The SSRC held its annual Open House on October 27th. At the event, 8 new research fellows were installed and the 2016 Annual Report was released. The full report, which showcases feature stories and vibrant photography from the past year’s work, can be found online here.

New Projects

Anne Buffington will serve as Principal Investigator for the “Following the Data” policy grant sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. This marks the third year that Mississippi KIDS COUNT will examine chronic absence in Mississippi’s public schools. School attendance officers will be surveyed to gauge their attitudes and beliefs on why children are missing school and to gather opinions on improving attendance from a policy level as well as from the family environment.

Robert McMillen will serve as the Site Principal Investigator for year 6 of the Mississippi State University site for the Richmond Center Administrative Core. This project is funded by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Flight Attendant Medical Research Center.



The MASEP Advisory Council, a group of 15 MASEP facilitators from across the state, met in Pearl, Ms. on October 15th. Those in attendance were Monica Cummings (Starkville) Shawn Word (Starkville), Lek Phongam (Hattiesburg), Wyatt Waddell (Philadelphia), Ken Brown (Florence), Nelson Tate (Jackson), Bob Rowe (Cleveland), Gil Bailey (Gulfport), Andrea Ross (Southaven), Jennifer Parades (Columbia), Jason Carney (Magnolia), and Adrian Starkey (Wesson). Attending from the MASEP office were Dr. Angela Robertson, Kathleen Greesham, Lisa Long, Melanie Walsh, Melinda Hardin, Chuck Dawkins, Blythe McCance, and Billy Brister. The focus of the meeting was curriculum revisions as presented by Dr. Robertson and the MASEP research staff.

Survey Lab

On behalf of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS), the Survey Research Laboratory completed the 2016 Vocational Rehabilitation Client Satisfaction Survey. On a quarterly basis, the SRL conducts telephone-based interviews with approximately 250 individuals who received vocational rehabilitation services from MDRS during the prior 12 months. This client satisfaction data assists MDRS in program evaluation and development. The survey administration is directed by Drs. Wolfgang Frese and John F. Edwards from the Social Science Research Center.

Awards & Recognitions

This year saw the installation of 8 new Research Fellows at the SSRC Open House. They are:

Anne Buffington: At the SSRC, Buffington has served as a researcher, program evaluator, and technical writer on numerous federal, foundation, state, and intramurally funded research grants. She has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed journal articles and final reports, and has synthesized and disseminated results through dedicated websites and other outlets. For the last 2 years, Buffington has directed the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s policy work on chronic absence in Mississippi’s public schools. She also developed and implemented the EMPOWR study, which is funded by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi.

Roberto Gallardo: Dr. Gallardo is an Associate Extension Professor of the MSU Extension Service. He is interested in local and regional rural community economic development, including use of technology. He spearheads the efforts of the MSUES Intelligent Community Institute that helps rural communities transition to, plan for, and prosper in the digital age.

Rebecca M. Goldberg: Dr. Goldberg is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Foundations at MSU. She is the Co-Director of the Social Relations Collaborative and the resident scientist-practitioner. Goldberg is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a National Certified Counselor, and a Certified Grief Counselor. Her research interests include relational aggression, gender, marriage and family therapy, social influence and interpersonal relationships, human-animal bond and animal-assisted therapy, and grief counseling.

Leslie Hossfeld: Dr. Hossfeld joined MSU’s Department of Sociology as Professor and Head of Department in 2015. She founded and directs the Mississippi Food Insecurity Project that examines and documents food insecurity and food access in the Global South. Her current research focuses on local food systems development and food access in Mississippi.

Gina Rico Mendez: Dr. Rico Mendez, originally from Colombia, is a Postdoctoral Associate in the SSRC. Her Fellowship is jointly funded by the SSRC and Department of Sociology. She is currently researching food systems and food security, with interests in the Political Economy of Food Security, Development Studies, Political Institutions and Social and Political Networks. More specifically, her work examines the consolidation of state legitimacy in non-industrialized nations given transformations in the food security narrative.

Julie Parker: Dr. Parker is an Assistant Professor in the School of Human Sciences at MSU. She currently has a research and teaching appointment, as well as an Extension grant. Her background in pedagogy for early childhood professionals and developmental and physical well-being for young children with and without disabilities are central to her research and service. She has served as PI or co-Investigator on several grants that focus on specific needs of children with disabilities, as well as authored or co-authored several publications that relate to children’s well-being and development.

Holli Hitt Seitz: Dr. Seitz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication with a joint appointment in the SSRC. She was a 2007 Presidential Management Fellow and worked as a social media specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her research interests include message effects, cancer communication, and using communication to achieve health equity.

Ben Walker: Mr. Walker is a Research Associate at the SSRC. He works under Dr. Linda Southward in the Family and Children’s Research Unit where he conducts applied demographic research on the health and well-being of children and families in Mississippi. Walker is currently working as a data analyst on the W.K. Kellogg funded Mississippi Data Project which aims to deliver data concerning the health, education, and economic well-being of Mississippi’s children and families to Kellogg grantees and state level agencies. His research interests as a doctoral student include social demography, medical sociology, and health inequality.

Presentations, Panels, & Conferences

Anne Buffington served on the Best Practices Panel during a convening of community college administrators on October 18th.  Sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi, the conference highlighted the work of four of its grantees. Buffington discussed the EMPOWR peer mentoring program now operational on three of the state’s 15 community college campuses.

Anne Buffington presented an IGNITE presentation at the “Following the Data” policy group convening in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday October 27th. The Annie E. Casey Foundation brought together KIDS COUNT grantees who have received the policy grants over the last three years to discuss their progress. Buffington presented information about Mississippi KIDS COUNT’s work related to chronic absence in Mississippi’s public schools.

Billy Brister, Blythe McCance, and Chuck Dawkins of the MASEP office attended the fall conference of the Mississippi Justice Court Judges held at the Silver Star Casino in Philadelphia, Ms. on October 6-7.
EMPOWR Kick Off Events were held on the campuses of Hinds Community College/Jackson Campus on October 7thand Meridian Community College on October 21st. This marks the third year for the peer mentoring program for nontraditional women students sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. Anne Buffington served as facilitator for both sessions, and Dr. Connie Baird-Thomas presented at the Hinds event.

McMillen, R. (2016). Harrah’s Casino New Orleans: Six months after implementation of a smoke-free ordinance. Oral Presentation presented to the 143rd Annual Conference of the American Public Health Association, Denver, CO.

McMillen, R., Winickoff, J. P., Gottlieb, M., Tanski, S., Wilson, K., & Klein, J. (2016). Public Support for Smokefree Section 8 Public Housing. Poster presented at the 143rd Annual Conference of the American Public Health Association, Denver, CO.

McMillen, R., Winickoff, J. P., Tanski, S., Wilson, K., Klein, J. D. (2016). Beliefs about the potential harms and smoking cessation potential of e-cigarettes. Poster presented at the 143rd Annual Conference of the American Public Health Association, Denver, CO.

McMillen, R., Gottlieb, M., Tanski, S., Wilson, K., Winickoff, J. P., Klein, J. (2016). Household rules about e-cigarette use and beliefs about harms to children. Poster presentation at the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition, San Francisco, CA.

Mississippi Tobacco Data was an exhibitor at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Public Health Association on 13-14 October.

Robertson, A. A., Johnson, K., & Peyton, D. (2016, October).  STI Testing among Adolescents in Mississippi.  Oral presentation at the MS Public Health Association’s 79th Public Health Conference and Annual Meeting, Jackson, MS.

Dr. Angela Robertson participated in a NIDA Juvenile Justice Translational Research on Interventions for Adolescents in the Legal System (JJ-TRIALS) Steering Committee meeting on October 25-26, 2016 in Rockville, MD.  Dr. Robertson serves on the Steering Committee in her role as Principal Investigator of the MS TRIALS Research Project and as Chair of the Publications and Dissemination committee.

The SSRC hosted the quarterly meeting of the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers (MAG) in its Canton, MS office on October 14, 2016.  Dr. Linda Southward of the Family and Children Research Unit provided an overview of the “Transfer of Wealth” study.

Walker, B. H., Brown, D. C. (2016, October). What does self-rated health really mean? The shifting importance of physical and mental health in self-rated health across age. Paper presented at the meeting of the Southern Demographic Association.

Rutland, S. Walker, B. H., McCown, J. S., & Southward, L. H. (2016, October). A contextual analysis of racial disparities in food access between black and white Mississippi adults. Paper presented at the meeting of the Southern Demographic Association.

SSRC Chronicles: October 2016