An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

October 2020

It’s hard to believe that we reached the mid-point of the fall semester this week, and that classes end in less than six weeks. We remain cautiously optimistic about where we are with COVID-19, and I urge you to continue to wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and wash your hands frequently. It’s also very important to get a flu vaccine this year, and they are available to students and employees at the Longest Student Health Center. Please let me take a few minutes of your time for an update from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

Annual performance evaluations

All of us have been impacted by COVID-19, professionally and personally, in so many ways. President Keenum and I are acutely aware that it has impacted faculty and staff performance, and we have continually discussed the need for understanding and compassion with students and employees alike. As we plan to conduct performance evaluations for CY 2020, I would encourage you to include a narrative in the “Other” section at the end of your performance appraisal document about how COVID-19 has impacted your performance. This narrative will be taken into account by your supervisor as evaluations are conducted in the spring.

Vice President for Access, Diversity and Inclusion

I’m sure that most of you have seen the news about the promotion of Ra’Sheda Boddie Forbes to vice president for access, diversity, and inclusion, which President Keenum announced at the fall meeting of the general faculty on September 22. I am excited about Vice President Forbes taking on this important leadership role on our campus, and look forward to working with her to further enhance diversity in our faculty ranks and to provide greater access and opportunities for underrepresented students. Read more at

Four searches moving forward

During his general faculty meeting presentation, President Keenum also announced that several key leadership searches are moving forward:

I want to thank all who are serving as members of these committees, as well as the interim vice presidents and deans who are leading these areas so well during these challenging times. Additionally, if you haven’t seen it, a video of the general faculty meeting with Dr. Keenum’s presentation is available online at

2021 spring semester academic calendar updated

Last week, we announced several adjustments to the academic calendar for the upcoming spring semester related to our ongoing response to COVID-19. As I stated in an Office of Public Affairs news release, these changes build on the success we’ve had this fall, and I expect the changes for spring to help us continue to protect our students, faculty, and staff as we work together to fulfill our mission of teaching, research, and service. Read more at

Reminder: Policy addresses employee political activity

As the November 3rd general election nears, I thought I’d share this reminder: With political campaigning underway this fall, Mississippi State's Office of General Counsel offers the following reminder of the university’s policy on political activities. There are several basic guidelines that university employees should keep in mind when engaging in any form of political activity: It is unlawful for any employee of MSU to influence or attempt to influence, directly or indirectly, another employee to vote or not to vote for any particular person or group of persons in any election. When engaging in any form of political activity, employees should not use their university title after their names in letters, graphic presentations or advertisements. Any endorsement of a candidate by an employee (whether oral, written or in graphic form) should never imply in any way that the candidate is endorsed by the university or a component of the university. The above list is not exhaustive. MSU employees are encouraged to review OP 01.14: Political Activities in its entirety and to understand their rights and responsibilities. That policy is online at

October 15 deadline for Grisham Master Teacher Award and Alumni Association Teaching Excellence Awards

The deadline for the 2021 Grisham Master Teacher Award, Alumni Association Early Career Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award, and Alumni Association Graduate and/or Professional Teaching Excellence Award is coming up October 15. Interested faculty should submit an electronic application in PDF form to my office via email to and you can find additional information about the awards, eligibility requirements, and an application cover page at

October 16 deadline for MSU Excellence in Community Engagement Awards

And speaking of deadlines, the deadline for the MSU Excellence in Community Engagement Awards is coming up October 16. These awards recognize outstanding accomplishment in community engagement in the categories of Community-Engaged Service, Community-Engaged Teaching and Learning, Community- Engaged Research, and Scholarship of Engagement. Additional information and the application are online at

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:

  • Kudos to Raja Reddy, a research professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station scientist, who has been honored with the 2020 ICAC Researcher of the Year Award from the International Cotton Advisory Committee. This award is internationally recognized as the top award in cotton science. It is globally accepted as the most prestigious and the highest international recognition for cotton scientists. Well done!
  • Congratulations to our faculty and staff recently honored by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association: Athena Owen Nagel, an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Geosciences, was honored with the UPCEA South Region Professional, Continuing and Online Educator Award. Kiley Forsythe, an instructional designer for the Center for Distance Education, was honored with the UPCEA South Region Emerging Professional, Continuing and Online Education Leader Award. Mark Jimerson, the CDE coordinator for College of Business programs, was one of only 13 selected nationally to participate in the inaugural Bethaida “Bea” Gonzalez Diversity in Leadership Scholars cohort. Read more at
  • Kudos to Chris Snyder, dean of the Shackouls Honors College and a professor in the Department of History, who has released his 10th book -- “Hobbit Virtues: Rediscovering Virtue Ethics through J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings” (Pegasus Books). Read more at
  • Congratulations to our newest faculty Fulbright scholars: Rinat Gabitov, an associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, will conduct research in the United Kingdom; Bryan Jones, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will help Moroccan academia and industry partners develop a capstone engineering design course; and Margaret Khaitsa, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Population Medicine will travel to Kenya to teach veterinary epidemiology and assist with leadership development programs for women. Read more at

Final Words

Thank you for reading this month’s letter. As always, your questions and comments are welcome at

Hail State!


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