Keenum highlights MSU’s continued growth, accomplishments at general faculty meeting

Contact: James Carskadon

MSU President Mark E. Keenum speaks at the fall general faculty meeting in Lee Hall’s Bettersworth Auditorium Aug. 29. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum highlighted continued growth in enrollment, fundraising, research and service during the university’s fall general faculty meeting Tuesday [Aug. 29].

Keenum, now in his ninth year as president of the land-grant university, thanked the university faculty and staff who have helped MSU welcome another record number of students for the fall semester. Official enrollment numbers will be released by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning in early September. In addition to growing overall enrollment, Keenum noted the university has seen a record number of students transferring to MSU, primarily from the state’s community colleges. The average ACT score of MSU’s incoming freshman class is 25, an all-time high for MSU.

“We are truly attracting some of the best and brightest students, not only from our state, but from around the country,” Keenum said. “I’m very proud that our enrollment continues to increase.”

Keenum also highlighted another area where the university is setting records – private fundraising. For four years in a row, institutional fundraising has surpassed $100 million, with the university raising $108.6 million during the past fiscal year. For the last eight years, more than 17 percent of MSU alumni have participated in giving to the university, helping the university stay on the fast track to reaching the $1 billion goal of the Infinite Impact campaign. With $754 million raised toward the goal, the campaign has endowed 513 new scholarships and 35 new chairs and professorships.

Generous private support has helped the university move forward with approximately $350 million in current construction projects, including the $10 million addition to Mitchell Memorial Library that will house the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, set to officially open in late November. This week, the new $18 million south entrance road, named “Hail State Boulevard,” will officially open, enhancing access to and from the south end of campus. On Aug. 14, the university celebrated the opening of the 150,000-square-foot Old Main Academic Center, which provides classroom space for MSU students in the heart of campus.

In May, local, state and university leaders broke ground on the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Partnership School at MSU, a 128,000-square-foot facility that will serve all sixth and seventh grade students in the school district and serve as a model teaching site and rural education research center.

“These students will be able to experience learning in a unique classroom setting that stretches beyond the walls of the school building,” Keenum said. “This project is a true partnership between Mississippi, the school district, the people of Starkville and Oktibbeha County, and the state of Mississippi. We can’t wait until it opens its doors in the fall of 2019.”

Keenum also touted the university’s continuing research initiatives, which provide a wide range of practical, real-world applications that benefit economic development. Last week, Keenum and MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw joined state and federal leaders for opening day of the Department of Homeland Security’s Common Unmanned Aircraft System Site at Camp Shelby, which is led by the Mississippi UAS Partnership.

“This partnership, coupled with the FAA Center of Excellence led by our ASSURE team, has placed Mississippi State University and the State of Mississippi at the center of the universe for unmanned aircraft systems,” Keenum said. “It’s just one of many examples of how important our research and economic development initiatives are to the state. We are truly making a difference every day.”

Keenum said he has been meeting with state leaders to emphasize the importance of higher education and the role it plays in moving Mississippi’s economy forward. He is also working with Provost and Executive Vice President Judy Bonner and other university leaders on ways to make faculty and staff salaries more competitive, a need he has emphasized with state legislators.

During his speech, Keenum also emphasized the university’s commitment to its core values of unity, mutual respect, tolerance and diversity among all MSU students, faculty and staff.

“Diversity empowers and enriches any institution and the individuals within it,” Keenum said. “It gives us the opportunity to communicate, to know one another, and to displace fear and prejudice with understanding and respect.”

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