Messages from the Provost - 2015 Archive

  • November 2015
    I am writing this as a combined message for the months of November and December, and it will be my last “Message from the Provost.” I want to start by extending my best wishes for the Thanksgiving holiday and the Christmas and Hanukkah seasons.

    For me, the month of November marks 27 years of service to Mississippi State University. As you can imagine, it is not easy to prepare to leave. However, Marshall University represents a tremendous opportunity for me and Leigh. We are sad to be leaving MSU but excited to start a new chapter in our lives. I have been reflecting on all of the people along the way who have worked with me, provided guidance, and befriended me. I am grateful to have worked in an environment like Mississippi State where I have been excited every morning to go to the office and get to the work of the university.

    My many colleagues in my home department and colleges -- the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, the Bagley College of Engineering, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences -- will always be special to me. Throughout my 20+ years as an administrator, I have always considered myself to be a faculty member first. My faculty appointment has resided over the years in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, and I am proud of that.

    Serving as provost and executive vice president has been a tremendous honor for me, and I will always be grateful to Dr. Mark Keenum for his confidence and trust in me and for giving me the opportunity to serve you, the people of MSU. In particular, I want to mention my colleagues at the vice presidential level and deans level and thank them for being outstanding collaborators. And I must mention the hard-working folks in the Provost Office who do a tremendous job in managing the academic affairs enterprise. There are many other exceptional people, throughout all the divisions and at all levels, whom I have been so proud to know and work with. It has been a true pleasure.

    I also want to recognize the good work of the Staff Council and the Faculty Senate. Both groups are committed to the continuous improvement of the university, and that is greatly appreciated. I would be remiss if I did not mention the Student Association and its impressive leaders, as well as all the other MSU students. The students of MSU are truly special and make us all proud to be in a profession in which we can have an impact on the future through the education of our students.

    I am confident that MSU will continue to use its Strategic Plan to direct its priorities and actions to improve the university. The improvement of faculty and staff salaries is one goal that will continue to be a high priority. And the new marketing plan developed by MSU’s Office of Public Affairs has the likely prospect of advancing the prestige of the university and attracting more high-quality students as we tell the success stories of the university. I feel very confident that MSU is on a clear trajectory upward.

    I will end by saying that part of my heart will always be at MSU.

    Farewell and best wishes,
    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • October 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    In September and October, I have conducted several meetings with faculty in the format of Coffee with the Provost. These have been very engaging, and we have touched on a number of things. One issue discussed was improving the message to our non-majority students of MSU's commitment to inclusiveness. I hope I can continue these discussions on a larger scale as we continue to embrace diversity as a university.

    As was briefly mentioned in my May message, we now officially have an Ombudsman for the university in the person of Dr. Hart Bailey. Associated with the position is a physical location in the Howell Building and a university website at http://www.ombuds.msstate.edu/ . From the website: "The MSU Ombudsman serves as a neutral resource providing confidential and informal assistance to . . . staff and faculty, to express concerns, identify options to address workplace conflicts, facilitate productive communication, and surface responsible concerns regarding university policies and practices." To reach Dr. Bailey, you can call 662-325-5172.

    Starting in the fall of 2015, the university implemented progress grade reporting in place of our previous midterm grades. The first progress date for grade reporting was September 28 and the second reporting date is October 23. It is anticipated that these grade reportings, which are optional but highly recommended, will allow us to assist students in keeping them on track academically. However, several faculty members have expressed concerns about the amount of time that may be required for this new process, especially if these grades are kept in MyCourses. To make the grade submission process easier for faculty, ITS has developed a fact sheet: "Exporting Progress Grades from myCourses into myBanner" which can be found at https://www.its.msstate.edu/files/ProgressGrade.pdf. We hope that this will make the process easier for reporting grades. ITS will continue to explore ways to automate this process.

    Dr. Keenum and I both thank you for your assistance with reaching an all-time record enrollment of 20,873 students for the fall semester. We continue to grow in size and quality as a university.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • September 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    As we began the semester, MSU was tested with regard to our ability to respond to an emergency situation. Many people stepped up on August 27, and all of us are thankful for their actions. Although things went extremely well, we know that we can improve. As Dr. Keenum stated on September 1, we will be working on ways to improve our campus safety with increased training, improved locking procedures, and better communication. The head of our Crisis Action Team, Dr. Regina Hyatt, is coordinating these efforts, and formal recommendations will be forthcoming.

    Next week, the IHL will be releasing official enrollment numbers for all of the IHL institutions. MSU will be setting a record for its largest enrollment and its largest ever freshman class. I want to thank everyone on campus for their part in reaching these new milestones. It was truly a team effort, and it was the result of great planning and excellent delivery.

    Reporting to work on October 1 will be our new Director of Athletic Academics, Christine Jackson. She comes to us from the University of Louisville. You can read more about her at the following link: http://www.msstate.edu/newsroom/article/2015/08/christine-jackson-named-msu-assistant-athletic-director-academics/ We hope to begin a number of other searches this fall: an administrative leader for the Meridian campus, an assistant vice president for enrollment, an executive director for the Center for Distance Education, and one or two others. I am currently working to create job descriptions and elect and appoint search committee members.

    As we look at MSU and what has been accomplished in the past several years, it is obvious that we are being successful in coming close to achieving many of the goals in our Strategic Plan, State of Excellence. The new marketing plan of the university and the new Power Talks by President Keenum will further help us move forward as a university. I would encourage all to engage and help MSU create a stronger vision and image.

    I am convinced that the best is yet to come. - Hail State!

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • August 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    August has heralded the return of students and preparations for the fall semester at MSU. Thank you to all of the staff and faculty who helped on Move-In Day, August 8. Assisting the faculty and staff were 240 freshmen who had participated in the New Maroon camp earlier in the week. I had the pleasure of interacting with these 240 freshmen, as did a number of our faculty, and I was truly impressed. They were taught many things about MSU, including the words to the Alma Mater and Hail State. They are well-prepared to start as freshmen and are excited to be part of the 3,400 new freshmen for the fall.

    Our new Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Regina Hyatt, and I were at Humphrey Coliseum to greet the new freshmen on August 8 as they got their materials to move into the residence halls. It was a great experience for both of us. Director of Housing, Dr. Ann Bailey, was on hand to smoothly orchestrate the Move-In experience. I want to thank Dr. Ann Bailey for the great job she performed this past academic year as Interim Assistant Vice President. In addition, I want to thank Bill Broyles for his outstanding service as Interim Vice President for Student Affairs. Both of these individuals performed a great service to MSU in their interim roles.

    It is exciting to see the new university web page that has rolled out this week. ITS and the Office of Public Affairs have worked hard on this, and this is just the start of our new marketing campaign to highlight the great things at MSU. In addition to the new web page, ITS has developed a new attendance tracking and absence reporting platform to make attendance taking easier for professors. You can access it by using the Banner tab in MyState and looking under the "Grades and Absences" heading. I appreciate the efforts of ITS and Public Affairs to help move us forward.

    If you have not had a chance to visit the Fresh Food Company, you should drop in and see the latest addition to dining on campus. It is a beautiful facility with student gathering spaces as well as space for dining. Also, construction is about to begin on the Library to add another floor to house the Grant Presidential Library and other special collections. The phrase "pardon our progress" is certainly applicable to the campus this fall with all the construction that is underway or about to start.

    I hope everyone will consider attending the Freshman Convocation that will occur on Tuesday, August 18, at 5:30 p.m. in Humphrey Coliseum. One of the co-authors of the Maroon Edition book, "Same Kind of Different as Me," Ron Hall, will be our keynote speaker. It promises to be inspirational.

    Best wishes for a great start of the fall semester.

    Sincerely,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • July 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff,

    We continue to be proud of MSU’s progress in moving up in national stature. The Office of Research and Economic Development is to be commended for working to achieve the additional new Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity (IEP) University. MSU is clearly making a tremendous impact on many facets of life in Mississippi.

    I am also proud of the progressive nature of the university and the leadership that we have exhibited over the years. This was recently pointed out in an official statement by President Keenum: http://msstate.edu/web/media/detail.php?id=7336. As is stated in the university’s values in our Strategic Plan http://www.msstate.edu/web/excellence/fullplan.pdf, MSU is committed to access/opportunity, excellence/innovation, communication/collaboration, integrity/accountability, citizenship/leadership, and respect.

    Construction continues on the main campus and the Meridian campus of MSU. The following projects are underway, near completion, or about to begin: the new classroom building, the pavilion north of Perry Cafeteria, the Fresh Food Company, the two new residence halls and the Center for America’s Veterans, the addition to Mitchell Memorial Library, and the Rosenbaum Building on the Riley Campus in Meridian.

    As the month of July progresses, we are getting closer to move-in day at MSU (August 8). If you have not already signed up to help move our new freshmen in that day, please visit the following site to do so: 2015 MVNU2MSU Volunteer Sign Up. The first day of class for the fall semester will be Monday, August 17. On Tuesday, August 18, at 5:30 p.m., we will host our Freshman Convocation in Humphrey Coliseum with Ron Hall, co-author of Maroon Edition book “Same Kind of Different as Me,” as our keynote speaker. All are welcome.

    I hope that the remainder of the summer goes well for you. - Hail State!

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • June 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The summer is well underway and we are in the midst of orientation for incoming freshmen and transfer students. Thanks to everyone who is making this a successful recruiting season.

    I had the pleasure of speaking at the luncheon we had this month to recognize those faculty and staff retiring at the end of June. It was an honor to be able to publicly thank these individuals for their service to MSU. My thanks go out to all of our retirees for their efforts at MSU over the years.

    We continue to pursue the globalization of the programs of Mississippi State, both in research and academics. This fall over 400 of our incoming freshmen have been awarded study abroad scholarships. This new initiative will greatly boost our participation in study abroad over the upcoming years and will help us meet one of the goals of our strategic plan: http://www.msstate.edu/web/excellence/

    There have been several additional university personnel changes this summer. Dr. Jason Keith is our new dean of the Bagley College of Engineering. Dr. Regina Hyatt will be our new Vice President for Student Affairs, and Mr. Wes Ammon will be the interim director of Athletic Academics (in addition to continuing his service as director of the University Academic Advising Center), both beginning on July 1.

    Hope your summer is going well.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • May 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    May has already brought us exciting events including multiple commencement ceremonies with almost 2,600 graduating from MSU and our annual Staff Appreciation Day. I am thankful for the growing number of MSU alumni. I commend Staff Council for taking the lead in organizing Staff Appreciation Day and all the many volunteers who made the event successful.

    Maymester is in full swing and our traditional summer school sessions will be starting in early June. The slight increase in summer school enrollments is good news and also a harbinger of the freshmen increase that we expect to see in the fall.

    I am pleased to announce that Dr. Shirley Hanshaw has taken the lead in helping MSU strengthen our relationship with Tougaloo College. This summer, Dr. Hanshaw is helping to connect Tougaloo students to research opportunities by serving as the MSU liaison to Tougaloo College. It promises to be a mutually beneficial relationship in terms of academics and research.

    Starting July 1, 2015, Dr. Meghan Millea will be serving as the Interim Administrative Dean for MSU-Meridian. She takes over the leadership in Meridian which has been handled very well this academic year by Drs. Allison Pearson and Julia Hodges.

    I am hoping that after the first of July, Dr. Hart Bailey will have all the pieces in place to begin serving as MSU’s first ombudsman. The University Ombudsman Office will serve as a resource for MSU faculty and staff by providing confidential, neutral, and informal assistance in resolution and management of work-related issues.

    My congratulations to Dr. David Shaw and others who worked hard to have MSU selected as flagship institution for the National Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems by the Federal Aviation Administration. While the primary focus of the award will be research, our academic programs will benefit as well because research/discovery and teaching/learning go hand-in-hand at a research university. Many new opportunities will be available for our faculty and students.

    This will no doubt be an exciting summer.

    With warm regards,

    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • April 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    The spring Commencement Ceremonies (scheduled for May 8 and 9) will be upon us before you know it, and we will be preparing soon for the summer. Congratulations in advance to our graduates. As we make plans for next month, I hope each of you will mark your calendars for Staff Appreciation Day on May 15 and make plans to attend and/or volunteer to help. My thanks go to Staff Council for organizing this event.

    We recently announced the Maroon Edition book for the 2015-2016 academic year. It is “Same Kind of Different as Me” by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. I hope each person at MSU will consider reading it so we can all join with our incoming freshmen to discuss and enjoy the book. I am reading it a second time and it is just as inspirational as it was the first time I read it. It is an amazing, true story.

    We have two more candidates to interview during the week of April 20 for the Vice President for Student Affairs position. I hope you will want to participate in the interviews as we select the individual to fill this very important role. Along with others, the divisions of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs perform critical work in our efforts to meet the needs of our undergraduate and graduate students and to help them feel a part of MSU. You can find information on the search at this site: http://www.vpsasearch.msstate.edu/

    Our first orientation session, Scholars Orientation, went extremely well and it appears that we are on track to have a modest yet healthy increase in student enrollment in the fall. I want to thank everyone who participated or will participate in the orientation sessions. Your efforts are vital to the functioning of the university.

    Our message to the many groups that were recently on campus for Super Bulldog Weekend was that we continue to be a university on the move. You will be seeing more indications of our successes in the weeks and months to come. - Hail State!

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • March 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    I hope that everyone had a chance to get away or slow down over the week of spring break. Now that we are well into March, we are in the second half of the spring semester, and I know we are all looking forward to warmer days ahead.

    With regard to our missed class days due to weather, I hope that faculty will look for ways to make sure that you adequately deliver the instructional material to your students. We are no longer held to a strict standard of scheduling replacement class days. Consequently, the university will not be setting aside specific days for classes to be held in addition to those remaining in the schedule. However, I hope you will look for ways to accommodate student learning such as on-line and out of class assignments. If you have any questions about making up missed class time, please contact the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

    In checking our overall reporting of class attendance and reporting of mid-term grades, the news is not as good as we had hoped it would be. Class attendance for all students was reported in only 33.5% of our class sections, and mid-term grades were posted for 44.3% of the sections. For freshmen, these numbers were higher: attendance reporting was around 58% and mid-term grade posting was about 65%. I encourage faculty to report attendance and mid-term grades so that we can have the ability to know which students are at higher risk of not being successful in a semester.

    I want to remind faculty about Maroon & Write, our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), developed as part of our SACSCOC reaffirmation process. The program fosters improved writing skills for our students. Faculty members can become involved in two ways: participation in the Maroon Institute for Writing Excellence (MIWE) and participation in other faculty development activities. The MIWE guides faculty in syllabus redesign to include a formal writing assignment in a specific course. Information on the MIWE and other resources can be found at the website: www.qep.msstate.edu. Our goal is to graduate students who “are equipped with skills in communication and critical thinking” and who “are prepared to be leaders in their profession and communities.”

    There has been good response to our new website developed to highlight undergraduate research and creative discovery: http://www.urcd.msstate.edu/. Please consider posting undergraduate research opportunities on this site if you have not already done so. My thanks go to Scott Maynard and his committee for developing this valuable resource, and to those who have posted on the site.

    Best wishes for the second half of the semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • February 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    February is known for the celebration of presidential birthdays, valentines, and black history. If you are interested in presidents, there are a few books that I can personally recommend related to Presidents Washington and Lincoln. They are “Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence,” “His Excellency: George Washington,” “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” and “Lincoln's Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image”. All will give you a deeper insight into aspects of these two great icons of our country.

    In of the spirit of Valentine's Day, I hope that many of you will also consider reaching out to your co-workers and friends this week in the “Spirit of MSU” to lift their spirits. Everyone needs a lift every so often, so why not make it this week?

    I believe that it is always useful to expand your view of the world by learning from the experiences of others who have traveled a different path. Therefore, I am looking forward to attending the upcoming event: “The Experiences of Black Faculty and Staff in Higher Education,” to be held Monday, February 16 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Bost Auditorium. If you would also like to take part in this event, you can register at the following site: http://www.hrm.msstate.edu/development/upcoming. Thanks to the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities for putting this on.

    I want to bring to your attention a study abroad opportunity for our students to study in Morocco at the Université Internationale de Rabat (UIR). We have just signed an agreement with UIR to jointly offer an undergraduate program in automotive engineering (through Mechanical Engineering). You can find the information at this site: http://www.international.msstate.edu/pdf/abroad/study/Rabat.pdf.

    I attended a seminar last week hosted by the Center for Teaching & Learning in which Dr. Rodney Pearson presented data gathered using his Graduation Positioning System. He emphasized the fact that the data shows that student absences negatively impact student grades. On average, each class absence lowers the final grade in the class by 0.2 of a letter grade. I hope that you will encourage our students to attend class and that faculty will take attendance on a regular basis.

    At Mississippi State, I remember daily that our greatest asset is our people – our students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, our donors, our fans. Last week, we lost one of our people, MSU alumnus and Congressman Alan Nunnelee. I extend my wishes for strength and comfort to the Nunnelee family and to other members of the Bulldog family who have experienced recent personal loss.

    The days are now getting longer and, before you know it, it will be spring. I hope that the prospect of spring and the spiritual metaphor that it conveys will brighten your spirits.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President
  • January 2015
    Dear Faculty and Staff:

    I hope that 2015 will be a great year for each of you. It looks like enrollment for spring 2015 will be slightly up, and we think that is a very good sign for increased growth at MSU for the upcoming academic year.

    Earlier in January, we released a new website to connect undergraduate students with faculty for research and creative discovery opportunities. Students can search for ways to become involved in the knowledge creation process on the site (www.urcd.msstate.edu). I encourage faculty to log-in to the site with their NetID and password under the “Faculty” tab to list current projects that undergraduates can consider. We hope to expose more of our undergraduate students to the advantages of being at a flagship research university.

    This academic year, we have implemented attendance scanners in a number of large classrooms to encourage faculty to more frequently report absences to Banner. Other universities are also looking to cut down on students missing class, as was reported last week in the Wall Street Journal (http://www.wsj.com/articles/cracking-down-on-skipping-class-1421196743). This effort and others will help us increase our retention and graduation rates and enhance the success of our students.

    Today, you were asked via MSU Announcement to take part in a campus survey being conducted by the Work-Life Balance Committee. I hope that you will take the time to complete the brief survey so that the Committee can get a sense of how our employees are dealing with issues related to work-life balance.

    Later in the semester, we will be bringing the renowned Kinsey Collection to the MSU Library. This collection is an award-winning touring exhibit of African American art, historical artifacts, books, and other original material. I hope you will make plans to view the exhibit in the John Grisham Room of Mitchell Memorial Library during the months of March-June.

    Best wishes for a great semester.

    With warm regards,


    Jerry Gilbert
    Provost and Executive Vice President