Messages from the Provost - 2013 Archive

  • December 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The end of the semester is near and the holidays are almost upon us. Meridian’s commencement will be Friday, December 13 at 11:00 AM and Starkville’s commencement will be on Saturday, December 14 at 10:00 a.m., and we will confer an estimated 1,292 degrees.

    As chief academic officer, I am extremely proud of the academic programs at MSU and the quality of our students. To have an MSU student selected as a Rhodes Scholar is evidence of the fact that we are producing world-class graduates who compete nationally in all areas. Senior Field Brown has made everyone at MSU proud. Drs. Tommy Anderson and Chris Snyder are to be commended for their support and encouragement of Field, as well as the faculty in the Department of English and the Department of Philosophy and Religion.

    The MSU-Meridian campus has been fortunate to receive significant private support to expand its degree offerings next academic year. The Riley Foundation of Meridian has awarded an $11M grant to MSU to renovate the Kress Building in downtown Meridian and to provide initial funding to expand our Kinesiology program. Kinesiology is our largest undergraduate major on the main campus and its expansion to Meridian was recommended after an extensive assessment of the needs and opportunities in Meridian, a city with a major health-care focus.

    Best wishes for the holidays,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • October 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    There are a number of opportunities in October for faculty and staff to participate in professional development, volunteerism, and seminars. Cyber Security Awareness Week is October 15-17 with seminars each day. The President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities are holding a panel discussion and luncheon on October 17 on “Negotiating the Gender Gap: Effectively Negotiating Salary and Promotion.” You can register at http://www.oidi.msstate.edu/training/workshops/. You may also want to check volunteer opportunities this fall at the Maroon Volunteer Center: http://mvc.msstate.edu/. Upcoming in November, the Work-Life Balance Committee and Staff Council are partnering to sponsor a Family Care Seminar for all interested faculty and staff on the topics of elder and child care on Tuesday, November 19 at Bost Theater. Additional information will be available in the coming weeks.

    Work continues on Lee Hall, and completion and move-in are scheduled for May or June of 2014. Construction will begin on the new classroom building early in the spring semester, and it will add 90,000 square feet of new classroom space, including two large auditorium-style classrooms and about twenty classrooms ranging from around 30 to 100 seats. Construction continues on the expansion of the football stadium with a fall 2014 completion date. Planning is also underway for renovation of the YMCA building.

    We are pleased that our undergraduate Quality Enhancement Plan, “Maroon and Write,” is now underway and that our SACS documents for reaffirmation of the university’s accreditation have been submitted. Also, we have submitted additional documentation to Phi Beta Kappa in the next phase of our application to shelter a chapter of the nation’s oldest academic honor society. Thanks to everyone who was involved in both of these submissions.

    Best wishes for a great MSU Homecoming this weekend.

    Warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • September 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    It is great to be into September and have the semester in full swing. Even though our student numbers are almost flat compared to last year, we did increase in first-time freshman numbers. Additionally, our incoming freshman ACT score jumped from 23.6 to 23.9 which is our highest value in MSU history. We are very proud that we continue to attract high quality students to the university. MSU is also proud to have been designated as one of the "Great Colleges to Work For" last month by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    As noted by Dr. Shaw in his September Dear Colleague letter, MSU is enhancing its focus on undergraduate research. The recently formed standing Committee on Undergraduate Research and Creative Discovery will help coordinate the efforts in undergraduate research with the efforts in ORED. We will see additional opportunities developed in the future that are unique to MSU as a student-centered premier research university.

    I am very proud that MSU will be participating in the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge in 2013-2014. As noted in the recent MSU announcement, "MSU's Interfaith Service Initiative will bring together people of different faith backgrounds to improve disaster preparedness of citizens of Oktibbeha County." The kickoff event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12, in the Colvard Student Union. You can read more about it at the following link: http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/announcement.php?id=1760

    This fall marks the official beginning of MSU's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), "Maroon and Write." We are starting with a limited number of courses and will be expanding over time. Check out the details at www.qep.msstate.edu.

    If you haven't seen it already, I'd like to encourage you to take a look at MSU's new video/commercial which can be seen on the following website under "2013 National Spot": http://www.msstate.edu/web/video/. It highlights a few examples of how our university's past and present is changing lives for the future. Among others, these accomplishments are those for which we as a university are extremely proud.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • August 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    I think we are off to a great beginning of the fall semester. Last week I had the privilege of meeting with the new faculty who are joining the university in the orientation session sponsored by my Office. It was great to be around such talent and enthusiasm. Each year I look forward to the fall and the new students, faculty, and staff who join the university.

    Last week, I formed a new Standing Committee in the university to focus on Undergraduate Research and Creative Discovery with representation from each academic college. As a Carnegie Research University with Very High Research Activity, we are uniquely positioned to provide opportunities for our undergraduates (and graduate students) to engage in the creation of new knowledge and to learn from leaders in the various fields who are on the cutting edge of their respective professions.

    As we think about who we are as Mississippi State University, I hope that we will think about our uniqueness that comes from being a research university. As a matter of fact, our vice presidents and President Keenum recently met in a retreat setting to talk about what makes MSU unique and appealing to faculty, students, staff, and supporters. Some of the related discussion topics included: the opportunity for students to engage in research and creative discovery, the desire and willingness of our faculty to actively engage students in the learning process, the friendly and nurturing environment that characterizes MSU and promotes success, the inclusive and respectful nature of our culture that assures that everyone has a place, and our beautiful campus.

    In the future, it is hoped that we can better tell our story about our uniqueness and the opportunities we give to our students. We are a truly outstanding university with many great things yet to come.

    Best of luck to everyone as we start this new semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • July 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    I hope that you are enjoying your summer and that you had a great Fourth of July. This month promises to be a relatively quiet one before we start gearing up for the fall semester in August.

    This week marks the start of second term summer school and the second year of our Early Start Program where incoming freshmen can move in early to MSU and take classes in second term summer school. This year we have added Math Plus for students needing to take Intermediate Algebra. These programs together are being called the College Ready Program and will help the freshmen make the transition to college and should also enhance retention. Dr. Angi Bourgeois is coordinating the programs, and she is expecting an increase in program enrollment over last year. A total of around 140 students are participating with a 70/30 split between Early Start and Math Plus.

    If you have extra time you may want to consider reading the Maroon Edition book, “Physics for Future Presidents.” Our incoming freshmen will be reading the book over the summer and will be participating in events in the fall (http://www.maroonedition.msstate.edu/), including having the option of volunteering to work on a Habitat for Humanity House which you may also do. I hope you are able to enjoy some time reading over the last part of the summer.

    Congratulations to the Pathfinders Program for receiving the Housing and Academic Collaboration Award from the Southeastern Association of Housing Officers for their work to increase freshmen retention with the residence life department of MSU Campus Housing. MSU’s retention rate is one of the highest in the IHL system at about 82%.

    MSU’s learning improvement initiative, our Quality Enhancement Plan, has been named “Maroon and Write.” We are starting the QEP this fall with nine faculty members who have just completed an intense training program, the Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence, led by English Department Head Rich Raymond. http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=6114 Writing-to-learn strategies will be introduced in classes this fall and spring and more faculty members will be engaged in the process.

    We continue to work to create opportunities to improve the campus environment at MSU. If you have not already done so, please visit the website of the Employee Assistance Program which has been added as a benefit for employees by HRM http://www.hrm.msstate.edu/benefits/eap/. We are also now surveying all faculty members who exit the university about their experiences here.

    Watch for more good news about our university later this month.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • June 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    As we finish out the fiscal year with the month of June, I want to thank you for your hard work at MSU. I am glad that we were able to fund another modest raise pool for our personnel for fiscal year 2013-2014. Addressing the salaries of faculty and staff is a key point in our Strategic Plan, State of Excellence, and it continues to be a high priority.

    Just to let you know, as of June 16, 2013, Dr. Royce Bowden is assuming the role of Interim Dean of Engineering as I step back into the full-time role of Provost and Executive Vice President. I also want to comment on the fact that Dr. Lou D’Abramo is retiring at the end of the month and turning the role of Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice President over to Dr. Lori Bruce. I want to commend Dr. D’Abramo on an outstanding career at MSU and thank him for his leadership in the Graduate School.

    As Mississippi State seeks to expand its global outreach, several administrators from MSU spent a week in India at the end of May. We had some very good meetings with universities and agencies about partnerships that we may undertake in research, education, and outreach endeavors. We also met with MSU alumni and students in India about the possibility of an alumni chapter in India. We were warmly welcomed by graduates and friends of MSU in India.

    Planning continues for our new classroom building and we are now starting the process to plan for the renovation of the YMCA Building. Construction on the new classroom building should start in middle part of the fall semester.

    We are in the midst of transfer and freshman orientation. It is great to see all the new students wanting to be a part of the learning environment at MSU. Thanks to the administrators, faculty, staff, and current students who have helped make this go so smoothly.

    Congratulations to our baseball team for making it to the College World Series. Our student athletes represent the university well, and we are proud of them.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • May 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    As always, our Commencement ceremony is a great time of excitement and joy for our graduates, their families, and our faculty. It is a great way to start the first part of May.

    The searches for the Deans of the College of Arts & Sciences, the Graduate School, and the Bagley College of Engineering are all now complete with the following people being named to the respective positions: Dr. Greg Dunaway, Dr. Lori Bruce, and Dr. Achille Messac. In case you missed our campus announcements, you can read about them at the following links: http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=6003,
    http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=6043, and http://www.msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=6046. I am confident that all three will provide outstanding leadership at MSU.

    The week after Commencement signaled the start of Maymester and the annual Staff Appreciation Day at the Junction. Congratulations to the 12 staff members who received the Zacharias Distinguished Staff Awards in recognition for their service to the university and to the other nominees for the award. My appreciation goes to Staff Council for organizing this fun event that highlights our outstanding, hard-working staff.

    Congratulations to Dr. Mark Novotny for being named the most recent Giles Distinguished Professor, a very high honor for MSU faculty members.

    Best wishes for a great summer,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • April 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    I was recently addressing a group and spoke about what makes MSU unique: the unique campus environment where everyone can find their place. I think the environment on the MSU campus is a direct consequence of our land-grant heritage and the core values that have been in place for many years. We have expressed these core values in our current Strategic Plan, State of Excellence, and would urge you to review them: http://www.msstate.edu/web/excellence/

    As I mentioned in my January Message, we are revising the way that we conduct our three year reviews of administrators and, appropriately, this is reflective of our core value of integrity/accountability. These reviews are prescribed in AOP 10.02 http://www.msstate.edu/dept/audit/PDF/1002.pdf and serve as a partial basis for the decision to reappoint an administrator. I would urge all faculty and staff to participate in the three year reviews of the administrators to which you report. I would very much like to see close to a 100% response rate (because non-responses on question 14 will be viewed as positive responses). All of the reviews will be coordinated through my office beginning in the fall of 2013. This fall we are evaluating 0 deans, 5 associate deans, and about 20 department heads. This is across 7 colleges. Although not called for in the policy, I am asking that Dr. Keenum conduct a three review of the Provost and Executive Vice President in the fall before we conduct the review of the other administrators. Please feel free to review a description of the new draft process on our website: http://www.provost.msstate.edu/pdf/ThreeYearReview.pdf

    I am pleased to announce that Dr. James Newman, Jr. has been named the SEC Faculty Achievement Award recipient for MSU for 2013. The SEC recognizes one faculty member from each SEC university each year and states that they are to be faculty members who exhibit “extraordinary teaching and a record of scholarship that is recognized nationally and/or internationally.” We are proud to have Dr. Newman representing MSU.

    We also received word recently that Mr. Matthew Berk, a junior in Aerospace Engineering, has been named a Goldwater Scholar http://www.act.org/goldwater/. This is a great honor for Matthew and for MSU. In addition, Mr. Andrew Lewis, a junior Biomedical Engineer, was named as an honorable mention recipient in the Goldwater competition. Thanks go to Dr. Tommy Anderson for his leadership as the External Fellowship Advisor.

    Searches continue and are on schedule for the positions of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Associate VP and Dean of the Graduate School, and the Dean of the Bagley College of Engineering. I will be keeping you posted on the progress.

    The month of April will be busy and exciting as we finish out the semester. We have just announced the Maroon Edition book for next year “Physics for Future Presidents,” and I hope you all will get a copy and start reading. After we enjoy the festivities of Super Bulldog Weekend on April 18-21, the last day of classes will occur on April 24 and then final exams start on April 29.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • March 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    March is always a welcome month as our students get a well-deserved break and the campus slows down for a week. This month also marks the completion of my third year as Provost and Executive Vice President, and I want to again express my appreciation for your continuing support as I serve you in this capacity. It is truly an honor and a privilege for me.

    I am pleased to announce that after a national search, Dr. Steve Taylor has been selected to be the next Executive Director of the Center for Distance Education. I look forward to the progress of the CDE under his leadership as we continue to look for new opportunities to serve distance students. My thanks go to Mr. Scott Maynard and the search committee for their work during the search process.

    During the month of March, we released a new website that features programs that students can select in order to complete a bachelor’s degree within three years: www.threeyeardegree.msstate.edu High achieving students can go to school throughout the year by taking classes over the summer in addition to fall and spring. At MSU, we believe in trying to meet the needs of our students and giving them different options in achieving their educational goals.

    If you did not get a chance to witness the tree planting in memory of Dr. Wangari Maathai on March 4th, you can see the tree near the statue of Congressman Sonny Montgomery on the Drill Field. We were very honored to have Kenyan Ambassador Elkanah Odembo here to help us dedicate the tree which was one of many activities associated with the reading of Maathai’s book “Unbowed” as part of the Maroon Edition.

    Sadness also marked the month as we paid tribute to one of MSU’s great leaders, Dr. Donald Zacharias. He will be long remembered for his leadership and dedication to MSU and for the accomplishments during his tenure as president.

    Here’s wishing you much success for the remainder of the semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • February 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    Much recent national attention is being paid to accountability in higher education, and this is a good trend from my perspective. We strive at MSU to help students achieve their greatest potential, and we do so with world-class faculty and staff.

    At MSU, we are aware of the unique perspectives of some of our students. In February, we held the Women of Color Summit at which hundreds of MSU students and alumni came together to talk about success and opportunities for women of color. It was a great tribute to the achievement of our alumni and an inspiration to our current students to aim high and strive for excellence. Thanks go to the staff of the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion for planning and hosting this event.

    Momentum continues to build in MSU's international outreach activities. MSU is establishing a growing relationship with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, centered in Rome. In early February, the International Institute announced volunteer internship opportunities for MSU students to work with FAO at selected mission sites (Chile, Cuba (2), Paraguay, and Peru). These internships were developed in coordination with FAO's Washington D.C. office and carry with them $4,000 in travel and board support. It is our desire to have many MSU students and faculty members assist FAO in its mission to eliminate hunger and poverty around the globe.

    Plans for the reaffirmation of the university's accreditation through SACS are progressing according to schedule, and we are now entering the planning stage of the required Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The planning effort is being led by co-directors Connie Forde and Rich Raymond with the focus being to improve the overall writing abilities of our students through a campus-wide program as part of the QEP.

    As we continue to make progress as a world-class institution of higher learning with outstanding students, faculty, and staff, the commitment to excellence in all that we do remains an overriding pledge and core value.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • January 2013
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    I extend my best wishes for your success and that of the university for the new year. With the new year, we welcome Dr. John Dickerson who returns this month to begin his new assignment as University Registrar.

    Also with the new year, there are a number of administrative searches underway or about to begin. We are now accepting applications for the position of Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (Dr. Sharon Oswald search chair) and the position of Executive Director of the Center for Distance Education (Mr. Scott Maynard search chair). We are soon to be accepting applications for the position of Associate Vice President and Dean of the Graduate School (Dr. Bill Herndon search chair), and soon to start the search for the position of Dean of the Bagley College of Engineering (Mr. Don Zant search chair). I thank Dean Sarah Rajala for her service and wish her much success in her new role as the Dean of Engineering at Iowa State, starting April 1, 2013.

    Due to the generous support of the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian, we are renovating space to be used as a library in the main building on College Park campus of MSU Meridian. This library facility will augment the library services our students have access to on the Meridian Community College campus. I am proud of the leadership being displayed by Dean Steve Brown and his team in Meridian in this and other projects aimed at expanding and enhancing our Meridian campus.

    I would like to point out to you the upcoming Women of Color Summit on Feb. 8, 2013, in the Colvard Student Union (https://www.odep.msstate.edu/woc/). This will be an opportunity to hear about the careers of selected graduates of MSU and discuss methods to encourage academic achievement by women of color. Everyone is welcome.

    During the year, we will be looking at the process for three-year reviews of department heads, associate deans, and deans and investigating an on-line version for these processes. With this initiative, I will phase out the online administrator reviews that had come exclusively to my office. It is my understanding that the Faculty Senate will continue their on-line review of university administration.

    In closing, I want to share with you a teaching opportunity I had in December. I had the privilege to make a presentation to a class in the Shackouls Honors College, Honors Forum. While there, I spoke about great leaders, and I challenged the Honors students to discover and nurture the leadership qualities within them. We discussed many behaviors that are characteristic of successful leaders including exhibiting honesty and integrity, leading by example, selfless service to an organization and its people, inspiring others to fight for what is right, and summoning courage to defend justice. I told them to look for opportunities to step up and lead here at Mississippi State and in their communities. I think this is good advice for all of us as we start 2013.

    Here's to a great 2013.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President