Keenum discusses research accomplishments, student success during annual MSU faculty meeting

Contact: Allison Matthews

MSU President Mark E. Keenum speaks at a podium in Lee Hall's Bettersworth Auditorium
MSU President Mark E. Keenum speaks to faculty and staff Tuesday [Sept. 13] during the annual Fall General Faculty Meeting. (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s fall semester is “off and running,” and President Mark E. Keenum gave extensive university updates during the annual Fall General Faculty Meeting Tuesday [Sept. 13].

Keenum said he is proud of MSU’s monumental research output and especially likes to tout the university’s rank as third overall in academic research output in the Southeastern Conference, behind only Texas A&M and Vanderbilt universities. Conducting 55% of all university research in Mississippi, MSU is the state’s only university listed in the National Science Foundation’s Top 100, with more than $280 million in annual research and development expenditures.

Keenum emphasized the fundamental importance of student success as a top university priority across all colleges and departments.

“We want to do everything we can to help a student be successful when they step foot on this campus until they graduate,” said Keenum, who also discussed how MSU students and graduates “are seeing great success.”

He touted survey findings released earlier this summer by the MSU Career Center which found 97% of MSU’s 2021 graduates reported they were employed, serving in the military or pursuing advanced degrees within the first six months after graduation. More than half reported remaining in the Magnolia State to work, and of those choosing graduate school, 64% chose to stay within the state.

“Looking at this data and what we’re doing already, it is evident to me that Mississippi State is doing its part in helping to meet the needs of our state from an educational attainment standpoint. We’re going to do an even better job going forward,” Keenum said. He also touted the university’s No. 1 rank as the top “Best Value College” in Mississippi with MSU graduates earning the highest average starting salary among in-state college graduates.

“I think that just validates the value of a diploma that says Mississippi State University on it,” he said.

With the changing demographic of prospective college students in upcoming years, specifically smaller classes of graduating high school seniors—which correlates with declining birthrates following the Great Recession of 2007-09—the university “will move forward,” according to Keenum, by focusing on a strategic enrollment process based on extensive feedback and research. He expressed a need to convey the “Mississippi State story” to prospective students and other stakeholders to share how MSU is “taking care of what matters” through its commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service.

He described how prospective students and their parents “are absolutely astounded” during campus visits, and how the university plans to invest more in recruiters, student success initiatives and branding efforts to convey the wide range of support MSU provides students. He specifically mentioned first-generation students, underrepresented groups, those with an aptitude toward leadership and service, among others.

With MSU as the No. 1 choice of Mississippi’s high school graduates, Keenum also wants to reach more out-of-state students as the university competes for the “best and brightest.” He emphasized ongoing records in private fundraising and pointed to this as a crucial component for providing much needed student scholarships.

Keenum said MSU “will prepare you to be anything you want to be in this world. It’s a place where you are going to be accepted for who you are. You’re going to be cared for, you’re going to be loved while you’re on this campus. And that’s the environment that you—our faculty and staff—create here with our student body, and that makes me very proud.”

Keenum cited a statewide focus with Extension, outreach and service work in all 82 counties of the state, four Extension and research centers, CAVS Extension center in Canton, and the centers operated by the College of Veterinary Medicine in Starkville and Flowood, with diagnostic labs in Starkville, Stoneville and Pearl.

“We also work with city and county governments, state agencies and the Mississippi Development Authority, and the governor’s office, in helping to create jobs and grow our economy in this state,” Keenum said. “But our No. 1 priority for this university has been, and will always be, our students. They are why we are here—we’re here to serve them, preparing them for their life and their future,” Keenum said. “We are here to make a difference in their lives as teachers, mentors and role models.”

In thanking faculty for their dedicated work, he pointed to exceptional faculty as one reason so many students choose MSU.

In addition to discussing student and faculty issues, Keenum briefed the university audience about legislative issues, appropriations and economic factors impacting the state and institution. Additionally, he provided updates on several capital projects. Notable projects in early stages of planning or construction include renovation of Ballew and Dorman halls, construction of a new High Performance Computing Center, and a facility to house the Department of Kinesiology and Center for Student Support and Autism Services. Also on the slate are updated facilities for the College of Architecture, Art and Design, as well as a Coastal Seafood Lab.

Additional projects underway include renovation at Humphrey Coliseum and adjacent infrastructure improvements. Recently completed projects or those nearing completion status include the university’s new Music Building and Bulldog Way.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - 3:22 pm