Born right outside of Atlanta, Mississippi State University's Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt is a testament to the sentiment that Southern roots run deep.
When she was just 8 years old, Hyatt moved to Illinois where she would eventually complete her bachelor's degree and her graduate degrees. So much time away from the South makes her an unlikely Mississippian, but her current position at MSU pulled her to the Magnolia State in 2015.
The absence of a Mississippi twang in Hyatt's voice is made up for in an abundance of enthusiasm as she expressed the hopeful perspective of Mississippi she has gained.
"I think what I believe is that Mississippi has a richness to it that is really centered in the spirit and the stories of the people here. That richness doesn't get seen outside of this place for a whole lot of reasons, and of course, sometimes Mississippi doesn't help itself. The reality is there are so many people here that are working really hard to make Mississippi a place that everybody can thrive ... That's the story that the world needs to know about here. I think maybe not having grown up here I can see it slightly differently in terms of realizing how special it is," Hyatt said.
It was not long before Hyatt decided she had to have a hand in this storytelling herself. She began to dream of starting a podcast focused on highlighting Mississippi leaders and the hope they bring to their state.
"I had the idea maybe two years ago — it's been marinating for a while — to create a podcast. I wanted it to be focused on the idea of Mississippi and the good things that are happening in Mississippi. I think that came from thinking sometimes that people who don't live here have a perception of Mississippi that isn't accurate about the state and the people who live here. And so I thought about that and how we could share some really good things that are going on here," Hyatt said.
This dream became a reality over winter break of this school year, as Hyatt and her team began strategizing and eventually recording episodes. Although none of them had any experience with producing podcasts, they saw the project as an opportunity for adventure, and thus "The Positive Sip" was born.
The team behind "The Positive Sip" consists of Hyatt; Flora Dedeaux, a junior majoring in communication; Katie Corban, the director of marketing and communications for the Division of Student Affairs and Carson Brantley, a graduate student studying higher education and student affairs leadership.
Dedeaux started working for the Division of Student Affairs in the fall semester as a videographer. After a few months, her boss Corban approached her about joining the production team for the podcast. Dedeaux explained she and Brantley spent the majority of winter break learning together as they furiously researched the ins and outs of podcasting.
During her time as an undergraduate, Brantley also worked in the Division of Student Affairs where she first got to know Hyatt. Brantley emphasized how foundational friendship is to the podcast itself, explaining Hyatt's friendship with each guest brings a layer of richness to the episodes.
"Dr. Hyatt is calling her friends. If you know her at all, she calls everyone her friend. It's so fun to hear her talk to her friends but for them to have these really serious conversations about Mississippi and how it has impacted them," Brantley said.
The "friends" featured in the first two episodes are MSU President Mark Keenum and former MSU Student Association President Mayah Emerson. Hyatt explained the rest of the episodes in season one will follow suit, as each episode features a different MSU alum. She shared what listeners can expect in upcoming episodes of "The Positive Sip".
"I have a variety of guests who are talking about where they grew up in Mississippi, their own Mississippi story, the things they are continuing to do within their communities and also with a focus on leadership. This is about leadership as well. So you hear their views on leadership and how those views have shaped who they are," Hyatt said.
Hyatt went into more detail, revealing the next episode will feature Starkville's mayor Lynn Spruill. Listeners can expect to hear from alumni like Camille Scales Young, who was the former National Alumnus President for the Alumni Association, and Retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Barnes, an active member of MSU's Black Alumni Advisory Council.
Hyatt is excited for people to listen to these guests and know good things are happening in her state. Brantley shared the same hope, explaining the podcast appeals to a broad audience.
"For alumni or adults who happen to know or who care about Mississippi State student affairs and leadership in general, listen and have a restored hope that good things are still happening in Mississippi and on-campus," Brantley said.
Dedeaux urged her fellow students to listen to the podcast and be inspired by the people who have been in their same shoes.
"I would encourage everyone to listen but especially Mississippi State students because all of the people on this season's podcast are alumni of MSU ... I think it's a really inspirational and motivational podcast. It's a positive take on Mississippi and what we're doing. Obviously, we do have our problems and have been through really tough times, but this podcast specifically focuses on what people are doing today to progress and take steps forwards," Dedeaux said.
For all those seeking a refreshing take on Mississippi life and leadership, the first two episodes of "The Positive Sip" can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.