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2/22/2018 - Jackson, Miss.

By Glenn F. Boyce
Commissioner of Higher Education

It is no surprise when college towns rank highly on lists of the top places to live, raise a family, or retire. Living close to an institution of higher learning has its perks. Universities provide opportunities to attend athletic and artistic performances, visit museums and special exhibits, participate in wellness activities, and hear great speakers through lectures and panel discussions. These opportunities often extend beyond the student body and are offered at a nominal fee or even free of charge.

Universities are key partners with elected officials, businesses, and K-12 teachers and students within their communities. Providing a comprehensive list of the ways in which universities provide outreach to the communities is not possible in a single column, but I can provide several examples that demonstrate the wide variety of programs, services and opportunities that universities provide to their communities and those living within them.

Designated as the state's only urban university, Jackson State University is a committed partner with its West Jackson neighborhood. Created in 2012, the Office of Community Engagement at Jackson State University serves as a central point of contact with the community. Jackson State has also refocused its existing Center for University-Based Development (CUBD) from its original objective of campus development to redevelopment activities that require community partnerships and are within one mile of the school.

Just as Jackson State serves the urban community in which it resides, Alcorn State University serves the rural southwest Mississippi area that includes the Lorman campus. The Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn improves the success of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers by conducting research, engaging stakeholders and disseminating information. Alcorn collaborates with universities and organizations inside and outside the land grant community, bringing these resources to bear for the local farmers and ranchers in southwest Mississippi and throughout the state.

Mississippi University for Women has offered 11 events, serving 1,612 participants, through its Passport to Wellness program, funded by Blue Cross-Blue Shield. The program encourages better health through diet and exercise. One facet of the program was the Passport to Wellness Summer Institute for Teachers, a three-day training program that provided sessions on how to incorporate physical activity and nutrition in classroom subjects.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center also received a grant to provide outreach to K-12 teachers. The NIGMS-SEPA 5-year, $1.1million award for STEMI, Science Teaching Excites Medical Interest, is used to train high school teachers in technology-enhanced flipped learning methodologies.

In addition to providing support for teachers, our universities offer programs to give K-12 students enrichment opportunities. UMMC continues to support, with no additional external funding, Base Pair, a biomedical research mentorship program for high school students, that received over $1 million dollars from 1994 to 2012 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

While universities are known for providing arts to the community with on-campus programs, universities also help bring the arts into the communities. The School of Mass Communication & Journalism at The University of Southern Mississippi helped secure a Levitt AMP Grant Award of $25,000 in matching funds to present a free concert series at Chain Park in Hattiesburg.

The School submitted the Levitt AMP proposal in conjunction with the Hattiesburg Arts Council and the City of Hattiesburg. Funded by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, the awards were given to 15 small to mid-sized towns and cities across America. The Levitt Concert Series encouraged greater awareness and use of the park as citizens enjoyed the free concert series.

These are just a few of the ways that Mississippi Public Universities reach out to Mississippi communities and improve the quality of life for those living within them.

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