COLUMBUS, Miss. — Mississippi University for Women is a significant economic contributor to the state of Mississippi as well as the Golden Triangle region, according to a recently released economic impact analysis.

The university’s economic value to the state totaled more than $215 million during fiscal year 2021-22. Expressed in terms of jobs, The W’s impact supported 3,433 jobs.

W President Nora Miller said, “The W contributes to our local and statewide economy by supporting jobs and with what we spend, but we also provide a highly educated workforce for employers. This study articulates the extent of the value we add to the economy.”

A breakdown of those expenditures included $27.6 million in operations spending, $2.4 million in student spending, $2.1 million in construction spending, $0.9 million in visitor spending, $6.8 million in volunteerism impact and $175.5 million in alumni impact.

Closer to home, The W added $97.9 million in income to the Golden Triangle plus Monroe and Noxubee’s economy.  To put into perspective, activities of The W and its students supported 1,567 jobs in the Golden Triangle (Monroe and Noxubee).

The study further showed that students see a high rate of return for their investment at The W:

  • In return for their investment, students will receive a cumulative present value of $186.7 million in increased earnings over their working lives. This translates to a return of $8.30 in higher future earnings for every $1 dollar students invest in their education.
  • FY 2021-22 students paid a present value of $15.1 million to cover the cost of tuition, fees, supplies and interest on student loans. They also forwent $7.3 million in money that they would have earned had they been working instead of attending college.
  • The average bachelor’s degree graduate from The W will see an increase in earnings of $17,400 year compared each year compared to someone with a high school diploma working in Mississippi

Other ways economic activity generated by the university touches the region and state economy:

  • W student volunteers generated an impact of $6.8 million in added income.
  • The net impact of The W’s former students currently employed in the state workforce amounted to $175.5 million in added income.
  • For every dollar of public money invested in The W, taxpayers will receive $1.90 in return, over the course of students’ working lives. The average annual rate of return for taxpayers is 3.2%
  • For every dollar invested in The W, Mississippians will receive $6.60 in return, for as long as the university’s FY 2021-22 students remain active in the state workforce.

The economic impact analysis was commissioned by Lightcast, a global leader recognized in labor market analytics. 

The full economic impact study is available at:

The W also released its 2022 Annual Report, which can be found at:

Nicole Patrick

Mississippi University for Women director of financial aid Nicole Patrick has been awarded the designation of Certified Financial Aid Administrator (FAAC®) by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA).

“I am excited to receive the NASFAA Certified Financial Aid Administrator distinction.  This certification will add value to our office and our institution, as well as benefit my career in Financial Aid. Financial Aid Administrators have an important role in the institution’s overall success, and this certification adds a layer of credibility,” said Patrick.

To earn the FAAC® designation, professionals must demonstrate sufficient industry-related experience, successfully pass a comprehensive knowledge exam and affirm commitment to the standards for ethical behavior that are a hallmark of the financial aid profession. Patrick’s achievement of this certification serves as a testament to her commitment to the profession and the University’s student population.

In 2022, Patrick also received the Mississippi Association Student Financial Aid Administrators’ (MASFAA) Jack Woodward Award of Excellence, which recognizes excellence in the field of financial aid administration. The Executive Board of the Jack Woodward Award of Excellence evaluated nominees based on their involvement, leadership, knowledge and experience, contributions, cooperative and professional behavior, commitment and service.

Patrick has served as the secretary for the Southern Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (SASFAA) since 2022. She has previously held the positions of vice president, president-elect and president of the Mississippi Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, an organization of approximately 240 state professionals.

Patrick is a 2004 graduate of The W and has served as the director of financial aid since June 2013. Additionally, she holds a Master of Science Degree in College Student Development from the University of West Alabama.

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is the only national, nonprofit association with a primary focus on information dissemination, professional development, and legislative and regulatory analysis related to federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every 10 undergraduates in the United States.

Questions linger with C.T. Salazar.

C.T. Salazar.

Sometimes, Salazar finds the answers. There are other times, though, when the solutions are elusive, so Salazar turns to writing as a way to find a route to a resolution.

Salazar’s latest project, “Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking,” took seven years from the first draft to its publication in February 2022. Although the project was “completed,” Salazar considers his first full-length collection of poetry a record of his life with some of those questions.

“Writing the book was a process not about finding the answers, but about measuring how my relationship to those questions changes and grows with time,” Salazar said.

“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking,” which was a finalist for the Theodore Roethke Memorial Prize, recently earned Salazar a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nomination in the Poetry category.

Salazar, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi University for Women in 2015 and graduated from The W’s MFA in Creative Writing in 2018, is one of five people with ties to The W to receive a nomination for a MIAL Award. T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) also was nominated in the Poetry category. Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon”) was nominated in the Visual Arts category, and Dr. Joe L. Alexander (“DJ2 Extravaganza” and “The Ruffner Mountain Express”) and Dr. Valentin Bogdan (“Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu”) were nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.

The winners will be announced June 3, 2023, at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

“It’s really nice to know that the things that interest me and have me writing interests other folks in the community, too,” said Salazar, who has been nominated for a MIAL Award three times.

Salazar said it is difficult to describe his feelings about receiving so much praise for “Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking,” which examines how being an American – especially a Southerner – in the 21st century is a “very headless experience” to him in terms of direction and logic. He said he wanted to get past a lot of the implications that govern his day-to-day life and into a way of thinking that maybe didn’t have as much to do with thinking at all.

If that sounds like Salazar is still searching, he is. In fact, he considers himself an “animal that burrows” because he often starts in one place and burrows down further and further in a hunt for his prize.

“I think really good writing comes from turning over just one idea for longer than our day-to-day life tries to encourage us to,” Salazar said. “I like that kind of focus. I think with all of my writing, they’re just attempts and angles at similar ideas. What is actual faith? What is belonging? What is our best relationship to each other and to the world? What’s the most just version of ourselves? Those are questions that fascinate me.”

Salazar said he is sitting with a manuscript or a manuscript and a half of poems and trying to determine if it’s a book. He said he also is working as an editor on two projects, is working on a play-novel hybrid and is slowly writing longer essays that dive into some of Mississippi’s poets of the past — their lives, their poetry. Salazar is excited about where the research on those poets will take him and hopes the work eventually will turn into a book. Until then, Salazar will continue to ask questions and try to find the answers – even if it takes him seven years to reach a conclusion.

Sadè Meeks has a story to tell.

Sadè Meeks

Thing is, she may not have to say a word to connect with you. Instead, Meeks’ message about food as resistance could tickle your nostrils and make your stomach growl. In the process, Meeks hopes you will develop a greater understanding of food history and sate your appetite at the same time.

“There’s something powerful about gaining this awareness,” said Meeks, a 2015 graduate of Mississippi University for Women’s Ina E. Gordy Honors College. “Black people were stripped away from their culture and history during the slave trade and in other ways as well. However, through food, so much of that history and culture is preserved.”

Meeks will return to The W for the Social Justice Speaker Series at 6 p.m. March 9, at Nissan Auditorium. The event is a part of The W’s celebration of Black History Month and the Gordy Honors College’s Forum Series and is co-sponsored by the Culinary Arts Institute, John Clayton Fant Memorial Library, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council and Gordy Honors College. The event was rescheduled in February due to the threat of severe weather.

As part of the event, Meeks will present her documentary “Food as Resistance.” There will be a discussion about the 27-minute film, which examines the systematic realities that impact our food systems and how narrative change of cultural foods can be part of our resistance. The film focuses on reclaiming the African American food narrative and is the byproduct of Meeks’ travels from November 2021 to December 2022.

Meeks also will do a workshop with culinary arts students at The W prior to the presentation.

“My 100-year-old grandmother’s story of her garden is an example of what encouraged me to understand the power of storytelling, but also to try to encourage people by helping them understand the nuances of food as resistance,” Meeks said. “Just as there are many ways to eat healthily, there are many ways to use food as resistance. I expound more on that in the documentary and the ‘Food as Resistance’ presentations.”

Meeks, who is from Jackson, is the founder of Growing Resistance in the South (GRITS). She said her desire to pursue The W’s Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Arts stemmed from watching her mother cook and later being “upgraded” to her pastry chef for Sunday dinners. Meeks’ love for food motivated her to bake and sell cakes to her mother’s friends and co-workers when she was in middle school and fueled her passion to become a pastry chef and then to learn more about nutritional science. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Nutritional Science from California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA).

“Sadé’s honors research at The W on organic vs. processed foods was a precursor to her pioneering work connecting culture and foodways to nutrition education,” said Dr. Kim Whitehead, a professor of English and Religion and the director of the Gordy Honors College. “It is very exciting to celebrate what she is doing and to have her back on campus so our students and campus community can benefit from her expertise, experience, and example.”

Meeks said her academic and lived experiences led her to found GRITS, which is based in Jackson but has a national reach. She said the goal of GRITS is to bridge the gap between nutrition and culture and promote narrative change regarding cultural foods. To accomplish those goals, GRITS has partnered with the Local Mississippi Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and Healthworks Jackson and plans to build on those partnerships. It also plans to launch a capital campaign this year and to develop a GRITS campus in Jackson.

“The popular narrative is that African-America foods are ‘bad,’ but contrary to that false narrative, there are so many nutritious and beneficial parts of our foods,” Meeks said. “That’s the story GRITS tells.

“When black people gain a greater understanding of things like food history, it can give us the power to advocate for justice for black farmers, to dismantle stereotypes and change the narratives that perpetuate anti-black racism, or to use our voice to speak out against injustice whether that’s on a personal, community and/organizational level. This awareness gives us the power to promote and advocate for social justice and food justice.”

The Social Justice Speaker Series originated in 2022 after Fant Memorial Library received The W’s University Initiative Impact Award for its efforts to enhance diversity, promote cultural diversity and cultivate an inclusive campus community. Dr. Ebony Lumumba (Jan. 24) and Dr. Tim Lampkin (March 21) also will be a part of the series to speak about their social justice initiatives.

“We have been working on organizing a series of speakers that will highlight social justice initiatives in the state of Mississippi and beyond,” said Amanda Clay Powers, dean of library services. “We hope to inspire our students and the broader community by showing the variety of social justice work being done by these inspiring leaders.”

Feb. 7, 2023
Contact: Adam Minichino
(662) 329-1976

Dr. Joe L. Alexander continues to expand his portfolio.

In the process, Alexander, a professor of music at Mississippi University for Women, keeps earning accolades as a world-renown composer.

Dr. Joe L. Alexander

Two of Alexander’s most recent compositions, “DJ2 Extravaganza” and “Ruffner Mountain Express” received Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nominations in the Music Composition, Classical category.

“I am extremely happy to find out I had been nominated for the MIAL awards,” Alexander said. “I am very pleased with both of the pieces and look forward to getting them performed.”

This is the second time in as many years (and second overall) Alexander has been nominated for a MIAL Award. He is one of five people with ties to The W to be recognized for the annual awards. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon”) was nominated in the Visual Arts category, and Dr. Valentin Bogdan (“Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu”) was nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.

The winners will be announced June 3 at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

“DJ2 Extravaganza” is a quarter for euphonium, two tubas and percussion. It was commissioned by James Gourlay, a world renown tubist, at the 2019 International Tuba/Euphonium Conference (ITEC) at the University of Iowa. Alexander said Gourlay, an adjunct professor of tuba at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh who also is a leading performer, teacher and academic and a member of some of Europe’s finest orchestras, suggested the instrumentation and that they try and schedule the piece for the next ITEC. There hasn’t been a live conference since the COVID-19 pandemic. The group would consist of Gourlay, Joanna Ross Hersey, Danielle Moreau and Danielle VanTuinen.

“Ruffner Mountain Express” is a six-part trumpet ensemble piece that earned its name from Ruffner Mountain, a privately held, 1,040-acre urban nature preserve in Birmingham). Alexander said he often performs in recitals with Dr. James Zingara, a trumpet teacher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and last December we played on a show in Gainesville, Georgia. While preparing for the concert, we talked about me writing a piece for his group, the UAB Trumpet Ensemble.

Alexander completed both pieces in late December 2022 and is looking forward to having both performed.

“I need to write large chamber ensemble pieces and both pieces fit that bill,” Alexander said. “Even more important that the piece, having James Gourlay ask to write a piece is a dream come true.”