Diversity Awards


Mississippi State’s 2018 Diversity Award winners are EXPRESS Yourself! artist Candace Stephenson, pictured in front; back, from left, MSU Assistant Professor of Sociology Margaret A. Hagerman, EXPRESS Yourself! trackers Laurie Craig and Judy Duncan, David Clark (accepting on behalf of MSU graduate student Brittany Radford-Clark) and JP Abercrumbie, MSU assistant athletic director for life skills and community engagement. MSU President Mark E. Keenum, right, congratulated the honorees during an April 4 awards ceremony. (Photo by Megan Bean)

Margaret A. Hagerman, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and faculty affiliate for both MSU’s African American and Gender Studies programs. In addition to notable academic work on race and youth, Hagerman has developed and coordinated MSU’s Race in America Lecture Series, which has featured more than 20 scholars, providing undergraduate and graduate students with opportunities to meet and engage with some of the nation’s leading experts on race. Hagerman also has organized and participated in a wide range of panels, workshops, film screenings and presentations on campus that offer community spaces to examine existing forms of inequality in society.

JP Abercrumbie, assistant athletic director for life skills and community engagement. Abercrumbie is responsible for MSU Athletics personal and leadership development programs, professional and postgraduate preparation, and community outreach and engagement opportunities supported by the athletic department’s Pay It Forward initiative. She leads the Athletics Diversity Council with Athletic Director John Cohen and has served as a mentor for MSU’s Day One Leadership Program, among other campus service. Abercrumbie is a 2017 selection into the NCAA’s prestigious Dr. Charles Whitcomb Leadership Institute and devotes her time to the advancement of several NCAA Leadership Development programs and Women Leaders in College Sports initiatives.

Brittany Radford-Clark, a graduate student in MSU’s School of Human Sciences from Cleveland, Ohio. With a focus on youth development, Radford has based her research on the connection between faith and race relations within the Christian church. She is the former director of Youth Community Explosion, an outreach program geared toward underserved youth in Starkville. Prior to relocating to Mississippi, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in locations such as New York and Washington, D.C. This fall, she plans to begin work on a doctorate in MSU’s Department of Sociology.

EXPRESS Yourself! artists and trackers with MSU’s T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. The T. K. Martin Center’s project EXPRESS Yourself! (EXperiencing Painting as Recreation & Express the Spirit within YourSelf) uses the techniques of Artistic Realization Technologies to provide a means for Mississippians with the most severe disabilities to feel the power of self expression through art. The trackers being honored are Laurie Craig, a speech language pathologist at the T.K. Martin Center, and Judy Duncan, a case manager at the center. Both Craig and Duncan have served as trackers in the program for more than 10 years. The artists being honored include Amanda Williams and Candace Stephenson of Ackerman, Demetria Gilbert and Dustin Sudduth of Tupelo, Kendrell Davis of DeKalb, Mark S. Jones of Columbus, Monica Heard of Eupora and Shannon Herod of Columbus.


MSU President Mark E. Keenum (left) congratulates 2017 MSU Diversity Award winners, from left, Roy Jafari, a doctoral student in industrial and systems engineering; Deborah Jackson, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations; Bailey McDaniel, a senior sociology student; and Scott Willard, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. (Photo by Megan Bean)

Scott Willard, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Willard is author/co-author on 98 peer-reviewed scientific publications and has published numerous abstracts, extension and popular press publications in his field. He is a recent fellow of the Southeastern Conference Academic Leadership Development Program. Willard has been involved in efforts to engage underrepresented minorities and women in STEM, was a program manager in the development of a USDA Higher Education Multicultural Scholars grant, and more recently has worked to establish a World Food Prize-affiliated Mississippi Youth Institute to create opportunities for youth across the state to consider careers in agriculture and join the fight against global hunger and poverty.

Deborah Jackson, assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations. Jackson holds three degrees from MSU and conducts research in the areas of stress management counseling, alcohol and drug education and assessment, motivational interviewing and multicultural and diversity issues in counseling. Jackson chaired the MSU Safe Zone Advisory Board from its inception in 2010 until February 2016. The Safe Zone Advisory Board was instrumental in developing and implementing awareness and advocacy training programs on campus, as well as establishing resources for the MSU, Starkville and Golden Triangle LGBT and ally communities. In addition to her work with Safe Zone, Jackson has facilitated campus focus groups and MSU Student Counseling Services LGBT counseling groups. In the past two years, she has expanded her advocacy and training efforts to community and regional levels.

Roy Jafari, a doctoral student in industrial and systems engineering. A native of Tehran, Iran, Jafari has served as a research assistant, graduate teaching assistant and an instructor over the last three years in the Bagley College of Engineering. Jafari has been active in multiple student organizations, serving as president of the International Student Advisory Board. He also writes for The Reflector, the campus student newspaper, as a staff writer in the opinion section.

Bailey McDaniel, a senior undergraduate student in sociology. McDaniel, a Corinth native, is a member of the Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College and was named a Truman Scholar finalist last month. She is studying criminology and pursing a minor in gender studies. McDaniel works as a volunteer for the Center for Violence Prevention in Pearl. She was one of two women chosen for the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Women Outstanding Student Female Leader Award in 2016. McDaniel’s passions include advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and educating the public on the need for sexual assault policy reform and victims services. She has served as the President of LGBTQ+ Union for two years and sits on the Safe Zone Advisory Board as the only undergraduate board member.


President Mark E. Keenum (far left) congratulates 2016 MSU Diversity Award winners, including (from left) Jamel Alexander, Krystle Dixon, Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi and Hillary Richardson. Richardson accepted on behalf of faculty and students with the “A Shaky Truce: Starkville Civil Rights Struggles, 1960-1980” Project. (Photo by Megan Bean)

A professor of demography and applied statistics in the sociology department for nearly 20 years, he is founder and executive director of MSU’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center where diversity is part of the intellectual environment and 20 distinct languages are spoken. A Pennsylvania State University doctoral graduate, Parisi’s research on diversity and racial residential segregation has appeared in top peer-reviewed journals, as well as in the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality’s 2016 State of the Union report.

Academic coordinator in the College of Business’ Adkerson School of Accountancy, she is founder of the college’s Accelerating Students into the Accounting Profession summer camp, as well as its Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance and Empowering Minorities in Accounting Association student organizations. She holds degrees from MSU and Troy (Alabama) University.

An MSU mechanical engineering graduate, the New Orleans, Louisiana, native now is pursuing a doctorate in the field. As a member of the National Society of Black Physicists campus chapter, Alexander mentors high school, undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing STEM degrees. In addition to helping develop the Mechanical Engineering Minority Organization support network, he also launched an ACT prep program in Artesia for underrepresented minority students interested in attending higher education.

An ongoing effort between faculty and students in the history department and MSU Libraries, the web-based project highlights Starkville’s civil rights movement through the use of digitized archival documents and oral history interviews. Faculty leaders for the project include associate professor Judith Ridner of the history department and assistant professors Hillary A. H. Richardson and Nickoal Eichmann of MSU Libraries.

“Shaky Truce” student collaborators included senior Christine M. Dunn, a secondary education/English education major from Niceville, Florida; history doctoral students Michael T. Murphy of Crystal River, Florida, Kelli B. Nelson of Johnson City, Tennessee, and Nicholas A. “Nick” Timmerman of Flint, Michigan; and Daáiyah R. Heard of Columbus, a 2015 history master’s degree graduate. Murphy also is an MSU history master’s graduate.


Accepting 2015 Diversity Awards from the MSU President's Commission on the Status of Minorities are, from left, Joe Silvera (front), Daniel Mooney, Wade Sims, and Amanda Byrd, for the campus' ACCESS program; staff member B.J. LeJeune; faculty member Brenda Kirkland; and doctoral student Sushil Raj Poudel. (Photo by Keats Haupt)

An associate professor of geology who came to the geosciences department in 2001, she has led several innovative classes, including courses in introductory geology and intensive microscopy research designed to introduce minority students to geoscience. A member of the Association for Women Geoscientists, she also has served as a volunteer presenter of earth science career opportunities at Armstrong Middle School and a science cadre member at Ward Stewart Elementary School, both in Starkville.

As training supervisor at MSU's National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, she helps prepare service providers to more effectively serve the blind, visually impaired and deaf-blind. As chair of the College of Education's Diversity Committee, she led efforts to obtain accessible restrooms in Allen Hall. Through her church, she has ministered both to international students and incarcerated individuals in the Starkville community, and participated in food distribution programs.

A native of Nepal who came to campus in 2011, the doctoral student in industrial and systems engineering also works as a graduate assistant at the Holmes Center. In demonstrating how he has come to consider both campus and Starkville as a new home, Poudel is active in the Engineering Student Council, International Student Advisory Board and Nepalese Students' Association. He also volunteers with the annual International Fiesta, among other activities.

Since its inception during the 2010-11 school year, ACCESS has worked to empower students with intellectual disabilities to live independently and experience college life to the fullest. A transitional post-secondary education program, it includes the auditing of university courses, living in on-campus residence halls, and learning to independently navigate campus and utilize community transit systems. Participants also join student organizations and intern with various campus departments and community businesses, among other activities.


L-R: MSU President Keenum, Deborah Jackson, Robert Morgan, Leslie Burger (Photo by Beth Wynn)

Leslie Burger is an Extension Instructor in the Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture. Prior to her employment at MSU, Ms. Burger served as a wildlife biologist for a state conservation agency, a 4-H and community youth leader, and an educator. She has been employed with MSU since May 2008 and has responsibilities for providing science-based programming on environmental science and conservation. Ms. Burger has B.S. and M.A. degrees in wildlife ecology, and she is currently finishing her PhD, researching the effectiveness of an environmental education program in a school with a diverse student body. She has developed natural science youth programs, including special outreach efforts for young women and inner city youth. She initiated Women in Natural Resources, a mentoring group designed to promote recruitment and retention of women in natural resources-related professions. This work by Ms. Burger and her colleagues on behalf of Mississippi State has garnered recognition by state and federal organizations such as the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and the Environmental Protection Agency Gulf of Mexico Program.

A native of Houston, Mississippi, Robert Morgan is a senior double majoring in Secondary Education and Mathematics. He is involved in several organizations at Mississippi State, including the Famous Maroon Band and The Starkville Multi-Culture Lions Club. As a student worker at the English as a Second Language Center, Robert has also worked extensively in the needs of the campus’s international population. His involvement in these organizations has allotted him numerous opportunities to celebrate the diverse nationalities and cultures of the campus and community.

While in high school, Robert developed a passion for Lions International through his membership in the Mississippi Lions All-State Band. Now, as an active member in the Starkville Multi-Culture (SMC) Lions Club, Robert continues helping others. During his time in the SMC Lion’s Club, Robert has served as secretary and assisted with community service projects such as the Cotton District trash pickup, Noxubee Wildlife Refuge Canoe Day, and the International Fiesta. The club contains members from a vast number of countries and serves as a unit that celebrates diversity at Mississippi State and in the community. Through his work with SMC lions, Robert has dedicated himself to the acquisition of success despite cultural differences.

During his time in the Famous Maroon Band, Robert has been principle tubist for the Mississippi State University Wind Ensemble and squad leader in the marching band. These leadership roles have allowed Robert to connect with a plethora of MSU students from extremely diverse backgrounds. In the FMB, he was able to help mold these different students into a cohesive performing unit.

As a student worker at the English as a Second Language (ESL) Center, Robert has worked with students from countries around the world, including Brazil, China, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and Korea. For these international students, Roberts serves as a guide to adapting to campus life. He also works in providing needed student services and offering needed cultural assistance. As a result of his intensive interaction, Robert gained insight to the countless cultural similarities and aspects that connect all cultures and how these parallels transcend any language and ethnic barriers.

Through his various experiences, Robert has developed an intense appreciation for diversity. He continues to strive for the acceptance and inclusion of all cultures and hopes to embody the true spirit of diversity, especially on the campus of Mississippi State.

The Safe Zone Advisory Board is a volunteer group of MSU volunteers with exceptional energy and selfless commitment to making a difference in the lives of LGBT students at Mississippi State University. Safe Zone Advisory Board members are advocates of the LGBT community, and actively work to fulfill the mission of the Board which is to promote a welcoming, supportive and safe community for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) faculty, staff and students, as well as campus and community allies.

The Safe Zone Board members work to identify and train campus and community allies who would be willing to provide resources and support to the MSU LGBTQ and Ally communities. The Board coordinates Safe Zone LGBT Awareness training programs and through these programs has identified and trained to date approximately 300 faculty, staff, and student allies at Mississippi State University.  The board has also developed a series of advocacy trainings that explore and examine specific LGBT-related topics in depth, such as legal issues, religion, and bullying. 

In addition to developing and implementing the awareness and advocacy training programs, the Board has also established a pool of resources for LGBTQ individuals within the Starkville and MSU communities. Future plans for the Safe Zone Advisory Board include developing an MSU Safe Zone web site that will provide an array of resources for all students.


Dr. Rani Warsi Sullivan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering. She is the academic advisor for senior aerospace students, an advisory board member of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi and the faculty advisor for the Muslim Student Association. She and her graduate and undergraduate students are active in outreach activities by providing active learning experiences in engineering mechanics to incoming minority freshman students in the Bagley College of Engineering's Summer Bridge program and to students at East and West Oktibbeha County High Schools. Dr. Sullivan supports programs to encourage women in science and engineering, such as the MSU student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering, and the Dreams of Wings event for inspiring women to seek careers in aviation. She has been the faculty advisor for the internationally diverse Muslim Student Association since 2004 and has been involved in numerous interfaith and intercultural activities that promote meaningful dialogue between persons of different nationalities, religions and ethnicities.

Dr. Sullivan received her Ph.D. in Engineering with a concentration in Aerospace Engineering, her Master of Science degree in Engineering Mechanics and her Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Mississippi State University. Prior to joining the faculty she spent 13 years as a research engineer at MSU's Raspet Flight Research Laboratory where she participated in projects such as the prototype development of the all-composite Honda business jet and the Ultralight Sensor Platform project which involved the structural testing of a composite unmanned aerial aircraft. Dr. Sullivan's research interests include structural health monitoring of composite structures, mechanical and ultrasonic nondestructive testing of composite materials and structures, rapid prototyping techniques for manufacture of composite structures and constitutive modeling of composite materials. She has over 35 refereed journal articles, conference publications, technical reports and a book chapter on multiscale modeling research.

In 2010, Dr. Sullivan earned a NASA Summer Faculty Fellowship at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a member of the Bagley College of Engineering's Academy of Distinguished Teachers, a 2012 recipient of the Hearin Faculty Excellence Award and a 2010 and 2009 recipient of a Hearin State Pride award. In 2012, she was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium and voted Professor of the Year in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in 2011. Dr. Sullivan remains committed to promoting education, multiculturalism and diversity as the ideals of community and social justice.

Angela C. Verdell is the Director of Diversity Programs and Student Development in the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University. She has also worked in the capacity of Adjunct Instructor in the College of Business where she taught courses in International Logistics, Physical Distribution and Transportation Management. Prior to working at MSU, Angela worked in industry for a number a years with such notable companies as Johnson and Johnson, Shell Oil Company and Entergy Nuclear Power where she was instrumental in promoting and advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives.

As a responsible community advocate, Angela is a founding member of the Professional Leadership Alliance, a non-profit organization of young local leaders with a desire to serve, mobilize and empower underrepresented populations within the Golden Triangle area. Her passion for working with young people of all ages is her driving force and is evident in her day to day activities. She is an advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education in P-12 and has written and been awarded grants for summer enrichment and Saturday programs geared at exposing underrepresented minority children and girls to the wonders of STEM. With the help of MSU volunteers, she has logged many hours traveling to summer camps hosted by the Housing Authority, Parks & Recreation Associations, and the Boys & Girls Club to host interactive hands-on STEM activities, share concern of under representation of minorities in STEM and to explain how having a career in these fields or an education in general, can be life changing for them and their communities.

Currently she serves as the faculty advisor for the Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education (IMAGE) Program and the National Society of Blacks in Engineering (NSBE) in the College of Engineering and works closely with the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers (SHPE). She holds membership in the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME), is Chair Elect for the National Association for Minority Engineering Program Advocates (NAMEPA) Southern Region, and has held many leadership positions in the Parent Teacher Association in the Columbus Municipal School District over the past 6 years. Angela is a native of Columbus, MS and is a 1993 graduate of Jackson State University with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a graduate of Mississippi State University with a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering. She is a certified Diversity and Inclusion trainer, an Executive Board member for the Golden Triangle Boys and Girls Club, a member of the Columbus-Lowndes Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Northeast Mississippi Chapter of 100 Black Women, where she serves as Treasurer for both. Angela resides in Columbus with her husband Ron and two children Jessica and Aaron. She firmly believes that "a world of people with differences is a world of greater possibilities."

Katja Walter is an undergraduate senior from Wasserburg am Bodensee, Germany. She is pursuing a degree in Graphic Design with a minor in Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising.

Katja is a very hard working, focused, and dedicated individual. English being her second language and the American norms, culture and lifestyle being an alien concept, Katja has blended in with the crowd very smoothly. Katja believes in giving back to the community and being active on campus in several different ways.

In 2011, she was elected as the president of the MSU German Club. Along with 53 other members, she actively takes part in various diverse events. Katja is currently working as a program coordinator assistant for the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, as an information desk assistant for the Colvard Student Union, and as a customer service assistant for the Event Operations Group. She is also involved with Montgomery Leadership Program as part of the 2013-2014 class. Katja was a recipient of the 2012 Spirit of State Award and was selected as the 2012 Study Mississippi International Student of the Year in the undergraduate category.

Along with all these achievements, Katja Walter is involved in extracurricular and campus activities. She is part of the Gamma Beta Phi and Tau Sigma Delta National honor societies. Katja was nominated and selected to be one of the five students being featured on a Difference of One video series to capture her campus involvement. Katja also helps the Art Department to recruit new students and helps to improve the Department of Art as a member of the Student Arts Council and is a member of the Student Honor Code Council.

Besides her active involvement in on and off campus activities, Katja also shows a very promising and streamlined attitude towards her academics.

Collegiate 4-H is a serviced based organization that strives to promote youth leadership, service learning and individual and group development. The organization was re-established in 2007 by two previous 4-H members and is the first chapter of Collegiate 4-H established in Mississippi. These students share a common goal that the ideals and values of 4-H need to be carried on for many generations to come.

In the years that the club has been active, Collegiate 4-H has participated in many service opportunities and has collaborated with other organizations to reach out to the student body and the community at large. By participating in activities with 4-H, they aim to use the skills and values they have acquired to help these youth reach their highest potential. Within the organization, Collegiate 4-H has helped to create strong bonds between its members as well as molding these students to become future leaders.


Dr. P. Edward French is an Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration where he primarily teaches graduate classes in the Ph.D. and M.P.P.A. programs. Dr. French also holds the title of Stennis Scholar for Local Government with the John C. Stennis Institute of Government.

He has authored or co-authored over 40 refereed journal articles, books, and book chapters focusing mainly on human resource management, local government administration, emergency management, and education policy. This research has appeared in several notable academic journals including: Public Administration Review, Review of Public Personnel Administration, American Review of Public Administration, State and Local Government Review, Public Integrity, Public Performance and Management Review, as well as others.

He currently serves as the Associate Editor for Practitioner Outreach for Review of Public Personnel Administration and is on the editorial boards of State and Local Government Review and Journal of Public Administration and Policy Research.

Dr. French received his Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University, a Master's in Education from The University of Virginia, a Master's in City Management from East Tennessee State University, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from The University of Tennessee.

Dr. French has been the recipient of the 2012 MSU President's Faculty Diversity Award, the 2011 Clinton Wallace Dean's Eminent Scholar Award, the 2010 Arts and Sciences Researcher of the Year for Social and Behavioral Sciences Award, and our students also voted him the Outstanding Political Science / Public Administration Graduate Professor in 2009 and again in 2011.

Cedric S. Gathings is the Assistant Director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Mississippi State University where he has been employed for nearly four years. Within this capacity, he advises two of the university's three Greek Councils, The National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Inter-Fraternity Council, which places him at the helm of administering to over 20 individual fraternities and sororities with membership recruitment, academic integrity, community service initiatives, educational programming, and chapter guidelines. This environment has also allowed him the opportunity to assist in the early design of the university's Maroon Volunteer Center and assist over 200 student organizations with the Center for Student Involvement.

Within the realm of Student Affairs Mr. Gathings is no amateur. In previous employments with Mississippi Valley State University, Mississippi University for Women, and East Mississippi Community College, he has served in various roles within the Division of Student Affairs including Assistant Director with Housing and Residence Life, The Career Center and the position of Director the Upward Bound program.

In various capacities, Mr. Gathings has given workshops across the state and region on issues relating to University Housing, Student Affairs Professionalism and Career Development, and successfully navigating the University Greek system. Cedric is currently a member of the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (AFA) and the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC). He has been a member of several professional organizations, including the Mississippi Association of College Student Affairs Professionals ( MACHAP), Mississippi Association of Colleges and Employers, Order of Omega Honor Society.

Mr. Gathings, an Okolona, MS, native, is a two-time graduate of Delta State University, having earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Science as well as a Master of Education with an emphasis in Sociology. He is the husband of the lovely Kimberly Gathings and the loving father of CJ and Chase Gathings. Extending his passion for service beyond his work obligations, Mr. Gathings is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and spends time away from the office serving students and community through various mentorship projects. It is within this capacity he teaches his favorite mantra, "Half of Doing is Believing You Can."

A native of Karlsruhe, Germany, Karin Lee came to Mississippi State University in the spring of 1997. While working at the International Services Office (ISO), Karin completed her undergraduate degree in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations and graduated with honors in 2003. In 2006, she completed her MA in Communication Studies at the University of Alabama while continuing to work at MSU as administrative assistant to Men's Head Basketball Coach Rick Stansbury. Karin began working in the Office of the Graduate School (OGS) in 2006 and currently serves as the Manager of Graduate Programs. Karin has experienced Mississippi State University as an undergraduate and graduate student, as a graduate assistant, as a parent, as support staff and now as a professional staff member which provides her a truly rounded vantage point and explains her ability to empathize with so many people, no matter what their background may be.

Karin has been very involved in various campus and community activities throughout the years. Serving as Campus Liaison for the World Neighbors Association, she organized the International Fiesta for 6 ½ years while working at ISO (she was honored with a plaque at the 2011 International Fiesta). While at ISO, Karin was instrumental in facilitating programming for international students and scholars such as multi-cultural dance parties, game nights, barbeques and coffee hours. She frequently organized bus trips to visit nearby cities and organized many field trips to provide the international students a chance to experience local culture. In 2003, the Indian Student Association at MSU honored her with a lifetime membership.

Karin became a member of the Starkville Multi-Culture Lions Club (SMC Lions Club) in 2008 and has served as membership chair, vice president and currently president of that club. She has championed the SMC Lions Club's involvement in the local Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign and coordinated a team of nearly 40 volunteers to raise over $8,000.00 in the last couple of years. The funds were used by the Salvation Army to buy Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys for families in need. Karin continues to be an active part of the club's many volunteer projects such as the quarterly highway clean-up, annual eye-screening clinics for seniors and children, fundraising to aid local people with eye exams and glasses, St. Jude's Children's Hospital and the Mid-South Eye Bank and well as fundraising for international organizations such the Lamia Foundation Afghanistan and the KMVP Rural India Education Foundation. The Starkville Multi-Culture Lions Club is a very active community service club that brings together the Starkville community and Mississippi State University for the common good. SMC Lions Club is very diverse in membership in many ways – by age, gender, ethnicity and nationality.

Karin is a strong advocate for international students and staff on the MSU campus and committed to make their experience at Mississippi State University the best it can possibly be!

From Nigeria, Ademola Oladunjoye is a graduate student, in the Food Science Nutrition and Health promotion department. Majoring in food science, Ademola believes in campus involvement and student activities.

His activities include: Director international Students Affairs (SA) 2008-2009 where he pioneered the first International Student Orientation, and partnered with The English as second language program with the ESL center to recruit volunteers for the program called conversations partners. He was also a Fellow in the Montgomery Leadership Honors Program in 2010. He also served as a Peer Counselor for the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, President and Vice President of the African American Student Association. He served as a peer tutor for the MSU Student Association Academic Committee, as well as Honor Code Committee Member for the Office of Student Affairs.

Additionally, Oladunjoye was selected as International Student of the Year in 2011, and Cabinet Member of the Year for the Student Association in 2009.

The Peer Counselor and Ambassador Program was established under the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center to contend with the low retention rates of first year African American Students. The Program has now expanded to not only focus on African American students but to increase retention and graduation rates of all MSU students. The Peer Counselors and Ambassadors assist freshman and transfer students by offering opportunities for building personal connections with faculty and staff, assisting students to develop strong study skills, and aiding students in utilizing campus resources. Peer Counselors are responsible for establishing mentor/mentee relationships with students via various programs and purposeful personal contact. Peer Ambassadors are another valuable asset of the program and are responsible for assisting the Peer Counselors in contributing to the academic and personal success of students by providing diverse, interest focused programming.


Dr. J. P. Shim is professor of Management Information Systems at Mississippi State University. He received his MBA from Seoul National University, his PhD from the University of Nebraska, and completed the Harvard Business School's Executive Education Program. He is currently serving on Wireless Telecommunication Conference as program chair and fellow committee chair. Professor Shim has received various professional awards, grants and distinctions, including National Science Foundation, Japan Foundation, Korea Foundation, State of Mississippi IHL, and Microsoft. He is a sixteen time recipient of the outstanding faculty award at MSU. He has written over 150 research papers in information systems and decision support systems. His co-authored research paper has been cited as top in SSCI, Google citations, and downloads in Decision Support Systems. He has served as a program chair for US-Japan e-business conference sponsored by NSF and as a keynote speaker at international ubiquitous and embedded conference. He has lectured frequently in numerous (30 plus) countries, including USA, UK, France, Greece, Korea, Kuwait, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Jamaica, and China.

As MSU's Regional Ambassador to Far East Asia, he has built a strong relationship with Korean institutions and to develop "2+2" dual degree program and student exchange program which have been implemented since 1995. He has visited a number of Korean universities and MSU Korean Alumni Chapter meetings to further develop this dual degree and exchange student program, based on a formal agreement between MSU and a dozen Korean colleges/universities. Currently, the exchange students spend 2 to 3 years in each degree program. In addition to the program, over 300 Korean college students and faculty members have visited MSU over the past decade. He is serving on the MSU International Committee and has been invited to deliver speech at 2010 MSU Diversity conference.

As a part of MSU International Initiative, he has devoted a considerable amount of time to launching and directing the Global Leadership Program: Korea Study Tour. Currently, he directs MSU Global Leadership Program, which was initiated in 2007. Through an application process, a total of approximately 155 MSU students have completed the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 program. In 2009 and 2010, the Korea Study Tour program was expanded to include Japan and Hong Kong study tour programs as well. He also started the international business executives program (IBSP) that is designed to work with Korean small business executives and owners. The program provides leadership and assistance for international groups seeking knowledge about U.S. business practices. The IBSP participants can earn a certificate and MSU alumni membership by successfully completing the training. Since 1991, more than 350 Korean business men and women have participated. He has since also developed several other similar programs.

In sum, Dr. Shim's unwavering passion for strengthening diversity, building relationships and creating global understanding among many diverse groups is evidenced throughout Mississippi State University. He is richly deserving of this high honor.

Amanda Harrison is an Office Associate with the Office of International Education. She started working for the English as a Second Language Center in January of 2009. Before she started work there, Ms. Harrison had very little exposure to international students. She grew up in the small town of Houston, MS, and it was not until she left to attend college that she had any significant exposure to people from other parts of the world. Her curiosity and her desire to know more about the cultures and traditions of the students lead her to become an active volunteer outside her work at the ESL Center.

A few months after she started working at the ESL Center, she was invited to a meeting of the World Neighbor's Association (WNA) to help plan the upcoming International Fiesta. Since that first meeting 12 years ago, she has gone on to serve as a volunteer and as an officer in the WNA. As an officer, she has served as President, Vice President, and Campus Liaison on more than one occasion. As both a member and as an officer in the WNA, she has helped to plan or organize events to help meet WNA's goal of bridging the gap between the international students and scholars at Mississippi State University and the Starkville community.

In addition to her work with the WNA, Ms. Harrison is also an active member of the Starkville Multi-Culture Lions Club. She joined in 2008, just a few months after the club was officially charted. Since then, she has served as the elected Lion Tamer for the club for two years, taking care of the club's possessions and handling the set up for the club's monthly general meeting and events. In addition to her duties as Lion Tamer, she has also served on several committees within the club and volunteered to help with several service projects within the club. In 2010, she took on the leadership of the Lamia Foundation Project, helping to collect safety scissors for the Maroon Edition Project.

Ms. Harrison is committed to making the MSU campus a place that is welcoming and open people of all cultures and backgrounds who choose to come to Mississippi State University to study and to work. Her efforts show her commitment to the spirit of diversity.

From Raymond, Mississippi, Kimberly Renee is a senior double majoring in History and Foreign Languages with a concentration in Spanish. In addition to her majors she is seeking a minor in Political Science and completing certification in Mississippi State University's Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program.

Actively involved on campus and in her community, Kimberly Renee is committed to bettering cross-cultural understanding and appreciation by fostering a positive environment for all people. Showing great leadership in her efforts to promote diversity, she is a Peer Ambassador in the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center where she assists in the coordination of programs that discourages racism while striving to learn from differences in people, cultures, ideas and opinions. Currently, one of the programs she works with, in addition to mentoring duties at the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and serving as Chair of the Community Service Committee, is coordinating the Borderless Host Program, which pairs international students with a local family for the propose of promoting cultural learning and understanding. Having traveled abroad to France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Costa Rica and this summer to South Korea; Kimberly Renee takes her personal experiences from international travel without family into account when interacting with international students. This year she successfully implemented and facilitated the workshop, "Don't Walk the Line -- Cross It," as part of the Live at 5 series.

Another diversity initiative Kimberly Renee partakes in is English Language Learner tutoring to non-native English speakers at Armstrong Middle School in Starkville. Kimberly Renee's responsibilities include teaching the students language learning strategies, assisting in comprehension of class work and assisting in their interpersonal language interaction development with native English speakers. As an academic endeavor, Kimberly Renee is focusing her honors research on bilingualism in children of immigrant families in the United States. Her research addresses the following questions: How do immigrant parents decide if their children will be bilingual, speaking English and the family's native language? Do children embrace bilingualism? Do older children (ages 20 and older); wish to or do expose their children (the grandchildren) to the family's native language? And How does an English dominant society impact or influence their decisions?

Kimberly Renee volunteers at Blair E. Batson's Children's Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, as a Reader-to-Patient volunteer. The program promotes literacy among the young patients. Other community service projects she partakes in include: the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaigns, Habitat for Humanity and the Mississippi Food Network. Some of her campus organization involvement includes: Foreign Languages Representative on the College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Student Advisory Council, 2010-2011 Student Association's Minority Student Affairs Committee, the 2010-2011 Student Association's Bulldog Interest Group - Student Lobbyist, MSU Pre-Law Society and Shackouls Honors College.


Phyllis Bell Miller is an associate professor and Co-option Leader of the Apparel, Textiles, and Merchandising (ATM) Program in the School of Human Sciences. She was born and reared in Washington, D.C. within a few blocks from Embassy Row-the nickname for a street on which many of the embassies are located. Even at the grocery store, she was surrounded by people in international dress who spoke different languages. That was the beginning of her fascination with other cultures and travel. She tries to bring the same fascination with the world to her students by incorporating cross-cultural information and projects into all of her courses, through involvement in campus and local events, and through study tours.

As Vice President of the World Neighbors Association, Miller developed the International Fiesta Fashion Show and worked with the organization to organize the fiesta, obtain publicity, and get students involved in exhibits and other activities. She also serves on numerous local and international committees that promote international studies and awareness, including the Fulbright Association, the International Committee of the International Textile and Apparel Association, and MSU's International Programs and Study Abroad Committee (IPSAC), IPSAC Faculty Development Committee, and IPSAC Curricular Committee.

Miller has studied French, Spanish, Latin, German, and Bulgarian and has visited more than 36 countries and territories. During her travels, she has taken thousands of photos relating to international business, trade, dress, and manufacturing that she uses to illustrate her lectures. She has also amassed an international book collection of 2500+ volumes and a collection of international dress, textiles, and art. These items are references for students and often appear in exhibitions around campus, including the International Fiesta.

Miller teaches computer applications for fashion and fashion design courses, all of which have international components. During her 20 years at MSU, she has initiated several new courses with cross-cultural emphases, including Cross-cultural Design and Merchandising and Creating Wearable Art, which includes dyeing and other decorative techniques from throughout the world. During summer 2010, Miller will teach Cross-cultural Design, Merchandising, and Marketing in London through the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad (CCSA), a consortium of which MSU is a member. Being the first faulty member in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to offer a CCSA course, Miller has developed four study tours/courses through CCSA-three to London and one to India. She led CCSA London study tours in 2002, 2004, and 2006. Participants included students from MSU and throughout the USA.

Miller's interest in cultivating interest in multi-cultural design extends beyond MSU. As a 2005-2006 Fulbright scholar to Bulgaria, she taught computer-aided design for textile designers at the National Academy of Arts in Sofia. During her fellowship, she worked with several museums to research traditional Bulgarian dress. She also served on the Bulgarian Fulbright Committee to select Bulgarian scholars who came to the US. She frequently advises Fulbright applicants throughout the USA. Miller was also the leader of the Mississippi team for the 2006-2007 Fulbright-Hayes Faculty Fellowship to India, where she visited fashion and textile designers, manufacturers, and retailers throughout the country.

As the developer of Instant Designer International and other fashion-related software, Miller regularly teaches and gives presentations at institutions and conferences throughout the world, including Cornell University; the University of Michigan; Maui Community College; The University of Michigan; the Texas, Nebraska, and California public schools; and the Royal School of Needlework in England. She holds more than 30 software copyrights and is author of AutoCAD for the Apparel Industry (Fairchild), the world's first book on applying generic CAD software to the fashion industry.

As a designer, Miller is often inspired by other cultures. She received the 2009 Editor's Choice Award from Knitter's Magazine and 2nd place in the 2010 American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences' Design Competition for her internationally inspired knits. Her knitwear and embroidery were also selected for the 2008 and 2009 International Textile and Apparel Association (ITAA) Design Exhibitions and for the Costume Society of America's 2010 design/research exhibition.

Miller holds a Bachelor's degree in clothing and textiles from Mundelein College in Chicago, IL; a Master of Arts degree in design and rehabilitation from Michigan State University; and a doctorate in human ecology and communications from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. She also earned a Certificate in French Couture from the Academy Nvart in Oak Park, MI. She has taken several courses in embroidery at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England and several courses in surface design and dyeing from the Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg, TN.

While at Michigan State University, Miller worked with state and local agencies, such as the Bureau of Rehabilitation, to promote store accessibility, better service, and an improved merchandise selection for the handicapped. She was also host of the cable television series, "Phyllis Miller-In the Looking Glass," which offered fashion, housing, and lifestyle advice for persons with disabilities.

Shaz Akram is the Assistant Director at the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center. She has worked with international and minority students at MSU since 2003. She joined the International Services Office (now the Office of Admissions and Scholarships) in 2003 tracking and maintaining international students statuses. In her current job as Assistant Director at the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, she serves as an advisor to all the international students and their organizations on campus. She serves as the Fulbright campus representative for Faculty and Staff, as well as advises students informally. She has also been invited to present at various Department of State and Fulbright Commission conferences in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Canada and the US on internationalization of the campus, recruiting international students and addressing parental concerns. She is also involved in recruiting and retaining international students at MSU. Drawing on her experiences as an international student Shaz helps international students navigate the many logistical and cultural hurdles that come with studying in a foreign country, as well as lending them an ear when they face social and academic challenges. Each year under the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center she organizes events like the International Education Week, International Campus Games, International Women's Day, The Vagina Monologues, International Tax Workshops, International student orientations, monthly talk forums under the 'Let's Speak on It' series, and various international student, faculty and staff training sessions. She serves as advisor to NACH, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Pakistani Student Association. She serves on several university wide committees; treasurer of the President's Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW), Social Work Advisory Board, International Programs and Study Abroad Committee (IPSAC), Organizations Committee, Dawg Daze Planning Committee and Student Affairs Awards and Recognition Committee. She is also the treasurer of the Mississippi Association of International Educators and a member of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors.

In the seven plus years Shaz has worked at Mississippi State, her name has become synonymous with the word international. She serves as a role model to all students taking keen interest in their lives and helping them transition to college life. Shaz was born and raised in West Africa in Lagos, Nigeria where she picked up pigeon English, Yoruba, English, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and French. After high school she moved back to her home country, Pakistan to continue her education. She holds a Bachelors degree in Economics and French, and a Masters in English Literature from Pakistan. She then went on to become part of the prestigious Civil Services of Pakistan and joined the Auditor General of Pakistan's Office. She worked as an Assistant and Deputy Controller of Military Accounts till she moved to the US to pursue her Master's in Business Administration. Having lived in three continents Shaz is very aware of various diversity challenges that people face in life.

Due to her expertise in languages and a great rapport with international professors on campus Shaz assists international students in translating birth certificates to help them in getting Driver Licenses. In October 2009, Shaz volunteered her efforts to the President's Investiture Ceremony by mobilizing 84 students to present flags from respective countries as they led the presidential procession. Not only did this wonderful parade add even more excitement to the Drill Field but this 'global touch' to the festivities affirmed MSUs international profile during the swearing in ceremony of the19th President, which was watched by thousands of people across the State of Mississippi. From 2008 to present, Shaz has served as the president of the World Neighbors Association, a community organization primarily composed of people who work or have worked at the university. As part of her volunteer efforts for the organization, Shaz organizes and oversees all the activities associated with the International Fiesta. She is also a charter member of the Starkville Multi-Culture Lions Club. Shaz truly embodies the qualities that reflect Mississippi State University's spirit of commitment to diversity.

Sandra is a Ph.D. candidate in Entomology and Plant Pathology graduating in May 2010. Originally from Indonesia, she is diligent, hardworking, and has been dedicated to her degree program, her family, friends, and the university's spirit of diversity. Despite her busy work schedule, as well as family and church commitments, in the past 10 years she has invested hundreds of hours of service in the Starkville and Mississippi State University (MSU) communities, contributing to a growing sense of cultural understanding and respect in both places.

The followings are the three major highlights of Sandra's community involvements:

  • First, her membership in the World Neighbors Association (WNA). Sandra has served as secretary of WNA for two years and member of the executive board for many years. Along with other WNA members, she always helps organizing the local annual Thanksgiving Dinner for international students and their families. In addition, she has served as a contact person for new Indonesian students attending MSU to help with their acclimation. She is always very active in the planning of the annual International Fiesta at MSU. She and her husband, Walter, are in their fifth year of planning children's activities for the Fiesta. As a chairperson for children's program, she introduced games from other countries such as the Mexican piata, the Phillippine pabitin, the Indonesian pencil in bottle, and other international children's games. Sandra has recruited girls from other Girl Scout troops in Starkville and surrounding area to take part in the Fiesta, allowing them to benefit from the diversity Starkville and MSU have to offer.
  • Second, her membership in the International Village committee. The International Village is a component of the Cotton District Arts festival sponsored by the Starkville Area Arts Council every year. During festival, a few activities happen in the village including children activities. Sandra has consistently volunteered as a chair person to plan and supervise the children's games and performances. The International Village attracts festival goers and promote public awareness of international arts and cultures.
  • Third, her leadership in the local Girl Scouts. In May 2007 Sandra became the leader of Girl Scout Troop 653 (now 20653), which is also known as the international troop, the only international troop in Starkville, MS. Under her leadership, the number of girls in the troop has increased from five to twenty-three. These girls, whose many of them are daughters of MSU faculty/staff/students, come from China, the Philippines, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Venezuela, England, Russia, and Indonesia, the United States as well as American girls with German, Netherlands, and African American heritage. Though most area troops have meetings just twice a month, the international troop meets or do Girl Scout activities almost every week. They have participated in many typical Girl Scout activities, like campouts, cookouts, and World Thinking Day. They have also attended sporting events, gone to the Jackson Zoo and the Memphis Children's Museum, as well as the horse rodeo. Sandra has instilled her own sense of service in these girls, leading them to bake brownies for a local casserole ministry, participate in a food drive, and most recently, collect used shoes and monetary donations for Haiti.

Besides the intercultural outreach, Sandra uses her expertise to reach out to community through science. She spent countless hours in K-12 classrooms which includes more than twenty-five outreach projects encompassing a diverse number of students. She has been recognized many times for her outstanding contributions in the field of entomology and plant pathology; one of the accomplishments was being recognized as the 2007 Diversity Scholar awarded by the American Institute of Biological Science (AIBS). Sandra is diversity and everything she does reaches out to people of all cultures.

The Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) is a non-profit organization within the College of Architecture, Art, and Design at Mississippi State University. It was established in 1979, responding to its geographical position within a rural landscape and to the school's focus on the American small town. Its goals as a design center include influencing public policy on the built environment and promoting collaboration between communities, students and faculty. At present, the center has twenty projects in fifteen communities around the state of Mississippi. The CSTC's work with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) led by Assistant Prof. Hans Herrmann, was a collaboration between 4th year architecture students, the MBCI, and the CSTC. This project challenged the students, faculty and community leaders to engage one another professionally and as citizens of Mississippi in the spirit of community design.

This project involved architectural students in a real world project with culturally distinctive clients who played a pertinent role in the decision process. It provided an opportunity for architecture students to engage in public forums, to understand and discuss not only architecture but about needs of the people of Bogue Chitto and Pearl River, Mississippi. The design studio class focused on learning and understanding construction as a class-wide activity which continually prompted the architecture students to place the interests of the Choctaw community before their own personal architectural expression.

This collaborative undertaking made possible an educational experience rooted in statesmanship and civic minded development. The lessons learned will undoubtedly carry forward in both the professional and civic activities of the students involved. The CSTC and Professor Herrmann are proud of this achievement and hope this project serves as a positive role-model for further collaborative projects in the state of Mississippi.


Dr. Robert Damm has served with distinction as a creative musician and a caring teacher in the Department of Music at Mississippi State University for 14 years. As Director of Music Education Partnerships, he displays exemplary dedication to upholding and reflecting the MSU principle of promoting cultural diversity and understanding through music.

He teaches a class called African American Music through which he explores the roots, culture, and traditions of African American Music. It is clear that Robert is passionate about learning and teaching the music and cultures from many countries. In fact, Robert is so well thought of that he teaches a course in fine arts for our elementary teachers in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Special Education. Within this course, he models a multicultural approach to integrating music with the study of people, places, and cultures. He also creates a learning environment which contributes to the self esteem of all the students.

Robert never loses sight of his important mission of music education or his concern for making the world a place without prejudice and one of peace and compassion. He consistently brings his expertise, enthusiasm, and knowledge to students of all ages and backgrounds. Recent examples include facilitating recreational drumming sessions for teenage boys and girls sentenced to the Juvenile Detention Center, and directing a Brazilian Percussion Ensemble for middle school students, a children's African Drum Ensemble for a community Kwanzaa celebration, Native American Programs at area elementary schools, a Celebration of African Heritage, teaching about African music and culture for Girl Scouts of Northeast MS, and performing with legendary blues guitarist Jesse Robinson in K-12 schools.

Robert has served on the College of Education's Diversity Committee. Established in 1997, this task force developed a "Plan for Diversity and Globalization." He worked with this committee to create goals for the COE to develop and maintain an environment that welcomes diversity, recruit and retain diverse faculty members and students, and ensure that diversity is infused into course curricula. He eventually chaired the COE Diversity Committee and spear headed plans to put the goals of the committee into action.

He has studied music and dance in Cuba and Ghana and now presents programs at public schools throughout Mississippi sharing the skills and information he gained through his travels. He also works closely with the African Student Association to offer high quality cultural programs such as their annual African Night. The African students refer to him as Babatunde, which means "father who has come back to us." He is loved by and respected by faculty and students. In short, Robert embodies the qualities that reflect Mississippi State University's spirit of commitment to diversity.

Erdogan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, and is Director of the Animal Functional Genomics Laboratory in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

At Mississippi State, Erdogan has been conducting research on functional genomics of mammalian gamete and embryo development. His research programs involve collaborations, multidisciplinary approaches, and researchers and students from minority serving institutions including Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Opportunities for promoting diversity and services for underrepresented minorities have been plentiful for Erdogan. He has been active in student clubs at universities and in civic societies. At MSU, Erdogan provides research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students as well as international visiting scholars.

According to Erdogan, "Diversity Vigor" refers to the idea that the more diverse the groups the more successful they become. In a scientific working environment such as his research laboratory, there are team members from different cultural, ethnic, religious and educational backgrounds. Each member brings a unique flavor/strength from his/her unique background which translates into strength, more fun and thus success.

Maria has served Mississippi State University for 27 years. She began her work in diversity in 1989 when she became a part of the Center for Cultural Diversity now known as the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center. Currently, she is Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center while at the same time pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy.

Her increased interaction with students from various cultures led to her increased interest and strong desire to assist all students and to learn more about their individual cultures. She has spent her subsequent years seeking to promote the well-being of the University by ensuring the retention of students of color at the University. To assist with the retention of students from all creeds, colors, and races she introduced "Live at 5", a forum for undergraduate students to discuss race related topics; Unity Week, a celebration of all nationalities, gender, sexual orientation, and color; Let's Speak On It, a forum for faculty, staff, and students to come together once a month to actively engage in conversations about relative issues; coordinating month long events to celebrate Black History Month, Women's History Month, National Mentoring Month, Disability Awareness Month, Native American Month, Hispanic Awareness Month, and the Gay and Lesbian Awareness month, and much more. Her service has extended far beyond programming efforts as she serves the students via advising and her open door policy as well as being advisor for the Collegiate Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Spectrum, Delta Xi Phi Multicultural Sorority and Black Voices. She also serves on many university committees.

Maria not only serves as a role model to MSU students, staff, and faculty, but she also works with community organizations such as the Multicultural Lion's Club and Starkville Boys and Girls Club, and is called upon regularly to speak to public and county school youth throughout the Golden Triangle area. Her dedication and fervency has won her a series of awards such as: Outstanding Woman of the Year, Day One Recognition for Service, MSU/NSYP Leadership Award-Partnership for a Healthy Oktibbeha County, Outstanding African American Female in the Workplace, and Outstanding Professional Staff Member of the Year-NAACP. Maria's integrity, dedication and commitment to service to men and women of color will continue to manifest itself as she strives to create an atmosphere that fosters healthy exchange of dialogue and ideology, encouraging all to stretch their limits in order to achieve success in an ever changing, multicultural global environment. Without a doubt, Maria exemplifies a spirit of commitment to diversity at MSU and beyond.

A senior majoring in Banking and Finance, Alex Washington has been involved with diversifying Mississippi State University since 2006. Alexander's contributions to diversity efforts are represented in his presentations, collaboration, and service. Alex's activities demonstrate a wide range of service with respect to diversity via his collaborative efforts with the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, the Student Association, Minority Student Affairs, College of Business Ambassadors, and the Mississippi State and surrounding community. His participation in these organizations showcases his genuine sincerity to help others and his natural ability to interact with a diverse group of individuals. He has successfully implemented and facilitated programs targeted towards unity.

Alex has also worked to recruit students from diverse backgrounds to collaborate on various programs, including Unity Week, Live at Five series, Cultural Trips, International campus games, Cultural Catwalk, and assisted with the formations of the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center student programming committee. Alex also served the Office of Housing and Residence Life with programs and activities for students from all walks of life. Alex has also served as a Peer Counselor for the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center. His dedication and commitment to his position was noted by many and he was elected to be President of the Peer Counselor and Peer Ambassador program. Other positions held by Alex include President of College of Business Ambassadors, Director of Minority Student Affairs, and President Commission on the Status of Minorities committee member. Alex is not afraid to stand up for what is right. His natural ability to be a leader has caused him to be greatly respected among his peers as well as faculty, staff, and administrators. Alex plans to pursue a master's degree at MSU, and hopes to continue working to improve unity among the Bulldog family.


Kevin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and is Director of the Human Dimensions and Conservation Law Enforcement Laboratory (HDCLEL) in the College of Forest Resource's (CFR) Forest and Wildlife Research Center. Kevin's research, recruitment and educational efforts with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), selection of undergraduate and graduate students that work with him in the HDCLEL, and his participation with minority student clubs and diversity issues at MSU all reflect his spirit of commitment to diversity at Mississippi State University.

Kevin's interest in diversity issues stemmed from his previous work as an urban fisheries biologist for the Florida Game and Fish Commission in Jacksonville, Florida where he managed resources for a diverse urban constituency. This led to his dissertation research at Texas A&M University which focused on understanding cultural differences in recreational fishing behavior and attitudes which has continued at MSU with his research on wildlife-related recreation. At MSU, Kevin has worked on developing joint minority student programs with Alcorn State University, Florida A&M University, and Tuskegee University where he is an Adjunct Professor. These programs focus on giving minority students opportunities to do part of their coursework at their home institution and attend MSU in their junior or senior years to take courses in the College of Forest Resources that will better prepare them for graduate school in a natural resources-related discipline. Kevin's undergraduate and graduate students in the HDCLEL reflect the cultural diversity of MSU and he has mentored African-American and Hispanic students, and students from India. Kevin has served as faculty co-advisor for the MSU Chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) since 2004 and has helped the organization garner funding to attend the organization's national meeting, and host a regional workshop in 2007 which was attended by 100 students from regional MANRRS Chapters. Kevin serves as the Minority Recruiter for the CFR and travels to predominately African American high schools in Mississippi to attract students to MSU and has developed a joint recruiting effort with the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences at Yale University called Resources for an Inclusive Future. Finally, Kevin serves as Chair of the CFR Diversity Council which focuses on workplace diversity, and has served on the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities since 2007.

Hawken, a senior Psychology major from Starkville, MS, is an alumnus of the Appalachian Leadership Honors Program (ALHP) Alpha Class. Hawken developed a desire to assist those who come to live in the U.S. after living with his family in Brazil for three months as a high school junior. This desire led Hawken to create the Borderless Hosts Program at MSU as his ALHP capstone project. The program assists international students, who are attending MSU, by pairing them with a sponsoring family who serves as a support system. So far the program has aided forty-eight students from thirteen different countries, including: Belgium, Cambodia, China, France, Honduras, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia, South Korea, Sudan, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Hawken's commitment to the spirit of diversity is apparent in his strong desire to enhance MSU's global diversity through further development of the Borderless Hosts Program.

During his time at MSU, Hawken has volunteered extensively with the English as a Second Language Center and has resided with three different international students. He is currently seeking certification in Teaching English as a Second Language. He also served as a Peer Counselor in the MSU Career Center. Hawken served first as a Camp Counselor and then Student Director for MSU's Young Guns Leadership Development Camp over the past two summers. He currently works as the Community Assistant for MSU's Day One Leadership Community. Hawken also has been awarded the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Leadership Award. He has spoken at Starkville's Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club about his experience with the leadership programs at MSU. He would like to travel extensively in the future and plans to pursue a master's degree in Student Affairs.