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3/25/2019 - Jackson, Miss.

Mississippi Public Universities collaborate with communities to increase awareness of and highlight sustainability issues. These outreach efforts are coupled with research that can have a far-reaching impact.

Delta State University makes a concerted effort to increase awareness of sustainability issues and to partner with community neighbors on related projects. For instance, Delta State's Administrative Staff Council, a liaison between administration and staff, has long sponsored an annual feed-a-family food drive for Thanksgiving and an annual toy drive for the winter holiday season. DSU employees and local community groups and churches participate in both, donating nonperishable food items for the former and unwrapped gifts for children ages infant through 10 years for the latter. Last year, scores of families in need were given a Thanksgiving meal, and several hundred children identified by the Bolivar County Family and Children's Services received toys in time for the holidays.

DSU's Administrative Staff Council also has long responded to sustainability crises in the region. For instance, in September 2017, students, faculty, staff, and community members donated items to victims of Hurricane Harvey: bottled water, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, baby needs, personal hygiene products, paper towels, toilet paper, linens, pet food, and more. And in May 2011, DSU held a “Necessities Drive” for victims of a tornado that decimated the town of Smithville, Miss., population less than 1,000, and located about 150 miles away from campus. DSU Administrative Staff Council loaded a van and trailer with nonperishable food items, bottled water, shelf-stable milk, pillows, blankets, clothing, personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, Walmart gift cards, and more. All of these items were requested from Smithville residents on their Monroe County webpage.

The DSU Wiley Community Garden is dedicated to educating the Delta State and Cleveland communities on the cultivation of fresh, healthy, local foods and food systems; preserving campus green space through beautiful, edible landscapes; and fostering collaboration among Delta State and the wider Cleveland community to share good food around a common table. Created in 2013, the garden grows vegetables in 16 raised beds that are 20 feet long by 4 feet wide. Faculty members from the Division of Mathematics and Sciences and staff from Facilities Management donate time and resources as well as seed funds and project facilitation. The Delta Health Alliance contributed funds to start the garden, and the Department of Art faculty also were involved in the launch. The DSU Wiley Community Garden seeks to inspire and support sustainable, equitable, community-driven food systems at Delta State, in Cleveland, and across the Delta to strengthen the local economy and promote healthy lifestyles, and it upholds values such as growth and learning, diversity, mutual respect, sustainability and acting in an environmentally and socially just way, integrity, self-reliance, and fostering community, entrepreneurship, and excellence.

Also, in Delta State's Student Affairs, members of the Okra Patch serve as teacher assistants and mentors in the Cleveland Public School system. And Student Affairs is in talks with Extra Table, a Hattiesburg, Miss.-based nonprofit committed to ending hunger in the state and beyond, for assistance in establishing a food pantry on campus that will be supported by a partnership between the institution and the community, alumni, local businesses, faculty, and staff. The food pantry will be for serving DSU students and is slated for a summer opening.

Mississippi State University donated surplus produce from the Community Garden to local food pantries last year and hopes to be able to do so again this year. The university also led in the formation of Starkville – MSU Area Rapid Transit (S.M.A.R.T.), which is committed to providing safe, efficient and reliable transportation and mobility options to improve the quality of life for citizens and visitors to the City of Starkville and the MSU campus. The university is also exploring ways to collaborate with Keep Starkville Beautiful on events in the future.

The sustainable design and radical transformation of the Mississippi University for Women's Fant Memorial Library received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2018 Merit Award. The AIA Mississippi Design Awards program seeks to encourage excellence and elevate the quality of architecture by recognizing and honoring works of distinction by its members and bringing to public attention outstanding examples of architecture and design. Sustainable design and construction are of particular interest to the design jurors.

Built in 1967, Fant Memorial Library, originally 25,019 square feet, was a blocky two-story home to more than 250,000 volumes that spanned wall-to-wall and floor-to-floor. Additionally, making more square footage available for classrooms, meeting rooms, group study rooms. The ASRS is better known on campus as Athena.

Now totaling 61,800 square feet, the library hosts a new front façade, floating study rooms and an inner courtyard that offers dynamic and varied views. There is room for 75,000 books on open shelving and a three-story Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS)—the first in the state and in the region, allowed for the university to expand its collections without increasing its physical footprint.

The ASRS allowed space to be allocated to create 14 group study rooms, two classrooms, a flexible meeting space and a coffee shop. The two-story library coffee shop, known as Common Grounds, allows seating for 100, including both traditional café and patio seating. Common Grounds provides the campus community with a full-service Starbucks coffee menu.

Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) is helping the community to learn about energy conservation, a method used to reduce daily energy consumption by using less energy service. Through a grant awarded by the HBCU Clean Energy Coalition (CEI), MVSU has partnered with CEI, to promote clean energy by helping advance the residents of the Itta Bena Community and the MVSU family.

The MVSU Sustainability Initiative is hosting a series of seminars workshops and demonstrations at Samuel Chapel United Methodist Church located in the heart of the Itta Bena community. Each month, student facilitators serving as CEI Ambassadors will present topics of discussion related to conserve energy and natural resources.

The University of Mississippi offers multiple transportation alternatives including the Oxford-University-Transit bus system, Zipcar short-term car rentals, Zimride (a car-sharing tool) and RebelPedals, a long-term bike rental program on campus and the Ole Miss Rideshare, a new short-term bike rental program.

Ole Miss Dining's main residential dining location, Rebel Market, became the only certified green restaurants by the Green Restaurant Association in the state of Mississippi during summer 2016.

Ole Miss hosts events such as Food Day and Green Week to highlight sustainability issues. Food Day features an on-campus farmers market, panel discussions, film screenings and other events related to food. The Green Week celebration aims to increase awareness and promote involvement in sustainability issues.

The UM Office of Sustainability AmeriCorps VISTA developed educational programming related to garden and sustainable food systems to be used at local events.

The Office of Sustainability has organized an educational composting day at Oxford Elementary in collaboration with Good Food for Oxford Schools, a local organization dedicated to increasing the availability of healthy food and sustainable food waste management practices in the Oxford School District.

A $1 million Department of Energy (DOE) grant for The University of Southern Mississippi is funding research into the use of seaweed to produce energy. DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy approved $500,000 for research on an adjustable depth seaweed growth system called AdjustaDepth and an additional $500,000 to develop a seaweed ranching paddock.

USM's aquaculture efforts with oysters, shrimp, and blue crab positively benefits the Mississippi Coast economy and ecology by putting quality oysters back into the gulf ecosystem, replenishing reefs, stabilizing shorelines and providing quality oysters for the seafood industry.

As part of an ongoing commitment to sustainability, the School of Social Work, through collaboration with local farmers, merchants, and city officials, assisted in the development of Downtown Hattiesburg's Farmer's Market, held each spring at Town Square Park.

Sustainability efforts are important to all Mississippians. Mississippi Public Universities are doing their part to protect Mississippi's important natural resources for future generations.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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