School of AREAS employees close out the academic year with future goals, and laughter!

“Saddle Up! Denim and Diamonds” was the theme of the School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences (AREAS) end of the academic year meeting held on May 9, 2016 in the Extension and Research Complex on the Lorman campus.

The school’s faculty, staff, administrators and alumni gathered in the Ray Johnson Assembly Center for a day full of activities focused on planning, educational workshops, great food, music, fun and laughter. Many staff members adorned in their western attire were, also, surrounded by western decor: saddles, hay, cow bells and other western-style pastimes. Dr. Ivory W. Lyles, dean and director, land-grant programs, School of AREAS, welcomed the audience to the opportunity to “relax, enjoy the day and close out the school year.”

Amanda O’Quinn, the mistress of ceremonies, announced the program that included Lavada Hill, secretary for the Mississippi Small Farm and Agribusiness Center singing the song, “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams, greetings by Casnasita Gray, student services coordinator, words of inspiration by Beatrice Owens, administrative assistant, “The AREAS Shuffle” a western-style line dance by Jacqueline Ford, Antoine Tenner, Dr. Ananda Nanjundaswami, Janice Harris, Randy Derby, Shalonda Brinkley, John Coleman, Velma Oliver, Rochelle Whitmore, Deshundrick Winston, Rachae’ Martin and Ricky Johnson.

During the three breakout sessions, administrative support staff received training on Banner document management suite from Accounts Payable and CITS staff; hourly employees had an opportunity to discuss payroll issues and concerns with payroll staff; and educators, specialists and faculty had conversations with Dean Lyles and the School of AREAS alumni. The four alumni who came to share how the Alcorn experience has shaped and molded them for their careers were Mario Robinson ’03, process engineer, trim and chassis engineering at Nissan North America, Inc., Monica Thomas-Beeman ’10, Family and Consumer Sciences/ 4-H Youth Agent, Claiborne County coordinator for Mississippi State University Extension Service, Walter J. Jackson ’82 ’83, conservation agronomist for Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Roddric L. Bell ’93 ’95, director of the

The program’s denim and diamonds theme continued with a delicious luncheon at the Jesse A. Morris Sr. /W.C. Boykin Agricultural Sciences Building assembly room. During the luncheon, Alcorn President Alfred Rankins Jr. and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donzell Lee were on hand to address the School of AREAS employees. LLJuna Grennell Weir, director of the Department of Educational Equity and Inclusion/Title IX, entertained the staff by singing country and western songs.

During the afternoon session all staff reconvened to hear Dean Lyles’s report, in which he discussed the School’s budget, talked about the leadership team’s work on planning new projects for the School, gave an update on building construction and renovations, and revealed that a committee will soon begin to plan a back-to-school retreat.

In his closing remarks, Lyles thanked the event’s planning committee, and emphasized the importance of teamwork and being on time.

He said, “We need to pull our resources together and work as a unified team as we move forward.”

After the event, the employees continued to fellowship in the lobby and reflect on the day. Just as the day’s program begin, staff filed out of the assembly center listening to the song “Happy” playing in the background.

Dr. Evelin Cuadra, professor of animal science, shared that the event was “very interesting and informative.” He received new information from the Dean’s report and suggested to hold such gatherings at least twice a year.

Youth Specialist Manola Erby said, “It was a wonderful idea: something that our staff needs. It was great to see folks that you don’t see on a daily basis and catch up. And I especially enjoyed hearing from our alumni.”

For Janice Harris, support staff, who joined the School of AREAS in September 2015, it was her first school-wide gathering.

“I enjoyed the event so much. It gives you a chance to relax, think outside of your normal duties and get to know your people better,” said Harris. “And I loved training the team for the ‘AREAS Shuffle’!”

O D Howard, farm manager, who loves westerns and wears his cowboy hat often, enjoyed the theme of the gathering. He found the meeting to be “informative and exciting” and enjoyed the camaraderie.

“It was great to see the whole School together and witness that the attitude is upbeat,” he said.

Dr. Steve Adzanu, associate professor in the Department of Advanced Technologies, received important information during the alumni presentations.

“It was essential to hear from our alumni how we should teach our students to prepare them to join the workforce, what we need to do to get them ready,” he added. “The highlight of the day were MC O’Quinn, the food and the line dancing.”

Members of the planning committee in addition to O’ Quinn were Perry Brumfield, Deidre Knox, Dr. Freda M. Lawrence, and Kanayo Ugboaja. Eddie Harris assisted the committee.

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