By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University will host a Women of Color Summit at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8 at the Colvard Student Union’s Foster ballroom with the aim of discussing issues and statistics impacting minority women and ways to increase their chances of academic success.
Tommy Stevenson, MSU chief diversity officer, said more than 370 people have already registered for the event. While the event is free and open to all, and registration will be available at the start of the event, he said he still encourages guests to register ahead of time at https://www.odep.msstate.edu/woc/ .
Stevenson said MSU wants to use the summit to meet minority female students’ needs proactively, giving them information needed to achieve their goals.
“I think the university has been very progressive ... in trying to identify ways to enhance the academic success of our students so that they will become successful in life,” Stevenson said. “We’re trying to ... engage them with alumni who have done great things in life.”
In August, MSU hosted a conference called “Human Capital: Enhancing the Academic Achievement of Men of Color,” aimed at using insights from successful minority graduates from MSU and other universities to help minority male students succeed. At that time, MSU Provost Jerry Gilbert said an analogous program for minority female students would follow in the spring.
“It won’t be the end of our efforts,” Gilbert said in August. “There will be other things we’ll be doing as a consequence of this meeting. It may be that it’s just the beginning of a dialogue.”
Stevenson said MSU learned much from “Men of Color,” but it does not yet have all the answers, hence the need for further discussion at this week’s summit. For instance, MSU learned that many minority students have difficulty transitioning from small, rural Mississippi towns to a research institution like MSU.
“I think the cost of education is increasingly putting a burden on students,” Middleton said. “We learned, also, that we need to do more in-depth analysis on some things that may be impeding the progress of students. That’s one reason we want to have this conference as well, to see what elements are impeding the success of women of color here at MSU.
Stevenson said the summit is very similar in nature and content to “Men of Color,” taking a holistic approach that encourages not only academic achievement but also healthy lifestyles and career advancement. To inspire students, he said, MSU has brought in two speakers with Mississippi ties.
The summit’s keynote address at 11:30 a.m. will come from MSU political alumna Sharon Y. Eubanks, who was the lead U.S. Justice Department counsel in federal litigation that forced major tobacco companies to change their marketing. The American Public Health Association recently published Eubanks’ book on the litigation, “Bad Acts,” and she is on the board of directors for the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. On Thursday, Stevenson said, the MSU Pre-Law Society will present Eubanks with the 2013 Distinguished Jurist Award.
“She has received national prominence as relates to law across the country,” Stevenson said.
Prentiss native Felecia M. Nave, associate provost and associate vice president at Prairie View (Texas) A&M University, will also speak at the summit. Her research focuses on recruitment, retention and persistence of African-American and female students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and she speaks to K-12 students across the country about pursuing STEM careers. She will present “Data Trends: Women of Color” at 9:30 a.m. at the summit.
“Both of them are very good role models for students,” Stevenson said. “What we’ve tried to do is provide our students with opportunities to meet people who have been very successful who have graduated from MSU (or come from Mississippi).”
The union’s Dawghouse Lounge will host a free, public pre-summit program from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday featuring Nakeitra L. Burse, Jackson program manager for national non-profit ministry My Brother’s Keeper. Burse will discuss health disparities, social networking and the value of preparation.