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10/1/2018 - Jackson, Miss.

Meeting students where they are and advancing the body of knowledge through cutting-edge research were two themes that emerged as Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education, visited Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University on the latest stops on the Commissioner's Listening Tour. Dr. Rankins learned more about how the campuses help students succeed in the classroom and beyond, while also getting a first-hand look the research facilities that are helping to solve some of Mississippi's most pressing problems.

"Both Mississippi University for Women and Mississippi State University are focused on student success and have developed programs and services to help students persist through graduation and enter the workforce prepared to contribute," said Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. "The Golden Triangle is a growing region of our state and university research plays a significant role in supporting the region's advanced manufacturers."

Dr. Rankins met with students, faculty, staff, administrators, elected officials and community members at the meetings held on the Mississippi University for Women campus in Columbus on Wednesday, the Starkville Campus of Mississippi State University on Thursday and in Meridian on Friday.

"The W family was happy to host Commissioner Rankins and welcome him to campus and Columbus," said W President Nora Miller. "He understands the role of higher education and how it can impact the state's economic growth. Dr. Rankins is an advocate for all of our institutions and we look forward to working with him to increase educational pathways for students and advancing the University system as a whole."

The Mississippi University for Women campus community expressed excitement over the return of athletics to the campus and identified close interactions with faculty and staff as one of the strengths of the institution, noting that faculty are incredibly invested in the students and their success. Many expressed interest in collaborating with counterparts at the other universities in the system to identify best practices and potential efficiencies and cost savings opportunities.

While at Mississippi State University, Dr. Rankins met with students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders and also toured the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems and the High Performance Computing Collaboratory located in the Thad Cochran Research Park and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Mississippi State students applauded the university's accessibility, diversity and campus culture that allows for genuine connections, while also expressing a need to address mental health concerns by increasing awareness of available services and expanding current services.

"We could not be more fortunate to have someone with his distinguished background and experience leading all of our eight public universities, including the medical center," Keenum said. "It's a huge undertaking and a huge responsibility, and we're very honored and blessed to have Dr. Al Rankins."

At the Meridian Campus of MSU, efforts to meet the needs of adult learners and members of the military and their families were discussed. Campus officials also noted the impact of the Complete 2 Compete program and the difference it has made in the lives of those who have received their degrees through the initiative.

The final stop on the tour is Alcorn State University. The Commissioner will hold listening sessions in Natchez on Tuesday, October 9 and in Lorman on Wednesday, October 10. Additional details on the events will be released prior to the stop. More information, including a survey on various aspects of the university system, is available online at the following link:

Named Commissioner of Higher Education on March 23, 2018, Dr. Rankins began serving in this role on July 1, 2018. As Commissioner, Dr. Rankins provides leadership to the university system, including all eight public universities in Mississippi.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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