Contact: James Carskadon
STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State faculty members were recognized Thursday [Feb. 16] by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning for their efforts supporting diversity and inclusion.
David Buys, associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion and MSU Extension State Health Specialist, was named the 2023 overall IHL Diversity Educator of the Year during the board’s annual Diversity and Inclusion Awards ceremony.
Antonio Gardner, associate professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, also was among faculty from across the state recognized for their impact in advancing diversity.
In his role at MSU, Buys provides community-based health education and training for Extension agents in Mississippi’s 82 counties. He has been a leader on projects to reduce obesity and opioid use, as well as an effort to support mental health among farmers and rural populations. His widely cited research explores the social causes of inequity in health and disease, particularly for people of color and aging adults. As an educator, Buys works to create an inclusive environment in all of his teaching, research and service activities. He is also co-chair of the Campus Climate Workgroup, which has been partnering with the Division of Access, Diversity and Inclusion to understand and address challenges faced by underrepresented populations on campus.
“Dr. Buys is passionate about diversity and inclusion, and he has made our campus and our state better by working to bring people together,” MSU President Mark E. Keenum said. “He is working to improve the health and well-being of all Mississippians through innovative programs to prevent and manage chronic disease, promote mental health, and create healthy home environments. He is also committed to our students and strives to enhance their sense of belonging whatever their backgrounds may be.”
Buys credited his education and faith for showing him the need to address inequalities in society.
“I grew up in a rural, primarily white community where I wasn’t exposed to much diversity of race or perspectives,” said Buys. “My education gave me the mind to know we need to strive for a more equitable society, and my faith gives me the heart to know better. You've got to have both to move the needle expeditiously. Mississippi State, being one of the most diverse colleges in the SEC and a land-grant university with a mission to serve, has given me a great opportunity to practice that.”
Gardner joined MSU’s faculty ranks in 2016 after completing his doctorate in health education and health promotion at the University of Alabama. Although he primarily teaches graduate students, he has mentored numerous underrepresented undergraduate students, providing guidance on pursuing graduate and professional degrees. Gardner has served on the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities and worked to ensure that MSU’s messaging during the return to campus from COVID-19 was tailored for the broadest possible reach. As a trustee of the Society for Public Health Education, he proposed and implemented the Leaders in Equity & Diversity Fellowship program to help diversify the leadership within the organization and the public health profession.
MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.