MSU Diversity Award winners announced

President Mark E. Keenum (far left) congratulates 2016 MSU Diversity Award winners, including (from left) Jamel Alexander, Krystle Dixon, Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi and Hillary Richardson. Richardson accepted on behalf of faculty and students with the “A Shaky Truce: Starkville Civil Rights Struggles, 1960-1980” Project. PHOTO: Megan Bean | Public Affairs

Nearly a dozen Mississippi State students, faculty and staff members are being recognized for individual and group actions during the school year that served to enhance university diversity.

The 2016 group formally was recognized at a recent MSU President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities ceremony.

In announcing the winners, commission chair Lakiesha Williams praised all for “stepping outside of their norm and exhibiting a great passion for exploring and promoting diversity.

“Each year, we’ve seen an increase in our nomination packets; we had the most ever,” Williams said. “Our winners have displayed diversity in a wide range of ways, from research collaboration and community events to establishing STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] programs and starting organizations to empower underrepresented females and minorities.”

Honorees include:

-- Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, Faculty Award. A professor of demography and applied statistics in the sociology department for nearly 20 years, he is founder and executive director of MSU’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center where diversity is part of the intellectual environment and 20 distinct languages are spoken. A Pennsylvania State University doctoral graduate, Parisi’s research on diversity and racial residential segregation has appeared in top peer-reviewed journals, as well as in the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality’s 2016 State of the Union report.

-- Krystle Dixon, Staff Award. Academic coordinator in the College of Business’ Adkerson School of Accountancy, she is founder of the college’s Accelerating Students into the Accounting Profession summer camp, as well as its Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance and Empowering Minorities in Accounting Association student organizations. She holds degrees from MSU and Troy (Alabama) University.

-- Jamel H. Alexander, Student Award. An MSU mechanical engineering graduate, the New Orleans, Louisiana, native now is pursuing a doctorate in the field. As a member of the National Society of Black Physicists campus chapter, Alexander mentors high school, undergraduate and graduate students interested in pursuing STEM degrees. In addition to helping develop the Mechanical Engineering Minority Organization support network, he also launched an ACT prep program in Artesia for underrepresented minority students interested in attending higher education.

-- “A Shaky Truce: Starkville Civil Rights Struggles, 1960-1980” Project, Team Award. An ongoing effort between faculty and students in the history department and MSU Libraries, the web-based project highlights Starkville’s civil rights movement through the use of digitized archival documents and oral history interviews. Faculty leaders for the project include associate professor Judith Ridner of the history department and assistant professors Hillary A. H. Richardson and Nickoal Eichmann of MSU Libraries.

“Shaky Truce” student collaborators included senior Christine M. Dunn, a secondary education/English education major from Niceville, Florida; history doctoral students Michael T. Murphy of Crystal River, Florida, Kelli B. Nelson of Johnson City, Tennessee, and Nicholas A. “Nick” Timmerman of Flint, Michigan; and Daáiyah R. Heard of Columbus, a 2015 history master’s degree graduate. Murphy also is an MSU history master’s graduate.

In his remarks at the ceremony, President Mark E. Keenum praised the commission for promoting an “inclusive campus family” both internally and externally. “Many people know that we are an accepting, opening, welcoming, nurturing institution,” he said.

“When it comes to our student body, we have the most diverse campus among any of the other universities, by far, within our Southeastern Conference,” the chief executive and MSU alumnus continued. He also noted that the university remains among the most diverse historically white land-grant institutions in the U.S.

Beyond sizeable African-American and international student populations, MSU is home to a diverse teaching faculty. “Diversity is what empowers an institution and the people within it, and we are working hard to help uplift our university through diversity,” Keenum emphasized.

For more on the awards program, contact Williams at 662-325-0205 or; the President’s Commission on the Status of Minorities,

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

Sasha Steinberg | Public Affairs

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