Mississippi State hosts 2024 Delta Scholars Program

Contact: Wade Leonard

Delta Scholars are pictured with Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum
Pictured with Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum (center), the 2024 Delta Scholars cohort includes (left-right) Keola Asing, Brandeis University; Kashish Bastola, Harvard University; Cooper Word, MSU; Andrea Rivera, Rutgers University; Trinity Wilson, Alcorn State University; Dominic Chavez, MSU; Luke Blades, MSU; Victoria Grisby, Middle Tennessee State University; President Keenum; Bowen Mansell, MSU; Bre'Anna Coleman, University of Mississippi; Payton Davis, MSU; Aaliyah Gates, Delta Scholars alumni and graduate assistant; Kyla Clothier, University of Arkansas; Yasmine Ware, UM; McKensie Cox, UM; Mackenzie Knighten, UM; and Hannah Daniels, MSU. (Photo by Jonah Holland)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—This summer, Mississippi State’s Shackouls Honors College is hosting a multi-institution cohort of 16 who are identifying and studying an issue at the intersection of public policy, food security, public health and community development during the seventh annual Delta Scholars Summer Program.

Among the participants are MSU honors students Luke Blades of Madison, Alabama; Dominic Chavez of Brownsville, Texas; Hannah Daniels of Starkville; Payton Davis of Ocala, Florida; Bowen Mansell of Tupelo; and Cooper Word of Madison, Mississippi.

“The Delta faces challenges unique to its history and geography, and we are proud to once again host a coalition of students committed to public service from across the country who are focused on solving those unique challenges,” said Shackouls Honors College Dean Tommy Anderson.

Part academic and part community focused, the program hosts talented students from seven universities interested in moving the multi-state Delta region forward. The group will propose a capstone project to contribute dialogue and change.

Along with the MSU students, others representing Alcorn State, Brandeis, Middle Tennessee State and Rutgers universities, and the universities of Arkansas and Mississippi are convening this month for the program created through a partnership between several universities and non-profit organizations.

The program enables participants to better understand the challenges and opportunities of the Delta and what can be learned in the area to inform public service leadership more broadly. Students are selected for their academic achievements and commitment to public service to attend scholarly sessions at MSU’s Shackouls Honors College, engaging with leaders in multiple fields and developing a capstone project before an intensive Summer Institute or “innovation tour” of the Delta.

The Multi-State Delta region includes Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. 

Associate Professor Kecia Johnson, an MSU sociology faculty member and Delta Scholars program director, will take the scholars to meet Delta researchers, nonprofit leaders, and community members who work to not only bring attention to the challenges facing the multi-state Delta region, but also provide innovative solutions.

“The innovation tour portion of the institute is an opportunity for students to interact and learn from Delta stakeholders doing on-the-ground work in these communities,” said Delta Scholars Assistant Director Eleanor Green.

Students will present their capstone projects to community partners for feedback as part of the Delta Regional Forum.

In the fall, students again will meet for the Boston Conference portion of the program, hosted by partners Harvard Law School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brandeis University. There, students will reflect on their time in Mississippi, share capstone project updates, receive continuing feedback, reflect on lessons learned, and discuss how those program lessons might be applied to addressing challenges across diverse settings.

“The Forum brings together innovative leaders from the community, region and beyond, thus providing the Delta Scholars with new insights and broader networks," said Southern Rural Development Center Director and MSU Professor John J. Green.

Additional partners who make the collaborative effort possible include those affiliated with the Delta Directions Consortium, an interdisciplinary network of individuals, academic institutions, nonprofits and foundations working together to inform and advance community and regional development in the multi-state Delta region. These include the Southern Rural Development Center, housed at MSU; Harvard University, and its Harvard College, Harvard Law School, and T.H. Chan School of Public Health; University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; Rutgers University; and Brandeis University.

2024 Delta Scholars include:

Alcorn State—Trinity Wilson of Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Brandeis University—Keola Asing of Palo Alto, California

Harvard University—Kashish Bastola of McKinney, Texas

Middle Tennessee State University—Victoria Grigsby of Fayetteville, Tennessee

Mississippi State University—Luke Blades of Madison, Alabama; Dominic Chavez of Brownsville, Texas; Hannah Daniels of Starkville, Mississippi; Payton Davis of Ocala, Florida; Bowen Mansell of Tupelo, Mississippi; Cooper Word of Madison, Mississippi

Rutgers University—Andrea Rivera of West Orange, New Jersey

University of Arkansas-Fayetteville—Kyla Clouthier of Boise, Idaho

University of Mississippi—Bre'Anna Coleman of Drew, Mississippi; McKenzie Cox of Concord, North Carolina; Mackenzie Knighten of Sunflower, Mississippi; Yasmine Ware of Madison, Mississippi