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Released July 28, 2003


LONG BEACH - The University of Southern Mississippi Hospitality Management program has received a $25,000 endowment from the Mississippi Tourism Association.

The fund, known as the Mississippi Tourism Association Vicki Miller Endowed Scholarship, is meant to honor the memory of Miller, a founding director of the Mississippi Tourism Association. Once awarded, the scholarship will provide financial assistance to a Southern Miss hospitality management major who demonstrates academic excellence, service to the tourism industry and financial need.

"I am very grateful to the Mississippi Tourism Association for their gift of $25,000 to establish the Vicki Miller Endowed Scholarship," said Southern Miss President Shelby Thames. "As tourism is one of the largest industries and creators of quality jobs in the world and certainly within our great state of Mississippi, it is an honor to have our Hospitality Management program's close relationship with the tourism industry in Mississippi recognized in this manner."

In February 1986, an 18-member Governor's Task Force on Tourism was appointed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the hospitality industry in the state and return recommendations for improving this vital but often overlooked industry. The task force began their work in March 1986 and issued their Tourism Development Report in May 1986. The major objective of the report was the establishment of a statewide public/private sector promotional organization, known as The Mississippi Travel Promotion Association (MTPA).

The MTPA began operations with the primary objective of creating an industry-wide promotional force with a focus centering on private sector marketing to the traveling public. That mission, although somewhat broadened in recent years, remains basically the same.

In 1997, the Board of Directors voted to change the name of the association to Mississippi Tourism Association (MTA). The name change reflects that the association is about much more than promotion at this point.

Today, a board of directors representing all parts of the state and all segments within the hospitality industry guides the 275-member organization.

Earlier this year, The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Tourism Association began a cooperative effort to provide a state certification program for tourism professionals.

"We are overwhelmed and at the same time very appreciative to have received the $25,000 from the Mississippi Tourism Association to establish the MTA Vicki Miller Endowed Scholarship," said Ernie Wilson, an assistant professor of hospitality management at Southern Miss Gulf Coast who also serves on the MTA board. "I believe that it is a fitting tribute to Vicki Miller and what she meant to tourism in Mississippi, and also is a reflection of the close relationship between the Southern Miss Hospitality Management program, MTA and the tourism industry overall."



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August 18, 2003 4:44 PM