourn has had many notable achievements during his tenure, and I am grateful for his leadership and many contributions to Mississippi State University as dean. Read more

Kudos and congratulations

During these challenging times, it’s especially important to remember that the work of our colleagues continues, and we should celebrate their achievements. Here are a few that have come to my attention recently:

  • Congratulations to Athena Owen Nagel, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Geosciences, who is the recipient of the Center for Distance Education’s 2020 Online Teaching Award. Read more
  • Kudos to Karen Davidson, an MSU Libraries associate professor, who recently received the NASIG Capstone Award, which recognizes a professional who has made significant and distinguished contributions to the field of information resource management. Read more about the award
  • Congratulations to Mary Ann Jones, an MSU Libraries associate professor, who has been elected to serve a three-year term on the NASIG Executive Board as member-at-large. Read more
  • Kudos to Angel Brutus, the director of counseling and sport psychology, who has been honored by the Association for Applied Sport Psychology with its 2020 Early Career Practitioner Award. Read more
  • Congratulations to Chip Templeton, the director of the MSU Small Business Development Center, who has earned the Economic Development Finance Professional certification from the National Development Council. Read more
  • Kudos to Alan Marcus, a William L. Giles Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of History, who has been honored by the Agricultural History Society with its Gladys L. Baker Award for Lifetime Achievement. Read more
  • Congratulations to Raja Reddy, a research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and MAFES scientist, who has been elected president of the Mississippi Academy of Sciences. And a thank you to LaShan Simpson, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, who recently completed a one-year term of service as MAS president. Read more
  • Kudos to Dallas Breen, the executive director of the Stennis Institute of Government, who has been named president of the Consortium of University Public Service Organizations. Read more
  • And a very special congratulations to Professor of Classics Bob Wolverton, Sr. on his nearly seven decades of service in education and his well-deserved retirement. He has been an outstanding teacher, mentor, colleague, and leader on our campus and in our community since he arrived in 1977. Please join me in congratulating him on an outstanding career. Read more

Final words

As we continue to work through the many challenges of the coronavirus and COVID-19, I appreciate your understanding and flexibility as conditions continue to change. The health and well-being of our students, faculty, staff, and community are driving every decision we make as together we work toward a safe and successful kickoff to a new academic year in August.

Thank you for reading this month’s letter, as well as my weekly “Insights & Updates” message. Please feel free to contact me at 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