By GWEN SISSON
David Shaw, vice president for Research and Economic Development for Mississippi State University, said the university serves as a catalyst for change in Starkville and throughout the state of Mississippi.
“I see MSU playing a critical role in Mississippi’s economic development,” Shaw said. “I work very closely with the governor’s office and the Mississippi Development Authority in industry recruitment, and make that a high priority.”
Shaw said Mississippi has been exporting graduates for far too long.
“Bringing in new industries into the state will help us keep those graduates, and will create opportunities for everyone in the state,” Shaw said.
Shaw said MSU is working on very visionary opportunities that will position the state well for the future with “tremendous opportunities in renewable energy, aerospace, and automotive technologies.”
“We use our research expertise to attract companies locally and statewide, and have a strong program in seeing intellectual property developed at the university spun out into industry partnerships and startup companies,” Shaw said. “All of this benefits not only through job creation, but also in keeping the best and brightest from Mississippi staying in Mississippi.”
Shaw said the research program also has a tremendous impact on the quality of life in the state.
“MSU as a leading research institution creates unique opportunities to regularly interact with leading researchers from throughout the world through joint research programs, invited lectures, and conferences that we host,” Shaw said.
As the Cotton Mill project continues to develop, Shaw said he is looking forward to seeing these opportunities expanded greatly through MSU and Starkville hosting more research conferences than ever before.
The Office of Research and Economic Development has three primary responsibilities. According to Shaw, the office must provide leadership and vision for the research enterprise at MSU; provide the infrastructure necessary to support a top-tier research program; and must serve as the advocate for MSU’s researchers with state and federal agencies, Capitol Hill, corporations and private foundations.
“First and foremost, we prepare students at the undergraduate and graduate levels to go out into the workforce with the best education available,” Shaw said. “This is because an education at a research-intensive university is uniquely different than what is received elsewhere. The opportunity to interact with world-class researchers in the lab and classroom puts students at the cutting edge of their field.”
One of the most visible programs of the Office of Research and Economic Development is the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park
Shaw said the research park “is really coming into its own now.”
Started back in the mid ’80s, it began with a business incubator building. When it became full, MSU built a second, which was completely filled with one of the startup companies from MSU – SemiSouth. The third incubator building was completed this past year, and at the grand opening was over 70 percent filled. Shaw said MSU’s partnership with a technology company, II-VI, Inc., has led to the construction of a fourth incubator, and construction is underway and expected to be completed in late spring of 2012. Phase II of the Research Park underway, with a new four-lane boulevard under construction soon. This will take in an additional 80 acres just to the east of the current Park.
“What’s most important though is what’s in the Park, not the Park itself,” Shaw said. “We have a number of companies located in the Park that are growing and hiring. In addition, some of MSU’s high-profile research programs are located there, including world-class work in vehicular systems, sustainable energy, computational simulation, geospatial technologies, and social sciences research.”
MSU President Mark Keenum said research activities at Mississippi State are essential to the university’s success in advancing higher education and boosting economic development.
“David’s experience and contacts in Washington, D.C., across the nation and around the world have been instrumental in sustaining Mississippi State’s place as the flagship research university in our state. The Carnegie Foundation recently classified MSU as a very high research activity university, putting us in an elite category nationwide,” Keenum said. “That achievement is due in no small measure to David’s strong leadership.”
“It is extremely beneficial to have someone like Dr. Shaw as the VP for Research and Economic Development because he realizes the value of cooperation and collaboration,” said Jerry Gilbert, MSU’s Provost and Executive Vice President. “We function as true partners on issues that affect research and teaching. It is great to have him on the team.”
Bill Kibler, MSU’s Vice President for Student Affairs, said Shaw assumed the role of Vice President for Research and Economic Development after a career at MSU as one of the university’s most prolific and accomplished researchers.
“He was perfect for the role because he had ‘walked the walk’ for many years through his impressive record of bringing research funding to MSU,” Kibler said. “He also brings national and international respect to MSU as a result of the impact his research has had. He now champions and represents the research interests of our university throughout the state, in our nation’s Capitol and around the world. “
“Dr. Shaw has an extraordinary record of leadership in research, has received national recognition for his work, and has the respect of colleagues at Mississippi State University and around the country,” said Amy Tuck, MSU’s Executive Director of Campus Operations. “He is always seeking innovative partnerships to broaden our university’s research impact, and he has a strong vision for MSU.”
Zant Don, MSU’s Vice President for Budget and Planning said he has known Shaw for several years and have enjoyed working with him.
“Over the years David had proven to be extremely knowledgeable regarding sponsored research, has strong moral and ethical character, and is very willing to work with the President and other vice presidents as part of a team to help MSU fulfill it’s mission,” Don said.
“David is tireless in his efforts to expand the scope of research at MSU ultimately impacting the economic development of Mississippi,” said Don Rush, MSU’s Vice President for Development and Alumni. “He has a true passion for his work.”
That passion for his work began in his high school science class and on the farm.
Shaw grew up on a family farm in Oklahoma. For his undergraduate degree, he attended Cameron University while farming full-time. In March before he graduated in May, he decided the family farm wasn’t going to be able to support another family with the flux that farm programs were experiencing in the late ’70s and early ’80s. His academic advisor strongly encouraged him to look into graduate school.
Shaw received his master’s degree and his Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University, and moved to MSU immediately thereafter. All of his degrees are in agriculture-related fields, with graduate degrees focusing on weed science.
Shaw said he believes growing up on a farm has always led him to the practical side of research.
“And seeing (that research) applied in the real world through new technologies and economic development is immensely satisfying,” Shaw said.
Shaw said his parents and grandparents also set him on a path to success by giving him a solid foundation, work ethic, and example of service to others rather than a focus on self.
Shaw sees his family as his biggest accomplishment in life.
“I have two wonderful children and a son-in-law that are huge blessings in my life,” Shaw said.
Shaw and his wife, Sherri, have been married for almost 33 years. She worked to put him through graduate school, and then came home to raise their family. They have two children. Their daughter Stacy and her husband David live in Jackson, Tenn. She is an accountant at a local hospital, while David has gone back to school to be a nurse anesthetist. Their son Russ graduated in May, and is now a free-lance graphic designer in Atlanta.
Today, Shaw’s personal passion is all about excellence.
“I enjoy challenges, trying to achieve more than what anyone would think possible,” Shaw said. “And that translates into a passion for challenging others to achieve their utmost. I love to see leadership develop in other people, and want to be a facilitator for leadership development in every aspect, whether it be professional, personal, or in the family.”
Friends say that passion for excellence has been fueled in every area of Shaw’s life and continues to serve as a yardstick for personal and professional development, now and in the future.
“I’ve always trusted in God to lead me, so have never focused heavily on having set long-term plans for myself,” Shaw said. “Every position I’ve held I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. That has never been more true than what I’m doing now. President Keenum and his leadership team are a great group of people, and I’m happy and privileged to work with them.”