Jim Coll

Top Stories – March 2016

Here are a few of the top University of Southern Mississippi stories for the month of March 2016.

USM students continue to favorably compete with the best in the nation.

Jaylen Hackett and JD Rimann are the University’s newest finalists for Truman Scholarships. Hackett, a political science/economics major from Mobile, Ala., and Rimann, a history/English/political science major from Round Rock, Texas, hope to follow in the footsteps of previous Southern Miss Truman scholars – Stephanie McCracken (2014), Brandon Hersey (2013), Marie Holowach Federer (2011) and Lance Brown (1999).

Recently, USM has more than proven its mettle as a heavyweight contender for this elite scholarship. In the last five years, six of the University’s eight nominees have advanced to finalist status — with three being named Truman scholars.

Named in honor of the late U.S. President Harry S. Truman, the Truman Scholarship is awarded to high-achieving college juniors. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate study in public service fields and leadership training. The 2016 Class of Truman Scholars will be announced on April 22.

Read more: http://news.usm.edu/article/southern-miss-students-named-truman-scholarship-finalists

Several Greek Life organizations and students have also earned regional and national honors, including Betsy Mercier, who was named Delta Delta Delta national philanthropy chairperson of the year. Tri-Delta also won the St. Jude Chapter of the Year award from that national organization.

Read more: http://news.usm.edu/article/southern-miss-greek-life-gets-winning-results-super-saturday

Outstanding USM student programs continue to provide a model for public higher education institutions throughout the country.

In late February, the University’s Luckyday Citizenship Scholars Program was honored with the Jon C. Dalton Institute Best Practice in Campus Programming Award.

The Best Practice Award is given by the Institute annually to a program or practice that has contributed significantly to the field of college student character and values development. A panel of judges, including practicing student affairs professionals and preparation program faculty, review all nominated program materials.

The Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values was established in 1991 for student affairs professionals, educators, graduate, and undergraduate students interested in character development in college students. The award is presented annually at Florida State University.

Read more: http://news.usm.edu/article/southern-miss-luckyday-program-accepts-best-practice-award-jon-c-dalton-institute

The University continues to host events that attract audiences from across the country and throughout the world.

In early March, the University’s National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security hosted the inaugural Professional Sport Facilities Safety and Security Summit. More than 80 industry experts attended the summit which serves as the only annual combined meeting for professional and minor league safety and security professionals. The list included security professionals like Jim Mercurio, vice president, stadium operations/general manager for the San Francisco 49ers, who recently helped coordinate safety and security for Super Bowl 50.

On April 6-8, the 50th anniversary of our de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection will be recognized during the Fay B. Kaigler Chidren’s Book Festival on the Hattiesburg campus. The 100th birthday of famed American writer and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983) will also be celebrated with a special Centennial Keats Lecture given by Deborah Pope at the Keats awards ceremony and luncheon April 7.

The festival recently benefited from a $100,000 gift from Richard Peck. The famed author’s gift will help defray registration and travel costs for some regular attendees of the festival whose sponsors have budget challenges involving travel expenditures.

Read more: http://news.usm.edu/article/author-richard-peck-makes-gift-southern-miss

USM takes great pride in serving those who serve others, and we were recently again honored for our commitment to active military, their family members and veterans.

The University has been rated as a 2016 Top Military Friendly Online College – one of only 81 to receive that designation nationally – by Military Advanced Education & Transition (MAET).

In evaluating more than 500 schools, MAET researched online schools across the nation and analyzed them in four areas: military culture, online support, financial aid, and flexibility.

Read more: http://news.usm.edu/article/southern-miss-receives-top-military-friendly-online-college-honor

Dr. Michael Forster

Cut carbon emissions for human health

So clearly, now, the debate is over – Climate change is all-too-real, “a” if not “the” principal cause is carbon emissions related to human activity, and many of the expected effects of climate change – extreme weather, disruption of food supplies, shifting disease vectors among them – pose grave threats to public health. The landmark Paris climate accord this past December left no doubt – global carbon emissions must be reduced, radically and rapidly.

So why is Ernest Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, celebrating, in today’s Clarion-Ledger, a court-related delay in the Environmental Protection Agency’s imposition of state-by-state carbon emissions?  Yes, Mr. Pyle, regulation to cut carbon pollution may mean that “higher costs will be passed on to Mississippi families in the form of higher energy bills.”  But it just may be that those families recognize that a hopefully healthy future for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren is worth the price of some higher costs now.

Short-term pocketbook issues are real, but they’re not all there is, certainly not when a livable future hangs in the balance.  Let’s take our heads out of the sand once and for all, and look ahead to the long term.

Dr. Michael Forster

Flint, Michigan public health crisis: isolated incident, or more to come?

Eyes around the country are on Flint, Michigan, where a money-saving switch in water source has led to dangerous levels of lead leeching into the water supply, disproportionately affecting poor children and threatening all drinkers’ health, both immediately and for years to come.  There’s plenty of blame for bad decision-making, incompetence, and poor response to go around.  Michigan Governor Synder has taken his share of blame, apologized, and promised to correct the problem.

The Flint debacle is fraught with issues – of race, poverty, and austerity politics among them.  But how unique is Flint, really?  A key proximate cause of the lead contamination is a badly decaying water carrying infrastructure – a condition plaguing urban areas, large and small, in the “rust belt” and outside it, all over the country.  Is Flint unique, or just first?  We can only neglect fundamental conditions of  sanitation and safety before human health starts to suffer – often in painfully dramatic fashion.

Dr. Michael Forster

CoH Dean’s Council Should Be Busy in 2016

I spent some productive time yesterday afternoon with Ryan Kelly, current chair of my Dean’s Council (external supporters/advisory group), looking ahead to 2016.  There’s a lot on the agenda, including formation of three core Council committees – in “workforce data,” “professional development,” and “fund-raising.”  The intent is to boost engagement of Council around issues of importance to the CoH in ways that substantially advances the mission.  In addition to new member recruitment, and near-certainty that we’ll sponsor another innovative “Health Summit” by summer, I look forward to a busy and exciting spring under Mr. Kelly’s leadership.

Dr. Michael Forster

Great progress toward new College of Health/College of Business building at Gulf Park

Since so many things do not go as either planned or hoped for, it’s quite refreshing when they do.  Such is the case with the planning for a new College of Health/College of Business building on the Gulf Park campus.

Work with colleagues in CoB, VP Steve Miller, and the architect group McCarty and Associates could hardly have gone more smoothly, as we’ve worked our way through the phases of planning the new structure, which will include first-floor classrooms and second-floor faculty and administrative offices.

I tend to mix up my document names, but I believe we have now successfully navigated the waters of “Schematic Design” and “Design Development,” leaving McCarty to craft the detailed “Construction Documents” that will guide the actual building process.

Oh, if we could only report similar progress with the Joseph Greene Hall project on the Hattiesburg campus!  The contrast between the two building tales is not quite one of tortoise and hare – but the analogy is not too far off.