An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

April 2021

Background Image Alternative: Dr. Shaw speaks at graduation

It’s hard to believe that we find ourselves in the last few days of classes with final exams starting next week and commencement at the end of the month. As I mentioned in my March letter to you, we’ll have four, in-person ceremonies in Humphrey Coliseum with two on April 29 and two on April 30. MSU-Meridian will host a ceremony at the MSU Riley Center on May 3 and the College of Veterinary Medicine has scheduled commencement for its DVM graduates on May 5. Additional information is available here

Considering all of the COVID-19 challenges we continued to face, I believe this semester has been an unqualified success, and I thank you for your contributions to it. I think we are all looking forward to a little down time this summer, but before the spring semester draws to a close, please let me share a brief update from the Division of Academic Affairs.

A Return to Traditional, Pre-COVID Operations

Last Friday, the Robert Holland Faculty Senate held its last regularly-scheduled meeting of the year, and I joined the senators for the opening of their meeting. I discussed a number of important issues affecting our campus, including the upcoming fall semester. As I’m sure all of you know, we are planning a broader return to traditional in-person instruction and normal operations this fall. This shift back to standard operations as we’ve long known them includes a change to existing telework agreements, which will end May 17. As noted in the email announcement about this change, employees with flexible work arrangements prior to the pandemic may be permitted to continue with those arrangements and should consult with their supervisor. Employees who have medical conditions requiring an accommodation that may include telework should complete the existing process for requesting a medical accommodation through Human Resources Management. We are also going to launch a new task force in the fall to examine the future of remote work, and so be on the lookout for additional information about it.

Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force Shares Recommendations

I’m pleased to report to you that the members of the Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force have completed their final report, and they shared their recommendations with me this week. That report is now available at here and I’d encourage you to review their findings and share your feedback as we move forward with discussions about next steps and implementation. I appreciate chair Jim Dunne for leading the group and thank everyone who served as a task force member.

DAFVM Leadership Structure Changes

By now, you’ve probably seen the news about several organizational changes to the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine that DAFVM Vice President Keith Coble and I announced on April 8. To reiterate our statement, it is clear that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Forest Resources, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, and the Forest and Wildlife Research Center need distinct leadership, and so moving forward, the two national searches we’ll conduct will seek a new director of MAFES, who will also serve as dean of CALS, and select a new dean of CFR and director of FWRC.

Dean of MSU Libraries Search Continues

Earlier this month, I also announced that the search for a new dean of MSU Libraries will continue. We are committed to finding the best possible professional to fill this essential leadership role on our campus and continuing the search will allow us to do so. I appreciate the commitment of the search committee members and search chair Peter Ryan to continue their work. I also thank Tommy Anderson for his willingness to continue serving as interim dean and Shackouls Honors College Dean Chris Snyder for delaying his return to the Department of History faculty until January 2022. As previously announced, Dr. Anderson will be serving as Shackouls interim dean after we fill the MSU Libraries position.

Lawton Garners Prestigious NSF Career Award

I’m continually impressed with the outstanding young faculty we have on campus, and I was not surprised to see the National Science Foundation recognize one of them with a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award recently. Andrew Lawton, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has been awarded a five-year, $870,000 grant from the NSF for his research on brain development. Additionally, Holli Seitz, director of The Message Laboratory in the Social Science Research Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, will join Dr. Lawton in team-teaching a course for undergraduates based on the research he is exploring with his CAREER grant. Read more here

NSF Awards Li EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 4 Grant

In addition to Dr. Lawton’s CAREER grant, the NSF also recently awarded Like Li, an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering and Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems affiliate, with a two-year, $170,000 EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 4 grant. The grant is one of just 35 awarded nationwide. Dr. Li is also part of a nationwide team that recently received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a low-cost, zero-emission solid-state fuel that can efficiently store solar energy through high-temperature thermochemical reactions. Read more here

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 Jason Tiffin, the longtime leader of the Information Technology Services web development team, who has been named director of ITS Enterprise Information Systems, which includes groups focused on application administration, web services, web development, financial systems and student systems. Read more here
  • Kudos to Dipangkar Dutta, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, who is MSU’s winner of the 2021 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award, which annually honors distinguished faculty from across the SEC for their teaching accomplishments, scholarly contributions and discoveries. Read more here
  • Congratulations to David Buys, an associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion and MSU Extension Service state health specialist, who has been honored for excellence in research by NE:1939, a USDA multistate research group focused on improving the health span of aging adults through diet and physical activity. Read more here

Final Words

Thank you for reading this month’s letter. I welcome your questions, suggestions, comments, and concerns at

Hail State!


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