MSU Division of Access, Opportunity and Success announces updates with focus on student outcomes

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State University’s Division of Access, Opportunity and Success is announcing updates to its organizational structure that will better serve current students and those who will enroll in the future.

These changes, which take effect ahead of the spring semester, include expanding the division’s efforts to cultivate excellence through transformational learning experiences, while streamlining current processes to serve the academic needs of the student population. Vice President Ra’Sheda Boddie-Forbes is leading the charge from MSU President Mark E. Keenum, and she said the division’s transformation is timely.

Division Org Chart

“MSU must be responsive to a changing society and global economy so that we can best serve students in their scholarly capacity while preparing them for post-college success. These divisional updates highlight our commitment to that necessary response and fall directly in line with the university’s strategic plan,” Boddie-Forbes said.

As outlined in the Transforming MSU Strategic Plan, the university is identifying opportunities to improve and advance, guided by a current campuswide effort focused on “serving the whole student.”

This includes building on its culture known for making students feel welcome to ensuring their academic success.

Portrait of Ra'Sheda Boddie-Forbes
Ra’Sheda Boddie-Forbes (OPA Photo)

Boddie-Forbes serves as the strategic leader of an array of programs and departments, housing a variety of resources tailored for students from various backgrounds. It includes key departments like the Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, Office of Inclusive Excellence, Office of Access and Success, and the Office of Pre-College and Opportunity Programs, which all operate with a mission of making success a natural, attainable outcome for students throughout their entire collegiate matriculation.

As the division implements the shift, the vice president assured the divisional purpose will translate directly to positive student performance. She said principles of accountability, excellence, community and support help best achieve optimal student outcomes for all who enroll at Mississippi State. This includes ensuring access by designing strategies and pathways that remove barriers and create equitable opportunities to utilize resources that drive degree completion. She said MSU continues to ensure opportunity through activities that help individuals acquire knowledge and skills to cultivate success. MSU also supports students holistically throughout college with emphasis on helping them develop persistence to complete their goals.

Additionally, Boddie-Forbes has outlined five focal points to guide the efforts of her team:

—Preparing every student for an increasingly diverse society;

—Demonstrating student success at all levels, in all fields;

—Ensuring all people, regardless of backgrounds, feel a sense of belonging;

—Addressing economic, social and core barriers associated with degree completion; and

—Cultivating pathways and pipeline initiatives for K-12 students all the way through graduate and professional schools.

This innovative shift for the university unit is not unfamiliar to the campus community. Recently, the university was recognized as a Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award recipient by Insight Into Diversity magazine. The honor is consistent with MSU’s emphasis on offering students abundant resources, including a supportive environment, undergraduate research options and service activities, tools for healthy living and expanded academic programs.

MSU also recently joined a prestigious cohort of only 11 universities throughout the U.S. who are the first to take part in a new national initiative, Transforming the Foundational Postsecondary Experience. The participating institutions are redesigning the first two years of college in the collective effort led by the Gardner Institute, a national non-profit focused on student success. The initiative to help students reach graduation seeks to address inequitable performance gaps and improve student learning and success.

“Students at MSU come from every state in the U.S. and nearly 90 other countries. They come from diverse backgrounds, and the tools they need to have a successful and fulfilling college experience differ. This is why we are focused on having a number of programs and initiatives that meet students where they are—no matter if they are first-generation or international, or if they are coming from foster care or any other background,” Boddie-Forbes said. “When they arrive at MSU, we want them to know they are part of the Bulldog family, and this is the place where they will be equipped for their future.”

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