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2020 IEP "Place" Award Finalist Spotlight: Mississippi State

October 12, 2020
By: Dr. Julie Jordan, Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development

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This article is included as part of APLU's Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Perspectives Blog. Read other articles around strategies, programs, and impact of APLU's IEP designees at Earn APLU’s IEP designation. Learn more at

When the COVID-19 pandemic began significantly impacting higher education earlier this year, Mississippi State University, like so many others, had to work creatively to continue providing core services for the student body and the greater community. For MSU, this includes the many ways the university supports economic activity in the state. Because of our institution’s longstanding commitment to economic engagement and outreach, we were—and still are—well positioned to help meet the diverse needs of our local and statewide communities.

MSU has an extensive track record of providing timely assistance to manufacturers across the state when they encounter problems or need to adjust their production process. When a blue jean company and a lamp shade manufacturer began making masks to address the shortage in Mississippi, they knew MSU could quickly test the capabilities of the material they were using, generating data that is critical for the medical personnel using the masks. When hospitals in our own college town and another city needed additional isolation gowns to treat COVID-19 patients, they reached out to our Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems-Extension, which supports the state’s manufacturing industry. The team from MSU identified companies that could produce the isolation gowns, helped them source materials, and worked with the manufacturers and hospitals to ensure the gowns met the needs of the doctors and nurses on the front lines. We are proud that as a university we can help Mississippi companies meet the needs of our medical community.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of our university’s relationships with communities across the state. Our Extension offices, along with the Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center, worked with government and business leaders at the local level to help them minimize the economic damage of the pandemic. We continued our no-cost business counseling program through the state’s Small Business Development Center, helping small business owners navigate government relief programs and adjust to broader economic changes. We also continued our extensive support for Mississippi’s largest industry, agriculture, helping to ensure the stability of our food supply chain.
MSU is a key asset to the state economically during this pandemic because we have developed the capabilities, expertise, and institutional mindset needed to make an economic impact in good times and in bad. While this has been a challenging time for MSU and the state of Mississippi, I am extremely proud of the ways MSU’s faculty and staff have worked to support the state’s public health response and support the economic health of our service area. It is truly an embodiment of the land-grant mission.

It is an honor for MSU to be recognized by the APLU’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities program for our commitment to making Mississippi a better place to live. While this is an institutional award, it reflects the dedication of thousands of individuals working across the state on behalf of MSU. I hope the case studies from our award submission provide useful examples for initiatives that could be launched from your own campuses.

This August, MSU is looking forward to the opening of the Partnership School, a brand-new middle school on campus that will serve all sixth and seventh grade students in our local public school district. This school will expose students to a university setting at an important time in their education, help MSU train and increase the ranks of sorely needed teachers in Mississippi, and alleviate capacity issues for the school district. The Partnership School came into existence because of a unified effort between the school district, university and the local community following a state-mandated consolidation of the two school district’s in our county in 2015. Now that the school is built, we can continue working together to create innovative educational opportunities at every level in our community.

MSU’s Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park continues to be a research and development force in our region, creating a dynamic ecosystem that includes university research centers, startup companies, and established businesses. With the park near capacity, we acquired a large bank building in downtown Starkville and are transforming the space into an Innovation Hub. The success of our research park creates more economic opportunities locally and is now making our town-and-gown relationship even stronger.

As a rural state, successful small towns are crucial to Mississippi. One way MSU helps these communities thrive is through the Carl Small Town Center, which brings together architects, planners, and students to help solve problems faced by communities across the nation. The center’s wide-ranging efforts have focused on master planning, downtown revitalizations, project feasibility studies, grant writing, and more. These efforts have made a tremendous impact and provided countless examples of initiatives for towns across the country to learn from.

Mississippi faces many challenges, but at MSU we continue to embrace our role to secure a better future for our state and lead an innovative approach to economic development.

This article is included as part of APLU's Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Perspectives Blog. Read other articles around strategies, programs, and impact of APLU's IEP designees at Earn APLU’s IEP designation. Learn more at

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