Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum’s address to the Stennis Institute luncheon in Jackson early last week raised the issue of higher education’s role in economic development – jobs, investment, incomes, and spending to strengthen our state.
Keenum focused his comments in the undisputed necessity of producing and retaining more university graduates, not just from MSU but also from the University of Mississippi and the other six state-supported institutions of higher learning.
He is inarguably correct, and it is necessary in parallel for the universities to more intentionally and effectively engage economic development cooperatively to ensure that the right kind of jobs exist for educationally empowered degree holders.
Mississippi State and Ole Miss both have exceptional intellectual resources that are magnets for potential development, and both schools have made progress in moving from teaching to research to application in the marketplace. More is needed.
We believe great opportunity exists in the two new chief administrators at MSU (Keenum) and Ole Miss (Chancellor Dan Jones) for unprecedented and sharply focused cooperation for economic development, especially in the Northeast Mississippi region where they are separated by only 100 miles and lined by large concentrations of alumni and supporters who have great commonalities of interest for themselves and their communities.
The Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi, a regional, private-sector organization broadly interested in development and education, has the leadership links in its network of members and associated with ties to both universities to help structure new ventures and goals.
While both universities are obviously statewide in scope (both have extensive academic investment in other state regions), they are resident in our region, and their greatest impact arguably can be realized – all to the good – in Northeast Mississippi.
We hope conversations can begin in earnest between the region’s private-sector leaders and the two new university heads about how resources and goals can be joined for optimum impact.
The fact that Mississippi has three research universities, not one as in the huge flagships of some states, makes cooperation and collaboration more necessary and important.
The interconnected world of the global economy makes many long-enduring institutional models obsolete, and narrow focus by universities is one of them.
We want MSU and Ole Miss to succeed spectacularly in the 21st century and to do so in partnership with the region.
NEMS Daily Journal