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Southern Miss Graduate Student among Educators Honored at White House PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Contact David Tisdale - 601.266.4499   

A Memphis, Tenn. school teacher pursuing a doctorate at The University of Southern Mississippi was among a group of her counterparts from across the country honored recently at the White House by President Barack Obama for exemplary work as math and science educators.

Melissa Collins, a graduate student in the educational leadership program at Southern Miss, was honored at the White House ceremony as a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education (PAEMST). It is the highest honor for outstanding teaching bestowed upon K-12 math and science educators in the U.S.

Collins and other recipients of the award were recognized at the reception held at the White House East Room by President Obama. Also attending were Vice President Joe Biden and National Science Foundation (NSF) Director Arden Bement Jr.

Collins praised the training she has received from her professors at Southern Miss, saying it has been an important element of her success. “The department is like a second family to me,” she said. ‘They’ve helped me develop as a leader and as a result, my career has flourished right before my eyes.”

The award is made to pre-college level math and science educators by a panel of distinguished science, mathematicians and educators following a nomination process at the state level. It is an initiative of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the White House and supports President Obama’s new program to promote excellence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

A K-6 math and science teacher at John P. Freeman Optional School in Memphis, Collins is a nationally board certified teacher. With the award she received $10,000 from NSF to be used at her discretion, which she designated in part for materials to benefit her students; a paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the recognition ceremony and professional development training; and a citation signed by the president.

"We believe this honor reflects well not only Melissa’s efforts, but also the work of our faculty to prepare our students to achieve great things as educators," said Dr. Gary Peters, chairman of the Department of Educational Leadership and School Counseling.

Collins will complete her degree program in December. She hopes to one day open her own school.

“We’re extremely proud that one of our doctoral students has earned such a prestigious award,” said Dr. Ann Blackwell, interim dean of the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology. “Melissa is an excellent role model for educators and those who aspire to work in the field.”

The Department of Educational Studies and Research is housed in the university’s College of Education and Psychology. It prepares students for careers as teachers, university faculty and as researchers in the public and private sector. For more information, online visit For more information about other programs in the Southern Miss College of Education and Psychology, online visit

Melissa Collins, top row, second from left, was among a group of math and science teachers from across the country Collins is a graduate student in educational leadership at Southern Miss. (Office White House photo courtesy of Chuck Kennedy)

Melissa Collins

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at

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