Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum updated Starkville Rotarians about the progression of the university over the years as he enters his second decade as president of the university.

Over the weekend, MSU officially opened its new and improved Dudy Noble Field with a grand opening ceremony.

Keenum at Rotary

Mark E. Keenum spoke to Starkville Rotarians about the progress of Mississippi State University and its vision for the future. (Photo by Briana Rucker, SDN)

"It is the Taj Mahal as Coach Ron Polk said of all of college baseball and I could not be more proud of that great achievement," Keenum said.

One of the goals of the 141 year old institution is to grow.

This past year the university set an all-time enrollment record with over 22,000 students.

"Most of us were born and raised here, this is our home and we're proud of Mississippi," Keenum said. "We want to see our state continue to grow and prosper like all of the other 49 states."

Mississippi ranks toward the bottom in most studies, per capita income in particular, according to Keenum.

"We also rank at the bottom when you look at the number of our adults in this state who have obtained at least a four-year college degree," Keenum said.

Only 20 percent of Mississippi's adult population has four-year degrees.

Keenum said per capita income is important because there is direct correlation between a population of a state and the wealth.

That’s also compared to 40 percent of Connecticut's population of those with bachelors degrees.

"The higher the education obtained in a state the higher the per capita income of that state," he said.

Keenum confidently stated that if a greater percentage of Mississippi's population had four-year degrees, the increase of income would generate better jobs for everyone.

"That means we would have more money for things like better quality K-12 education, more money for us to have roads, bridges and infrastructure in Mississippi," he said.

Mississippi's universities are responsible for the growth of the state based on higher education.

"Of course this great university right here in our hometown is providing tremendous leadership in so many ways," Keenum said.

"In fact according to the Smart Asset which assesses all states and universities on average a graduate from MSU commands by far the highest starting salary on average than any graduate of any other university in the state," he added.

MSU graduates also have the highest mid-career salaries than other university graduates in the state.

In it's founding days MSU consisted of males.

"Young men who came here were cadets who worn uniforms and were drilled out on the Drill Field," Keenum said.

However, incoming students have been predominately females.

Mayor Lynn Spruill stands behind the impact that MSU has on the city of Starkville.

MSU is hiring people from around the country and world to be prominent citizens of Starkville.  

One third of the enrolled students at MSU are from another state.

Keenum met with high school juniors earlier in the day for "Preview Day," and he realized they are the graduating class of 2020.

"We're in the education business and we're educating young people and preparing these young people for jobs tomorrow that today don't exist," he said.

The high school juniors are the future of medicine, and technology.

"It's important for universities to work hard and be focused on the future, be thinking about how we can equip and prepare our young students for life tomorrow," he said. "But we also have an obligation as educators to reinforce values."

Keenum prides MSU to upholding the value of integrity, hard work, and respect.

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