An Academic Affairs UpdateDear Colleagues

September 2021

Background Image Alternative: Dr. Shaw speaks at graduation

I’d like to begin this month’s letter by addressing an ongoing question I’ve received the past few weeks. During a special called meeting on August 27, the State Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, whose governing authority over public universities is set in the Mississippi Constitution, considered and passed a motion stating that “institutions are directed to refrain from mandating the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of enrollment or employment.” The only exception is for clinical settings, such as those found at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The minutes from this meeting are available in the September board book posted on the IHL website at

I hope this explanation of what the trustees approved last month and their authority to do so adds clarity to your understanding of COVID-19 vaccination on our campus and at our fellow IHL institutions. Let me assure you that we will continue to promote and provide vaccination here at Mississippi State. As always, I welcome your comments and questions about our COVID-19 mitigation efforts at and I would invite you to visit for additional information and resources.

Please let me take a few minutes of your time for a brief update from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President:

MSU grows student success programs, examining academic advising innovations

I hope you saw the news release from the Office of Public Affairs about the new student success initiatives we are moving forward with, including enhanced onboarding, data-informed advising, improved academic offerings, and more intervention methods. And thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor to the MSU Foundation, we are creating a Center for Academic Advising as a focal point of these efforts. We are also enhancing many of the successful programs that have been in place for some time. I want to again thank the members of the Student Success Task Force who developed these ideas and new measures. Read more at

Applications open for 2022 university teaching awards

We are now accepting applications for the 2022 Grisham Master Teacher Awards, Donald Zacharias Early Career Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Awards and the MSU Alumni Association Graduate and/or Professional Teaching Awards. All current full-time faculty members at Mississippi State University with the required years of service, regardless of rank, are eligible to apply for these awards. In recognition of the rich presence of outstanding teachers in our faculty, more awards are being given. The number of Grisham awards has increased from one to up to three, Early Career awards have increased from one to up to three or four, and Graduate and Professional Awards have increased from one to up to two. Additional information is online at

MSU earns ‘Great College to Work For’ status for 6th consecutive year

It was exciting — but not surprising — to see this week that MSU has been recognized by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the nation’s best campus workplaces in the Great Colleges to Work For recognition program. It’s the sixth year in a row we’ve received this distinction, and we also were named to the Great Colleges Honor Roll, a status granted to colleges that were highlighted in multiple recognition categories. This year, MSU received top rankings in seven of 10 categories: job satisfaction and support; professional development; mission and pride; supervisor/department chair effectiveness; confidence in senior leadership; shared governance; and faculty experience. Congratulations to all of you — exceptional colleagues who make Mississippi State a great place to work! Read more 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:

* Congratulations to Prashant Singh, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who is a recipient of a 2021 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities. ORAU’s Powe Awards honor the late MSU alumnus and former research vice president Ralph E. Powe, who was active in several ORAU committees and special projects during his 16-year tenure as MSU’s ORAU councilor. Read more at

* Kudos to Anastasia Elder, who has been named associate dean, and to David Hoffman, who has been named director of the Office of Prestigious External Scholarships, in the Shackouls Honors College.

* Congratulations to Jan Chambers, a William L. Giles Distinguished Professor and the director of the Center for Environmental Health Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine, who is leading a newly funded $3.3 million project to identify better therapeutic medical countermeasures to protect the brain against chemical threats. It is the university’s third award through the National Institutes of Health’s CounterACT program. Read more at

* Kudos to Thu Dinh and Derris Devost-Burnett, both associate professors in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, and Wes Schilling, a professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, for growing the university’s reputation as a leading institution in the field of meat science education and research during the Reciprocal Meats Conference presented by the American Meat Science Association in August. Read more at

* Congratulations to Ginger Tedder, a Research and Curriculum Unit project manager, who was recently selected to participate in the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Emerging Leaders Program. Tedder directs New Teacher Induction, a research-based program that provides intensive, specialized professional development for new career and technical education teachers during their first year in the classroom, and helps implement and support RCU and Mississippi Department of Education innovative school initiatives throughout the state. Read more at

Final Words

Thank you for reading this month’s letter. I hope all of you can enjoy a brief respite during this year’s Fall Break, which is coming up October 7-8.

Hail State!


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