MSU announces 2017-18 Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholars

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

Connor R. McNabbVesil C. Dao

STARKVILLE, Miss.—For the third year, Mississippi State is recognizing six incoming freshmen with prestigious Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholarships.

Each is receiving more than $32,000 over four years—or $8,000 per year—to cover the cost of university tuition.

To qualify, applicants must be graduating high school seniors from either DeSoto County or Northeast Mississippi with a minimum 3.0 grade-point average (based on a 4.0 grading system). They also must have expressed plans to pursue degrees in mathematics, physics, computer science, or chemical, electrical, industrial or mechanical engineering.

Emily D. SheltonPaul R. Saval

The new MSU Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholars include (by hometown):

CORINTH—Benjamin R. “Ben” Spencer, a Kossuth High School graduate planning to major in mathematics as a student in MSU’s Judy and Bobby Shackouls Honors College. Along with being a member of KHS’s National Honor Society, he served as vice president and competed nationally as a member of the school’s Future Farmers of America student chapter.

HERNANDO—Connor R. McNabb, a graduate of Magnolia Heights School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society. A National Merit Finalist who enjoys tournament bass fishing, he plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Kelly N. TruongBenjamin R. “Ben” Spencer

OLIVE BRANCH—Emily D. Shelton, a Lewisburg High School graduate planning to major in chemical engineering with a concentration in biomolecular engineering. She was a member-at-large of LHS’s National Honor Society, board member of the International Action (Interact) leadership and service organization, and member of the ACT 30+ Club. A former member of the three-time 5A State Champion Lewisburg Marching Patriot Band, she received an AP Scholar award, as well as Highest Average awards in Biology I, Chemistry, Algebra II, Family and Individual Health, and PSAT II: Math.

OLIVE BRANCH—Kelly N. Truong, a Northpoint Christian School graduate who plans to major in chemical engineering. While at NCS, she received awards for outstanding academic work in algebra, chemistry, English, Bible and Latin courses. Outside of the classroom, she participated in National Junior Honor Society, National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, Student Council, and scrapbook and drama clubs, among others. She also was a YMCA Teen Leader and volunteered with Angel Tree and Operation Christmas Child.

SALTILLO—Paul R. Saval, a Tupelo High School graduate planning to major in mechanical engineering. He was a member of THS’s National Honor Society and varsity soccer team, among other organizations. An active member of St. James Catholic Church, his writing has been recognized with a second place award in his hometown’s annual Gumtree Festival.

TUPELO—Vesil C. Dao, a Tupelo High School graduate who plans to major in mechanical engineering. As president of THS’s National Honor Society, she partnered with the Salvation Army and Tupelo’s Traceway Retirement Home on projects benefiting the local community. Her involvement in THS’s Key Club, AP Science Club, ACT 30+ Club and Anchor Club led to earning Rotary Scholar and Superintendents list honors.

This year, 68 students were initial qualifiers. To be considered, each was required to share, in one page or less, ideas for how they would use a university education to give back to their communities.

Of 39 submitting essays, 16 were selected for on-campus interviews. They also were given a tour of MSU’s high-technology Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems.

Established by Toyota Manufacturing Mississippi, the competitive scholarship program bearing Barbour’s name is designed to enable recipients to give back to area communities that serve and are served by the Blue Springs-based automobile manufacturing facility.

The scholars must maintain a 3.25 overall grade-point average in their respective majors and attend an annual spring reception.

While governor from 2004-12, Barbour, a Yazoo City native, helped lead efforts to attract the major production facility to Mississippi. In addition to two terms as the state’s chief executive, he is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former White House political affairs director.

For more information about these and other scholarships, contact MSU’s Office of Admissions and Scholarships at 662-325-2224 or

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