During the past year, as students, faculty, and staff faced extraordinary challenges, they remained hopeful and worked hard—work that has provided fertile soil for our long-awaited renewal. In many ways, our collective efforts during the pandemic reflect the wisdom of a quote attributed to Albert Einstein:
“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
As a College, we faced a critical moment and transformed it into an opportunity that represents our highest ideals: service to the people of Mississippi. As an example, faculty and staff affiliated with the Center for Population Studies shared data they collected on food insecurity in northwest Mississippi to pinpoint which counties were most at risk of food shortages and helped to get them urgently-needed aid. Likewise, faculty across our disciplines helped the public understand and process the multifaced fallout from COVID through the lenses of biology, economics, psychology, and many other fields.
These are just a few instances of our commitment to our regional and state communities, one of our core missions. Underlying all our commitments is a concrete plan to ensure justice and equity now and for coming generations. Kirsten Dellinger, associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and Valeria Ross, program manager, have worked side-by-side with me to create the 10 in 3 Equity Plan, which focuses on ten specific equity issues we will move forward within the next three years. With the invaluable contributions and insights from our staff and students, along with the expertise and scholarship of our faculty, I believe we have found a path that will ultimately lead to a more welcoming and inclusive College.
As a university, we have a great deal for which to be thankful. Our ability to succeed despite the many challenges that were put before us has been possible because of administrators, faculty, and staff who care deeply about our university and the success of our students. I would like to acknowledge Chancellor Glenn Boyce and Provost Noel Wilkin who effectively guided us through the vast challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. I know that we are all grateful to them for their leadership.
I would also like to acknowledge Carmen Riggan and her staff in our Student Services Office, who have guided the classes of 2020 and 2021 to graduation during the pandemic. Their dedication helped our seniors to the finish line. It was wonderful to celebrate the achievements with our students and their loved ones via livestreamed and in-person commencement ceremonies this past spring. These commencements, marked the renewal of a campus that will continue to flourish as we work hard, live by our ideals, and seek continued opportunities to serve Mississippi.