JSU Computer Science Dept. receives $10,000 from Walmart for scholarships

(JACKSON, Miss.) – The Department of Computer Science at Jackson State University recently received $10,000 from Walmart to provide student scholarships. The award is double what Walmart provided to Jackson State the previous year for scholarships.

“We truly appreciate the support that Walmart has provided and we are really excited about establishing a long-term relationship with them,” said Loretta Moore, chair of JSU’s Computer Science Department.

Jackson State has been working to strengthen ties with the corporation to expand internships and employment opportunities for students and graduates.

“We’ve been working with a particular campus recruiter and she’s been really engaged,” Moore said. “We recently had our first full-time hire in Walmart’s computer science development area.”

The funds from Walmart are part of the corporation’s Leadership in Technology and Innovations Scholarship program. The Walmart award to Jackson State University follows another corporate gift to the Computer Science Department. In 2010, State Farm awarded the department $50,000 for scholarships and program enhancement.

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JSU to receive $3.9 million for a Dept. of Defense Center of Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Principal investigator and center director Paul B. Tchounwou currently serves as associate dean and presidential distinguished professor in JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University has been awarded $3.9 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to establish a Center of Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (CESTEME) at the university, making it one of only three minority-serving institutions selected for this prestigious award.

Through a four-year grant, JSU will partner with the Jackson Public Schools District and Hinds Community College to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at the respective institutions. The schools will recruit, train and mentor K-12 and university students in STEM disciplines critical to the Department of Defense and national security.

“The program is designed to develop the technical workforce needed to meet the future demand in human resources and to sustain America’s leadership in the global economy,” said Paul B. Tchounwou, principal investigator and center director. “Its overarching goal is to address the nation’s and the Defense Department’s needs for a skilled and globally competitive STEM workforce.”

The center will provide outstanding opportunities to Department of Defense fellows in kindergarten through the 12th grade and college scholars to develop an understanding of the basic principles, concepts, theories and skills in STEM education. Students will fully participate in lectures and enrichment activities and engage in multi- and interdisciplinary research in relevant STEM areas.

As one of three minority-serving institutions to receive the grant, Jackson State aims to help change the culture of STEM education for minority students, from individual immersion in a particular discipline to a multifaceted experience involving multidisciplinary education and research teams that will prepare them for STEM careers.

“In collaboration with Jackson Public Schools and Hinds Community College, this award will strengthen our K-16 strategic direction in training the next cadre of STEM scientists for the 21st century,” said Felix A. Okojie, JSU’s vice president for research and federal relations.

The four-year grant also provides a strong platform for consolidating the ongoing partnerships between JSU, Jackson Public Schools and Hinds.

“It is an excellent opportunity to streamline our 2×2 programs with Hinds Community College and to sustain our collaborative relationship with Jackson Public Schools,” said Quinton L. Williams, JSU’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. “JSU looks forward to assisting Jackson’s schools and Hinds Community College in their professional/faculty development programs, facilitating students’ transition to JSU, and helping Hinds graduates to enroll in our baccalaureate degree programs.”

The project’s co-principal investigators include Wilbur Walters, associate superintendent of Jackson Public Schools, and Theresa Hamilton, vice president of the Hinds Community College Raymond Campus.

“I also express my sincere gratitude to Abdul K. Mohamed, dean emeritus of JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), and to all my colleagues in CSET and JSU for their valuable input during the proposal writing process,” Tchounwou said. “This is a major milestone in our collective efforts to move our STEM programs to the highest level of excellence.”

Tchounwou currently serves as associate dean and presidential distinguished professor in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology. He is also the director of the RCMI-Center for Environmental Health funded by the National Institutes of Health. He can be contacted at paul.b.tchounwou@jsums.edu.

Photo of Paul B. Tchounwou: http://www.jsums.edu/announcements/ptchounwou.jpg

JSU chemistry professor to be honored by Polish president, publishes paper in the journal Nature


Jerzy Leszczynski (right) pictured with President Barack Obama and two other recipients of the coveted Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The award was granted to 22 educators on Jan. 6, 2010, during a White House ceremony.

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Most people go through their entire life never meeting a head of state, but Jackson State University chemistry professor Jerzy Leszczynski will soon be able to boast that he’s met two world leaders: U.S. President Barack Obama and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.

Leszczynski, who leads the Interdisciplinary Center for Nanotoxicity at JSU, was honored by Obama at the White House last year with the coveted Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.  Now the chemistry professor has received an invitation to visit the Polish presidential palace to receive the title “professor.”

“In some European countries, they have the title of professor, which is the highest title you can get,” said Leszczynski, a native of Poland who earned his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1975. “The title stays with you for your whole life.”

Leszczynski’s colleagues in Poland nominated him for his native country’s highest academic honor more than two years ago. After many levels of review, he was chosen to receive the highly selective honor. Less than 400 people (including three to five researchers working outside Poland) a year achieve the status of professor in Poland, which has a population close to 39 million.

“I’m very happy because I left Poland about 25 years ago, but I have a strong Polish connection,” said Leszczynski, who in 2007 received the prestigious Marie Curie medal from the Polish Chemical Society. “It’s very nice to hear that the Polish government recognizes my achievements in the United States.”

The invitation from the Polish president came on the same day that Leszczynski received notice that his second paper within five months will be published in one of the world’s most prestigious scientific publications, the journal Nature Nanotechnology. According to the Journal Citation Report Science Edition, Nature is the most highly cited interdisciplinary science journal in the world.

Nature not only publishes the best research in the world but research that is of general interest,” Leszczynski said. “It’s basically as high as you can go.”

Leszczynski’s newest paper examines nanomaterials, which have become a driving force in science and technology. The JSU professor’s work looks at the effects of these tiny particles – which are so small they can be absorbed by organisms – have on the environment and human beings. His research team includes chemists, biologists, civil engineers and environmental scientists who work from labs in the United States, Poland and Italy. The team has developed a theoretical method to predict the toxicity of new, unknown nanomaterials – before they are produced. This method could avert the use of such chemicals as the pesticide DDT, which was used widely in the 1940s and 1950s before being discovered to be harmful to people and the environment.

Leszczynski said he appreciates the strong support he gets from Jackson State University. 

“I’m getting support at each level, from the chemistry department chair up to the vice president for research and federal relations Dr. Felix Okojie,” Leszczynski said. “Whenever we need any help, we give Dr. Okojie a call and our problems are solved.”

 Article abstract: http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2011.10.html

Photo link: http://www.jsums.edu/announcements/WhiteHouse1.jpg

Jackson State University mourns the loss of 1933 graduate

The Jackson State University family mourns the loss of alumna Esther Ellis Sampson Marshall, 99, who recently passed away in Austin, Tex. The 1933 Jackson College graduate was the wife of the late H. T. Sampson Sr., the former executive dean of Jackson State University after whom the university’s library is named. She later married Luther J. Marshall, also now deceased.

Visitation will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11, at Peoples Funeral Home in Jackson, Miss. Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 12, at Pearl Street A.M.E. Church in Jackson. A graveside service will follow at the Garden Memorial Park Cemetery.

The Vicksburg native earned a master’s degree in social work from Atlanta University and was recognized as the first, and for many years the only, African-American professional social worker in the state of Mississippi. She also served as the executive director of Project Head Start in Hinds County and associate professor of Social Work at Jackson State University. Her papers will be donated to the university.

“Mrs. Marshall was a kind woman with a wonderful spirit, who really was a pioneer in social work and with Head Start in Mississippi,” said Evangeline W. Robinson, executive director of the JSU Development Foundation. “We are so proud of all that she was able to accomplish.”  

Marshall was the mother of two sons, Dr. Henry T. Sampson Jr., of California and John B. Sampson of Texas. Henry T. Sampson Jr. recently donated an expansive collection of historical materials to the university. The collection relates to the historic contributions of African Americans to motion pictures, the performing arts, music, and radio and television broadcasting from 1865 and 1970.

Marshall was preceded in death by her brothers, Otis Ellis, Robert Ellis and Tellis Burthorne Ellis Jr., after whom Jackson State’s T.B. Ellis Health and Physical Education Complex is named.

Marshall will be sorely missed by the Jackson State University family and friends.

Evangeline W. Robinson (left), the late Esther Sampson Marshall and Dr. Henry T. Sampson Jr.

Summer Bridge Program (2011) for incoming freshmen

Jackson State University through the Division of Undergraduate Studies is offering a Summer Bridge Program for incoming freshmen who have been admitted to Jackson State University for the fall 2011. The program will provide room, board, tuition and books at no cost to 130 qualifying students. Applicants should have an ACT score between 17 and 25. Students are required to complete the first summer session, June 1-29, and the second summer session, July 5-Aug. 4. Interested students should contact Josie Latham, Coordinator of Intervention Services, at 601-979-0562 or josie.h.latham@jsums.edu.

Former foster child and award-winning blues singer to speak at child welfare conference

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Former foster child and award-winning blues singer Janiva Magness will speak during the ninth annual Mississippi Child Welfare Institute Conference Feb. 17-18 at the Jackson Marriott Hotel, 200 E. Amite St., in Jackson, Miss. Magness’s latest CD, “The Devil is an Angel, Too,” was just named the No. 1 blues CD of 2010 by “Living Blues” magazine.

Sponsored by the Jackson State University College of Public Service School of Social Work, the two-day conference will focus on building community partnerships for safe and healthy children and families. The event will feature local and national experts who will provide the latest information on issues affecting vulnerable children and families.

During her 30-year career, Magness has performed at theatres and festivals across the world. In 2009, she received the coveted Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year, making her the second woman ever to win this award.

Although she achieved success as a singer, Magness’ rise to the top was not easy. At 16, she lost both parents to suicide, which pushed her out onto the streets and from one foster home to another. She became pregnant at age 17 and gave up her daughter for adoption. Magness said her life started to turn around after becoming inspired by Motown music and the blues and country songs in her father’s record collection.

Magness now serves as a national spokesperson for the Casey Family Programs promoting National Foster Care Month. Although she relinquished her parental rights as a teenager, Magness has since established a relationship with her daughter, and is the proud grandmother of an 8-year-old boy.

The conference will begin at 8:15 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 17. Plenary speakers include Eileen Mayers Pasztor, associate professor at the School of Social Work, California State University – Long Beach, and Juli Alvarado, president of the personal and professional development firm Coaching for Life. Magness will be the keynote speaker during the closing luncheon on Feb. 18. 

Social work students, educators, practitioners, human service workers and mental and health care professionals are invited to attend. Participants will receive 10 continuing education hours.

For more information, call 601-432-6816 or 601-979-1123.

 Registration form: http://www.jsums.edu/assets/cps/mcwi_9th_form.pdf

JSU professor to serve as guest conductor of JPS band festival

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Jackson State University’s Director of Music Technology and Assistant Professor of Music Dowell Taylor will serve as guest conductor for Jackson Public School’s Annual All-City High School Band Festival at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10.

The festival brings together top high school musicians for a two-day rehearsal marathon culminating in a public concert at the Belhaven Center for the Arts. Students who participate in the festival must pass a rigorous city-wide audition.

JSU Associate Professor of Music David Ware will be featured as trumpet soloist and JSU Associate Professor of Music Harland Zachery will be featured as a piano soloist on one of the selections.

Taylor said he was honored to have been invited to serve as guest conductor “especially since it gives me the opportunity to revisit my first love in music, band directing.”

Taylor is the former director of the JSU Sonic Boom of the South marching band, a certified Pro Tools recording engineer, a pianist who serves as minister of music at Greater Mount Calvary Baptist Church and a regular performer with his jazz trio/quartet. His 40-member Dowell Taylor Big Band performed last year for the Blair E. Batson Children Hospital’s annual New Year’s Eve Gala in Jackson.

For more information, call 601-316-1791 or 601-214-1348. Admission is free.