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By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University, its faculty and its students initiated several changes in 2012, making plans to bring those changes to full fruition in the next few years.
MSU also faced one of its direst challenges in March when John D. Sanderson, 21, of Madison was shot in a dorm room at MSU‚Äôs Evans Hall. In a statement issued the next day, MSU President Mark Keenum said the incident was the first time a student had been shot and killed on MSU‚Äôs campus.
‚ÄúOur campus is known as a safe place, and I want to assure students, parents, faculty, and staff that it continues to be safe,‚ÄĚ Keenum said in March. ‚ÄúSafety is paramount at all times, and we have emergency response plans in place to maintain the safest environment possible. These procedures were executed quickly and effectively (on the night of the shooting).‚ÄĚ
MSU University Relations Director Sid Salter said Keenum and other MSU leaders honored this pledge in the months after the shooting. Like all universities, MSU is not immune to crime, he said, but it has a strong safety record it is committed to maintaining.
‚ÄúThe takeaway from the shooting incident was that this crime was committed by outside visitors, not by people authorized to be on the campus,‚ÄĚ Salter said. ‚ÄúSecondly, the MSU Police Department solved the crime and produced arrests in what was a very complex incident in an very short window of time. Finally, the safety and security of this campus remains a topic of constant review and evaluation.‚ÄĚ
Salter said MSU also sustains discussion of university policies, and a key discussion point late in the year was a transition to a tobacco-free campus proposed by MSU Student Affairs Vice President Bill Kibler. At a question-and-answer panel in November, Kibler said the proposal would end tobacco use on campus by 2014, taking a more gradual, gentler approach than other schools that have instituted similar bans.
‚ÄúMost of their (tobacco-free) policies have resulted in strengthening of accountability measures,‚ÄĚ Kibler said in November. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre taking a completely different position, taking that language down a notch. It‚Äôs not the sanctioning ability or potential punitive measures that have resulted in compliance (with tobacco policy) on this campus over the past 30 years.‚ÄĚ
Salter said significant physical changes to campus also began in 201, chief among them the renovation of Lee Hall.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the core of the campus and a building that has such an emotional tie for all who love this university,‚ÄĚ Salter said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs also the 80,000-sq.-ft. Leo Seal Jr. Football Complex that is almost complete, (which) will bring all MSU football operations under one roof. The stadium expansion project is underway and will enhance the gameday experience of the Bulldog nation. In the next year, construction will begin on the innovative new Student Learning Center that has been approved by the state college board.‚ÄĚ
Salter said MSU hopes for further building repair and renovation in 2013. MSU‚Äôs leaders are grateful for continued support from Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Phillip Gunn and the Mississippi Legislature, he said, and MSU needs that support to continue in order to meet campus needs.
‚ÄúLike all state universities, we are particularly hopeful that the state government will fund a meaningful state bond bill to address the needs for repair and renovation funding for MSU‚Äôs existing infrastructure that Dr. Keenum has enunciated over the last year,‚ÄĚ Salter said. ‚ÄúFunding for an expansion of Mitchell Memorial Library to provide appropriate housing for the U.S. Grant Presidential Library and other features of the library‚Äôs special collections remains a priority as well.‚ÄĚ
MSU‚Äôs Mitchell Memorial Library was designated as the site for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library in May. Salter said this designation was one of MSU‚Äôs top achievements in 2012, and so was Keenum‚Äôs election to terms on both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools‚Äô Commission on Colleges‚Äô Executive Council and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities‚Äô Board of Directors. He said MSU‚Äôs other key accolades for 2012 include:
- Earning a ‚ÄúVery High Research Activity‚ÄĚ classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
- Assembling a student-led alternative vehicle design team that won the first year of EcoCar2: Plugging Into the Future.
- Ranking among the top 20 best colleges and universities in the U.S. for military personnel and veterans as selected by The Military Times publication family.
- Hosting ‚ÄúTechnology Implementation at the Local Level: Food Security for the Future,‚ÄĚ an international conference featuring U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Raj Shah, Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Daniel Yohannes and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Peter McPherson.
- Winning The Weather Challenge for the second consecutive year, thanks to a team of geosciences students and faculty who competed against more than 70 institutions from across the U.S. and Canada.