Mississippi Public Universities
2005 Academics Winners
First Place (tie): Mississippi Valley State University
"Learning Skills Support Program"
Mississippi Valley State University’s “Community Service Learning” project is an effort which grew out of the institution’s requirement for new students to spend 40-60 hours in community service. Sites chosen for community service are Delta towns working to improve their communities, although students are also allowed to complete required hours of community service in their hometowns with verification of work hours. Another option for community service learning is work on the MVSU campus itself.

In some cases, "service learning" hours are also integrated directly into the student’s academic curriculum. Currently the disciplines with service learning components in the curriculum are Mass Communications; Business; Health, Physical Education and Recreation; Industrial Technology; English and Foreign Languages; Social Work; Criminal Justice; Natural Science and Environmental Health; Fine Arts; Social Science; and Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences. Service learning hours not only complement the student’s curriculum, but are converted to community service hours to fulfill the graduation requirement.

The Community Service Learning project benefits both the individual student and the community in which that student works. Communities have additional "hands" for projects which improve their areas, and students receive not only "hands-on" experience but also develop a greater sense of civic pride and responsibility.

First Place (tie): University of Mississippi
The other first place winner is the University of Mississippi’s “Wintersession” program, a two-week, intensive academic term offered within the regular nine-month academic year. The Wintersession begins on the first business day in January and concludes approximately two weeks later. The most recent Wintersession offered 110 courses with total enrollment of 2,267.

Because the session takes place in such a compressed time frame, students are allowed to take only one course in each Wintersession, and department chairs carefully review courses to determine which ones would be appropriate in the abbreviated session. Courses which are not considered suitable for Wintersession include literature and history survey courses, chemistry and biology and lab courses, and basic language courses.

Review of the results of Wintersession indicated that many students preferred the format because it allowed them to focus on one particular subject rather than on multiple courses simultaneously. Instructors also indicated that students showed better attendance rates and equal or better mastery over the material in Wintersession compared to courses offered in longer terms.

Wintersession shows benefits to the university and its students in a number of ways. Students are able to take additional courses without an inordinately heavy load during the regular semester. The session is also an attractive option for non-traditional students who could not commit to semester-long classes. In addition, the university makes more effective use of facilities which are normally dormant and unproductive.

Second Place: Delta State University
"Educational Leadership Program: Full-Time Cohort Model"
Second place in academics went to Delta State’s Educational Leadership Program: Full-Time Cohort Model. The program, designed to enhance the leadership abilities of school principals, employs full-time internship experiences and intensive problem-based class sessions. The goal of the program is to equip prospective principals with the knowledge, skills, and values/beliefs that contribute to effective school administration.

Building on the three guiding principles of teaching and learning, organizational effectiveness, and school and community, the Educational Leadership Program, the instructors in the program engage students in meaningful dialogue about problems and issues the students have actually experienced in their work.