An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

November 2020

It’s hard to believe that we’ve concluded fall classes and final exams are underway. I continue to be so proud of what we’ve been able to achieve by working together. Thank you for all that you have contributed to our efforts to move forward in the face of the many challenges of COVID-19. As we look forward to a short break next week, I hope that each one of you enjoys a very happy Thanksgiving. Before the semester draws to a close, please let me take a few minutes of your time for a brief update from the Division of Academic Affairs.

Setting a new enrollment record -- again!

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning released enrollment numbers this month, and we were very pleased to be able to make our official enrollment announcement. For the fall, we have a record 22,986 students, an increase of 760 from last year, and the sixth consecutive year of enrollment growth for Mississippi State. We are the only public university in the state to grow each of the past six years, and it is an incredible statement about the remarkable work of you -- our faculty and staff -- who are making a difference in the lives of our students every day -- especially during this incredibly challenging time. Read more

I’ll also remind you that for the first time in more than a decade we are offering students a special winter session from December 1 to January 4. We saw record enrollment for our summer sessions, and preliminary enrollment numbers for winter classes look very good too. Read more

Commencement set for Nov. 25, and Dec. 1 at MSU-Meridian

On November 25, we are set to celebrate our Fall 2020 graduates during four in-person commencement ceremonies in Humphrey Coliseum. These ceremonies will be followed by a ceremony at the MSU Riley Center for MSU-Meridian graduates on December 1. I believe we have a very strong plan in place to protect the health and safety of our graduates, their families and friends, as well as faculty and staff who will be participating. Sanitizing stations will be available, and special seating and distancing protocols will be in place. Additionally, face coverings are required. I appreciate all who have had a hand in ensuring a successful and meaningful graduation day for our students. Read more

HRM leadership transition

As you may have read in the Office of Public Affairs news release, HRM Deputy Director Leslie Corey is now leading MSU Human Resources Management as interim chief human resources officer. As I stated in the release, I have great confidence that her leadership will bring stability and innovation to HRM and that she will be an effective leader from day one. I appreciate Leslie taking on the added responsibilities of this interim role. Read more

New telework agreements required in January

Earlier this month, deans and department heads were sent updated guidance about teleworking, and I wanted to mention it again as we continue to plan for the start of the new year in January. It’s important to know that all telework agreements implemented in 2020 will expire at the end of the 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 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 Morgan Robinson, an assistant professor in the Department of History, who has been awarded a Humboldt Fellowship for research at Humboldt University in Berlin. The author of several articles and a book manuscript on the intellectual history of standard Swahili, she will be visiting archives throughout Germany in support of her developing project on learned institutions between Tanzania and Europe.
  • Kudos to Casey Barickman, as associate research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, who won the 2020 Best Paper Award from Horticulturae. Read more
  • Congratulations to Joel Paz, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, who has been recognized as a top alumnus of the University of the Philippines Los Banos. Read more
  • Kudos to Chuji Wang, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who has received a 24-month, $214,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to study fusion energy science. Read more
  • Congratulations to Tommy Phillips, an associate professor in the School of Human Sciences, who has received the Outstanding Paper Award for the Religion and Family Life Section of the National Council on Family Relations. Read more
  • Kudos to Rinat Gabitov, an associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, who is a co-principal investigator for a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation funding award. Read more
  • Congratulations to Eddie French, a professor and the head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, who has been selected for the National Academy of Public Administration’s 2020 Class of Academy Fellows. Read more
  • Kudos to Marc Measells, a senior extension associate with the MSU Extension Service, who has been named a fellow of the Society of American Foresters. Read more

Final words

I know all of you are like me -- ready for a change of pace after Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for the hard work everyone has put in to make our fall semester successful, and how faculty and staff have prioritized meeting the needs of our students in a safe and effective manner. I hope everyone can use the month of December to find the time to catch up on things at work that have had to slip because of the priorities during the semester. That hopefully will include some time for reflection about what we have experienced and learned over the past nine months. I know that there will be a number of departmental, college, and university activities planned for the time period leading up to the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break. I hope that you, like I, are actually looking forward to the change of pace and focused activity on important tasks that have been put off because of the urgency of teaching responsibilities in the pandemic.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving -- and Hail State!


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