MSU again wins national HEED award for advancing student access and success

Contact: Harriet Laird

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A universitywide commitment to innovative academic programming, memorable campus experiences and student well-being is signifying Mississippi State’s latest national recognition—the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award.

The HEED honor, awarded by Insight Into Diversity magazine, culminates for MSU in a current campuswide effort of “serving the whole student,” outlined in the university’s Transforming MSU strategic plan. The plan is a redefinition of the institution’s role in solving some of the world’s most critical challenges by starting locally, “or in our own backyard,” as the initiative explains.

MSU is among a select group of just 108 colleges and universities across the U.S. achieving this status from the oldest and largest diversity magazine in higher education. Also a HEED recipient last year, and in 2022 and 2019, MSU is the only Mississippi postsecondary institution—and one of only 13 land-grants nationwide—on the publication’s prestigious list.

“Mississippi State University is focused on serving the people and communities of our great state, and that includes providing our students with access to exceptional academic programs, hands-on research experiences, and service opportunities to develop their leadership skills,” said MSU President Mark E. Keenum. “Student success is the foundation of all that we do, and it is very gratifying to see our efforts recognized with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award. I appreciate the students, faculty, and staff who are working so hard to ensure that our campus is a community where people are encouraged and welcome.”

The HEED recognition is consistent with MSU’s emphasis on equipping students with abundant resources during their university experience. This spectrum includes a supportive campus environment with increased undergraduate research options and service activities; tools for living healthy, productive lives; and new academic offerings. Expanded and improved student success programs leading to graduation and more experiential learning at all levels are also included.

Ra’Sheda Forbes, vice president for Diversity, Access and Inclusion, said, “I’m excited that Mississippi State University has been selected once again for this award. I firmly believe that excellence and access is critical to creating pathways, opportunities and success to higher education for all students, and this award serves as a reminder that Mississippi State is taking care of what matters.”

Just this week MSU became one of only 11 universities and colleges across the U.S. chosen for a new national Gardner Institute initiative to transform the critical first two years of college education during which students create the foundation for ultimate degree completion. Transforming the Foundational Postsecondary Experience will address inequitable performance gaps and improvements to student learning and success.

The university’s efforts to close learning gaps scale the life span. This past month, MSU earned membership in the highly selective Age-Friendly University Global Network, an organization prioritizing educational needs of lifelong learners. MSU is the network’s first member from the Magnolia State, as well as the Southeastern Conference, and joins approximately 100 universities across five continents.

This year’s HEED honorees will be featured in the November issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, available online at

Mississippi State University is taking care of what matters. Learn more at