Stories, songs and Southern hospitality: MSU’s New Narrative Festival and Conference returns for second year

Mississippi State’s Department of Communication is hosting the university’s second annual New Narrative Festival and Conference March 22 and 23 at The Mill at MSU in Starkville. (Photo submitted)

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State is well-known for being a welcoming place where students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors can enjoy year-round programming that is both educational and entertaining.

On March 22 and 23, the Department of Communication will add to this storied university reputation when it hosts the second annual New Narrative Festival and Conference at The Mill at MSU in Starkville.

John E. Forde, professor and head of MSU’s communication department, said storytelling is at the heart of the many ways the human experience is documented and conveyed, from social media and visual arts to literature and music. Building on the success of last April’s inaugural festival, this year’s event features speakers and performers who will focus on the changing nature of communication.

“The Mississippi State New Narrative Festival and Conference is a time to explore and celebrate the contributions of business leaders, musicians, authors, entrepreneurs, educators, sports figures and historians who have impacted and continue to shape the way we show, tell and share stories,” Forde said. “Mississippi always has influenced these changes in a major fashion through shaping multiple narratives in traditional and emerging platforms, and the event highlights many of those contributions.

“We also will have a Mississippi State and Starkville flavor with fun, food, music and old-fashioned Southern hospitality. We hope our attendees will return to this event for years to come,” Forde added.

Steve Soltis, former senior director of corporate executive and employee communication for Coca-Cola, principal of MAS Leadership Communication, and MSU communication department advisory board member, is credited with the conception of MSU’s New Narrative Festival and Conference. He also serves on the event’s planning committee.

“As we look at the transformative power of the New Narrative – the technologies, entrepreneurs, channels and creatives that are dramatically changing the way we show, tell and share stories – I think we have an opportunity to position Mississippi State University as a proponent for responsible, truthful and ethical communication,” Soltis said.  “It’s up to leaders like those who are coming to our conference, and to universities like MSU, to be the conveners and champions of a New Narrative that is transforming lives, getting to the truth, and advancing humanity.”

Registration is $185 for both days or $95 per day for adults. The MSU student rate is $45 for the entire two-day event or $25 per day, including non-MSU students at any level. Along with admission to speaker sessions and musical entertainment, the cost includes lunches, receptions with food and drink both days, a T-shirt and tote bag. For more registration information, visit

In addition to the College of Arts and Sciences’ communication department, the New Narrative Festival and Conference is supported by the Office of the President, Department of English, MSU Libraries and its Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, the College of Arts and Sciences, Information Technology Services, and the Mississippi Alliance for Women in Computing.

Festival highlights include:

—“Global Food Security and the New Agricultural Narrative” session on “Mississippi State’s Research and International Impact” by MSU President Mark E. Keenum. Chef Robert St. John, an author and founder of the Hattiesburg nonprofit Extra Table, also will present “Purpose, Values and Vision: Communication Lessons from the Farm to Table Movement.”

—“Putting Community Back into Communication: A Millennial’s Perspective” session, presented by Denise Horn, director of corporate communication for Turner Broadcasting System in New York.

—“Bringing Mississippi’s Message to Washington, D.C.” lunch session, presented by former U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper of Pearl. Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill will give a welcome.

— “Communicating ‘The Big Bang’ of a New Industry” session, presented by Dana Bolden, Atlanta, Georgia-based senior vice president and chief sustainability officer of Corteva Agriscience – The Agriculture Division of DowDuPont.

—“The Golf Clubs of Mississippi” session, presented by businessman George W. Bryan Sr., founder of Old Waverly Golf Club and co-founder of Mossy Oak Golf Club in West Point. He also is former CEO of Sara Lee Foods.

—“Leading Mississippi’s Future by Studying the Past” session, presented by John Spann, curator of education for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, overseen by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson. Emily Havens, executive director of Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, also will highlight the museum’s impact in the state and internationally.

—“Pitch Slam,” where students and others have the chance to give a 90-second pitch to one of four established publishing representatives. Free to all, online registration through the event website is requested. Joe Lee, editor-in-chief of Brandon-based Dogwood Press and an MSU communication department advisory board member, will lead the event.

—“An Evening of Music and Storytelling from Mississippi’s Cultural Ambassador Steve Azar” featuring an introduction from Glenn McCullough, executive director of Mississippi Development Authority in Jackson.

—“A New Perspective on Communication – Pioneering Unmanned Aerial Systems Research in Starkville, Mississippi” lunch session, presented by MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw.

For complete details on the New Narrative Festival and Conference, visit, email, and follow on Twitter and Facebook @MSNNF and Instagram @newnarrativefestival. Forde can be contacted at 662-312-5031 or

Complete details on the College of Arts and Sciences can be found at and the Department of Communication at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at