MSU research center helps introduce eighth-graders to research

Contact: Carol Gifford

STARKVILLE, Miss.—More than 3,300 eighth-grade students from seven Northeast Mississippi counties are back in class after having an opportunity to get the latest information on potential career pathways.

Accompanied by 1,000 teachers, they were participants in “Imagine the Possibilities,” a recent two-day exposition at Tupelo’s Bancorp South Center sponsored by Three Rivers Planning and Development District.

If based solely on the students’ reactions, the highly organized introduction to career opportunities clearly was a success, said Bill Renick, planning district director. “You could see the students’ excitement as they visited the displays,” he said.

Among the presentations was a display of the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University. A participant in the expo’s government and public administration category, the NSPARC program featured examples of its nationally recognized work with smart data, analytical techniques and advanced technologies.

“These students’ future will include advanced technology,” Renick said. “NSPARC’s exhibit explained how computers and technology are a combination that is likely to be part of their future jobs.”

Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, the center’s executive director, said his organization focuses on “research in general and specifically how NSPARC’s research includes the use of data to help state officials and agencies make better decisions.

“The use of data has become a big factor in the way government agencies function and operate,” Parisi added.

One popular display activity was an online game that introduced the students to coding skills used by software developers. After the game ended, players compared their times and moves to those of a software developer.

Students at the NSPARC display also had an opportunity to describe their expo activities in a “report” forwarded to Gov. Phil Bryant in a style similar to how professional research is summarized.

Parisi said the center conducts ongoing research for state agencies and includes evaluations of how well various public programs are working. NSPARC staff members also design computer applications that aid the work of policymakers, develop information systems for state agencies and create a variety of web and mobile apps.

Mississippi Works, a free app to help job seekers apply for listed employment vacancies, is an example.

“What is so interesting about NSPARC is the combination of data and analysis in its research,” Renick said.

Parisi said, “Educating students is what we do; we want them to understand what NSPARC’s research contributes to policymakers and others.”

For more about NSPARC, visit Parisi may be reached at 662-325-9242.

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