Emily Havens New Narrative

Mississippi Grammy Museum Executive Director Emily Havens speaks during a session at the second annual New Narrative Festival and Conference held at The Mill Friday and Saturday.


For the second year, academics, creators, students and others have come together at Mississippi State University for the Second Annual New Narrative Festival and Conference.

The festival brings creators, communication professionals and others hoping to create a new narrative about Mississippi and the surrounding region together, for several sessions discussing everything from initiatives involving feeding the hungry to unmanned aerial systems research at MSU. Approximately 100 people registered for the event. The festival was held at The Mill, and is backed by the MSU Department of Communication along with other businesses and donors in the community.

Mississippi State University Department of Communication professor and Department Head John Forde said this year’s festival had been a success so far.

“We have people from all over the country coming to speak,” Forde said. “We’ve had great food. It’s just a really nice time for us to reflect on the impact of Mississippi andalso the differing ways that people communicate now.”

Forde further explained the purpose of the festival, saying despite Mississippi’s sometimes checkered and ridiculed reputation, the state was among the most culturally influential in the country.

“The interesting thing to me is so many times the bad news or the stereotypes tend to multiply, but sometimes the good news or things that are changing or positive, or those things being enhanced, those things tend to not be out there as much,” Forde said.

Festival co-founder Steve Soltis said the festival also looked at the ways people communicate in the current day and age.

“When you look at the topic and the development of the topic this year and then the caliber of the speakers,” Soltis said. “We just heard from the former CEO of Sara Lee who now runs Old Waverly Golf Club, which is a spectacular destination. We had the chief communication officer for Corteva Agriscience, which is a new byproduct of the Dow-DuPont merger.”

Soltis said he was happy with the amount of involvement from students and young professionals at the festival. Several MSU communication students presented research and participated in panels at the festival.

“That’s really encouraging,” Soltis said. “We’d love to see that take off with younger folks.”

Soltis said he planned to build and grow the festival over the next few years. He also said the approximately 100 people registered was a good turnout considering all the athletic events going on in Starkville this weekend.

"As we start to grow this thing, and hopefully we start really growing it and taking it to that next leave next year, I think we can really put this festival on the map,” Soltis said.

Sophomore communication major Alicia Margerum said the festival had been a learning experience for her.

“It’s been a really fun and interesting experience,” Margerum said. “All the speakers brought really cool information that I didn’t know about before. It’s really fun to learn new things.”

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