In Sept. 2020, The Association of Public Land Grant Universities (APLU) announced Mississippi State University's status as a national finalist in the 2020 APLU Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards in the "Place" category. MSU's mission to improve economics and quality of life for the Starkville community is the heart of this accomplishment.
According to Julie Jordan, interim vice president of research and economic development at MSU, day-to-day work played a major role in receiving this nomination.
"Our job is to guide the university's activities toward economic development, research, outreach and community engagement. Daily, I have a lot of meetings. It is a broad job, but we have a lot of people working who do a really great job," Jordan said.
Jim Martin, associate vice president for economic development and corporate engagement at MSU, works closely with Jordan and expanded on the details of their day-to-day duties.
"We support all the research centers. Our research departments have 272 acres, over 1,700 employees, and the fifth fastest computer in academia. So, we stay pretty busy on a daily basis," Martin said.
Jordan has worked hard, on her part, for the school to get recognized. There were many steps to go through in order to get this recognition.
"We have had to jump through several steps to get to the point where we could even get recognized. First, we had to be recognized a number of years ago as a university that has innovation and economic prosperity — this is one level of criteria. Once you have done this, you can apply for an even higher level of distinction in several categories," Jordan said.
MSU applied for the category of "Place" after obtaining the first steps to be able to apply.
"The category 'Place' has to do with how as an institution, we support our local community, how we partner with community and how we develop our community outside of the campus," Jordan said.
Many aspects on MSU's campus are important to be considered in this category. However, there are a few which stand out.
"There are many key factors that we highlighted, one was the research park which we own and operate. There are public and private offices as well as MSU offices in it. One facet that we focused on is the number of people who work there to improve economic development. Another part we highlighted was our partnership school. As a way we have had significant engagement with our community to try to improve the entire region for the citizens," Jordan said.
Specifically, with these things that are highlighted, the root comes from a drive toward diversity and outreach. Those underlining factors are what creates a strong standing for MSU's nomination.
"We want to highlight our diversity and our outreach. We do a lot of things for the local area, but also multiple fronts. For example, the Carl Small Town Center gave us the opportunity to say that MSU's outreach program is in all 82 counties in the state. We are not only trying to make a difference in our local community but across the entire state," Martin said.
Abigail Robbins, innovation and economic prosperity and governmental affairs associate of APLU, gave her side of the nomination process.
"Once the university sends in their application, it will come to me. Then, I have a database of reviewers so people within the IEP community, whether that's expertise in community development, economic engagement and community extension to review the applications. They have a certain amount of time to give their ratings. It makes it back to me where I tally them all up," Robbins said.
MSU is a finalist among several schools in the "Place" category. The university should be proud to have this honor, Robbins said.
"It is a huge honor to already be a finalist because, in order to be one, you really have to exemplify good things that are happening on your campus. You really need to be fertile to even be in this competition," Robbins said.