An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

January 2021

I hope that you had an enjoyable winter break and holiday season. While we continue to face challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, I believe we are well prepared for a very successful spring semester. Many of you are asking questions, and rightly so, about our plans regarding distribution of vaccines for COVID-19. As you have probably seen, this has been a changing and evolving situation, and we do not want to provide information that is not accurate or subject to change or reversal. We expect to have much more information this week, so please watch for specific targeted email announcements regarding dates, signup methods, and the prioritization process. Please let me take a few minutes of your time for a brief update from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

Task force reports available for review and comment

As you’ll recall, when I became provost about a year and a half ago, we formed several task forces to assess operations throughout the Division of Academic Affairs and other key areas. I appreciate the work of our chairs and all who served on these task forces, and invite you to review the final reports that have been completed. I am very pleased with the thoughts and insights exhibited. I would encourage you to read these final reports carefully, and I would welcome and appreciate your feedback after you’ve considered their recommendations.

Student Success Task Force town hall January 21

And speaking of task forces, I hope you can join me and Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt on January 21 from 2-3 p.m. for a Student Success Task Force town hall meeting. Dr. Hyatt and the task force members recently completed their final report, and we now look forward to discussing their work and how we can enhance our student success efforts campus-wide. You may access the meeting and view the final report

Reminder: New telework agreements required for 2021

A reminder that all telework agreements implemented in 2020 have expired. Any employee who wishes to telework needs a new 2021 telework agreement on file with Human Resources Management. The purpose of the telework agreement is to ensure that the employee and supervisor both agree that the essential functions of the employee’s job can and will be performed from a remote location. Telework can also be allowed for a portion of a job that can be performed remotely, even if all responsibilities cannot. As you all know, it is critical to have an honest and accurate assessment, as state law indicates that failure to work as scheduled is considered misuse of state funds. Additional information about 2021 telework agreements and related requirements

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 the College of Arts and Sciences faculty honored recently with Dean’s Eminent Scholar Awards: John E. Forde, professor of communication, Phil and Kari Oldham Faculty Mentor Award; Rinat I. Gabitov, associate professor of geosciences, Dean’s Eminent Scholar in Mathematics/Natural/Physical Sciences; Andrew F. Lang, associate professor and graduate coordinator for the history department, Beverly B. and Gordon W. Gulmon Dean’s Distinguished Professor Award; and Julius A. Nukpezah, assistant professor of public policy and administration, Dean’s Eminent Scholar in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Read more
  • Kudos to faculty members recently recognized by the College of Arts and Science Ambassadors for excellence in teaching and who “eased the burden” of COVID-19 restrictions placed on students in 2020: Jennifer Beckman, Diego Thompson Bello, Brian Bill, Kristin Boyce, Karyn Brown, Kimberly Brown, James Chamberlain, Tim Derby, Deb Eakin, Jim Giesen, Steven Gwaltney, David Hoffman, Carolyn Holmes, Giles Lindley, Lauren Lindsey, Shane Miller, Deb Mlsna, Charles Nettles, Catherine Pierce, Dan Punday, Brandy Roberts, John Rodgers, Courtney Thompson, Ashley Vancil-Leap, Jon Woody, and Molly Zuckerman. Read more
  • And congratulations to Kyle Steward, the executive director of external affairs in the Office of the President, on the occasion of his well-deserved retirement. He has been an outstanding colleague and leader on our campus, and it’s been an honor to work with him. He also has made many contributions to our state and nation in his work for the late Congressman Sonny Montgomery and for U.S. Senator Roger Wicker. Kyle, we wish you the very best as you begin this new chapter in your life.

Final Word

Under the circumstances and uncertainties that we faced, I can’t imagine our fall semester having gone any better, and that’s such an incredible testament to you — our extraordinary faculty and staff — as well as our students. I applaud you for your efforts, and ask that you continue to meet the challenges we face going into the spring. I’d also ask that you continue to communicate with your students, both proactively and in response to their questions and concerns as we move through the semester. Thank you for reading this month’s letter. As always, your questions, suggestions, comments, and concerns are welcome at

Hail State!


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