Hinds CC Rankin Honors students name retiring English instructor Faculty Member of the Year

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Info: Danny Barrett Jr. is a 18-year journalist with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. Barrett covered county government and business at The Vicksburg Post for 10 years and came to Hinds Community College in 2015.
Hinds CC Rankin Honors students name retiring English instructor Faculty Member of the Year
Posted by
17 April

Hinds CC Rankin Honors students name retiring English instructor Faculty Member of the Year

PEARL – Kathy M. Smith, of Brandon, a retiring English instructor for nine years at Hinds Community College’s Rankin Campus, has been selected as Faculty Member of the Year by students in the Honors program and the Alpha Omicron Omega chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Kathy M. Smith, left, and Joy Rhoads (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

Smith said the honor is a humbling one and credits the students themselves for her being able to pursue her passion.

“Through the years when anyone has asked me what I teach, my first response is students,” Smith said. “Sometimes I teach them grammar, sometimes literature, sometimes composition, but my joy has always been working with young people in the classroom setting.”

Joy Rhoads, coordinator of the Honors program at Rankin, said the students chose Smith for her energy and passion for the job.

“Kathy Smith is a valued colleague who has always been gracious and willing to go the extra mile for the campus, her department and our students,” Rhoads said. “No one has worked harder to foster student success than Kathy. I was delighted when our chapter selected Ms. Kathy Smith as Rankin Faculty Member of the Year.”

17 April, 2018 News more
Hinds CC Diesel Tech program achieves accreditation
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12 April

Hinds CC Diesel Tech program achieves accreditation

RICHLAND – The Diesel Equipment Technology program has been accredited by the Associated Equipment Distributors Foundation.

Achieving accreditation with the Illinois-based trade organization represents a step forward in building the program to meet the needs of the college’s industry partners, said Brent Johnson, director of the Diesel Technology Academy at Hinds.

From left, Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president of Workforce Development at Hinds, Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, Paul Breazeale, executive director of the Hinds CC Board of Trustees, Dr. Clyde Muse, president of Hinds Community College, Robert Henderson, president emeritus of the AED Foundation.

In 2017, the state modified requirements for graduating career-tech students by adopting the use of a nationally recognized credential. The AEDF stamp of approval fit that need perfectly, Johnson said.

“After evaluating several organizations, we found the AED Foundation to be a perfect fit for our program,” Johnson said. “After working with AEDF to attain accreditation, our institution realized that there are many more benefits available to us beyond the testing and credentials that we first needed.”

In 2016, the program expanded the second half of its degree plan to a facility on Old Highway 49 in Richland, near Empire Truck Sales LLC and Stribling Equipment LLC. The program and the industries partner to train diesel equipment professionals for both medium and heavy trucks and heavy equipment. Introductory courses in the program are offered at the Gray-Partridge building on Highway 18, minutes from the Raymond Campus.

During a ceremony April 10 at the Richland facility, officials lauded the program’s role in filling a need in the diesel technician field and the state workforce as a whole.

“The problem the industry faces is that we have a lack of qualified technicians, which is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of baby boomers will be retiring soon,” said Martin McCormack, associate director of development and workforce for AEDF. “That’s really what is driving our main focus at the foundation.” McCormack said the organization’s research has shown the heavy equipment industry is losing $2.4 billion in potential revenue due to the shortage.

The organization aims to have 50 accredited college and recognized high school programs by the end of 2018 to fortify the pipeline of qualified diesel technicians, as well as lower the amount of time it takes to accredit one. Currently, it’s three years on average.

Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse credited Empire Truck Sales and Stribling Equipment CEO Jerry Swanson and Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, for helping make the program worthy of the organization’s stamp of approval.

“We had a struggling diesel mechanic program at the Raymond Campus,” Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse said. “It was only possible through Jerry’s company’s investment of their funds to see we had a high-quality program available to the industry.”

Swanson spoke to the greater need for industries such as his to help fill the skills gap in the workforce of the state and the nation – specifically people who have some college credit under their belt but no academic credential beyond high school, thus limiting their marketability in the workforce.

“The reality is that they’re a lost resource,” Swanson said. “Our objective is to take those resources as quick as we can qualify them, people who have good hand-eye coordination with mechanical things, and put them in our industry. We have great value for a career.”

12 April, 2018 News more
Hinds CC named Hinds Heroes for Spring 2018
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12 April

Hinds CC named Hinds Heroes for Spring 2018

RAYMOND – The Spring 2018 group of honorees in the Hinds Heroes employee recognition program have been named. Hinds Heroes are chosen because they represent the college well, provide exceptional customer service to all its customers and consistently promote the Hinds mission of service. Heroes selected receive a lapel pin, a token of appreciation and one free day off work.

From bottom left, Hinds Board of Trustees President Paul Breazeale, Tiffany Jefferson, Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Felicia Williams-Winston, Beverly Trimble, Russell Shaw, Jovonna Parker, Kirby Sills, Karen Gamble, LaCheryl Taylor, Dennis Thompson, Martha McInnis, Oscar Branch, Christy Bokros (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

In alphabetical order, this semester’s honorees are:

  • Christy Bokros, of Pearl, assistant dean for Allied Health at the Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center. Her duties include administrative responsibilities for the division of Allied Health, which includes budget management, accreditation facilitating, annual reporting for career and technical education for the Department of Education and Mississippi Community College Board, inventory and evaluation processes. She has been with Hinds for 19 years.
  • Oscar Branch, of Brandon, instructor for air traffic control at the Rankin Campus. His duties include instructing the course for the Aviation Technology Program and coordinating the curriculum. He has been with Hinds for nine years.
  • Karen Gamble, of Vicksburg, instructor for public speaking and developmental education courses at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus. Her duties include being the lead instructor for public speaking, serving on various committees on campus and lining up speakers for college-sponsored community events. She has been with Hinds full-time for five years and 21 overall, including as an adjunct instructor.
  • Tiffany Jefferson, of Terry, dance director at the Raymond Campus. Her duties include directing the Montage Theatre of Dance program, which involves being artistic director, choreographer and an instructor of the tap, ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and modern, styles of dance. She also instructs dance history, improvisation and composition. She has been at Hinds for 12 years.
  • Martha McInnis, of Raymond, associate chief information officer in the Information Technology Department based at the Raymond Campus. Her duties include managing IT operations that power many of the college’s systems that deliver student and operations success. She has been at Hinds for 27 years.
  • Jovonna Parker, of Ridgeland, assistant director of Counseling and district coordinator of Disability Services, based at the Raymond Campus. Her duties include coordinating district-wide services for students with disabilities, advising with registration and courses, instructing orientation courses and serving as an advisory board member for the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan. She has been at Hinds for 12 years.
  • Russell Shaw, of Raymond, vice president for Business Services, based at the Raymond Campus. His duties including presiding over the Business Services functions of the college, which involves the accounting and accounts receivable and payable functions, Human Resources, Purchasing and Information Technology. He has been at Hinds for 14 years.
  • Kirby Sills, of Ridgeland, director of the Veterinary Technology program on the Raymond Campus. His duties include teaching and directing all aspects of the program, including the curriculum and evaluation processes. He has been at Hinds for nine years.
  • LaCheryl Taylor, of Richland, assistant registrar in the Advancement/Admissions department at the Raymond Campus. Her duties include assisting the registrar troubleshooting and maintaining accurate student records, assisting campus deans in maintaining accurate class rosters, implementing beginning and end-of-term processes, maintaining the system students use to track their education plan, maintaining all aspects of the process of graduation and determining and submitting athletic eligibility and awards. She has been at Hinds for five years.
  • Dennis Thompson, of Madison, lead instructor in the Logistics program at the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center. His duties include managing all aspects of the department. He has been at Hinds full-time for two years and 10 overall, including as an adjunct instructor.
  • Beverly Trimble, of Utica, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and Individual Training Account coordinator based at the Utica Campus. Her duties include coordinating services funded by the federal WIOA ITA program for Hinds students, educating students on what the program is and how it helps pay for their education, preparing cost sheets for students in the program and issuing check requests for other colleges served through the program. She has been at Hinds for 13 years.
  • Felicia Williams-Winston, of Brandon, instructor for the online Paralegal Technology program based at the Raymond Campus. Her duties include instructing courses in the program, revising the curriculum when needed, advising and mentoring online students in the program and scheduling online courses. She has been at Hinds for 10 years.
12 April, 2018 News more
Hinds CC Jackson Campus holds College Carnival
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09 April

Hinds CC Jackson Campus holds College Carnival

JACKSON – College Carnival at Hinds Community College Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center on April 6 brought out lots of raw talent, desire and ability from metro Jackson high schoolers.

Hilda Wells, biology instructor at the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center, shows off various models of the human body with Iasia Morgan, a senior at Wingfield High School. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“I like working with people daily and I like biology,” said Iasia Morgan, a senior at Wingfield High School and one of many high school students and others at the come-and-go campus recruiting event.

Tacora Thomas, a senior at Jim Hill High School, sees nursing as a career and technology as a means to succeed anywhere.

“I’m interested in seeing how these new devices work,” Thomas said as second-semester Hinds student and computer support major Kevin Wansley explained the ins and outs of the latest tech tools.

“This is what I have always dreamed about doing,” Wansley said of his love and aptitude for the latest technology.

Held annually, these events held at all six Hinds locations give prospective students of all ages a chance to find out about everything they need to enroll at the college. At College Carnival, prospective students met with Jackson Campus faculty and staff, learn about admissions, majors, financial aid and registration – all while enjoying free food and prizes.

Tacora Thomas, a senior at Jim Hill High School, checks out the Computer Support Technology Specialist table with Hinds student Kevin Wansley, of Byram. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“We look forward to many of the hundreds of students from metro Jackson and the surrounding area enrolling at the Jackson Campus and taking advantage of what we have to offer,” said Dr. Norman Session, vice president of the Rankin Campus and the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center.

09 April, 2018 News more
Hinds CC, announces speakers for spring graduation ceremonies
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06 April

Hinds CC, announces speakers for spring graduation ceremonies

RAYMOND – The Muse Center at Hinds Community College Rankin Campus will have four graduation ceremonies for spring 2018, starting Thursday, May 10 and continuing Friday, May 11 with three events in succession.

Phyllis Polk Johnson

Phyllis Polk Johnson, executive director of the Mississippi Board of Nursing, is the speaker at the first ceremony 2 p.m. May 10, for nursing and allied health graduates. Mike Morgan, president of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, will speak to the first of three groups of academic and career-technical graduates, at 8 a.m. May 11. State Sen. Josh Harkins, of Flowood, speaks to the second group, at 11 a.m. Dr. Andrea Mayfield, executive director of the Mississippi Community College Board, will speak to the third, at 3 p.m.

Tom Joyner, a nationally syndicated radio and television show host, will speak to graduates at the Utica Campus during a ceremony 2 p.m. Sunday, May 13.

Johnson oversees about 68,000 registered nurses, practical nurses and advanced practice registered nurses in her role leading the board. She has also directed the licensure, compliance and discipline for more than 5,000 advanced practice registered nurses, which includes nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and certified registered nurse anesthetists. Prior to her work with the board, served in various administrative and clinical roles with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Mike Morgan

Morgan, of Clinton, has represented District 4 on the county board since 2015. Previously, he was an alderman in Clinton for eight years. During that time, the city completed several major infrastructure projects including Quisenberry Library, completion of Brighton Park, a new Parks and Recreation Department facility at Traceway Park, a visitor center at the Natchez Trace, improvements to Arrow Drive and Pinehaven Road and to the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Prior to being elected a county supervisor, he was CFO and, later, president of Ridgeland-based software company Bomgar Corporation, which won numerous awards for being among the fastest-growing tech firms in the U.S. He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and an MBA from Mississippi College. He has taught finance and economics classes at the University of Southern Mississippi, Holmes Community College and Mississippi College.

Josh Harkins

Harkins has represented District 20 in the Mississippi State Senate since 2012. He graduated from Mississippi State University in 1997 and is a member of the Flowood Chamber of Commerce, ACI Real Estate and Home Builders Association. He is chair of the Universities and Colleges Committee in the state Senate, as well as vice-chair of the Energy Committee.

Among other committees he sits on include Business and Financial Institutions, Finance, Highways and Transportation, Public Health and Welfare, Public Health and Welfare, Public Property, Rules and Tourism.

Dr. Andrea Mayfield

Mayfield has been executive director of MCCB since 2015. Previously, she was vice president at East Mississippi Community College, for the Scooba Campus. She had risen through the ranks there as an instructor of biological sciences, e-Learning coordinator and later e-Learning dean, dean of instruction, vice president for instruction, vice president for institutional research and effectiveness, then vice president for the Scooba Campus.

Her service as an education leader has included membership to the Board of Trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. She also serves on Gov. Bryant’s cabinet, the board of directors for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, State Health Insurance Board, Mississippi College Savings Board, State Workforce Investment Board, State Longitudinal Data System, Innovate Mississippi and the Education Achievement Council. She is also a member of Mississippi State’s Education Leadership Advisory Committee.

She holds a doctorate from Mississippi State University, in educational leadership with a special emphasis in the administration of higher education. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of West Alabama, where she also earned a master’s degree.

Tom Joyner

Joyner’s show is the nation’s top syndicated morning show, airing in 105 markets and reaching nearly 8 million listeners. The Utica Campus has been selected by the Tom Joyner Foundation as its June 2018 School of the Month, as part of his organization’s signature program that supports historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) through fundraising efforts, scholarships, endowments and capacity-building enhancements.

06 April, 2018 News more
Hinds CC places 15 students on All-Mississippi Community College Academic Team
Posted by
04 April

Hinds CC places 15 students on All-Mississippi Community College Academic Team

PEARL – Fifteen Hinds Community College students were named to the 2018 All-Mississippi Community College Academic Team, tops among the state’s 15 two-year colleges.

Honored among 15 students overall and named Academic First Team at a ceremony March 28 at the Muse Center on the Rankin Campus was Holt Hunter, of Hermanville, a student at the Raymond Campus. Hunter is a computer science major and president of the Gamma Lambda chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society. He is also a 3E Outstanding Student and won second place in the most recent Hack State competition for computer science students.

Holt Hunter, of Hermanville, was named All Mississippi Academic First Team.

Each of the college’s six locations are represented in the all-academic awards. One student from each of the state’s 15 community colleges is recognized first-team.

Named to the Academic Second Team were:

  • Taylor Ballard, of Vicksburg, a student at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus, general studies major
  • Jamye Davis, of Edwards, a student at the Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center, nursing major
  • Jeffery Fairley, of Jackson, a student at the Utica Campus, biology major
  • Danielle Gipson, of Brandon, a student at the Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center, respiratory care technology major
  • Jaylon Gooden, of Jackson, a student at the Utica Campus, radio/television production & broadcasting technology
  • Zerrian Greenwood, of Brandon, a student at the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center, general studies major
  • Samantha Hawn, of Vicksburg, a student at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus, general studies major
  • Claudia Nelson, of Brandon, a student at the Rankin Campus, general studies major
  • Kena Span, of Jackson, a student at the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center, general studies major
  • Nettie Stauts, of Vicksburg, a student at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus, early childhood development technology major
  • Joanna Stevens, of Terry, a student at the Raymond Campus, biochemistry major
  • Hannah Stovall, of Brandon, a student at the Rankin Campus, general studies major
  • Abigail Walters, of Vicksburg, a student at the Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center, nursing major
  • Brianna Watkins, of Lake Charles, La., a student at the Utica Campus, accounting major

In addition, Hunter and Nelson were named 2018 Coca-Cola Academic Team scholars. The program is sponsored by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and is administered by PTK. As a Gold scholar under the designation, Hunter will receive a $1,500 scholarship. Nelson, as a Bronze scholar, will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

The All-Mississippi Academic Team, begun in 1994 as the first state-level academic recognition program for community and junior college students, recognizes the scholarly achievements and leadership accomplishments of students enrolled in community and junior colleges across the state. This year’s 63 team members were selected following several rounds of judging from education officials, business leaders from across the United States and a distinguished panel of representatives from federal agencies and national education associations based in Washington D.C.

Students named to the First Team received $1,000 scholarships. First and Second Team members receive special medallions, certificates and printed resolutions from each chamber of the Mississippi Legislature. They are also eligible for scholarships at many four-year universities designed exclusively for All-Mississippi Academic Team members.

The All-State team is coordinated by the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College, the Mississippi Community College Board and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Dr. Steve Bishop, president of Southwest Mississippi Community College, is the program chair.

The All-State Academic Team recognition program is an outgrowth of the All-USA Community College Academic Team, administered by Phi Theta Kappa. Twenty students named to the team will receive $100,000 in scholarships.

Taylor Ballard

Jeffery Fairley

Jayme Davis


Danielle Gipson

Zerrian Greenwood

Jaylon Gooden


Samantha Hawn

Kena Span

Claudia Nelson


Nettie Stauts

Hannah Stovall

Joanna Stevens


Abigail Walters

Brianna Jenae Watkins

04 April, 2018 News more
Hinds CC, partners celebrate Metrocenter Mall project
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03 April

Hinds CC, partners celebrate Metrocenter Mall project

JACKSON – Donning hardhats and wielding sledgehammers, partners in a venture to create a “Comprehensive One-Stop Center” for workforce training and support services celebrated the launch of the project on March 29.

From left, Jackson Councilman Aaron Banks, Councilman De’Keither Stamps, Hinds County Board of Supervisors Mike Morgan, Councilman Charles Tillman, Hinds Board of Trustees President Paul Breazeale, Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Central Mississippi Planning and Development District Workforce Training Director Mary Powers, Mississippi Community College Board President Lee Bush, Hinds County Supervisor Peggy Hobson Calhoun, Hinds Vice President Dr. Chad Stocks, Hinds District Director for Integrated Pathways Dr. Robin Parker, Retro-Metro Managing Partner Leroy Walker, and Hinds Director of Workforce Manufacturing Training David Creel (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

The center will house multiple career-technical and workforce training programs aimed at both high-tech training and middle-skill education along with support services in part of Metrocenter Mall.

The project to redevelop the former Belk and, previously, McRae’s department store into a 189,000-square-foot center for workforce training promises to be a driver of economic development for central Mississippi, speakers said.

“This is a very significant event in the life of Hinds Community College,” said Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse before more than 200 guests at the announcement held inside the old store space. “It’s taken so many people to help bring this together.”

At the top of the list, Muse credited the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District and the Hinds County Board of Supervisors.

“It’s a collaboration between a lot of different agencies as well as community helpers,” Muse said. “A person no longer has to spend a lot of time trying to find agencies to help them get a job or be trained for a job. It’ll be right here. It’s going to be a wonderful economic development opportunity for our area, and it’ll serve 17 counties in this area of the state.”

The center would encompass now vacant space on both floors of the southeast end of Metrocenter mall that formerly housed bustling retail shops. The bottom floor will include an event area and programs for metal fab machining and welding. The top floor would include the bulk of the offices for all the partners and more classrooms, including those for mechatronics, robotics and 3D design.

Hinds would administer the center on behalf of all the partners, which includes multiple government agencies and private partners.

“None of this would be possible today without the support of the partners you’ve heard about,” said Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president for Career and Technical Education and Workforce Development, who thanked members of the partnership for exploring other venues in the Southeast during nearly two years of planning leading up to the announcement.

“The vision has always been there, and it’s given us an opportunity to repurpose this store, where the old arcade games will probably turn into simulators. Today, it’s not enough to get a job. You’ve got to get a skill for high-wage jobs and good careers,” he said.

Dr. Robin Parker, district director of Integrated Pathways at Hinds Community College, speaks to those gathered for the public announcement of the Comprehensive One-Stop Center at the former Belk department store at Metrocenter Mall in south Jackson. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

Hinds County is allocating .92 mills of property taxes annually, or about $1.6 million, for the college’s share of the money to fund the operation. The center will not only be financially self-supporting through millage and external grant funding, but it also has the potential to increase enrollment by tapping into an unserved population of students.

Mike Morgan, president of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, dreamed of a large sign that says “Hinds Community College” at the entrance. “What are people going to think when they see that sign? They’re going to think education; they’re going to think training,” he said.

The center also will have classrooms for MIBEST, a community college program that teaches adult students without a high school diploma both academic and technical skills so they will be job ready.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the project “checks so many boxes” for bringing south Jackson back to life. “There’s no reason for Highway 18 and Highway 80 to not look like Lakeland Drive.

“There was a day and time where you had people waiting for jobs,” Lumumba said. “Now, we have arrived at a point where we have jobs waiting for people.”

The center’s focus will also be on other workforce-related and support services for those students, such as job search, workshops, assistance with unemployment insurance benefits, funding to pay for career tech training, on-the-job training opportunities, TANF/ SNAP, Vocational Rehabilitation and others.

Officials who spoke at the ceremony, which capped off by having each take a sledgehammer to a wall that once divided parts of the old store, lauded the efforts of CMPDD, a key economic development agency for the region, for helping kick-start the project.

“For probably the first time in the history of workforce, we all came together with a common purpose in mind,” said Mary Powers, workforce director for the agency. “It was to develop a plan that would provide all of our services in concert together to meet the need of people and the businesses.

From left, Retro Metro Managing Partner Leroy Walker, Central Mississippi Planning and Development District Workforce Training Director Mary Powers, Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, Central Mississippi Planning and Development District Executive Director Mike Monk (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“People will be able to get the services they need, the training they need and the skills they need to walk out the door with a job. And they’ll get all those services in the same place,” she said.

Once started, renovation is expected to take about six months.

“We’ve got to make the community better by having skilled workers in our community. That’s why we’re investing our money, our time and our resources in this effort,” said Leroy Walker, managing partner of Retro-Metro, which owns the space and will lease it to Hinds.

Walker said a revitalized mall with workforce development as its focus will be a “generator” for economic development in the area around the former retail mecca where highways 80 and 18 essentially meet.

The college’s administrative functions for MIBEST, Adult Basic Education, the Early Childhood Academy and career-tech programs related to manufacturing could be moved to the One-Stop Center in the future to support the initiative.

Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse, with one of the sledgehammers used to signify the start of renovations for the Comprehensive One-Stop Center in the former Belk department store at Metrocenter Mall. (Hinds Community College/April Garon)

“To put this in perspective, the workforce training and student service area equates to three football fields of space,” said Dr. Robin Parker, District Director of Integrated Pathways, which involves programs such as MIBEST that links high school and college credentials with job-training. “Throughout the process of working on this project, we have heard so many Metrocenter stories. We are thrilled to be a part of writing the next chapter.”


03 April, 2018 News more
Award a time for reflection for trailblazing physician, Utica Institute alum
Posted by
28 March

Award a time for reflection for trailblazing physician, Utica Institute alum

 Note: The following story appears in the spring issue of Hindsight alumni magazine. For more information about the Hinds Alumni Association, see the website. To apply for a Hinds Community College Foundation scholarship, go to the Admissions tab on college web site at or click here.

A life spent at the forefront of battles for social justice and affordable health care has come full circle for local physician Dr. Robert Smith.

Dr. Robert Smith

In November, the American Medical Association awarded Smith the Medal of Valor Award for fighting social injustice and providing health care to Mississippians during the civil rights era.

“In riotous and dangerous times, Dr. Smith placed himself repeatedly in harm’s way and made it his mission to stand up for the health care rights of African-Americans,” said AMA president David O. Barbe, M.D. “He is a man of compassion and courage who has and continues to fulfill his Hippocratic Oath by providing medical care to the poor, uninsured and underserved citizens of Mississippi.”

Smith’s academic career began at the Utica Institute, which later became Hinds Agricultural High School, part of Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus.

His education flourished beginning when he was a precocious teen at the Utica high school, where he graduated as valedictorian.

“It was one of the best things that happened to me,” Smith said of his time there starting in 1949. “In today’s terms, I would be considered ADHD. I had the opportunity to go to high school very early.

“We didn’t have a public high school in the county at the time. But, this was around the time of Brown vs. Board of Education, so the county bought a small, struggling school modeled after Booker T. Washington’s school. It was just a blessing for me,” Smith said.

The Utica school was both a boarding school and day campus.

“My folks didn’t want me to leave home for schooling, so I became one of the first teens to get up at 4:30 in the morning and ride a little old bus 45 miles nearly all through dirt roads to get to school. In the winter, I’d leave home at night, and I’d get home at night. Many times the bus broke down, but luckily my daddy had a car that would come and find us and retrieve us all.

“But, going to Hinds AHS was like going to heaven,” Smith said. “I found a great bunch of people, and it was the first time I had people around me who had gone to college and were degreed.”

Once there, Smith found “mentors, father figures, mother figures, the whole nine yards – and people who believed in discipline,” as he put it, once again remembering his teen years.

“I had a math teacher who’d tell me, ‘Robert Smith, sit down! You’re not going to take over my class!’ There were other teachers like Maggie Dunson who told me, ‘Just wait till you get to college. They’ll fix you.’”

Dr. Robert Smith speaks during the Summer 2014 graduation ceremony for Nursing/Allied Health students.

Where he found a niche was in agriculture, then taught by A.D. Williams. “I had been in the 4-H Club before I went to Utica,” Smith said. “I was 4-H champion and among the first to show Polled Hereford cattle in a livestock show. I transferred my experience to being in New Farmers of America, where I was the first Mississippian of record to hold office in it.”

Smith credits Williams with teaching him the basics of communication and formal self-expression. “He taught me how to develop and present a talk,” Smith said. “He left, and A.D. Boykins came in. He had the same personality. I ended up winning state and regional speaking contests and going to Washington D.C.”

Another source of pride is having been taught by Dr. Walter Washington, who later presided over Utica Junior College and Alcorn State University. “His speeches about achievement and educational preparing were inspirational,” he said.

In 1963, the Terry native founded Mississippi Family Health Center in Jackson. The facility later became Central Mississippi Health Services and has locations in south Jackson and at Tougaloo College, where Smith had earlier earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. His medical degree was earned at Howard University School of Medicine.

Smith witnessed the civil rights movement in Mississippi from a perspective few other people could, given his profession.

“I’d been a member since college of the NAACP, and I got to know Medgar Evers in college at Tougaloo when he was invited to talk,” Smith said. “I had attended a reception for him the night he was killed.

“The outgrowth of it all is that, through other memberships such as the Freedom Democratic Party, I became the unpaid physician to the movement.”

He was assisted in establishing a clinic in Bolivar County’s Mound Bayou by doctors from the Northeast, who, a year later, were part of 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. The clinic served the poorest of the poor for basic medical needs.

“I was concentrating on how to get black folks into health care,” he said. “I helped prepare reports for Congress that brought about regional medical programs that brought advances in the care of heart, cancer, strokes and renal disease to local communities.

Both Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse and Dr. Robert Smith were honored with the Whitney Young Service Award from the Andrew Jackson Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 2015.

“It’s about education, education, education. The best way to lower costs is to teach prevention. That has to come from grade school. It ought to be like English,” he said.

Two friendships he treasures are with the living giants who helped shape the modern-day Hinds Utica Campus and the college as a whole – Hinds President Dr. Clyde Muse and Dr. George Barnes, former vice president for the Utica Campus who retired in 2013 after 51 years.  Both men were instrumental in the merger between the Utica Campus and the Hinds Community College district.

“When they talked about merging those institutions, obviously there were concerns. But, I don’t know anything that could have done better since then,” Smith said.

He credited both men with the Utica Campus keeping “its traditional value system,” such as its colors and annual events such as the Coronation, while “providing opportunities for the least of these in education.”

Muse has known Smith for many years. He met him through his brother, George, who served on the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. Both had gone to the Utica Institute.

“Early in his life and career, he had a burning desire to see that all people had good medical attention and services,” Muse said, noting his work to establish the Mound Bayou clinic. “He was a pioneer in providing or getting medical services to people. And it was not the popular thing to do in those days. He had the courage to step out there and do it.”

Smith sees the American Medical Association honor as a benchmark not just for himself, but African-American membership in the organization.

“It was a national problem,” Smith said of the scarcity of full-member black doctors when his nearly six-decade medical career began. “In Mississippi, it was magnified. Even in a place like New York City or in Chicago, there was only a handful of black physicians – maybe five people – who were full members of the AMA.”

Among Smith’s numerous staff appointments through the years was at Central Mississippi Medical Center, now Merit Health Central.

“The contributions Dr. Smith has made in the healthcare field, not just in our community, but throughout our state cannot be lauded enough,” Merit Health Central CEO Barry Moss said. “We are grateful for his continuing leadership in his field, and I am proud he is a part of our Merit Health Central medical staff.”

In the spirit of gratitude, Smith has given back to the Utica Campus and Hinds, speaking at graduations several times and at the Utica Campus annual Founder’s Day celebration. He spent six years on the Hinds Community College Foundation Board, where he and his brother started a scholarship aimed at helping eligible Utica Campus students pay for college. He is a frequent presence at important Hinds events.

And, his service also continues in the medical community.

“He is a great person with a great medical mind that is still providing wonderful service to people in need of medical help,” Muse said.

Barnes literally owes his life to Smith. “About 29 years ago, he recommended me to Johns Hopkins University to treat pancreatic cancer,” Barnes said. “So I can’t really say enough about him. Any awards he has gotten, he deserves.”

Smith is quick to say that his path to success started in Utica.

“My education at Hinds prepared me for the opportunity to become the first black physician of record and board-certified physician, a fellow in family medicine, a teacher, a researcher, an author, and most of all, a family physician to the least of these that have come from many parts of the country.”

28 March, 2018 News more
MSU ag chief, Hinds alum wins national award
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28 March

MSU ag chief, Hinds alum wins national award

 Note: The following story appears in the spring issue of Hindsight alumni magazine. For more information about the Hinds Alumni Association, see the website. To apply for a Hinds Community College Foundation scholarship, go to the Admissions tab on college web site at or click here.

Dr. George Hopper worked at Anderson Tully lumber company in Vicksburg while he attended Hinds in the years after high school. Quite fittingly, he has been sawing wood in his professional career ever since – and he’s been recognized by his peers for his work.

Dr. George Hopper

This past fall, Hopper won the Excellence in Leadership award for 2017 from the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Stations Directors at the Association of Public Land-Grant Universities. Hopper’s directorship of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and role as dean of Mississippi State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences formed the basis for his award, presented at the APLU’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Hopper is also dean for the university’s College of Forest Resources and director for its Forest and Wildlife Research Center.

The 16 experiment stations in the state are closely associated with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, which share knowledge and solutions with farmers, business people and government agencies throughout the state and beyond. One station is housed on Hinds’ Raymond Campus, as part of the T.H. Kendall III Agriculture Complex. Another, for cattle, the Gene Morrison Brown Loam Experiment Station, is on the outskirts of town.

“Our role and responsibility is to serve the people of Mississippi,” Hopper said. “Part of that is developing better farming and livestock practices and ways to protect the environment.”

For Hopper, coming to Hinds meant getting to Raymond from the River City when Interstate 20 was barely complete on the western side of the state. He juggled work in the evenings and attended class daily, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Four or five of us from Vicksburg commuted to class. But, we had great memories and an excellent education, indeed,” he said. “As an administrator, I know what I learned at Hinds means the teachers were good. It got me on the right track. Hinds had a good reputation for science even back then.”

After finishing STEM-related prerequisites at Hinds, he earned his bachelor’s in chemistry from MSU, then moved on to Virginia Tech University where he earned his Ph.D. in plant physiology.

Hopper worked at the University of Tennessee for a time, then went into administration in forestry/wildlife. He moved on to Mississippi State as dean of college of forest resources. Eight years ago, he was asked to head up agriculture in addition to forestry.

Part of his job is getting students involved in research. It is some of Hopper’s and others’ early research in the area of biomass energy that Stephen Dicke, an Extension professor for Forestry, remembers.

“I first met him in 1979,” Dicke said. “We’d be cutting sycamore trees in the hot summer and weighing the stems, all for research. I saw a quick-witted optimist with a real heart. He’s gone above and beyond what’s been asked of him by doing a lot of extra work.”

Hopper credits his Hinds experience for shaping his career and advises students to be unafraid of few challenges in their own lives and studies.

“People are interested in the curious. And that’s what drew me to science in the first place,” he said. “Our society needs the STEM areas and needs leadership in that area. Fundamentally, we need to have clean water and a healthy and safe food supply.”

28 March, 2018 News more
Ag alum credits department icons for his success
Posted by
28 March

Ag alum credits department icons for his success

 Note: The following story appears in the spring issue of Hindsight alumni magazine. For more information about the Hinds Alumni Association, see the website. To apply for a Hinds Community College Foundation scholarship, go to the Admissions tab on college web site at or click here.

Almost anyone with fond memories of their days as a student at Hinds Community College has a favorite “Hinds story.” Matt Woods is no exception.

Matt Woods

His favorite story involves an apple and what he carried on as a family tradition in English instructor Jenny Muse’s class. It started with his father, Alvin Woods, who walked into Muse’s class “brushing an apple on his shirt, plopped it on her desk and winked at her.”

Matt Woods remembered the story when he started at Hinds the week after he graduated from high school.

“A group of us from south Jackson rode together here for the first day of class. I told the others I’d be a little late, but I’d be there in just a second,” he recalled.

Muse “called roll and got to ‘Matt Woods,’ then said ‘I guess he’s not going to be with us today.’ I opened the door and walked through everybody up to her desk and said, ‘Ms. Muse, I apologize for my tardiness’ while I shined an apple on my shirt. I plopped it on her desk and winked at her.

“She said, ‘You’ve got to be Alvin Woods’ son!’”

Once he got inside the classroom, Woods found success and honed skills learned being around his father’s feed mill. He was a member of the Agriculture Club and the livestock judging team. He credits a handful of people who Woods said were “more than just instructors” to him, including Billie Banes, Drs. Thad Owens, Bill Dixon and Roger Jones. Jones has worked at Hinds since 1970 and still chairs the college’s Agriculture Department. The tutelage helped Woods earn his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University, in Agriculture Education.

“They prepared us for college life and the real world,” he said. “And they did it with a caring, yet firm hand.”

Jones remembers seeing signs of success early in Woods’ days as a student.

“Matt was a very conscientious and hardworking student that was always very mature for his age,” Jones said. “I have seen him use skills he had in student organizations at Hinds, along with the knowledge he gained as a student here and at Mississippi State University to become very successful. I am proud of the man he has become.”

Woods worked at his father’s feed mill briefly after college, then returned to Hinds in 1995 to earn an Emergency Medical Technology certificate to bolster his stock as a volunteer firefighter in Learned. In 1998, he took up a job offer from Jackson-based Cal-Maine Foods – the nation’s largest producer and marketer of shell eggs – after mulling becoming a teacher himself. He worked in the central purchasing area for 17 years before becoming chief of the company’s feed mill in 2015.

“The most rewarding part of my job is to look at the eggs we produce and to know those birds were fed through feed mills I’m responsible for,” he said. “It’s also very challenging because we want to be the most wholesome, safest food source there is.”

He has also been a hand-up to some of the best students who’ve graduated from the Agriculture Department in recent years. That includes Christopher McCloud, who manages the company’s feed mill in Watts, Okla., and Austin Van Etten, an assistant manager in Hammond, La. “The students who come through the department here have the skills and knowledge to either step straight into the workforce and be a productive employee, or go on to a university and pursue a bachelor’s degree,” he said.

His Hinds experience has continued beyond his days as a student. As a member of the advisory council for the Agriculture Department, he helped develop the curriculum for the Animal Science Technology, Poultry Option class introduced in 2015.

“If Hinds Community College went further than two years, I’d probably be working on my tenth doctorate degree right now,” he said. “I would never have left. Nothing compared to my time here. It made for an easy transition from being a high school kid to being a college student.”

28 March, 2018 News more