Amanda Cook (Faculty)
Amanda Cook’s initial college plans didn’t include the color maroon.
Cook, assistant professor of criminology/sociology at MSU-Meridian, had plans to go to college out of state when she graduated from high school in Carthage.
But those plans changed when her mother was diagnosed with cancer during her senior year of high school.
Her older brother was attending Millsaps College at the time, and he suggested they both take a new path.
“He called me and said if I would apply to Mississippi State, he would transfer there too, and then both of us would be closer to home in case we needed to help Mom,” Cook said.
The university quickly began to feel like home to the siblings, and they attended as many sporting events as possible. When she could, their mother enjoyed tailgating with them before football games as well.
For her brother’s graduation, Cook recalls, their mother asked what she should get him.
“I suggested club level seats. She decided to buy two for me also to ensure when she was gone that her kids would always be able to see each other on football Saturdays.”
Cook went on to earn both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Mississippi State. As a graduate assistant she began teaching a few classes, and—though initially terrified of standing up in front of a room full of students—she realized she’d found her calling. Unfortunately, her mother passed away in 2008, before Cook had finished her doctoral degree.
In 2012, administrators began working to establish a new criminology degree on the Meridian campus. Having gone through the program and having taught criminology classes on the Starkville campus, Cook was a good fit for the new Meridian program. After serving in an instructor position and helping to build the program from the ground up, she was thrilled to fill the newly created assistant professor position in the fall of 2015.
Cook and her colleague David May, professor and criminology program coordinator in Starkville, are currently assisting with data collection for the development of a comprehensive, evidence-based strategic plan to reduce crime in the East End neighborhood of Meridian. The Department of Justice, through its Bryne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, recently awarded grant funds to assist in the 18-month planning phase of this project.
“I’m incorporating what we are doing with the grant in my students’ senior capstone projects. They will research crime-related issues in Meridian and find policies to address these issues. I want them to understand that they don’t have to graduate and leave the state to use their degree—they can work to make a difference in their own communities,” Cook said.
As a first generation college graduate, Cook said she never imagined she would end up as a college professor. “This is really my family – and I love it here. There is nothing else I’d rather be doing.”