A new joint task force addressing economic development and education in Northeast Mississippi was announced this past Thursday in Tupelo by Chancellor Dan Jones and Mississippi State University President Mark Kenum.
The task force will be composed of nine representatives from Ole Miss, nine from MSU, and two from the CREATE Foundation to further economic development in the region. The representatives from Ole Miss will be Dr. Jones, Provost Morris Stocks, chief of staff to the chancellor and co-director of Mississippi Teacher Corps Dr. Andy Mullins, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Larry Ridgeway, Dean of the School of Education Dr. David Rock, Dean of the School of Business Dr. Ken Cyree, Dean of the School of Engineering Dr. Alexander Cheng, Dean of the School of Applied Sciences Dr. Linda Chitwood, and Vice Chancellor for Research Alice Clark.
The idea of a partnership between Ole Miss and MSU to address educational and development issues in their region came about last year at a dinner hosted by CREATE in Tupelo.
CREATE Senior Vice President Lewis Whitfield said, “We’re excited about the possibility of the team from each university to build our region economically and from a community development standpoint.”
CREATE is an organization based in Tupelo which studies economic and community development in North Mississippi. According to Whitfield, “The main thing we focused on the last few years in educational attainment…we have been focusing on dropout prevention and recovery at the K-12 level. We’re trying to show opportunities, study data, and identify needs so that the universities can do whatever they can to prevent dropouts in high school and at their universities.”
The first meeting of the Ole Miss team will be next week, and the first meeting of the task force as a whole will be July 21st in Tupelo, according to Dr. Mullins.
Each university will be working in conjunction on complementary projects based on CREATE’s data, based on directives from their respective presidents. CREATE will not only be an information source, but also keep communication open between the two universities and the foundation. Whitfield explained, “Our representatives can come back to our commission and report what good things are being done at State and Ole Miss to further development.”
The goals and directives as well as the time span of the task force will be decided at the July meeting, but education will be the focus.
“It’s all to promote economic development for North Mississippi, and of course education plays a major role in that,” said Dr. Mullins.