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Dr. Michael Forster

Mississippi Roads Are a Public Health Hazard

Mississippi has one of the one of the highest rural traffic fatality rates in the nation, in part because of the crumbling and highly dangerous condition of its roads and bridges. A new study by the national nonprofit Transportation Research and Information Program rates Mississippi as 13th worst in the nation, with 22% of its major rural roads in poor condition. Bridges are rated 12th worst, with 14% considered structurally deficient.

This sad state of affairs is nothing short of a major – and intolerable – public health hazard. People die – 2.42 deaths per every 100 million vehicle miles, 12th highest in the nation – because of it. And that state of affairs exists, and persists, for one reason and one reason only – Mississippi’s public officials, from the governor to county supervisors, lack the political will to raise the tax revenue sufficient to address the problem.

Admittedly, it’s a big problem to fix – bridge repair alone could cost over a half-billion dollars, and road maintenance would require injecting hundreds of millions more per year into the state department of transportation budget. But a crumbling infrastructure does not improve by ignoring it.

That we allow citizens to perish needlessly on hazardous roadways is unconscionable.  Shame on government; shame on all of us.



Jim Coll

Top Stories – May 2015

Here is what I shared for May 2015. SMTTT!

The University’s “military-friendly” commitment is continuing with the establishment of a Coast Guard Auxiliary Program at the Gulf Park Campus.

The University, in collaboration with the United States Coast Guard, recently announced the establishment of a Coast Guard Auxiliary University Program located on the University’s Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach.

As the official college-level program of the U.S. Coast Guard, the program is specifically designed to provide a quality education to undergraduate and graduate students in developing their leadership and technical talents for service to the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, emergency response, maritime and public service communities.

Read more:

The academy continues to produce top scholars and programs.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has earned accreditation through the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) – indicating that it meets or exceeds professional standards, giving students an advantage with prospective employers and graduate schools.

The department is the first in Mississippi to receive accreditation by ASBMB for its Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with emphases in Biochemistry and American Chemical Society-certified Biochemistry.

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Southern Miss Graduate Nursing Programs Ranked as State’s Best by U.S. News & World Report

The graduate nursing programs at The University of Southern Mississippi have been ranked as the state’s best and also included among the top programs nationwide in a recent assessment by U.S. News & World Report.

A total of 503 nursing schools with master’s or doctoral programs accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing were surveyed. The newly expanded rankings mark the first time U.S. News has rated graduate nursing programs. Of the programs surveyed, 246 were eligible for inclusion in the publication’s rankings of master’s programs. Of the six graduate nursing programs in Mississippi, Southern Miss ranked the highest nationwide at No. 102.

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Southern Miss Students Receive National Science Foundation Fellowships

Four University of Southern Mississippi students have been awarded prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, marking the first time the University has produced this many winners in a single year.

Laken Kendrick, of Hattiesburg, Miss.; Abagail Williams, of Independence, Mo.; Dexter Dean of Clinton, Ala.; and Cassandra Reese, of San Diego, Calif., were granted the fellowships from a pool of 16,500 applicants. No other Mississippi college or university matched Southern Miss in NSF Fellowship winners for 2015. Southern Miss student Lisa Lauderdale received honorable mention recognition, while two alumni – Michael Sims and Travis Thornell – also earned fellowships at the University of Florida and Purdue University, respectively.

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GCRL Oil Spill Seminar Series coincides with Deepwater Horizon Fifth Anniversary

The University‘s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is hosting a seminar series, Deepwater Horizon: A Scientist’s Perspective,” throughout the summer.

The seminar series offers a retrospective exploration of the spill through presentations by research staff and discussions among speakers, education staff and attendees to answer pressing questions.

Read more:

Southern Miss baseball enters the Conference USA Tournament on an unprecedented run. Our Golden Eagles take a school record-tying, 13-game winning streak into the Conference USA Tournament, which is being played at Pete Taylor Park.

The Golden Eagles (35-16-1) equaled the best consecutive game win streak mark originally accomplished in 1995 as that squad won the first 13 games to start the season. The Golden Eagle hosts the eight-team Conference USA Tournament beginning Wednesday, May 20, at Pete Taylor Park.

On Monday, pitcher James McMahon won the C-Spire Ferriss Award, which is presented to the top baseball player in the state. James has a record of 11-1 this year and is also a top candidate for conference pitcher of the year award.

Read more:

Dr. Michael Forster

CoH Dean’s Council Leadership Change

Many thanks to Doug Higginbotham, CEO of South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel, for two years of faithful service as chairperson of the College of Health Dean’s Council.  As a recent meeting of the Council, Doug passed the gavel to Ryan Kelly, currently Executive Director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association.

Ryan is the former director of external relations for the college, and knows the college and university communities well.   His latest (current) project on behalf of the college is producing the upcoming May 1 invitation-only Health Summit, of with the College of Health is the principal sponsor.  We can look forward to many more good things ahead.

Jim Coll

Top Stories – April 2015

Here is what I shared for April 2015. SMTTT!

We are continuing our commitment to a holistic and exceptional student experience with the opening of Century Park South.

On April 9, we cut the ribbon on Century Park South, a $55.6 million project that provides 954 beds for freshmen and other scholarship students. Century Park South includes three buildings—Scott Hall, Vann Hall and Luckyday Citizenship Hall, which also houses the new Moffitt Health Center. All of the buildings have five floors with a multitude of modern features, such as

  • Student kitchen lounges on each floor containing oversized chairs and ottomans, wall-mounted 50-inch HDTVs, full-sized refrigerator/freezers, sinks, microwave ovens and in-wall ovens;
  • Two study rooms and an entertainment unit in each room; and
  • Private bath with shower in each room.

The completion of Century Park South follows the opening of Century Park North in August 2010. Located just across W. Fourth Street on the northern side of campus, Century Park North includes four buildings with four floors and 864 beds.

For more:

One of the University’s grandest annual events concluded on April 10—the 48th edition of the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival.

More than 450 attendees, including teachers and librarians from across the country, attended the three-day festival, which features the awarding of The University of Southern Mississippi Medallion and the Ezra Jack Keats Awards.

The University of Southern Mississippi medallion was presented to Paul Zelinsky. Zelinsky has also received the 1998 Caldecott Medal for his illustrated retelling of Rapunzel, as well as Caldecott Honors for Hansel and Gretel (1985), Rumpelstiltskin (1987), and Swamp Angel (1995).

The University’s deGrummond Children’s Literature Collection is one of North America’s leading research centers of children’s literature in the country and features original works from more than 1,300 authors, including Margret and H.A. Rey, creators of Curious George.

For more:

Student safety remains a top priority at USM

The University of Southern Mississippi’s Police Department has been awarded national re-accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

CALEA accreditation requires an agency to develop a comprehensive, insightful, uniform set of written directives as well as a preparedness program so that the agency is ready to address natural or man-made occurrences that dictate emergency action.

Next Monday is the fifth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and USM’s commitment to continuing research on the spill’s effects is strong.

The University’s newest research vessel, the Point Sur, has arrived at its new home at the Port of Gulfport and has already begun its work educating students and researching the Gulf. On April 24, at 1:30 p.m., we will host an event so that the public can tour the vessel.

On April 20, the 5th anniversary of the spill, our Gulf Coast Research Laboratory will host the first of five lectures in a series updating the public on the effects of the spill. “Deepwater Horizon: A scientist’s perspective,” is a free seminar series that offers a retrospective exploration of the spill through presentations by research staff and discussions among speakers, education staff and attendees to answer pressing questions. Recent legislative appropriations of $6 million to GCRL will assist scientists there in enhancing their already impressive work. For more information on the lecture series, visit

Additional legislative support is going to enable USM to build a new Holloway Complex on the Gulf Park Campus. The complex, which is currently comprised of five modular units totaling 18,645 square feet, will be rebuilt as a two-story 25,000-square-foot facility. Housing both the College of Business and College of Health on the Gulf Park campus, the new building will feature more than 30 faculty offices, as well as provide additional classroom space for students on the Gulf Park campus.

Eagle Fest weekend begins Friday

Southern Miss Athletics will host Eagle Fest weekend beginning Friday when the baseball team hosts No. 16 Florida Atlantic. Festivities on Saturday include the Black and Gold Spring Football Game, baseball and softball, as well as a Black and Gold Carnival on Pride Field. For more information, visit

Dr. Steven Moser

Guest Contributor Series: Ann Marie Kinnell on the Liberal Arts

Kinnell, Ann MarieBy Ann Marie Kinnell, Chair
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
College of Arts and Letters

If you read the news, either in the general press (NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times) or the academic press (Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed), there is a disconcerting feeling that all is not well with higher education. The cost – and value – of a college education are areas of increasing concern. As a parent of a daughter headed off to college in a little over a year, I understand the worries parents and students have. I admit that I am more than a little concerned about the cost of tuition, not to mention textbooks, art supplies (she’ll be an art major), and room and board. In addition to the general question of the value of college is the more narrow concern about the value of the liberal arts. If students are going to college, and spending a lot of money to do so, what should be their major? Will they be able to support themselves financially if they pursue a liberal arts major rather than a professional or technical major? This conversation is certainly not new. I, myself, when I announced to my parents in my second year of college that I had changed my major to sociology, was asked what are you going to do with that and wouldn’t it be a good idea to also take some business courses? I did, in fact, take some organizational management classes; but, I loved my sociology classes and I love that I can now share those classes with my own students. However, my experience was literally a lifetime ago for my students. Is a degree in anthropology or sociology, or any liberal arts major, still “worth it” in 2015?

In the abstract, the answer is definitely yes. If you look at employer surveys, the skills that employers want are the skills students learn in liberal arts majors. In recent studies[1], a majority of employers have identified the abilities to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems as very important. They also want students who understand and can work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. And, they want students who have the ability to apply the knowledge they learn in real world settings. Anthropology and sociology majors learn these skills in spades. Starting with the introductory classes, they are asked what it means to be a part of a group, a culture, a society. They are confronted with complex social problems and asked how they can be addressed. They write and apply what they learn in class to the world around them. They learn specific research skills, conduct their own research, and present that research to their peers and at conferences. They complete internships with local organizations and field schools where they literally get to dig things up.

But in the concrete, as a faculty, we still want to know that we send our students out into the world and that they do well. They find jobs that they love, or at least really like, and they are able to support themselves financially. As a department, we have implemented an alumni survey to find out how our students fare once they graduate. I would like to share a few of their responses:

From an anthropology major (BA 2014) who is now an ESL teacher: “Anthropology helped me to become more aware of the people, cultures, and situations around me. As an ESL teacher I have a classroom filled with diversity and all of the complexities that stem from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The sensitivity and understanding granted to me by the professors within the Anthropology and Sociology department… helps me to maintain an inclusive and compassionate style of teaching.”

From a sociology major (BA 2010) who is working for a nonprofit that coordinates services for the homeless: “I wouldn’t say my degree in sociology has impacted me in such a way others might think. I’m certainly not a sociologist by traditional definitions. But, through my undergraduate studies I found my passion for social justice and gained the tools needed to succeed. Sociology has gifted me a foundation for understanding complex social issues and a curiosity to view the world with a nuanced sociological lens.”

From an anthropology major (BA 2010) who is a trainer for an information technology company: “This degree gave the opportunity to learn about so many different cultures and interact with a larger variety of people than I ever would have on my own. This has made adjusting to a professional position within a worldwide company much easier.”

From a sociology major (BA 2011) who is working as a college enrollment specialist: “I’ve bounced around in a few different jobs until I landed my current one. I love my current job. I work in education helping troubled students figure out what path they want to take for their lives. I work with a very diverse student population, and I think that the different sociology classes I took definitely help me to be more empathetic towards my students despite the fact that I’ve never experienced a lot of things they often go through.”

Our students graduate with both general and technical skills and end up in a variety of different careers. In the liberal arts, there are many paths and many destinations. I would like to conclude with one last quote from a student (Sociology BA 2004) who wrote on her survey, “if you enjoy the classes and are passionate about the subject matter, then go for it. You never know where your degree or your life will lead.” Well said!


[1] For more information and links to these studies, go to the AACU website: