MSU-sponsored Mississippi Education-Policy Program graduates 18 fellows

Contact: Carl Smith

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Eighteen fellows representing a variety of statewide institutions are recent graduates of the Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), co-sponsored by Mississippi State’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government, Research and Curriculum Unit, and Office of Research and Economic Development.  

The Mississippi EPFP supports emerging leaders in education as they cultivate their knowledge of issues affecting the state and policymaking tools and processes to help bolster instruction for all students. Additionally, the program provides a way to network like-minded peers as they work together to better Mississippi’s future.

“I loved getting to work with people involved in various education roles around the state. Not only has my knowledge increased around state-level policy and implementation but my network has greatly expanded,” said Stephanie Parkinson, regional designer for Teach for America–Mississippi.

Recognized in a recent ceremony at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, the graduating class is part of a national cohort coordinated by the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C.  Fellows represent K-12 schools, community colleges and universities across the state, as well as nonprofit agencies, including the Delta Health Alliance, Tallahatchie River Foundation and Teach for America.

Mississippi coordinators are Devon Brenner, MSU professor and assistant to the vice president for research and economic development; Kristen Dechert, project manager at MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit; and Tyson Elbert of MSU’s Stennis Institute of Government.

Jeff Leffler, assistant professor of education, and Brad Skelton, curriculum manager at the Research and Curriculum Unit, represented MSU as fellows this year.

“My experience with the Mississippi EPFP has been an eye-opening one that has exposed me to legislative policy, advocacy work and the need to be an active participant in each step as a citizen educator,” said Skelton.

The fellows met from October 2017 through this April to learn about statewide issues and policy, and traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to discuss educational policies with Mississippi’s congressional delegation. Specifically, the fellows met with staff from former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s office and received a private tour of the Capitol from U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and his staff.

“Before you can sit at the table, you have to know what is being served. This program breaks down educational policy in an easy-to-follow format,” said Melanie Wells, assistant principal at StoneBridge Elementary School in Rankin County and Mississippi EPFP fellow.

This year’s graduates include:

BENTON COUNTY SCHOOLS— Sharon Albert, principal; and Elynda Finley, administrative assistant/librarian.

CLEVELAND SCHOOL DISTRICT—Cody Shumaker, principal.

DELTA HEALTH ALLIANCE—Caleb Herod, project manager for Extended Learning.

DELTA STATE UNIVERSITY—Mary Katherine Honeycutt, fellow.

GULFPORT SCHOOL DISTRICT—John Barnett, principal.

HINDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE—Yolanda Houston, HCC–Utica Campus’ director of Teacher Education Preparation Program.


MISSISSIPPI COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARD—Micca Knox, director of Early Childhood Academy.

MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY— Jeff Leffler, assistant professor of education; and Brad Skelton, curriculum manager at the Research and Curriculum Unit.

PASS CHRISTIAN SCHOOL DISTRICT—Meridith Bang, chief academic officer.


RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT— Melanie Wells, assistant principal.

TALLAHATCHIE RIVER FOUNDATION—Elizabeth Harris, engagement and communications director.

TEACH FOR AMERICA-MISSISSIPPI— Stephanie Parkinson, regional designer.

UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI—RoSusan Bartee, professor; and Susan McClelland, associate professor and chair.

For more information on the Mississippi EPFP, visit or email

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