3Q'S: Mark Keenum, MSU President

By NEMS Daily Journal

In November 2008, Mark Keenum was selected as the state College Board’s “preferred candidate” for the presidency of Mississippi State University. The MSU alumnus assumed the job shortly thereafter, succeeding Robert “Doc” Foglesong. Keenum answered these questions last week about his experience at MSU so far:

Q:It’s been two years since you were announced as the choice for MSU president. What do your consider your three most significant achievements to date and why?
A:We were facing tremendous financial challenges when I became president in January 2009 and have experienced significant budget cuts since then. To protect our core academic functions, we immediately sought efficiencies and cost savings, including an early retirement incentive, increased emphasis on energy efficiency and an aggressive student recruitment program. As a result, MSU is well positioned for the next fiscal year and beyond.
I am also proud of our StatePride fundraising initiative. Launched in October 2009 with a goal of $100 million over four years, we have already raised $44 million. We have been able to provide additional scholarship money for deserving students, and we rewarded more than 400 faculty members with one-time $2,500 financial awards.
Third, over the past few months, Mississippi State has raised its involvement and stature in the international arena through initiatives to link our university’s strengths in food production, food safety and related areas to needs in other parts of the world. I met in Rome this summer with leaders of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program and other international organizations. As a result, we signed a memorandum of understanding recently with the FAO to work on issues related to world hunger and poverty. We also have entered into an agreement with the WFP to develop a food product to be used in school feeding programs.

Q:The nation’s economic crisis has brought calls for an end to earmarks, which have been of tremendous value to both MSU and Ole Miss. How would you adjust if those funds no longer were available?
A:Mississippi State has used congressional initiatives to build our research capacity. We have nationally recognized research strengths that have caused these funds to be directed to us, and we expect to be aggressive and creative about pursuing additional funding opportunities. An end to congressionally directed funds would greatly hamper our efforts. But we are now in a position to effectively compete for research funding in a wide variety of program areas. Congressionally directed funding also has helped level the playing field for smaller states such as Mississippi with regard to research, economic development and job creation. Mississippi would suffer if Congress’ ability to use its constitutional power of the purse is ceded entirely to the Executive branch.

Q:As you walk around campus, what amazes you about today’s campus life compared to what you experienced as a student here in the 1980s?
A:There are so many more organizations and activities in which students can be involved these days. The central campus is a tremendously busy place day and night. Something is always going on. With the observance of Veterans Day last week, I am also reminded of the emphasis we have placed on helping veterans in the transition from military service to college, an activity that has earned MSU the designation as one of the most veteran-friendly campuses in the nation.