July 31, 2014  

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Southern Miss to Provide Free Textbooks for Soldiers at Camp Shelby

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The University of Southern Mississippi hopes to alleviate some of the stress military personnel already face by providing free textbooks to soldiers at Camp Shelby.

Thanks to a recent initiative conceived by Southern Miss Provost Dr. Denis Wiesenburg and the University’s deans, soldiers taking introductory courses in English, math and psychology at Southern Miss can obtain their textbooks free of charge from the Camp Shelby Educational Support Fund established through the USM Foundation.

“As a state institution we strive to serve the educational needs of all Mississippians,” said Wiesenburg. “Those soldiers who are working toward an education while serving their country deserve the best we can offer. Our goal is to reduce the effort required for them to become USM students and succeed in their educational goals.”

The textbook initiative stemmed from a meeting Wiesenburg and other Southern Miss representatives had in June with Camp Shelby Commander Col. Brad Smith and Education Officer John Junkins. During that discussion, Wiesenburg learned that the many soldiers were taking online courses from other universities.

“As Camp Shelby is only 20 minutes away from campus, we determined that we could and should provide greater educational opportunities there,” said Wiesenburg. “This new initiative provides additional options for Camp Shelby soldiers to be part of the USM community.”

Prompted by Wiesenburg to act quickly, the Southern Miss deans allocated an initial $5,500 from their USM Foundation development accounts in a show of support to the program to defray the cost of textbooks for Camp Shelby soldiers. Smith noted that the base is still in the process of registering soldiers for the upcoming 2012-13 fall semester and could not say exactly how many would be attending Southern Miss this year.

“Providing textbooks for soldiers is another example of the commitment of the University to this most worthwhile program,” said Smith, who owns three degrees from Southern Miss, including a doctorate in biological sciences. “The textbook program is a definite catalyst, a benefit that allows soldiers’ education funds to effectively go farther. It really is an outstanding opportunity for them.”

Dr. Ann Blackwell, dean of the College of Education and Psychology at Southern Miss, emphasized that the University’s deans and support staff were enthusiastic about donating to the new program.

“The Provost’s initiative underscores the University’s commitment to our academic mission, and the College of Education and Psychology is pleased to offer its full support,” said Blackwell. “We consider it a privilege to partner with Camp Shelby to provide educational opportunities and textbook support for our soldiers.” 

While Southern Miss will currently offer free textbooks only for the three face-to-face courses offered on the base, Wiesenburg points out that the University plans to extend the program to all courses if sufficient donations are made to the fund.

“We cannot use state funds or other University generated funds to provide the textbooks,” said Wiesenburg. “The funds for the free textbooks can only come from donations to the USM Foundation. We are hopeful that members of the local community and beyond will step up and contribute to this important initiative.”

Camp Shelby soldiers interested in registering for courses at Southern Miss should contact Senior Associate Provost Cynthia Easterling at 601.266.6579 or Cynthia.easterling@usm.edu. For information on how to donate to the Camp Shelby Educational Support Fund, call the USM Foundation at 601.266.5210.