Presidential Update 2018

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Audio Transcript:

Leah Gibson: Hello, I'm Leah Gibson of the Mississippi State University Office of Public Affairs. Welcome to a time of reflection on our university's successes over the last year with MSU President Mark Keenum. Welcome Dr. Keenum.

Mark Keenum: Thank you, Leah. And thank you for being here this afternoon. You know, as I think about the end of 2018 and as we're approaching our holiday season, and also the end of my 10th year here at Mississippi State University, I think about all that we have to be thankful for as a university, especially over the past year. And we can owe a lot to the successes that we're enjoying here at Mississippi State University to our outstanding world class faculty, our staff, and our wonderful students, and the many, many friends that our university has.

We have a lot of excitement in the air right now in campus. And we hope to begin 2019 with a great New Years Day victory in the Outback Bowl after Coach Joe Moorhead in his first season has lead our Bulldogs to a very successful regular season record with a, I would say, a very decisive victory in the Egg bowl, which we're very proud of.

Both of our men's and our women's basketball programs are, again, enjoying great success. As we all know, our women's basketball team has competed in back-to-back National NCAA Championships, Final Fours, and we're real excited to get them back on track.

We're also very pleased to be moving into a brand new Dudy Noble Field, which many of us refer to it as the Carnegie Hall of Baseball. And under Coach Chris Lemonis, we're expecting great things for our baseball program this coming year.

We also are excited about the success of our men's tennis team, which captured their very first Southeastern Conference Tournament Crown since 1996, and advanced to the NCAA quarter finals for the first time since 1998. We've got a lot to be proud of in our athletics program.

Leah Gibson: That's right. Dr. Keenum, this past year has seen phenomenal growth on our campus in terms of new facilities. Tell us about that.

Mark Keenum: Well, you're exactly right. Going back to 2009, it's hard to believe that when you look at our campus and see all the growth and expansion that we've had here on our campus that we have expended more than a billion dollars in new capital improvements here at Mississippi State. And right now looking forward, we've got several hundred million dollars of projects on the table that we're looking forward to move forward on right now, so there's a great deal of momentum on our campus, just in the physical aspects of this campus.

We reopened the historic YMCA building after more than $10 million renovation. We also launched a new state-of-the-art, beautiful College View, Public Private Partnership for housing and retail space. I am so excited about this new development, especially for our students.

Also in 2018, we moved into a brand new meat science and muscle biology lab. And construction continues on both a new animal and dairy science building and a new poultry science building. And just this past week we held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new $34 million state-of-the-art, Richard A Rula Engineering and Science Complex. This is going to be a wonderful edition, especially for our Bagley College of Engineering.

And we're also excited about another development that's been in the works for some time. It's the partnership school here on our campus that will improve teacher education while increasing educational opportunities for students here in Oktibbeha County in Starkville for sixth and seventh graders. And it is going to be a game changer for education here in Mississippi. We have a lot going on, Leah.

Leah Gibson: And we're all looking forward to that. So while the scope and pace of the improvement of our facilities are indeed impressive, we're also growing our human capital as well.

Mark Keenum: Well, yeah, that's true, Leah. You know, this past academic year, we crossed a new milestone for our university in that we for the first time in our university's history enrolled more than 22,000 students. And that's been a goal for our university for many years. In fact, the enrollment this fall was 22,201 students. And I'm proud of the growth that we're seeing.
Mississippi State continues to be on track to continue to grow our enrollment. That's something I'm very excited about. We want to grow as a university. We continue to attract great students from here in the state and abroad. And that's the sign of a healthy school and a great momentum for our university.

Also on the giving side, we continue to make great strides, and from our wonderful alumni base and our friends. For the fifth year now in a row we've had gifts of more than $100 million. And again, that shows that our alumni, that our friends recognize what this university means to them individually, but also what it means to our state and to our nation, and to the world at large.

Leah, I was also extremely pleased that in the most recent National Science Foundation rankings, Mississippi State remains by far Mississippi's leading research university, generating more than $240 million in research and development expenditures. That accounts for more than 50% of all research and development expenditures in the State of Mississippi. And also, Mississippi State remains a top 10 national agriculture research university. And ranks among the top 100 universities in the nation in areas such as social sciences, engineering, computer sciences, geo sciences, chemistry, and life sciences.

I'm also proud that while we also recruit and retain students from the United States and around the world, Mississippi State remains the college of choice for Mississippians. We remain the undisputed number one choice for Mississippi's high school graduates and community college students who transfer to institutions of higher learning. And our success is demonstrated not only in quantity but also in quality as well. Almost a third of all of our incoming freshmen students here at Mississippi State this year had an ACT score of 28 or higher. The number of freshmen with a ACT of 28 or above has climbed nearly 40% in just the past five years.

Leah Gibson: Very impressive. So, Dr Keenum, MSU passed an important historical academic milestone this year, one that will greatly benefit our students in years to come. Can you share that news with us?

Mark Keenum: Well, Leah, I'm glad you asked that question, too. I'm very proud of the success that we're seeing among our students, and the fact that they continue to be recognized both nationally and internationally with very high honors. We've seen students recognized recently in their fields of automotive science, rocket science, geoscience, weather forecasting. Just examples where I'm so proud that our students and what they're doing is being recognized, again, at national, international levels.

And our faculty are also continuing to be recognized for their brilliance in what they're doing in the research lab, but also in the classroom. Bringing the state-of-the-art knowledge to our students to help equip them and prepare them for the 21st century.

After almost 40 years of effort by my predecessors and faculty and staff, we finally achieved the goal that we set out to achieve. And that was to bring a Phi Beta Kappa chapter to Mississippi State University. This is the oldest, it's the most prestigious honors society in the nation. And I'm so excited that our students right here at Mississippi State who are receiving these national and international honors will now be eligible to be members of Phi Beta Kappa, which is a lifetime honor.

I also want to say thank you to Dr. Robert West, a distinguished professor here at Mississippi State in our English department. He led our Phi Beta Kappa faculty in our efforts to achieve this great goal for our university. And I just want to say thank you to Dr. West, to all of our Phi Beta Kappa faculty and their great efforts to bring this wonderful honor society to Mississippi State.

Leah Gibson: Now, at this special time of year, it's become customary for the university community to receive a special holiday message from you.

Mark Keenum: Well Leah, thank you. I want to say thank you for allowing me to be able to talk about and tell so much of the good news about our university and share it with our Bulldog family.

We have so much to be thankful for as a university. Many of the developments that we discussed are indicators of a university that's on the move in the right positive direction. And we have so much to be thankful for as a university for all the great success that we're having here.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to our world class faculty and what they're contributing, to our wonderful student body and how wonderfully they're performing, and all the great things that they're doing on our campus. To our wonderful staff, who help run this campus and make all the great things happen here. I'm so thankful for them and what they do.

And for the generosity, and the support, and the encouragement of our wonderful alumni base, our Bulldog family. You know, we have 143,000 plus living alumni today, and they're helping this great university become greater every single day.

So as we're here at the beginning of a wonderful holiday season, I just want to say a personal word of thank you to all of you and what you do to help make this university so special. And on behalf of my family, my wife Rhonda, our four children, Katie, Rett, Mary Phillips, and Tori, I want to say Merry Christmas. I hope you all have a wonderful and happy and joyous new year. May God bless you. Hail State and go Dogs.